The honk of the engine was loud, and the smoke was almost blinding, the crowd was bustling and there was just too much commotion. From chain sellers to tie-up suitcases to people selling kulhad chai (tea in a mud cup) to big trolleys being dragged around, and the continuous announcements of train schedules through the broken speakers. Nothing has changed on the platforms of India.
They are still too crowded to walk on, still too smelly and yet ever brimming with thousands of stories lurking through the eyes of people.
Rohi’s thoughts were interrupted by her phone ringing, the screen read ‘Mother India calling’. Rohi said, “Ya mom”. Her mother started like a shatabadi express herself, “Have you reached the station? How was the lecture? What is your coach number? Is the train at the right time? Acha sun na, have you brought those chocolates I had asked you to bring? Acha when you reach Delhi, cab mein baithte hi call karna, Delhi ke cab drivers toh you know na, also send all the details of the cab haan? Haaye kitne dino baad tu ghar aa rahi hai. Why do you do so much work, why did you had to directly go to Mumbai after coming from Canada? Direct ghar nahi aa sakti thi and why by train, why not by flight?” Rohi laughed and stopped her mother India’s express, “maa! Maa! Maa! Saans to lelo yaar! Don’t worry about me, I am a big girl now and how many times I have travelled to Delhi alone, and plus you know how much I like travelling and spend time thinking, helps me process, okay leave all this and yes I have your favorite chocolates with me and rest I’ll tell you when I come back home. Now bye, train approaching.” She cut the call while settling in the train Rohi thought, uff! Mother’s will remain their usual selves always, but if they don’t do this then also we don’t like it. She smiled and sat down by her window seat and was just catching up her breath while closing her eyes when there was a tap on her shoulder.
There was girl standing right opposite her seat beyond the table, wearing ripped jeans and a black crop top with Adidas written on it. She had a shoulder bag, a backpack and a big suitcase with her. Her eyes were a little scared, she asked, “this train is going to Delhi only na?”
Rohi thought to herself, like duh! Didn’t you read the name on the train or from where to where does it go? I mean what a stupid question to ask. It was like as if she read Rohi’s mind and hastily said, “this is my first time travelling alone so pardon me.” To save herself from sounding rude, Rohi replied quickly, “no, no problem. Yes, it is going to Delhi.” The girl then started settling in and told her that she studies in Delhi University, Rohi nodded and smiled and before she could give the whole description of what she does or does not do in Delhi, Rohi took out her laptop and put her earphones on. Delhi, a place which Rohi had mixed feelings for, too many memories, whether good or bad, Rohi still couldn’t decipher.
The train started moving and some biscuit crumbs fell on Rohi from overhead, she looked up. The girl noticed this and apologized because it was from her bag, that they fell off, she said, “half of my bags packed by my mother, didn’t know that was there. Going back to the hostel so she packed a lot of homemade stuff to eat.” Rohi smiled said, “it is okay, mothers and their dramatic actions I can understand.” After this moment, they smiled at each other and Rohi returned to her movie and the girl was busy on her phone. After almost two hours Rohi’s phone rang, this time it was Dad. Her Dad spoke cut to cut, no drama, she picked it up, he asked, “you settled in fine? And is the train on right time? And your mother called you up?” Rohi told him that yes train is right on time and she is fine and has eaten food as well and mom called up. That’s when she heard a tensed voice coming from the opposite end. It was the Delhi University girl talking to her friend she guessed.
She was saying, “I get it, but man why does this happen to me always, the person I like never likes me back and plus people always use me and backstab me. I mean in a friendship there are two people, how one can decide to break it off just like that and not even inform the other person? I was always supporting him, all the while and this is what I don’t get, what the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t people be equally loyal to me? First my crush, then my friend, I mean I don’t even have the patience to look at people anymore.”
Rohi innocently returned back to watching the movie. She did hear everything accidentally, even though that wasn’t her intention, but she didn’t want the girl to get all embarrassed so she put her earphones on but she couldn’t concentrate on her movie anymore, so she put on some music. She took out her diary and pen, started looking out of the window and was lost in her bucket full of memories. Delhi brought the biggest change in her life. At that moment, after listening to this girl, she realized how far she has travelled. She had never given her experiences or herself enough credit for the journey that she has embarked upon. She has become a writer, something she would never have even dreamed of if it wasn’t for Delhi. The journey had its ups and downs but today what she is, she could not have been if it wasn’t for Delhi or her efforts or the pressure she took upon herself.
She came so far without even thanking herself for it, from being the girl who was scared to say anything or put out her opinions or share anything because she was constantly thinking what others would think, to now giving lectures to students. From being the girl who would run away from meeting new people and having new experiences, to meeting new people in the strangest ways possible. From being the girl who never did things alone because other people might find it strange and always believed that she is lonely to now enjoying her solitude. From being the girl who was too emotional, too attached and always put people before her, she wanted to please them by sacrificing herself, always wanting to be like some outgoing fun person, to now accepting herself as who she is, embracing her personality and doing what she loves, hanging out with people she loves.
She says sorry to the girl inside her for not being grateful enough to the person who has put so much effort to come up to this level.
Life isn’t easy ahead, but life was not easy earlier as well but if she could come through so far, she could get through anything. She trusts herself now instead of trusting others more than herself. She has grown a lot, and now that she has realized this, how could she have mixed feelings for Delhi? She was not anxious anymore of her destination which was soon approaching. Now that she knows that she is a hell of an awesome woman, how could she stop just here? Today her diary entry was just about her, dedicated to her. The announcement said: “you have reached your destination New Delhi, hope you enjoyed travelling with Indian railways and give us the opportunity to serve you next time as well.” There were little tears in Rohi’s eyes and a smile as well while she packed her things, to leave the train. It felt too familiar, the air had a personal touch in it and Rohi carried on. The girl opposite her was still on the train, checking up on her belongings, when she turned, she found a box of chocolates with a note on top which read: Hey stranger, I know that there was a lover inside of you who died, who died loving people incessantly, who showered so much love, giving everything she had and ultimately it led you to hollowness. I get it that you get attached too easily but it has never been easy for you to let go, but let me give you an advice, my dear girl, that lover inside of you will never stop giving because that is what you have learned so far. So never make a mistake of burying that lover because of one instance. I know you have the strength to rise back to life again because this world needs people like you. And in case nobody has told you today, you are a hell of a bomb, hellishly cute, and anyone would be lucky to have you. Don’t give up and all the best for life.
PS: Enjoy the chocolates, they are a favorite of my mothers.