Kirti fidgeted. She did not understand why her parents had called her so urgently home. All were fine they said but then why. It was such an urgent call that she had to book train tickets by Tatkal. Yes, she could have gone by flight but buying tickets just 2 days in advance meant that it was very expensive. and to top it the weather was unpredictable. Very cloudy and the chances were the flight would have been delayed or cancelled. But why is the train late. That too when it starts from here only, she stretched her neck out to see if it was shunted afar. She looked here and there and her glance fell upon a briefcase. It was standing all alone. Her heartbeat gathered momentum and she stepped forward, bent and tried to hear if there was any tick-tick ticktock going inside it. ‘Excuse me’, a voice boomed from behind and she stood straight with a jerk.
‘That is my suitcase’, the man with the booming voice said.
‘Oh is it, I thought it was an abandoned briefcase’, Kirti replied.
‘I just went to get a cup of tea’, he said.
‘You could have taken it with you, I don’t think it is heavy’, said Kirti.
The man looked angry. ‘Should I drag two bags to take a cup of tea?’
And then Kirti noticed that there was a suitcase lying a little away from the briefcase. She felt flustered but still she retorted, ‘Someone would have called the bomb disposal squad noticing the abandoned bags.’
‘Abandoned??’, said the man but by then Kirti just moved away
The man’s mobile rang, he answered it, ‘Hello………Yes, Dad, I will be reaching in the morning……………The coach A2…..but why are you insisting, haven’t I told you I am not ready……no, nothing is going to happen to you so soon….. Dad dad…’ Obviously the phone had been disconnected.
‘Parents… why do they try to run their children’s lives’, he muttered but then he sa a dozen faces staring at him and he shut up and concentrated on his cup of tea.
A beggar woman with a child came begging. Everyone felt pity and shelled out coins. The man refused, ‘Ayya please ayya’, the woman begged. ‘I won’t’, he said, ‘can’t you find work, there is a shortage of maidservants, can’t you work as one. Wait , wait, I am in need of a maid, will you work for me’ . The woman fled.
‘Kanjoos’, Kirti muttered. But then the thought came that isn’t it good that he was ready to give her employment than a few coins.
The train arrived. Whoever had to travel, got in and settled down. Kirti noticed that the man was right opposite. ‘Why is life putting me again and again near this man’, she thought. She started humming a tune, whenever she was nervous she hummed. ‘Are you trained in classical music’, he asked.
‘No, I just love to hum’, she replied
‘You have a good voice and a temper too’, he said.
‘She felt her colour rise and was about to retort but then just to prove his point wrong, she calmed down.
He took out a box, there were some puris there with some curry. He stretched the box in front of her but she declined
‘No intoxicant in it, you can have’, he said.
‘No thank you’, she said. ‘Why take chance’, she thought. The aroma was heavenly. ‘But you said that you don’t have a maid’, she said.
‘I don’t. I cooked these myself, I don’t like the food we get in trains nor do I like hotel food. Why any problem if I cook myself,’ he said to Kirti. Kirti was staring at his box in wonder but she said, ‘no, nothing’.
A family with twin boys boarded the train and sat next to them. The two boisterous boys started moving up and down. The train started. The mother got anxious that the kids will fall, ‘Sit down or you will fall’. Sit down you are disturbing aunty etc were heard at constant intervals. Until Kirti made them sit and played along with her.
The man was amused. The sharp-tongued perky woman could be so gentle with kids, was a wonder to him. Time passed quickly hence forth. In some time all the four were playing with the kids and it was time to sleep.
‘Get up, get up’, it was the man waking up Kirti. she woke with a start.
‘The station will arrive in just 2 minutes. Kirti jumped up took her handbag, unlocked the chain from the luggage.
By the time she had done so the train had arrived in the station.
Her father was waiting. And so was another man. They both smiled.
‘So you both have arrived together’, her father said. ‘Huh’ she raised her eyebrows. Her father cleared his throat, afraid of how his daughter would react, ‘You see we were hoping that you two meet and see if you suit each other for matrimony. But seems you have met already’.
Both stared in shock.