Fiction: A Train to Khardaha

June 20, 2018 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

Saptarshi Sanyal photo

 

By

Bhagirath Routh

 

 

 

“Naihati Local will depart from platform No. 3 at 23:10.” No sooner did I hear the announcement than I rushed through the moving crowd in the Sealdah Station and managed to get into the train. However, I got a seat in a safe corner easily because there were almost no passengers for this line. I was alone in the train and thinking that for first time in my life I was going to experience a lonely train journey. It was already 11 pm then.

It was mid-July and had been raining cats and dogs since morning. But I managed to come to Sealdah Station. I found trains of all lines being in a stand-still, since I had been in the station. Trains of all lines were delayed for hours due to heavy downpour today since morning.

However, I got my hope back of a pleasant journey as some fifteen passengers boarded the train just before it departed. They were speaking in Bengali. I could understand them. They sat spreading in the front seats.

In the meantime, the train left Sealdah. It was drizzling still then, and blowing high wind and thunder was crashing and booming and rumbling away; the bright flashes of lightning, sometimes, turned the entire sky and the neighbouring areas and even the train compartments bright white. Scarcely had the train reach Dum Dum Station when the heavy rain with high wind resumed. Then, my fellow passengers left their window-side seats and came to the seat to my right in the corner to get off the gust of high wind with rain.

A young handsome girl, in her twenties, fair complexioned, clad in red uppers and white leggings partly rain-soaked and stuck to her body, a khaki sling bag was on her left shoulder, dark long hair spreading loose on her shoulders.

First, she sat to my right with a wide gap. But as the sudden gust of high wind splashed rain into the compartment through the open windows and doors, she moved near me.

I was sitting silently for some time. I heard them talking about a dance programme held somewhere in Kolkata. They were talking about the Bharatnatyam dance form. They spoke in Bengali and English. Then, I became sure that I could share my feelings on anything for passing time.

One of the aged ladies said, “Today, Pori made an extraordinary dance performance…” The girl beside me said, “Pishimoni (i.e. aunty), it’s the result of long years’ concentration, perseverance and hard-work. I love Bharatnatyam, live Bharatnatyam, dream Bharatnatyam and always wish to do something with Bharatnatyam…”

“Wow! Great…” said a boy of mid-teens from the row exactly to our right. “I dream JC Bose, wish to do like JC Bose…”

“Want to prove that patharer o pran aachhe (stone has life) as he proved gachher o pran aachhe (a tree has life), something like that?” said the girl sitting beside me.

“Exactly, didi (sister). If Bharatnatyam is the main concern of your life, then why won’t such an exceptional research be my ambition?”

“That’s very great my dear,” said the aged man, broad and prudent forehead, grey hair, and wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans sitting between ladies wearing saries (an Indian clothing).

While they were engaged in fun and laughter, I was musing over the situations to poke my nose in their gossip and be a part of it. Soon, I came to know that only I was strange to them, and they were relatives.

Hardly had the thunder suddenly crashed nearby deafeningly when the panic-stricken girl to my right gripped me, screaming “O.. maa go (Oh… mother save me)!” Instantly, she moved away from me; and her relatives began making lots of jokes of this situation. When her relatives were talking between themselves, the girl was silent and looking at me stealthily. I came to know that she was interested to talk to me.

As I caught her doing this, she asked me “Where are you travelling?” Naturally, I was captivated; especially her blue eyes and loose, sock dark hair arrested my attention.

“Khardaha,” I replied.

“We too are travelling there. Are you non-Bengali?” she said. “Yes, an Anglo-Indian,” I said.

Do you understand Bengali?

Yes, and I can read and write too.

Where do you stay here?

In Park Street, Kolkata. But I am born and brought up in Kharagpur. Do you know Kharagpur?

Yes, I do. It was once proud of having the longest platform in India.

Yes.

But why are you going to Khardaha? Is there any relative there?

Yes. I am going to visit my aunt, Mrs. Elizabeth Roy…

The Headmistress of Khardaha Girls’ High School?

Yes, do you know her?

Yes. I studied in her school. She loved me dearly. It’s she who advised and guided me to be a Bharatnatyam dancer.

Yes, she loves Indian classical dance forms and Bangalees, that’s why she married a Bengali Physicist going against my grandfather. She can dance well…

She is an educationist and singer too. She is good and great. As a teacher and guide she is impressive. She was honoured as one of the best teachers by the Govt. of India last year. Bye the bye, where do your parents hail from?

 

India.

No, no. I mean to say that whether from England or from some other European countries.

Oh, I’m sorry. My grandfather’s father came from London during the British reign, and finally settled in Kharagpur as he loved rural India very much.

Ok. But what do you do in Park Street?

I’m studying MSc Physics in St. Xavier’s College and stay there at our own bungalow. You came to know a lot more about me, but what about you?

I’m Barnali Nag…

Tumi Pori nau (Aren’t you Pori)?

Haa (Yes). But Tumi jaanle ki kore (How did you come to know it)?

Pori i.e. fairy. I heard one of your relatives mentioning this name and you replied in relation to the remark. Then I guessed you’re Pori. Seriously, you look exactly like a pori immediately descending from the sky. Your pretty round small and bright face, blue eyes, long dark hair, your shuttle-like physical appearance, and above all your skill of dance performance match the qualities of a pori. Bye the bye, Tumi Sudha Chandran hobe (you dream to be a Sudha Chandran)?

Na, na aami Barnlai e hobo (No, not all, I’ll be Barnali myself).

Barnali? You mean that colour-queen? That too is a classic one.

Please, don’t make joke of me so much…

 

Didi… oi dekho! Tomar meye to chhele taake aapon kore nilo (Look, sister! Your daughter has, as if, made the boy her dearest one).

“One day, I’ve to make someone. Be sure that today only I’ve done it.” Barnali replied angrily.

“It’s ok. Let her make a memorable journey,” said a young girl of late teens.

“Yes, you’re right,” Barnali replied.

The group resumed their gossiping, and Barnali now spoke with me in such way that, if it were, she knew me for a long time.

I couldn’t guess about the behaviour of the superiors of Barnali. While I was lost in myself thinking over such matters, Barnali asked me, “Anyway, what do you want to be in your life?”

 

I’ve not yet decided.

Why are you pursuing MSc Physics, then?

I’m also studying masters in Astrology…

What! Astrology! Masters in Astrology! Masters in Physics! At the same time you’re pursing these two courses? Is it possible?

Yes. Why not? It’s very simple. We only need love and passion to do anything. Once you discover these things in something the rest greater factors, like perseverance, dedication, industry, concentration will unknowingly come in your control. Then, you’ll just enjoy learning, and it’ll not be a burden or pressure to you.

 

“You’re great, you’re indigenous,” uttered Barnali. While having her loose hair in a bun, she asked me, “Then, can you read my palm or my forehead to tell my future?”

“Of course,” I said, “If you don’t believe, you can test my knowledge in astrology.”

At once, she stretched her palms together just down my eyes and said, “Ok, then here are my palms. Read them and tell me what is in my lot.”

 

Please, don’t do it, your parents are keeping watch at our activities. They might mind and may scold you.

No, no. My parents are not orthodox and illiterate. They neither doubt nor mind anything. They believe in their education, culture and knowledge that they have given me since my childhood. So, please go on.

 

I read her palms and told her that she was very calm, gentle, benevolent, and far-sighted. She often suffered from confusion in deciding which career she should go for. She would shine as a painter not as a dancer because often she lost her emotional impulse when she failed to learn some delicate styles and arts of Bharatnatyam dance form.

 

Yes, you’re right. Really, you’ve knowledge in astrology. Go on, please.

Sometimes, dance seems to you very hard, and then you lose your patience. But, in painting you have no worry or fear. Often you make extraordinary painting. In course of drawing, you always remain very happy and get immense pleasure. You’ve deep love in painting. So, my suggestion to you is to dream to be a professional painter rather than a Bharatnatyam dancer. If you won’t believe my words, you can go deep in your heart and mind. Soon you’ll discover the answer from your soul and heart––what you dearly love to do dancing or painting.

 

She was surprised to hear this because my reading was correct about her qualities.

When she asked me about her married life, I told her that she would mother a twin––one daughter and a son who would be just like Viola and Sebastian. At once, she asked me, “Who are they?”

 

They are the two characters of the play ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare.

Oh, yes… I know the story. But will my children face the same fate as theirs?

Maybe. But, they will be genius. Your son will always dream to be an astronaut and, in his career, frequent the space. He’ll discover many things about the earth-like-planet with varieties of beings existing in the universe and revolving around a sun-like-star in the Milky Way, while the daughter will be a geologist. She will dive deep to the surface of the oceans and discover the mysteries of the earth. She will discover proofs for millions of civilizations which had been more advanced than ours. You can’t imagine she will be credited for discovering the mystery of magnetic mineral alignment in sea-floor…

If these will happen in my life, then I’ll think that my life on earth isn’t in vain. And, of course, I’ll come one day to thank you.

Ok, then see what happens in your life, and if my predictions…

 

“Let’s go Barnali. Our station is arriving. We’ve have to get down,” said a woman from the group. “Ok, Mom, I know it,” replied Barnali and stood up, “Mom, this young man too is going to get down at the same station. He is a nephew of Elizabeth ma’am…”

“Then, take him with you to your home,” said another woman while gathering at the gate for getting down at the station.

“Of course, why not; only if he agrees. I think we’ve no problem,” replied Barnali.

“Yes, Mr, are you ready to accompany us?” said Barnali.

“No, thanks,” I said, “but one day I must pay you frequent visit when time permits me.”

Then, the young girl smartly said, “You’re speaking just like an astrologer, very interesting young I suppose.” And to Barnali, she said, “Hay, didi… how was the trip beside the astrologer?”

“Bogus!” she replied. But I made no comment.

The train stopped at Khardaha Station. They got down together, and I followed them. We got separated there. I was expectant that she might ask me my contact number or to pay a visit to them. She did nothing but cast a love and passionate glance which flashes still now in my dreams, sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

Bhagirath Routh

Bhagirath Routh is an ELT Editor, Creative Content Writer and blogger. Born and brought up in the village Baburampathra of Jhargram District in West Bengal, India. He is graduated in Humanities and Masters in English. He is also a Digital Marketing Consultant trained in Delhi School of Digital Marketing. He worked as an ELT Editor for Parul Prakashani Pvt. Ltd. housed in Kolkata, Anand Books International and as a Senior Editorial Assistant for Techbooks International in Delhi NCR. He worked for Mascot Education Pvt. Ltd. as a Moral Science writer for K–10 segments. Currently, he lives in Delhi and works for Elegant Publishers Pvt Ltd.

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