It had been more than 12 hours from the time we commenced our train journey for Jalandhar from Mumbai. Megha and I occupied the side berths, while there was a couple sitting in the compartment adjacent to us.
Ratlam had passed an hour and half back; we already had had our dinner, and I was now waiting for the night to gradually make me fall asleep. Megha was charging her phone, sitting in the front of the couple chatting with the lady. I could hardly hear their conversations but could figure out that Megha was asking her about their travel plans.
While the conversation was on, a tall and lean guy came and suddenly sat next to me. I looked at him; though his eyes seemed intensely red, I preferred to overlook it. He started fidgeting and hence caught my attention again. He was now looking at the fellow passengers sitting towards the right side of the boogie, the side from which he approached.
He then looked behind him, saw a bottle of water and asked me if he can drink the water. I gave it to him, with a bleak smile. He is a normal guy, but there is something abnormal about him, I thought. Megha and other lady were now curiously looking at him and then me, figuring out what was wrong with him. He returned the bottle of water, wiped his face and said “I drank it from above”. I took it back, kept it where it was and looked at Megha.
She was now busy chatting on her phone, and as I looked at her, she looked at me and said something. I could hardly hear anything apart from “Chandigarh ki setting nahi hui”. Our return trains were early in the morning from Chandigarh, some 17 days later, and we were figuring out for a place to crash a night prior, just in case we needed to.
Before I could utter a word, I heard a rough manly voice mixed with a pungent odour of alcohol, “Aise waise nahi hai hum, decent bade hai. Koi galat irada nahi hai mera” (I am a decent fellow, and do not have any ill intentions) said the guy sitting next to me. He then stood up and walked towards the left of the boogie, almost falling and bumping into people twice. He was drunk, I now knew it.
We all, Megha, the couple and I exchanged glares and smiled; don’t know out of fear or adventure. For next few moments thinking that he has left, I sat freely reading a book, all alone on the berth.
The same guy passed by once, I ignored not knowing if others noticed him. I engrossed myself into reading when he came again and stood right in front of me. Like a kid who stares at a tall man from below, I forcefully took my eyes away from my book, closed the book and looked up at him. It was then that I realized that he was waiting for the person on the seat beside us to climb up. I did not react to him, but chose to look outside the window behind me. He waited in complete silence, I looked out in compete silence, though I felt awkward but that moment passed by without any complain, any reaction. He left once the person gave him the space to move. But he did not leave in silence, “Vishwash nu jamanoj nathi raho”, he said in Guajarati. I now felt empathetic, and replied in gujju too asking what the matter was. He again repeated the same line, “It is difficult to trust these days” and added the word “Thank You Ben” meaning thank you sister before he parted.
Yes, my heart pounded fast and was still recovering from what had just happened. Megha was now furious. She had already gotten up from the seat when she saw him standing so close to me. But that last conversation between us had changed my view towards him. I gave her a relaxed look, pacified her and said “He has a story Megha, and he is safe”.
I went to wash room a few minutes after the incident, when a man warned us against him saying he is drunk. His berth was in their compartment, but since they had kids around, they shove him off. Thus he came and sat next to me. I pondered over those few lines of conversations I had with him and now his lines made complete sense. People in the train discarded him as he was drunk and thus he felt uncomfortable. He felt unwanted.
We were now calmly sitting in our respective seats when this guy came again with two boxes of food. He had it and left again. Later, we came to know that he slept where his berth was.
So often we judge people and react to them and the situation, not knowing what they really are going through, forget about stepping into their shoe. That guy was probably going through a very bad phase in life, his eyes and those words indicated that. He was complaining about not being trusted, and all I could do is assured him that I trust him to be safe by choosing not to shove him off, by choosing not to react.
Next morning he passed by our berth once, quickly and without any eye contact.