Men traveling alone without any female companion in Indian train journeys can rejoice to be in best of the luckiest times if he is allowed to take the seat he is allotted to. “Dude.. can you take that seat instead of this, we are a family?”, “Brother, can you leave the window seat for ladies and take that seat? (which could be near to wash room)”. I haven’t said ‘No’ unless the replacement seat is in an unreachable compartment. It was one of those so many Train journeys where I was asked to take a seat other than the one I was allotted, as it happens most of the time. Compartment was full with people and baggage. No more space for my only luggage to be placed in a non-hindering space; except a fitting gap below the opposite seat. So, I thrusted mine into that and squeezed myself between two fluffy men.
Mister in the right tossing groundnut into mouth told me – “Thambi(Younger Brother), you have so much space in the luggage rack at the top, you are placing it here?!”. He wants to slack stretching his limbs.
While I was looking up there to see if there is any space at all, Mr. at my left said – “No, space there, buddy. Leave it as it is.”
One in right started surging up his volume – “Yes, you can. If you think you can, you can. Push those bags and make some space.” But mine was a trolley, it was so big to push bags and make space for it.
Gentleman at left laughed out loud saying, “don’t be joking”.
I was able to hear groundnut getting crushed harder. I was too weak to portray logic for him then. So, I moved mine to the way path.
Then I slipped into – Dostoevsky’s White nights.
Eventually, a transwoman came clapping; asking for money. Prodding each and every one. They weren’t rude as the ones I have experienced.
At once the transwoman left the place, a women opposite murmured, “Why can’t they go and earn, aren’t they ashamed to beg..” to another lady beside her.
Mr. at my left asked, “What was that?”
“I said, why can’t they go work somewhere and earn..” she repeated.
“Say, you have a shop. Would you give them a job?”
She made a grin, “It depends”
“Depends on what, mam?”, he chuckled mockingly, “They are socially disabled. Ofcourse they should live a life as us. But that depends more on us than themselves. It is your choice to help or not to. But, don’t jump to judgements.”, he told her in a tone to defeat her presumed tidiness.
She whipped her sweat beads of embarrassment. Didn’t talk anything after.
Mr. at my right leaned down from slacking and looked at the Mr. at my left. Perhaps, he couldn’t digest the thought that the one in the left spilled.
Perhaps to leave out of inconvenience created, Gentleman at left started talking to me.. initially asking my whereabouts; for which I answered him only half true. Then, he started talking on Russian literature and Dostoevsky, for half an hour and more.
“Try, Ivan Turgenev sometime”, he said as we shook hands to depart.
“Train commutes are a unique ‘being’ ”, once a friend said. How true!