There are a lot of things going through your head when you leave a city for the better part of your career. Your friends, enemies and peers become a distant memory in the memory pool; all playing roulette in the casino of your heart. There is an exaggerated sense of nostalgia that washes over you for a prolonged moment and then floods your cheeks like the Niagara Falls with splashes of red and orange on the side. In the hustle of such unchartered emotions, you always remember the small things. They are the corners of every memory block; the defining pieces of the structure.
For me, it didn’t go the same way. There were no tears, no nostalgic outbursts, and no bouquet-laden farewells. After all, it was the end of Engineering; not my life. I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t know what to say while saying goodbye. I don’t know why to say goodbye.
I never look at things from the perspective of how they will end. I rather believe of what we can do with those things once we create a bubble around it. How we can jump and bounce around! How we can learn to expand that bubble! But I never know how to burst that bubble. It’s like keeping a promise but never fulfilling it because you don’t know what comes out of it: good or bad?
From the most distinctive memories of my journey in the past 24 hours, I still revel in the simplicity of one of those. I believe you can relate.
My journey from Mumbai to Delhi, there was this Gujrati family which was sitting in the compartment when I boarded the train. I took a deep breath when the AC blew hard on my sweaty face and pushed my luggage towards my seat. I had a total of 4 bags to carry. A guy helped me put the baggage underneath his seat. I thanked him and sat on mine.
I have a habit, I confess! I observe people. I can’t not just ignore the fact that someone sitting right in front of me might have an untold story. I observe his gestures, movements and any other distinctive thing about him that might yield his life story. So, I am sitting relaxed in my seat and I look up. I see a middle-aged guy with an aquiline nose sitting cross legged in front of me. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a similar red T-shirt. I assumed he was married by the way he stole glances to the woman sitting right next to him. You can never miss that protective glare husbands pass to their wives while travelling publicly. It’s like ‘You never look up, you just look at me, just you and me’.
I saw a group of three girls frolicking on the other side of the compartment. I still thought we were giving due notice to ‘Hum do, hamare do!’, but you never know. Rearing children can’t always be God’s will. I knew I was missing something but I continued on my observation. In the six-passenger seat, I was joined by two women and three men. It wasn’t difficult for me to recognize the second couple. They made a face whenever they looked at each other. Definitely married!
I drank a cup of tea and eased in a bit into my seat. Something is missing! I checked my bags again.
Well, I didn’t had my backpack. I panicked and asked around. The two ladies made a face like I had just told them their children were lost, not my bags. They repeatedly told me I brought just three inside with me. I rushed back outside and checked the aisle of the train. And voila! My bag was still there. I walked back in and animatedly showed it off like a trophy I had just received. And believe me when I say this, the two women actually looked more satisfied and happy than my sad little face. There was a moment of acknowledgement between me and the two ladies and I sat down again, much relived this time.
‘Hi, I am Prakash and this is my wife, Sarla.’, the guy sitting next to me said pointing towards the lady who made a face when he looked at her but smiled politely when I introduced myself.
‘This is my younger brother Rajiv, his wife Malini and their daughter Gunjan’
In my head, I am like;
‘Hi, I am Kartik. I know you hate your wife and probably want to kill her. But hold that thought and tell me if you have any daughter I can spoil in this train journey because I don’t have no daughter and no wife.’
So after a few introductory conversations, I came to know that I was travelling with a joint family of 7. The elder couple had a daughter and was travelling with a friend of hers. The younger couple also had a daughter. They were on a trip to Akshardham Temple in New Delhi.
A train ride in India is when your five senses are working perfectly. If they don’t, you are in for a treat. I, personally, like to get engaged in the stories people have to offer (as you might have already come to know of). If there are elderly people sitting next to you, you will never get enough of politics and incessant ramblings on how inefficient the Indian government is. If it is individuals from different walks of life, that journey might be the longest journey of your life. Ideally, I was in a situation where there was guaranteed food and family banter. But what we guys usually crave for is to sit next to a hot female and at least get her number by the end of the journey (turns out one of my friends did).
In the midst of the journey, I realize that they stay in Sion, Mumbai and this was there first time visiting Delhi. As a seemingly pompous Delhite and an eager host, I extended my little knowledge of the city I grew in. I told them a few scenic destinations they could visit and travel trivia. In exchange for kindness, I got food. Hardly a surprise!
What impressed upon me the most is the impeccable sense of understanding that family had. They were like package full of goodwill ready to be delivered at any doorstep. They had a bag full of eateries with plastic spoons and Styrofoam plates. And their courtesy never ended. I had a tummy full of Dhoklas and Theplas that night.
It was almost too gratifying. It occurred to me that in the past four years of my engineering, there are a plethora of eventful nights I remember. Nights when I was living bigger than life; when freedom was scaled to its limit and sanity was just another variable that could be changed. But none of the made an impact any way closer to yesterday. It’s not like I never had food at friend’s place or enjoyed a meal while travelling. It’s the fact that kindness, in its simplest form is contagious and leads to a better lifestyle.
That family had a new destination in place. I was headed back home. The juxtaposition startled me. It was like life again throwing that clichéd phrase at me- ‘I go on!’ I thanked them for their courtesy and agreed to accompany them to their destination.
For what it was worth, they made the journey worth it!
It’s always the small things!