I choose to narrate this story from Niket’s eyes. Meet Niket- the theme character of this story….5′ 6”, cherubic built, dusky complexion, a mediocre student and a badly-hit victim of FETTERS OF HATRED. So now I will let Niket speak.
I boarded my Rajadhani Express just in time and thanked God that I didn’t miss it. I could have reached the station well in time only if maa had not interrupted in between. So I waited as she swiftly packed the freshly baked laddus and juicy rasgullas for me. “These are for your journey. And don’t forget to give this packet of SOAN-PAPADI to Mitali’s parents!”, said she. Indore is famous for its SOAN-PAPADI. And the journey from Indore to Hyderabad was surely going to be a long one. I was delighted at the sight of laddus.
The TT helped me find my seat. The compartment wasn’t really crowded. A couple sat on the opposite berth. And the way they seemed to be lost in each other, anybody could guess they were newly married. Otherwise one often sees in journeys that if the husband sat at the extreme left, the wife would choose to sit at the extreme right. ” Must be on their honeymoon trip”, I thought to myself as I couldn’t refrain myself from smiling. I was glad that the window seat was empty. I settled my baggage on the rack and soon the train commenced its journey.
An old man, aged around 60-65, entered the compartment and sat on my berth on the extreme right as if I was suffering from plague and he couldn’t afford sitting beside me! I watched the vendors, the coolies and the stalls on Indore Station through the window till they became too distant and finally invisible.
It was 7 pm. The silence in the compartment was broken by the sound of shrill cries of a small baby, coming from the adjacent compartment. I recalled my mother’s instructions – ” Don’t speak aloud there. Talk to her parents politely. Don’t lie about anything- be it our status or ways of living….n blah…blah”. These mothers, I tell you, they don’t feel lesser than the mother of a soldier who is departing for war when their son leaves for a distant place, to ask for a girl’s hand. Yes, you guessed it right. I was on my way to Mitali’s place at Hyderabad, where she would be introducing me to her parents. And I had to ask for her hand. I was damn nervous. What would I say? How would I say it? How will they react? Will they accept me? If only maa could accompany me had those damn semesters at Holkar College not blocked her way. She was a lecturer there and a single parent. But she never let me feel the difference leave aside the financial problems we encountered every now and then.
My series of thoughts was broken as my cell burst aloud-” Aaja mai hawaaon pe bitha ke le chalu, tu hi toh meri dost hai… “ Man, I love this ringtone and am a die-hard fan of AR RAHMAN. It was Mitali. She seemed to be much more excited than me and kept calling me up every now and then.
“Why did you take so long to pick up the phone? I was….”- spoke she as the network failed. I tried calling her up several times but in vain. I closed my eyes as the wind gently touched my face. Don’t know why but journey + soft breeze + closed eyes always lead me down the memory lane. I was a kid till yesterday and now I am 24, a Chartered Accountant (finally!), self-dependant and a grown-up. “I badly wish Mitali’s parents say yes.” Mitali, Mitali Mittal, Chartered Accountant, too-I had met her approx. 5 yrs ago. I still remember our first meet. She was a hostelite at Indore and we were batchmates at Chahta Professional Academy (CPA), a renowned C.A. coaching institute.