Sometimes, it isn’t required to try hard to be a friend. You just wait! Piu Mahapatra rewinds to a childhood train journey and a ‘chhoti si mulaqaat’.
The train was moving fast cutting through the dense darkness outside, unsettling it again and again!
Inside, the moving chamber was quietly dim, yellowish orange! It looked like the little boy, probably nine, sitting on the opposite bench, his head softly placed at the edge of the window which also moved and swayed along with the train. He was lost somewhere in the darkness outside. His eyes did not wander in the dim outside, rather they were peacefully settled in his own thoughts and looked like tiny glow worms caught inside the train.
Two precious drops of twinkling blue, from those hundreds, who kept up with the pace of the train and flew along in the opaque darkness outside. I was right opposite and probably in the same pose, almost like a mirror of each other. A little boy and a little girl on the same train towards the same direction, unknown to each other but having the same window to share.
It was late! Quite late and the journey ahead was long and boring. The glow worms kept up with us.
“Don’t you get tired?” I whispered to the twinkling blues. The night air was sharp and teased the soft contour of the tiny faces meddling and messing our cropped hair.
“Don’t you get tired, ever?” They did exactly what he did, the little boy with the eyes snugged in darkness. They kept on glowing playfully ignoring me. I didn’t have any ask, was not even curious, but wanted to share the round orange candy with him which was getting sticky and hot in my tiny palm. But at times it was so hard to say something as simple as, ‘let us be friend for a while.’ Only a little while maybe, till we reach wherever the train takes us. For that, I needed his eyes to shift at least once. I stole one or two quick glances at him. The wish to suck the candy, sweet and citrus, was so powerful! But then, I had only one to share.
At night running trains act differently. The dim orange light casted long shadows on the faces of its passengers and they looked like isolated islands. The night eager to get inside hung outside the window and waited. It sometimes settled on his face, on the tip of his nose, side of his lips, and slowly on his brow making them darker.
‘The candy could have helped.’ I looked at my open palm and gulped the tiny pool of want in my mouth. He had a book, half open on his lap and the pages shamelessly flirted with the gushing wind.
“It will be hard to find where you left.” I wondered why he didn’t turn it upside down, the pages could have behaved then. I knew that was a brilliant suggestion but for that he needed to look down on his book and then slowly at me. He didn’t remind me of anyone, none at all. A completely unknown face was rare as we love to find familiarity even in those who are vaguely related. But I found it relaxing not to make my brain run on to track something which was not even worth going for. So, he remained absurdly new and unfamiliar. But his eyes reminded me of the glow worms – blue and forgotten.
“I can always ask the title of the book, can I not?”
He moved his legs and I saw the book, ‘চাঁদের পাহাড়’, (The Mountain of Moon) by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
That night when the lights were off and the windows remained wide open, in that moving train I saw the glow worms all getting in and flying around him, softly twinkling in the darkness.
I wanted to know his name but I knew I would shy away from that. I was sure that the train would reach on time and would finish the candy by then.
His eyes moved and he looked at me for the first time. With the night light of the sky outside I could see him smiling at me licking my palm. But then, how would he know I was patiently waiting for him to look all through the evening till the night settles inside.
(Artwork: Piu Mahapatra)
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