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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Short-story: Rebirth in a train

“Coffeeee!! Teaa!!”
“Coffeeee!! Teaa!!”
The vendor called out as he passed the coupe.
The baby fell on its knee trying to walk to his mother.
The mother ran picked him up and was busy placating. Ravishing young lady sat across him checking her flock of hair in the mirror of her mini clutch bag. The chatter from the group of young boys engrossed in a card game relayed from above. The train had halted at Varnasi for 15 mins. He hadn't moved or uttered a word from the time he got on. The newspaper covered Sanjay"s face; his eyes peered through his bi-focal spectacle and his hair rested neatly combed sideways. A pencil in his hand was losing his grip.

The two young boys continued running along the aisle of the coach playing hide and seek. The younger and fair skinned boy ran into Sanjay's compartment and looked around for a place to hide.

He couldn't be at a more wrong place, even the smallest of spaces were covered with food containers for the yatra. It was the final leg of Shiv yatra for the devotees and Sanjay had no chance but to travel with the crowd. He needed to reach Chennai as quickly as he can. The fair skinned boy who needed to hide peeped under the passengers' legs to find a suitable hideout but he was unlucky. Just then Sanjay nodded his head. The boy questioned with his right hand. Sanjay pointed at the wide cardboard box in the upper berth. He stood up, removed the only container that was inside the box and asked the boy to enter. He smiled and quickly climbed the ladder noiselessly.

A darker skinned boy with an alarmed face entered the room after five minutes, Sanjay assumed he should've been the other pole in the game. He needed to catch the hidden thief. Sanjay pointed him to the other side, he smiled and ran to find his foe. A couple of eyes starred down at this and the face smiled from inside the box. Sanjay returned it. He noticed Divya was a spectator of the scene and looked at her. She smiled back. After ten minutes the darker skinned boy visited his room again with the same expression he wore before. Sanjay lifted his two hands with a look that conveyed he could not help anymore. The boy's face saddened as he left to continue his search. The eyes were wide open from above, watching this.

He peeped above the box and asked "is he gone?" . Sanjay nodded.

"I think your friend has left the coach. You can come down".

"No, you know, Alok is not an easy opponent. He smells even the most little foulplay. Now that you confused him, he won't leave for a while. Let me stay here". Sanjay nodded.

"I am Dhivya, how do you do?" said the ravishing young lady lending her hands.

"I am doing good" replied Sanjay with a warm smile. The eyes looked down.

"So you like children huh? I've seen these wallahs driving away the kids this morning. You were the first one to interact with them".

"I love kids. I can't live without them".

"Oh! So you have experience in raising kids?" Divya continued when the middle aged woman next to her, draped with traditional hindu nine-yard saree placed her left palm over her thigh and squeezed a little. Sanjay knew Divya felt the pressure from the vanished smile. Her angelic face now became tired, and after some seconds sad. Sanjay sat there puzzled. The eyes still looked down while the face lost its joy.

"I am sorry, did I say something wrong?" Sanjay asked to the woman.

"No sir, but please do not bother us. Leave my daughter alone". Divya quickly turned toward her and gave a surprised look.
"Shut up Divya. Have you forgotten what the head seer said? He told that you should refrain talking to any man for the next twenty eight days. If you don't, you would continue living this miserable life forever".

Sanjay interrupted, "Sorry madam, if I may ask why she should not talk to anyone?". The rationalist in him could not be caged.

"I would not normally pour honey to every traveller sir". Sanjay did not understand at first, a few moments later realized it was an analogy.

"But you are going to sit in front of us for the next thirty six hours, so let me tell you right now. Divya was born with Kuja dosha. No one will marry her atleast without a huge dowry that we cannot afford. Then came this bloody American boy. You know what my husband did when he came to our house asking for her hand? He took the trident from durga and was about to kill himself.  he put it down only when Divya promised she would not oppose our family tradition".
Now Sanjay became restless and looked at Divya with a sorry on his face.

"No no, please don't bother her. You know what happened? Shama saastri died the next morning in an accident. It was the curse, all because of her. She won't get any goodness in this life. She had killed my husband. You know what I did when that American boy came to the cremation? I slapped him with my slipper and drove him away". Sanjay was now totally in uncomfortable country.

"So we came here to meet his holiness seer Lord Shivaram. He blessed Divya and told her to stop working and not talk to any man for twenty eight days. Please leave her alone until we reach home, then I can make sure she stays put in her room for the entire month". Divya started to cry as all the boys from the card game stopped playing and looked down. The mother closed her child's ears so no bad news will enter the pure growing soul.

"I am sorry madam, but you should not accept this. The astrology and religion are to help us, not to make our life miserable. The teachings should elate us, not drown us in misery. Don't you ask why to anything the seer says? Don't you think for a second what your daughter would've felt? Losing her lover, her father permanently and now this cruel punishment".

Divya stopped crying and got goosebumps on her hands. She had never seen anyone so rational and brave to talk back to her mother. If this had been her house, Sanjay's head would've been now filled with hot sambar, it was his lucky day. Imagining this she even let out a small laugh. Her mother became mad with anger.

"I don't need to explain you. You do  have children and a wife. Do you need another woman on the side? Do you think our family is that filthy? Stop the nonsense and mind your own work. My family needs to do everything we can to get her a match. You know what the seer said?"

"About what?" Sanjay"s voice became louder.

"About the requirements for her groom. He should've already married but lost his wife. He should have atleast one child and should also have Kuja Dosha. It is going to be impossible to find her a match. Please leave us alone".

She started to sob placing her palm over her face. Sanjay was about to get up to console when Divya raised her left palm stopping him. She started to console her even when her tears flowed unchecked. Sanjay was touched. A beautiful girl with her life in front of her being wasted by this old fashioned traditional cling-on. She still takes care of her mother because of her family values.

The boy climbed down with tears all over his eyes. He sat next to Sanjay and hugged him tight.
Divya was totally confused about this when Sanjay said "This is my son Mithun, he is six years old. I am Sanjay, from Chennai. I belong to brahmin caste while I am a forward thinker and not very orthodox. We came to do the first year thidhi for my wife who died in an accident in Ganga three years ago. This is the first time I did it, because my father in law asked me desperately. We are now returning to Chennai. Right now my family is Mithun and my father in law."

"I am really sorr...." started Dhivya when Sanjay continued "Madam" calling Divya's mother. She looked up with eyes red with tears. Mithun continued crying, holding his father tight.

"I have Kuja dosha too. You can inquire my friends and neighbors about me and can come to visit my family. I am sorry to ask you so bluntly, but I don't know how else to do this. If you don't mind I would like to ask your daughter's hand in marriage, and promise she stays happy throughout her life, only one condition though". They both looked surprised.

"Your daughter should like me and be ok to have Mithun as her son". The smile that grew in a face covered with tear was like a heavy rain to a draught stricken desert. She nodded yes with the same angelic look. Sanjay started to smile back. Mithun stopped crying, stood up and went to Divya, hugged her tight and laughed with his tears still flooding down.

This is an entry for the 'Tell a tale contest'.