Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Aisha #3

After sipping two glasses of masala chai each, they entered the train and proceeded to their respective compartments. Her seat was in S1, and his seat in S4. “Uncle ji, can you please change my berth to S4 31? My cousin brother is in 32. It’s that I’ve never traveled alone, and I’m afraid.” And sure enough TC helped her get a seat next to Anand.

“So, you know that TC?” asked Anand.

“Of course not. If I even had an inkling of who he was, I wouldn’t have asked for a change of seat. It’s difficult, you know for a girl. My dad is a very good guy and lets me travel alone. I don’t want people to report to him bad stories about me, I don’t want to put my freedom in jeopardy.”

Anand made a wry smile and asked, “And what makes you think this TC will not say to others, ‘a beautiful girl has asked me to change her seat so that she can be with a boy. Hey, Raam!”

“He won’t because I’ve said you’re my brother.”

The words deflated Anand’s face, and he became numb. He was fidgeting uncomfortably and trying to say something, but all he emanated were little squeaks.

She guffawed heartily, “Relax, I just told him that to make sure he won’t pry on us, I don’t think of you as a brother. Cheer up. I didn’t have any other option. I couldn’t have said you’re my boyfriend.”

Suddenly plucking courage, he asked, with a serious business tone, “Why not?”

Hmmm. You definitely look good, but I couldn’t say you’re my boyfriend because,”


“Because my boyfriend has to be a minimum of six feet and should be wearing glasses,” saying which she doubled over laughing uncontrollably.

He tried to smile, but it came out awkwardly, and then as if remembering suddenly he opened his bag and brought out his glasses, which just sent her into more violent fit of giggles, beating his thigh as she roared with laughter.

It did take some time calming down, “So where are from? And what else do you do other than popping coins into weighing machines?”

“I’m from Keylong, Himachal Pradesh; I just got a job in Indian Air Force, as an Engineer. So I’m on my holiday trip. I love traveling. I always wanted to go for South India trip, and I felt this was the right time. See all the places before I join my job. What about you?”

“I’m from Jammu, and I love traveling a lot, and usually I like to travel alone. After this trip my parents and relatives will most probably get me married, so I want to make the most out of this trip. I’ve not exactly planned my trip, but that’s fine. My dad planned a little and gave me a set of tickets, which he says can be used as a fallback. You know free tickets. Yay!”

“So what does your dad do?”

“My dad’s a locomotive pilot.”


“Okay, I get that stare a lot. It means he’s a train driver. Geez, how lowly it sounds when said train driver.”

The both took to laugh, which later subsided into an awkward silence. Anand was clearly trying to make a conversation, but obviously failing at it. So she took the initiative and said, “Did you ever travel in Train engine, the locomotive?” She didn’t wait for his answer, 99% didn’t ever see the inside of a train locomotive. She continued, beaming proudly, “I did, loads of times, with my dad.

“I am my daddy’s girl through and through. When I was small, no one else could control me. He used to take me with him every day until I started at school. And to much embarrassment most people think that a locomotive pilot is a low job in the railways. Let me tell you it’s not. It’s a challenging and well-paying job.”

“Seems like your father is a cool guy.”

“Yes, he is. He’s the best dad in the world. He lets me do anything I want. He loves me so much. And every day, mind you, every single day, he keeps telling me that I’m the reason and meaning of his existence,” she said all without stopping for a breath. She loved her dad a lot, “What about your father?”

Ummm. My parents died while I was still a toddler. So, I never knew them. My grandma raised me. We have an acre of land and a house that has been with us since like the stone age, half of which we use to run a small inn for the tourists, which is what gets us our food.”

“I’m sorry about your parents.”

“That’s ok. I don’t remember them.”

“Well, you have a good granny, now that’s a blessing. I’d rather put my head under train wheels than listen to my granny. She curses a lot. She’s a bitc--” She stopped her flow, not sure how Anand would react to the cussword, “Anyway, I hate my granny. If it’s not for my father, my granny would have killed me by now. I was always so jealous seeing the grannies of my friends who were so sweet. When I went to my friends’ houses, their grannies used to tell us stories, help us peel the oranges and used to give us a lot of snacks. My granny just complains about me all the time. 24 x 7, ‘Aisha, don’t go out, Aisha, don’t talk to boys, Aisha is such a bad influence to everyone in the family.’ She would define the word nag.”

“Just your luck,” said he.

She laughed at that and every time she laughed something happened to him, he was getting a pleasant feeling in his nape and behind his ears, like being doused with liquid happiness, while his heartbeat would become so palpable, which had been like undisturbed still water all these years. Her laughter, to him, was like slow melody with violins and bells. He cleared his throat, “Listen. Are you really hell bent upon that six feet height requirement?”
And she giggled again while he impatiently waited for an answer.

She went on speaking volumes about her dad, flushing with pride as she recounted how her dad, the hero, managed to avoid a train collision more than once. She was talking about her father's heroics as if he can drive the train safely on just one rail. Listening to her talk, he drifted into sleep, sitting in her seat, hands held in front of his chest and glasses askew, and his bent feet have now extended in sleep and touching the other end of the seat, the weight of legs was being borne by her lap. She didn’t want to wake him up, but she had to get his legs away to get up. She slowly caressed his legs, they were so cool, and it felt like touching snow, which felt so different, for her body seemed to be on a stove all the time, and her nerves seemed to tingle at that touch. She finally managed to lift the legs up and move out, and she took his glasses away and put those inside her bag and climbed up to his seat to sleep, for she didn’t have the heart to wake him and ask him to go sleep on his berth.

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