Copyright © Chandan Kumar
All rights reserved
Cover source (with thanks):
what do you want?’ The irritated Station Master at Nagpur
railway station questioned in Hindi, finding me standing at his
My appearance was no
better than a tea-stall vendor with soiled clothes, dishevelled hair
and a haggard look. It was quite natural, having travelled for two
and half days in the second class withstanding the onslaught of the
peak summer heat of May....the year was 1987.
Speaking in English
to impress upon him, I introduced myself and shared my plight. 'Sir,
I have lost my valuables and ran out of money while travelling from
Guwahati. I don’t have any means to buy a ticket to journey
further to Bombay.’
‘So, what do
you want me to do? Give you a free ride in the first class
compartment, ask my peon to escort you and make you sit comfortably
on the next available train and see you off?’ Came the angry
‘No sir. I am
a graduate engineer and a government employee, here is my ID card - I
work for Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. Sir, I am in distress and
hence seeking your help. All I need is a second class ticket and I
promise that I shall send the amount by money order upon reaching
Bombay.’ I pleaded for some kind consideration.
The fat, near-bald
guy with his three strands of hair struggling against the speed of
the table fan to cover his pate, was getting increasingly exasperated
with every sentence of mine. He thundered, ‘Have you seen
yourself in the mirror before claiming to be an engineer? I have
spent 25 years in the Indian Railways during which have encountered
many expert cheats and tricksters who were much smarter than you.
Still, they could never fool me!’
‘But sir, I am
being honest. It is not fair on your part to hurl such insults.’
I was visibly indignant.
Before I call the security guard and throw you out, move out of here
and save your dignity.’ The Station Master gave me the
frustrated and the hunger pangs attacking relentlessly, I gave him a
hard stare and walked out of his office. I trudged towards a concrete
bench and slumped on it but not before drinking a bellyful of water
from the nearby water tap to temporarily douse the flame of hunger.
Holding my head with
my hands, I closed my eyes in exhaustion. My mind was getting jittery
not being able to find a way to wriggle out of the troublesome
situation. I cursed myself for my stupid display of arrogance
earlier. The guilt feelings had started deprecating me for my rude
behaviour towards my parents earlier.
The night before my
departure, the topic had come up for discussion once again with my
parents. I was in Guwahati on a short vacation.
‘Dad, how long
would you want to avoid discussing the matter with me? We all are
going through some unnecessary and avoidable stress in our lives.
Let’s have a frank and open discussion please?’ I had
pleaded with my father over dinner.
With his face
suddenly turning grim, my dad responded curt and short, ‘Son,
there is nothing to discuss. My view is firm and final – I do
not approve of your relationship and I shall not accept that girl in
‘Now, now! Why
do you guys have to bring this topic over dinner? Can’t we have
our meal peacefully? There is ample time later to deliberate on this
matter.’ Sensing trouble and disruption, my mother jumped in to
mollify both of us.
I was already
seething at another yet-again-rejection by my father! I kept silent
and continued with my meal head down though I had no desire.