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72-hour Ordeal


Chandan Kumar Pathak

Copyright © Chandan Kumar Pathak 2017

All rights reserved

Cover source (with thanks): https://pixabay.com/

‘Yes, what do you want?’ The irritated Station Master at Nagpur railway station questioned in Hindi, finding me standing at his office door.

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 retort.

‘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.

‘Mr Engineer! Before I call the security guard and throw you out, move out of here and save your dignity.’ The Station Master gave me the ultimatum.

Humiliated, 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 our family!’

‘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.

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