More than three decades have passed but still the thought of train journey gives me goosebumps and a wide smile spread on my lips.
Many times, my kids ask, “Mamma, what’s the secret behind this smile?” I still blush & change the topic and they exchange questioning glances.
I was in final year of degree and an excursion was arranged by our college for sight seeing and a get together party. Every year, the final year students went on an excursion and the next batch used to be excited for their chance. There used to be many stories of the excursion which was flashed in the college, we did not know about its authenticity but it did excite us to get an opportunity to participate. Finally, we got a chance.
Three decades before, it was a challenging task to get the permission of parents for an outing with friends and teacher and it was a herculean task, where co-education existed.
The excitement flushed us with courage to ask for permissions and after great perusal, finally my parents agreed and there were dozens of reprimands along with it to follow and I nodded to follow each one as a responsible child and made them believe that I will be careful during my trip & not break their faith.
Packaging was done by my Mom and she took care that I carry enough of warm clothes to cover myself and a whole lot of delicacies was loaded along-with my luggage and a list of do’s & don’t’s were instilled by repeating the same things again and again till I was out of sight.
Finally, I took a deep breath when I walked away from home. We gathered in our college premises and hulla bol was on on full tone in the ground & the excitement could be well seen written on each faces. We were twenty five, excluding teachers.
Arjun and I were best friends and shared a platonic relationship and we looked forward to be together during this trip. College friends had doubt about us, but we never disclosed the facts fearing that it might reach our homes & create trouble for both of us. We were waiting to complete our education and fetch a good job.
The journey took off from Lucknow by train and we all loaded ourselves with our belongings and Arjun had sheepishly informed me to take seats near him so that we can spend our me time together and enjoy the trip.
It was my first trip with friends. I liked his idea but butterflies churned in my stomach at the mere thought of sharing seat with Arjun.
After arranging our belongings, we spread out in groups and Arjun kept seat vacant next to him. I adjusted myself next to him and the touch and warm breath of Arjun shivered me from within but I loved the close proximity and when stars twinkled in the sky and darkness descended around, Arjun closed his fingers around mine & passed smiles and at times, winked. I was loving the journey along with the group and Arjun.
Next day, we reached Shimla. It was the month of November and whole Shimla was covered with snows. The rays of sun set dwindled on the mountains and the snow glittered as gold scattered around, it was an amazing sight. I am a lover of nature and these tricks of nature mesmerizes me from within and I captured all beautiful moments in my camera and I fell in love with nature. My eyes were glued to the scenic beauty around.
“Hey Shampa, where are you busy?” Arjun howled from behind and caught hold of my arms and twitched.
“Ohho, what are you doing, leave me.” I too talked in high pitched tone as I felt pain in my arm.
There was no one around and darkness had enveloped the places.
Arjun tilted and lean on me and his hand circled my waist. I felt he was growing wild and might break the barriers.
Suddenly, the reprimands of Mamma stood before me and I removed his hand and ran as fast as I could towards the guest house where we had boarded.
Arjun asked me to stop but I did not listen to him and finally stopped on the gate of guest house and immediately got busy with my group so that I could avert the attention of Arjun.
Next day, we started off for sight seeing tours to near by places of Shimla.
Arjun was trying hard to seek my attention and I was evading his glances.
We started off a ride on toy train and in mid way, a tunnel approached. Suddenly, I felt a tight grip on my mouth and hand and before I could say anything, I was standing on the tracks.
I was totally numb for few seconds but when I saw Arjun standing in front, I understood the whole story behind and I was very hurt by his behavior. My faith in me had shook so I was evading him and did not wish to be a topic of gossip among group.
He came close to me.
“Don’t dare you touch me.” I almost shouted at him and started crying.
“I beg you, Shampa. Don’t misunderstand me. I wanted to be with you for some time, that’s why I pulled you out of the train. Please, please, please.” Arjun almost begged.
“So what next? We will be stranded here or move out?” I asked him, controlling my emotions.
“Come, let’s catch train.” He strode towards the standing train and I followed him, there was no choice in the silent woods.
When I stepped in, the whole train was empty. I was petrified. I had a soft corner for Arjun but could not confide on a young man in loneliness. Anyhow, I gathered courage to face the situation deliberately created by Arjun and took a window seat with a motive that if he tries any untoward act, I could raise my voice and passersby could listen. My mind was acting as a devil’s mind.
Arjun took a seat in front of me and was silent.
“What happened Arjun? You wanted to spend time with me in this way…been mute then even in group, it could have happened.” I said sarcastically.
“Shampa, I never knew that you did not had faith in me, else I would have never tried this. I thought that you would enjoy my company so I got mischievous. Sorry.” Arjun said in a hushed tone.
“It’s not like that Arjun, I don’t trust myself. We both are at the threshold of youth and I don’t wish to let down my parents, but I love you.” I told him.
Arjun got emotional and sat on his knees and proposed.
“Will you like to grow old with me?” He said.
“No, Dear, I want to be young with you.” I giggled.
We both giggled and our laughter echoed in the empty train.
The train whistled and screeched, starting for the next station.
I sat relaxed and Arjun sitting in front was silently watching me. I wanted him to be by my side but did not had the courage to declare my wishes.
The excursion and the empty train gave voice to our feelings and we promised to stand by each other whole life.
After waiting for five years, we exchanged rings with the consent & blessings of our parents.
More than three decades of our courtship have passed but the fragrance of love and desire is same as it was in our twenties when we met.
Empty trains scare with nightmares but our journey in empty train started on a good note and once again, I wish to accompany him on a long journey in an empty train…waiting for that pleasant moment to fulfill my wishes that I long with my love.
Short Story By © Ila Varma 25-09-2016