Tata steel express left Jamshedpur station for Kolkata every day at sharp 6.A.M. It was a chilly December night. Anjali was carrying only a black suitcase. She had packed three sets of salwar kameez, a pair of jeans, three t-shirts. That was all she could pack in a hurry. She had driven her scooty from Tata residential complex all the way to the station. She reached the station around five thirty. It was pitch dark. She decided against waiting in the waiting room lest anybody would recognize her. She sat on a bench in the station in the dark.
The train had not yet arrived. Suddenly she saw a man approaching her; he came towards her and sat beside her on the bench. Anjali was a bit tensed.
Why is this man sitting on the bench beside her in the cold instead of waiting in the air-conditioned waiting room. She clenched her fists and started praying. The man must have some lecherous intentions, seeing a single girl in the station at the wee hours must have put obscene thoughts in his mind, Anjali thought.
Anjali was cursing her family. If they had not arranged her match against her wishes to a characterless immoral person who happens to be a NRI just because he was the son of her father’s best friend, then she would not have to face this day. All her persuasions went in vain and her father would not change his mind. The prospective groom worked as a technocrat in Pennsylvania in TCS.
But that did not matter to Anjali. She had always wanted a love marriage. After completing education in bachelors in arts she had wanted to study in Delhi University for her masters but her father did not give his consent and did not let her go. She had always wanted to leave Jamshedpur and see the world but her parents always wanted to marry her off to well off boy as soon as she completed graduation. She was the older of two sisters, when the said proposal came from the NRI groom her parents were over eager to marry her off.
The groom Suresh Srivastava had come down to India and had visited her place in Jamshedpur and after meeting Anjali had chosen her. But Anjali did not like the guy, about how he spoke candidly of his past relationships and live in girlfriends. It was bit weird for a small town girl like Anjali, may be it was quite common in the United States. But she had always dreamt of her prince charming and Suresh did not fit into the frame. The wedding was just three days away, the guests had started to arrive. Then she realized it was her life and it was up to her to take decisions about her life. She had booked a ticket for Kolkata the previous night and accommodation in a girls hostel in Kolkata. She would stay in the hostel and look for a job.
Rohit was on the run. He was working for a finance company in Kolkata. After a ponzi scheme went astray people were baying for his blood. All the investors wanted their money back. He had come to Jamshedpur to stay with his uncle for some time till the matter goes cold. The main accused the managing director of the company which ran the ponzi scheme had been arrested just a day back and things were looking to become normal once again. The people had realized that the agents like Rohit were just pawns and the main culprits were the top management of the company. He had booked a ticket back to Kolkata on Tata steel express.
When he reached the station it was another half an hour for the train to start. The train had not yet arrived in the station. He thought to wait in the waiting room but decided against. He did not want to take any chance as any of his investors could see him in the waiting room. He decided to wait in the station itself. He walked towards a bench in the station. He saw a girl, a young woman in black full sleeved pullover and jeans sitting on one side of the bench. It was odd, why would she sit in the cold in the dark instead of the air-conditioned waiting room, Rohit pondered. He sat on the other side of the bench.
Anjali was praying when suddenly Tata steel express entered the station. She was relieved. She took her suit case and walked off to the train. She had booked a first class compartment as all the other tickets in sleeper and second class were full. She went in her compartment. There were only two berths in the coup, the coup was meant only for two people, must be for couples Anjali thought. She settled herself in. She was about to lock the door, suddenly a man came in. He was wearing a denim jacket and blue jeans. He looked at her then sat on the other berth just opposite to Anjali. She realized it was the same man who had followed her and sat beside her on the bench in the station. She was terrified. She did not know what to do. He must have followed her to the train. There was no one else in the coup. What would happen if he jumped on her.
Suddenly the man said” It is my seat”.
He showed her his ticket. She saw the ticket had the exact number as of the opposite berth. Anjali thought after all this man then had not followed her, co incidentally they both share the same compartment. Anjali felt a little better. Still a journey of four hours with a complete stranger was not easy. Why he was sitting beside her in the station instead of the waiting room, Anjali thought.
“The door will remain open, I will not lock it.” Anjali said.
“As you wish” Rohit answered. “I understand it is difficult to trust strangers”
“Especially if the stranger follows someone in the night in the station” Anjali answered.
“I was not following you or anyone. I just did not want anyone to notice me in the waiting room. “Rohit answered.
“Then you must be on the run from people. That makes you far more dangerous” Anjali quoted.
“Why you were waiting in the dark outside instead of in the waiting room if I may ask, “Rohit said.
“Well I also did not want anybody to notice me.” Anjali quoted.
“Then in such case you are also on the run from somebody” Rohit replied.
Anjali couldnot answer the question. The train had started to leave the station. Both Anjali and Rohit were seated in their berths opposite to each other. Both were thinking of their uncertain future.
Anjali was thinking of what would her parents feel when they would realize that she had run away in the night? What would she do in Kolkata? How would she ever face her parents again? Rohit was thinking what he would do when he returned back to Kolkata. How would he face all the investors and how would he pay them back.
The train moved like a serpent on the tracks over a curve. As the train left Jamshedpur the two souls in the compartment were lost in their thoughts. All they had was the company of each other in the journey and their uncertain future.
“So that was how I met your mother, I think I have told you the story enough times so by now you should remember it by heart. “ Rohit said to his nineteen year old daughter Tania.
“So unbelievable, uncle seems straight from the romantic novels.” said Mahek, Tanis’s best friend.
“Tania always says that her parents have a unique love story, so we had all planned that on her birthday we would all hear it from you.” Sonali another classmate of Tania quoted.
“Amazing story, I wish all of us has a love story like that.” Suraj the hunk among Tania’s group of friends said.
“Boys and girls if all of you are done with the stories can I serve dinner?” Anjali said coming out of her kitchen.
“Aunty you still look so beautiful. You must have been very beautiful twenty years back.” Mahek said.
“That is for your uncle to decide” Anjali said and smiled at Rohit.
“Now please start your dinner otherwise it will be late for you to reach home.”
As she was serving dinner Rohit looked at Anjali, she looked the same when he met her for the first time twenty years ago on a train journey.