I opened a new chapter of my English literature book, not because I wanted to, but because I had no other option as our English teacher said that each student had to read one paragraph of the new story before she starts explaining it. Now, I used to get very conscious of speaking or reading in front of the whole class, I couldn’t understand why it was mandatory for each student to read a paragraph, It should be on a voluntary basis, isn’t it? So, I calculated that I was the 8th student who had to read, in the first row. So, I had to read the 8th paragraph. I marked that with a pen and tried to concentrate as the first student started reading.
The heading on the page was “The Woman on platform 8”. Now, I forgot to mention that I’m a day-dreamer since my childhood. I travel to a distant land in my imagination when someone starts speaking or teaching. Today, People address this with many Psychological jargons like Attention Deficit Disorder or something like that. But, let’s call this day-dreaming for now. At that time, I started focussing on the story because of 3 major reasons – First. I Didn’t want to make any kind of mistake while reading. Second, In case if I started reading the wrong paragraph, the whole class will laugh at me, which will indeed puncture my not so inflated confidence. Third, I find the Title of the story so damn Interesting.
Too much of my surprise, I didn’t face any kind of problem while concentrating on the story. So many times it happens that a story starts with a good beginning but after a couple of minutes I get lost somewhere in some another world. But, with this story, something magical happened. With the first paragraph, I could imagine the platform 8 of Ambala station. With the second paragraph, I was there in the story, I could feel the tangibility of the trains, I could listen to the noises of the vendors and I could see the little stray dogs roaming near the bin, trying to find something to eat. With the third paragraph, I was the Protagonist, sitting on the suitcase and feeding broken biscuits to the stray dogs. I was so involved in the story that I stood mechanically when my turn came to read a paragraph.
“I was going to refuse, out of shyness…” I started reading bending towards my desk. I was so darn conscious because the only voice I could hear in the class was mine. I was sweating a bit. I was trying to concentrate on the pronunciation of the words so that I don’t sound like an alien among sophisticated humans.
“Louder Himanshu” Our teacher shouted which shook my tiny-little confidence again. I tried to read louder, but I don’t think it made any difference in the outcome of the pitch of my voice. I completed the paragraph without many errors and sat down with a thump with a little smile and a boosted confidence. I immediately travelled again in the pages of the little book in front of me and I again became the protagonist of the story – Arun, who met a lady on Platform 8 of Ambala station.
The woman on Platform 8 is a story of a 12-year-old boy waiting for his train, late at night as he had to travel back to his boarding school. He was all alone and was observing carefully what was happening around him – Be it Coolies, or vendors or train, he was observing everything. He was bored to the core and was feeling very lonely. Suddenly, A middle-aged lady, wearing white saree came to him and asked him some questions. He started feeling comfortable with her and She took him to have some samosas and jalebis. He ate as much as he could and she was feeling happy watching him eat, just like a mother feels satisfied when she watches her child having his or her favourite dish. The serenity on her face and the simplicity in her character made him feel a motherly affection towards her. Not only this, she also introduced herself as Arun’s Mother to a friend of him and his mother who came to bid goodbye to his son. Arun felt very touched and kissed her goodbye and also addressed her as his Mother. He waved his hand watched her till she was lost in the crowd as the train took him away.
The Story is written By Mr Ruskin Bond and that was the first time I read that name. But since then, he got a very reverent position in the list of my Favourite Authors. I read that story not once, not twice but even after completing my 7th Standard (With hell lot of difficulties and prayers.).
After a couple of months, there was news all around That Mr Bond is coming to our school and one can get a copy of his book signed, provided he bought that book from school’s bookstall. And then, my business of Daydreaming begun. It was just so realistic and here it goes:-
“I went with a copy of Angry River written by him and he shook my hand before putting his right hand in his shirt’s pocket to find his roller pen. I tried to touch his feet but he stopped me in between and patted my back. He was a little, chubby guy and so fair. His voice was very soothing. I told him that I love his books and his story, The woman on platform 8 is my favourite. He smiled but I bombarded with another question. Did I ask him whether he actually knows Arun or is he his friend? He looked at me and shook my hand again and said: “My little friend, I’m Arun.”
I played that so many times in my mind that it became so realistic, just like it actually happened.
And the day arrived when he was finally coming to our school. It was a winter morning and I reached school just before the bell rang. Everything seemed to be so beautiful and fresh. I kept my bag on the bench and came to the corridor. Two of my classmates were standing there and I heard their conversation about Mr Bond.
“Hey, are you going to the A.V. Room today to get your book signed?”
“Ohh yeah, I got money and I will buy two of his books. I really wish that he could sign both of them.”
I felt that someone threw a grenade towards me with its pin off. That moment I realised that I forgot to bring money to buy books. I never cursed myself so much in my life. It was a kind of Panic attack and I was numb for a moment. When I attained my consciousness back, I calculated that I had 3 options – Beg, Borrow or Steal.
I couldn’t beg because once a tuition Teacher of mine said when I did all the subtraction sums wrong “Ek to tu itna Hatta-Katta hai, Tujhe to koi Bheek bhi nahi dega. Karega kya tu life mein?” I immediately dropped that idea.
I couldn’t borrow because I never learned how to take favour without injuring your own ego. I was and I’m, very bad at expressing myself.
I couldn’t steal because I have seen that people beat Thieves, provided they get caught. And I had no prior experience in that, Neither in stealing nor in getting beaten up.
Finally, I discovered another option.
“I’ll see Mr Bond some other time.” I tried to soothe my injured, little heart with an ineffective balm of three words – “Some Other Time”.
He came around 11 and half of my classmates went to him to get their books signed. And I was sitting on the last bench, copying my maths activity because I had to face the reality after Mr Bond will go, that one gets punished if he doesn’t complete his maths activity. Honestly, I felt like crying. I just wanted to see him so badly. But you know what, I couldn’t cry, because I was 13 at that time. And 13 year old is a big boy and they say that “Big boys Don’t Cry.”
The freshness I was talking about, it flew away. That day I realized that it was all in my head. The Excitement brings that freshness and The boredom scares it away.
“Himanshu, please go and keep these notebooks in the computer labarotary.” My class-teacher said. And May God Bless her!
While returning back after keeping two dozens note-books in the lab, While passing through the corridor, I saw this short man with an innocent face. He was looking at the Craft board outside Vice-Principal’s office. He was wearing a Light blue sweater and sports shoes. His lips, they were somewhat like me – Big and swelled up, just like a swarm of bees stung them. He was discussing something with our Principal. His hands were at his back and was observing everything so calmly, as he was trying to imagine a story inside his head. I never saw his picture before but I saw some of his cartoons, which were usually printed on the cover of his books.
“Did he saw me? here on the first floor?” I wasn’t sure.
Slowly, he went towards the basement and I was watching him go. I was still gazing at the place he was standing a minute before. I finally saw him and I wanted to say this to the whole world. But, I chose to stay quiet. That was my memory and I waited long to share it with the world. I can’t forget that day till my last breath on this “Not so green anymore” Planet.
What was so special about that story?
I really don’t know. But even today when I read that story it touches my soul. I still feel those long lost emotions I felt when I read that story for the very first time. And then I realize that, though I’m about to turn 26, a part of me is still 12-year-old. That part of me hasn’t grown yet. That part of me is still sitting on his suitcase at the Ambala station, waiting for his train, all alone. He is still gazing at the place where Mr Bond was standing in his blue sweater and sports shoes. And eating Samosas and Jalebis up to his heart’ content.
Most Importantly, That guy had an experience of being alone for a while, not physically maybe, but yes emotionally. He understands and cherishes those relationships which were made for some time, maybe on a train journey, when one knows that he will never see the other person – Really, Never. Those faces become blurred in the memory but that warmth, it never fades.
But The truth is, at the end of the day, He is all alone – Physically and Emotionally. But that doesn’t mean that he is sad. He is just like that Lone fox dancing in the Bright Moonlight.
So let’s end this by taking some liberty by moulding Mr Bond’s poem in my words –
Somewhere in a Distant land,
Another Lone fox is Dancing,
In the bright moonlight.
Slowly, Learning to express Himself,
Thinking without what’s wrong
and What’s right.
With a paper on his desk and
Pen in his hand,
He began to write.
And He will keep on dancing
Till the dawn, Because,
The night was his by right.