Thursday, August 28, 2008


The present station master was a very amiable person. So he was a good friend to many persons. But here in Sitarampur station he was a waste thanks to those who had transferred him to this station which served only a small township. Mr.Ramprasad Jha –the station master, was an educated person. He had an M.A. degree in history from Patna University. But I liked him because he had an educated mind and was interested in many things of this world and he formed or made opinions depending on his own understanding in the secluded enlightenment of his mind’s inner chamber in stead of being influenced by others. But all his qualities were superfluous and useless to his authorities who needed only a dutiful station master who would never worry his mind thinking about the future of the world or poverty. So Ramprasad felt himself lonely in Sitarampur. Even newspapers were not available. One would have to go to the bazaar to get a
two-day stale newspaper.

Naturally we two became friends. We used to discuss many things in the evening in his room in the station. Sometimes we also sat on my favourite bench and discussed perhaps all things under the sun. As a few trains ran through Sitarampur Ramprasad had enough time to think of other things than the job of a station master would have involved him in other not so insignificant stations. He lived in his quarters attached to the station. But except for lunch and sleep in the night he usually stayed in the station. He spent most of his leisure in reading books sitting in the station master’s room on the platform. But when I went to the station he kept aside his books and diary and welcomed me with a smile. It was a pleasure for both of us to meet each other.
Ramprasad was a married person. But there were many problems for which it was not possible for him to keep his young wife and his two year old child with him in Sitarampur. He was not well paid to run two families –as he had to support his parents and brothers at his home place. It had not been possible for him to get a better job elsewhere –in spite of his educational qualification. It was difficult in India. So Ramprasad visited his family only when his leave was approved and the authority could manage a person to work here temporarily for his leave period.
One day Ramprasad told me that his brother in law and his sister in law would soon come here in Sitarampur for a few days. They were brother and sister. They loved Ramprasad and so at the first opportunity they felt to make a pleasant trip to Ramprasad’s place. Ramprasad’s wife would not come as she had to look after her aging in-laws. Ramprasad appeared to be very happy at this information and soon became busy preparing his households for the two guests. I also helped him buying this or that thing as would be felt required by the guests.
So one day Nitish and Mallika got down from 2116 DN. Ramprasad received them with great enthusiasm. They were quite young. Nitish was in his mid twenties and Mallika appeared to have just crossed her teens. Ramprasad was a little busy as the train was yet to leave the station and so I accompanied them and brought them to the station master’s room. Both of them were handsome and jovial as was evident in our casual exchanges in the room of the station master. Keshav the tea man had come to know that they were close relatives of the Masterjee (station master) and so he brought biscuits and tea for us. Mallika told me “Our journey seem to have not yet ended” and turning to her brother said “as if we are resting in a waiting room in the platform!”
I said to Mallika, “But it’s also the real home to Ramprasad and for me it has the warmth of a home and more comfortable a place-psychologically”
“Is it? A railway platform can not be a living place.” –Mallika said in reply. “But why?”- I asked. “It is because the place is not a stable place at all. You can not make a station your address. It exists in transition. One does not come here. When one wants to leave a place-he uses it as a diving board.”-Mallika replied with a smile and continued “Where do you like to dive into to feel comfortable?” “Into my mind.” I said also with a smile. Nitish –so far had not sppken –but shared the conversation with a silent smile now burst into laughter for my statement. Ramprasad entered the room and told them with an apologetic quick tone “Let us go to home. Oh! You are so tired!” The three rose up and went for Ramaprasad’s quarters. After walking a distance Mallika looked back and told “We’ll visit you in your home here again.” I replied with a loud voice “You are heartily welcome.”
They came here the next evening and we three were joined together and sat on my favourite bench. Ramprasad was busy in his room. Nitish told that they had been busy in setting Ramprasad’s household which was in a mess. Mallika cooked, especially for Ramprasad, who –she thought, should relish his favourite dishes at least for a few days they would stay here. At this point I said to Mallika “Can you cook well?”
She retorted “How can I tell it? The taste of a food is proved in its eating” and quickly asked “What are your favourite dishes?”
“There are too many”, I continued “and you’ll need many days to exhaust the menu”.
Mallika smiled and said “Why have you not married yet? A food-lover should not remain a bachelor” At this point Nitish told us that he was going to see the surroundings of the railway station. After he left I said “Mallika, you are right perhaps ” I continued “ but whether there is anyone in this world who will agree to sharing a life with a person who is a vagabond like me –and loves spending more time in the station than in his house?”
“May be a woman could have made a home for you elsewhere.” Mallika replied thoughtfully looking to where the rails blurred in the distant far.
Nitish returned and came to us followed by Ramprasad and Keshav. So we all sat on the bench and keshav entertained us with his hot tea. He told that this tea was special. He refused to take money this time and requested us to have it as the two were also his invitees.
I told Mallika “See! The platform has become a home now!”
All burst into laughter.
They next day I had an urgent work and so I could not visit the station and my new found friends. I had asked their permission telling “Sorry for not seeing you tomorrow-I have an urgent preoccupation. I’m sad to leave you here.”
Mallika had retorted “You are leaving us in your home! Don’t be sad!”
I had returned in the night. So in the morning I went straight to Ramprasad’s quarters. Mallika seemed to be very happy as she has found me in a home now. She prepared tea for me and told me with her typical naughty smile “It is not as good as Keshav’s! But what else can I do?”
Nitish and Ramprasad laughed loudly at her remark.
In the evening Mallika and Nitish came to the station as their sojourn in Sitarampur ended. Ramprasad was also with them. I was there from before an hour of their reaching the station.
Nitish was talking with Ramprasad about his transfer from Sitarampur. Perhaps they were not happy to see the way Ramprasad lived here. It was really bad to live in so far a place leaving one’s wife, child and parents. At this time the bell-man rang the bell. The passengers became alerted. In a minute the face of 2115 UP appeared in the far.
“Good bye!”-Mallika told. The train stopped at the platform. Ramprasad looked sad.
We all boarded the train and helped Mallika and Nitish to sit comfortably.
Nitish again thanked me for my enjoyable accompaniment for these days. The whistle blew and Ramaprasad and I got down from the train. The 2115 UP moved nonchalantly. Mallika, looking through the window threw her words to me, “You have not invited me to come again, have you?” The train passed without caring to pause to allow me to say anything. Mallika had told me on the first day that the station was not a place to go or come to. One goes there in order to leave for somewhere.
For the first time in my life I was robbed of my home in that somber evening.

1 comment:

Saibal Barman said...

Lovely way of narrating events with spaces wide while moments stand still...
Arriving, leaving or staying remains oblivious of its relative purpose being hypnotized by a firm stationary presence of those feebly empowered moments of life...
Journey neither starts, nor ends until one feels it is there, it is to be there, and it will never offer another chance to choose between !
Best wishes,

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