A long distance journey often entails a lot of acceptance with the unfamiliarity. The list of acceptance with the unfamiliarity lasts till the destination.
Encountering the long wait and initial melee at the platform, we finally boarded the train. The next inevitable was to check the luggage and the berth number. Finding everything at the place, we let ourselves stretch at our allotted space. Still in an emergency mode after battling the platform crowds, the bewildered conscious churned the next question- who were our co passengers? And my mind with aeronautical speed, started sorting out agreeable looking co-passengers amidst the chaotic crowd.
Then a queue of red shirted accomplished weight lifters of the Indian railway made their way through the crowd. They were stooping here and there to stuff heavy luggage beneath the berths. A big family, I speculated. I had least expected a group of slant eyed neighbors. The compartment then resounded with loud, oriental cacophony. My god, I thought, entire tangra (china town) in the compartment.
That initial hustle-bustle lasted for some time and then a few of them moved ahead to the next bogey. When the train jolted and slithered out of the platform, I found myself sharing the unclaimed lower side berth with two slant-eyed girls in their twenties. Hand bags, fat books, polythene bags stuffed with usables were all piled up on the seat behind their backs. A slant-eyed couple in their thirties was sharing the lower berth with my husband. We had confirmed tickets of a lower berth and an upper side berth in the bogey. Viewing the length of the journey, I contemplated an exchange of the berths to enjoy more flexibility in the allotted space. But that too seemed far from reality as conversation seemed to be a futile attempt over there. Only gestures had been ruling the place as viable options. To respite my fatigued self after a while, I decided to take the matter straight to the lady. To explain the option for berth exchange I pointed to the lower berth to her-“this berth is ours, which ones were you allotted?”
My proposal was reciprocated by her with an alarmed disposition. Her crimson cheeky face first fell a bit, then turned pale, probably being on an alien land. In anxious tones, she started explaining something undecipherable. My blank look first made her serious, then tense. Her growing anxiety was the only thing I was able to comprehend out of her soft, musical, oriental tone. We were timely rescued by her husband who came out of next bogey. It saved me too from the surging guilt I was accumulating by initiating something unsavory with someone. Her husband, a replica of equanimity, in his broken English smilingly explained that they had two confirmed tickets of the upper and lower berth. But the accompanying girls had unconfirmed tickets. With apprehensive foreigners I decided to drop the idea of berth exchange and be content with whatever we were allotted.
Their two unconfirmed tickets got assurance of confirmation by the T.T.E after a little past twelve. When I woke up in the morning, the two girls were sleeping peacefully on the lower and middle berth opposite to my husband’s berth.
During the journey, the gentle man would often shot a Buddha-sort of a smile to the co passengers, while the lady preferred to sleep almost the entire time. The bubbly girls either conversed euphorically or read English-learning books. Soon their peaceful auras were reigning the place. Everyone was reciprocating to their peaceful presence congenially. During the interaction, it transpired that the gentleman with his wife was an IT professional, and the two girls were university students. To break the monotony of the journey, several futile attempts at conversation had been undertaken. But the gasping constraints of language limited it all the while. Baffled with their limitations on the Queen’s language during the conversations, he found my English impressive. Chuckling with a monk-like innocence, he complimented me that with such a grasp on the language, I could teach even my husband. I nodded mischievously, glancing at my better accomplished hubby.
Their crimson, cheeks, puffy faces with narrow eyes, their unique way of eating food, even rice with chop sticks, amused us all the while. To carry on the conversation, I mentioned to them about my husband’s recent tour to China. I wanted to mention Shanghai, and about how he had been fascinated by the place. To this, he promptly mentioned that they were from South Korea. Their broken English and gentle demeanor won the heart of co passengers. It seemed hard, the way they were coping in India and that too in the South with just that scrap of English. But I felt that the most prominent and accepted global language is that of humility, in which they were masters. Even the constraints of language and the hindrance of expressions had been so obscured as peace and harmony made their way. They had no qualms in stacking or lifting the eaten trays of people sitting beside them. To create space, they put the shoes of their neighbors by their hands in a safe corner . Everything seemed united in that positive air. Most of the time during the conversation, the gestures and the aura of humility ruled the place. When we alighted at our respective destinations, our heart were filled with the full meaning of all those unexpressed words.