Delhi Cantonment railway station, 1:01 am February 21st 1997
In frustration, after loosing three coins, I took a piece of paper and started writing a note "This machine does'nt work, please don't waste your money." and pasted it on the fancy glass box on top of the 1st generation weigh machine at the station.
"Abe kya kar raha hai yeh? koi dekh lega" Gulshan said.
"Machudai" I said.
Both were sitting silently at platform #1 for few minutes and then Gulshan hugged me, bid goodbye and left the station for his home.
This station was very small. It has, may be, only three platforms and you will rarely see any person on the platforms. There are lot of useless and trashed locomotives and boggies on the tracks and hundred of slums around the station with no fence to it. Very few trains stop here and fortunately one of the few trains that goes to north India, pooja express stops here and that too for exactly 2 minutes. So if you are talented enough, you will make it to the train or else...
"Yatri Krupya dhyaan dein, Jaipur se aney wali Pooja express, do ghantey deeri se ayegi. Deeri ke liye khed hai." Lady announced on the loud speaker.
"Maki aankh" I mumbled.
Took my small black bag, hung it on one of my shoulder and started walking towards platform #2 where exactly the train was supposed to stop for boarding.
I took one loney corner and sat on the bench nearby.
And as I was about to close my eyes for a nap, I heard a voice,
"Bhaisahab yeh pooja express issi playtfarm pe ayegi na?" an old man asked.
"Haan shayad, patanahi ayegi to, ..." I said.
"Aap kahan jaoge?" said old man.
"Mein, Jammu. pooja mein jaunga" I said.
He took the seat next to me, put his small black bag on the bench, took out small box and started eating.
"Aap khaoge?" said old man
"Nahi, aap khao" I replied.
"Itnio bheed hai pata nahi seat milegi ki nahi" I said " ap sleepermein ja rahe ho?"
"Nahi beta mein to AC mein jaunga, pass hai mere paas."
"To beta dilli mein naukri karte ho?"
"Nahi, padne ke liya aya tha"
"Mein lakhnauu ja raha hoon kissi se milne" old man said "waisey mera ghar to delhi mein hi hain."
" 2 behne hain meri ek vasant kunj mein rehti hai aur doosri yahan sadar bajaar ke paas rehti hai."
"Kabhi kabhi milne jata hoon unse"
"To aap kahan rehte ho?" I asked old man " to aap yahan kaam karte ho delhi mein?"
"Nahi beta ab to mein retire ho gaya hoon. mein pehle railways mein kaam karta tha."
"aapki family bhi apke saath yahin hai ki lakkhnau mein?"
"Nahi beta, meri kahan ki family mein to akela rehta hoon."
"Aapki family kahan hai?" I asked.
"Wahi meri do behne aur kuch reshtedaar hain delhi mein."
"Nahi mera matlab apki biwi aur bachche?"
"Mere bachche nahi hain, shaadi hi nahi hui." old man replied in a shaded tone.
"oh acha ... lekin shaadi kyu nahi ki?"
" bas beta mein to karna chahta hoon abhi bhi lekin nahi hui. mere maa baap ka jaldi dehant ho gaya, fir sar pe jimmedaari aa gayi bhai behno ki fir unki shaadi karwayi. Baad mein meri behne bhi apni family mein busy ho gayi aur aise hi time nikal gaya."
"Nahi...abhi ladki dhond raha hoon." I shook my head as old man said this.
"Abhi akele koi khayal rakhne wala to hona chahiye. mein railways mein achi post pe tha bahut paisa bhi hai, lekin kya fayda? socha tha bhai behen ya reshtedar kahi karwa denge rishta, lekin sab apne parivaar mein busy rahe aur meri shaadi nahi ho paayi, beta ab kya bataien."
"haan lekin ek rishta dekha hai , wahi ja raha hoon lakhnauu mein. Ladki ke ghar waley maan gaye hain, thodi umaar kum hai ladki ki 19 saal. Par uske ghar walo ko koi problem nahi hai...thode paise maang rahey hain...mein de dunga."
"Oh acha..." I was clueless about what that old man was talking about.
"To beta apki ho gayi shaadi?"
"Nahi abhi to mein pad raha hoon" I smiled.
"Beta, kuch bhi ho jaye, shaadi zaroor karna warna baad mein koi nahi poochta, tumhari ghar waley, rishteydaar, dost... koi bhi nahi." Old man said in heavy voice and sighed.
For some reasons, I was always scared about the thought of marriage, even a thought of it was like a nightmare for me.
But today, when this old man said those words, I don't know what happened to me, something has just changed inside me.
He was like 72 years old and looked weak.
"Beta, train ayegi to bata dena, mein zarra let leta hoon." He slept on the bench.
I helped him to get on the AC boggie, before I tugged myself in to the General compartment. It was 3:30 in the morning and after standing for 3 hours, I got to sit on the floor near the door. Door was open and fresh air from outside kept flirting with my hair strands and washing my face. I was looking outside, the ever changing view of light, of darkness, of cities, of villages, of roads, like I was chasing all of them, like I was chasing my dreams in all of them. My mind was blank, rather in a neutral state, a state of comfort, a state of disbelief, state of pain, a state of relief.