May 21, 2014
Punctually at nine in the morning the couple would step into the Andheri Suburban Station to catch the 9.12 am local train bound for Church Gate. The train would arrive and the passengers begin to scramble up and scatter for seats.
It was the peak time for daily commuters in Mumbai when people from all walks of life would converge there and obviously the crowd would be huge. Yet I struggle to focus my sight on this unique couple. Their concern for each other was such that they stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd at that point of time at the station.
Before getting into the train, the lady would gently hang the man’s bag across his shoulders, and help each other to get into the train. Invariably, they always find a seat beside each other thanks to the concerned passengers who by now knew them well.
The train would now begin to move forward and just as the Andheri Station begins to recede, the man would fish out his daily newspaper and begin to pour over the contents. Likewise the lady would gently pull out of her bag a fluffy warm ball of wool, deep maroon colored wool, and begin to knit a sweater.
The train would soon pass by Ville Parle, Santa Cruz, Khar and now gently lower the speed to spill out and spill in the busy exciting passengers at Bandra Station. I would now divert my focus from this interesting couple and begin to ogle at the incoming crowd at Bandra Station. As the time runs out, the train would now begin to rumble on towards the Church Gate Station.
This daily routine keeps continuing and soon days, weeks and then months would roll on and as usual, while the gentleman is focused on his newspaper, the maroon, the brilliant maroon sweater would begin to take up the shape of a neck and then gradually the maroon would sweep over the chest and the rest of the area of the sweater. However, soon one day, I saw with interest at the lady working on the sleeve of the sweater, the maroon sweater, that was shaping up beautifully.
“Could I possess one like that?,” I wondered in my inner thoughts, having experienced a cold winter earlier elsewhere.
By now, I got used to moving by the same compartment as this couple did, for I was taken up by their overflowing love and concern for each other, which I found was rather lacking according to my brief experience that I had in Mumbai during the past couple of years or so with people always appearing to me to be on the run. No matter where they run but they do run.
One day as the lady was knitting the sleeve, I watched with horror that she was knitting the sleeve in a mighty hurry, and I kept wondering, why such a hurry and what’s worse she was beginning to perspire at times. No one noticed except me, no one was concerned except me, no, not even the gentleman that was beside her.
Then it happened. From the next day onwards I could see neither of them on the train. Days, weeks and even a month passed by and I began to pine for the couple, the most loving couple that I have ever seen in my life so far.
Every morning, thereon, the moment I got into Andheri Station, I would crane my neck to catch a glimpse of this golden couple, but alas, there was no trace of them at all.
However, one fine morning when I had almost given up hope of tracing them, my eyes suddenly fell upon the gentleman, standing aloof and away, just before the usual train was to get in. I rushed up to him, I asked him, “Hallow, do you remember me?”
He is now no longer the same person as he was earlier. He looked a bit gaunt, feeble, pale and he finally, after an over thought, asked me, “Aren’t you the same gentleman who used to travel in our compartment and kept staring at us?” I said, “Yes, I did, but where is the lady?, why has she not come today?” Words such as these began to fly out of my mouth with no restraint whatsoever. The train arrived, we moved in and I was restless for an answer.
As the train moved, the gentleman struggled to speak, Ville Parle left us and his eyes began to be bleary and we were already at Santa Cruz and still no answer and here I am sweating and gently beginning to palpitate and finally as the train began to curve and Bandra Station was in sight, he began to speak.
“I am sorry, …I am now lonely, am myself…that jewel, my wife, she passed away…she was ill.”
I continued, “What happened to her?” He answered, “She was just so stubborn, - cancer, she had cancer. I told her not to, but she still came on the train every day to drop me to office. She would then get off at the last stop at Church Gate and go back home, just to spend some extra time with me. I told her not to….but she would not listen. And I could not leave my job for I had incurred heavy debts. You know how cancer is?”
That was perhaps for the first time in my life when I felt the presence of true love outside the pages of long forgotten stories.
I was moved by the narration but I did not cry till the very moment when on that chilly December morning when suddenly I happened to notice the gentleman wearing that very same maroon sweater almost finished but no, that hurriedly patched up piece at the end of the sleeve made it incomplete forever and like a burst of cloud I gave free reign to my emotions and tears began to stream out of my eyes until I reached my office at Flora Fountain.
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