The Maroon Sweater

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. 

By Jimmy Noronha
(Jimmy Noronha, born and brought up in Bellore, Bantwal, is happily settled in Lucknow. In this story he highlights the deep love between a couple that touched his heart.)
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Comment on this article

  •, bellore/Lucknow

    Wed, May 28 2014

    Dear Reader,
    I take great delight in imparting knowledge in English to those students who take interest in that language and with this end in view I run my own session at free times, at my home. Recently it so happened, that while discussing with a group of students who have been quite earnest about developing the art of essay and story writing, I happened to stumble upon a theme of a story that took my fancy. I asked the student if the story was original and if so, could I modify it and have it published. The girl was very happy to consent and accordingly I gave shape to the story using my own language and sent to Daiji for publication with the title “The Maroon Sweater”. Hardly had it got published, I got two mails: one each from my son from overseas and another from my sister with the link of a video that has the sparks of my story.
    I got terribly hurt and disturbed, by publishing this story and trusting the student. I don’t have the heart to hurt the student other than emphasizing upon them to be careful to ensure that their stories are always original and I am now assured that the student got my message that I had sent to blow in the wind to be caught by those who converge at my place.
    I love Daiji and also the readers for they all do good work and I love to contribute my mite and I apologize for this lapse.

  • Rita, Germany

    Sat, May 24 2014

    Very touching .It brought back my Memory as I was in Goa in 70s.There was a couple similar to the Story going to church ,or anywhere Hand in Hand .smiling to each other etc.I was thinking so must be love in old Age.Just last year I heard the Lady died and her husband some 10years back.but they were very very nice People.
    hope to hear further same manner Storys from you.Thank you and God may give you good health and Keep you safe.

  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Fri, May 23 2014

    Made me nostalgic. We used to spend our summer holidays in Pune. There
    were at least 2 couples in the same mould as Jimmy Sir has described here , healthy but and going for their evening walks daily.'Good evening'
    children , they would say and always had a good word or two to say to us. Nearly a decade and a half later, two became one and now there's none. Their smiles, their concern for each other whilst holding hands to cross roads, their walking sticks are something which we still talk of when we happen to be in Pune. Pune then was considered a Pensioner's Paradise ! How quickly time and everything changes!
    Thank You, Sir, for rekindling soothing memories.

  • Irene Sequeira, Derebail/Queens -NY

    Thu, May 22 2014

    I love to read your articles and this one was very touching and was in tears. Please keep writing. Wishing you best of health and long life.

  • Jossie Mascarenhas, Bajpe / Dubai

    Thu, May 22 2014

    “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.” That was a beautiful description of subtle human emotions.

    Keep writing sir. May you find more such situations from your memories of every day journey by the local trains in Bombay.

  • Renny Lobo (Rodrigues), Gurpur Kaikamba/ Abu Dhabi

    Thu, May 22 2014

    Dear Jimbab,

    Beautiful narration of true love of a loving couple. Very touching story, made me really emotional and restless, eager to know the end. As you have mentioned Andheri Station, felt I am there too and where I used to catch the train to Churchgate around that time in the year 1983/84 and those announcements... Ye gaadi, Andheri se Bandra, Bandra se Dadar, Dadar se Bombay Central tez jayegi....

    Keep writing, awaiting to read the next.

  • Molly Noronha, Kulshekar

    Thu, May 22 2014

    REALLY TOUCHING, felt sad at the end of the story, he is beginning to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. ....still wearing the maroon sweater……. Keep writing Jembaab, God bless you.

  • Wency & Irene Pais, Mangalore.3.

    Thu, May 22 2014

    Its really very touching and eager to know the end.Though the end is so sad but moral is so very good.Its real catholic married life.Congratulations to the writer.Keep it up Mr. Noronha.

  • Jazz, Mangalore

    Thu, May 22 2014

    Full of emotions, splendid narration, awesome diction. Keep up the good work. I'll be waiting for more from you. God bless

  • Sonia, Bhopal

    Wed, May 21 2014

    Extremely touching,splendid narration ,grips the reader who wants to know what happens next.Speaks of the reality that is life.Congrats once again Mr. Jimmy!

  • Aladdin Pais, Mangalore / Mumbai

    Wed, May 21 2014

    Dear Jembaab,

    Very nice story, thank you.

    Kind Regards

    Aladdin Pais

  • Vipul, Mangalore

    Wed, May 21 2014

    Thanks for the story. I felt like I was also there in the compartment watching the couple. Very touching!

  • Daniel D'Sa, Nitte-Karkala / Mumbai

    Wed, May 21 2014

    Dear Jimbab, it is really so emotional story nicely written. Al the very best for you. Looking forward for your next article soon.

  • Flavy Dubai, DUBAI/M'LORE

    Wed, May 21 2014

    very very touching story, tears in my eyes. keep writing very nice article.

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