We reached Howrah Railways Station at about 4 p.m. Although the train was departing at 6 p.m. we reached two hours in advance to secure a seat in the general compartment. We had booked our tickets in advance. But thanks to Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal, we were on the waiting list and our tickets were not confirmed up to the last moment. We had been to Kolkota to participate in the Inter University Moot Court Competitions. I was accompanied by my teammate Rajni and Prof. Mrs. Sinha, our team manager.
We entered the general compartment. Although all the seats were occupied (read both by passengers and their luggage), after some persuasion (better word for brawl), we managed to accommodate ourselves on the upper berth near the entrance. Rajni and I had three bags each. Our paraphernalia included coat, gown, bands in one bag and the other two had our books and papers. Surprisingly Mrs. Sinha had only one handbag during our journey to Kolkota. However, on the return journey she had four bags all bulging with Calcutta cotton and silk sarees. We dumped our entire luggage in the space beneath the seats.
The train left at sharp 6 p.m. When the train was about to leave, a beggar entered the compartment and sat into the passage between two seats. She had a young baby in her lap. She appeared to have lost in her own world. The young child on her lap was merrily smiling. “Now we have to be extra careful!” said Mrs. Sinha rolling her eyes towards the beggar. The very thought of her sarees getting robbed caused lot of emotional turbulence to Mrs. Sinha. It has been a mystery for me why ladies of all ages are so emotionally attached to their apparel especially sarees. I bet, if a woman is on her death bed, the panacea to save her, is to tell her about the saree sale that has just arrived in the market. She will run to the market on her own legs.
As we were travelling for a long distance, my father had put a chain and a lock in my bag, so that I could lock my bag in the night. “Please let your chain pass through the handle of my bag as well” requested a worried Mrs. Sinha, as I was locking my bag into the metallic chain. I pushed the metal hook into the socket of my suit case, gently took it out of Mrs. Sinha’s bag’s handle and locked it. The young beggar was perusing my whole exercise. Mrs. Sinha was now much relieved. Her face started glowing in the same way, as it glowed when she relished delicious fish in Kolkota. The beggar appeared to be disappointed. She must have been unhappy as she had lost a big catch, I thought. Indeed one person’s elixir is another’s poison.
I was about take my seat pondering over what would have been the reaction of Mrs. Sinha in case her sarees would have been stolen. “Oh Sahib!” My reverie was broken by the voice of the beggar. I nodded my head looking at her. “You haven’t locked the chain properly. The lock is open” she said pointing the lock by one hand and gently patting the child in her lap. Mrs. Sinha gave me an ugly look for not locking the chain properly. I locked the chain again, although I felt there was no need of doing so!