The woman with weary lines on her face and parched lips was peeling out red pinkish rough textured outer shell of lychee with her small thin wrinkled hands. Suddenly she looked up towards me, her kind grey tinted brown eyes smiling at me when she said “Want some.” I hesitantly shook my head to say no and gave a very awkward smile. You see though I was hungry and the fleshy fruit looked quite delicious but I’m not very comfortable talking to strangers especially whom I met on a train. Some of you may call me paranoid others might call me cynical to think that a scrawny old lady could poison me with fleshy citrus fruit. I accept this sounds foolish but if I have nothing on my mind I have these random theories. Though most make no sense like my thoughts over how I as a child believed I was the only human and everyone else are alien including ma famille. I know absurd. I realize it now but once I totally believed my brother is a Martian.
I’m startled out of my reverie as I look outside of the window and see people on station are bustling around most minding their own business. I see a chai wala serving cutting chai to one gangly bespectacled man holding newspaper under his armpit and another portly man with funny mustache. Both of them seem to be arguing or more appropriately ‘debating’ over something. I guess it must be about the state of Global vs. Indian economy. I sigh putting my right elbow up on the window with my fist under my chin. The old lady intriguingly gazes at me with another one of her smile. “Getting bored.” Rather than asking me if I was,she states the fact bluntly. When I say yes my voice is no louder than a whisper and crack due to hoarse quality. The lady nods and silently offers me fruit again. I finally give in as I can’t ignore my rumbling tummy in no time everyone will hear it too. I take one lychee hesitantly and then another after which I’ve finally eased in to her company.
As we are eating in comfortable silence she asks me if I was going to Amritsar. I shake my head and reply “No, actually I’m going to my cousin’s wedding in Jalandhar”. Suddenly twinkle in her eyes faded a bit and I could see hint of melancholy there but thinking I was just imagining it I asked her where she’s going to. “Amritsar, I live there.” she said “I was visiting my brother in Delhi.” After that conversation flowed between us. There was something really positive about her that lightened me up. It’s not that I talked much, as it is not in me to but her pleasant smile and twinkling kind eyes made me feel humble.
She was an ordinary lady a bit scrawny with salt pepper hair. There was something really motherly about her, making me feel really protected. Let me rewind and then play the whole scene again so I can understand what just happened. I sat next to wrinkly old lady who shared her food with me on a train, a complete stranger and I feel protected. Yeah! Finally I’m losing my mind. I give a snort and the old lady gives me inquisitive look as if she didn’t get the joke. Again I look out of the window saddened by my own thought process. I’m just 20 years old and even smiling seems like a big task to me I want to ask her. How can she be nice to a stranger wasn’t she afraid?
At this moment she was telling me about her family how her son got married few months back. She was talking animatedly about her family with so much joy, it was like she found magic dust in middle of ocean. Her eyes were sparkling when she told me about how sweet and kind her son and daughter-in-law are. I felt infected by her joy and a bit uneasy because I’ve never laughed and smiled so much in an hour. I was afraid something will happen and take this moment of innocent happiness of someone else’s perfect world away from me. Not many people I’ve met or raised by have shown me this level of sincerity.
Everyone around is carrying so much baggage. Till now I was living in a kettle burning hot like water blowing out steam, yet here sits a woman before me definitely suffering from knee pain and age. But she seem to be content of what she has and it’s not the quality of not knowing me that makes her sounds so happy. It looks more like an essence of her to be pleased and twinkle, just being positive of what she has. Right now to me she seems larger than life rather than an invisible stranger I sat next too. Her attitude, her positivity I cannot explain it can only be felt. And I feel good, better actually all my complains and grief’s seem small, she makes them small. I’m here, sitting with a stranger laughing with her amazed by her and finally I could feel it again the way I used to feel as a child. I’m again a believer even if it is for a while. I’m becoming messianic.
….to be continued