28 June, 2016.
Our train, I heard, would be a) reaching on time, b) run via Kharagpur. Point b. was not really known to me until yesterday, and point a. has been a hypothetical truth since ages for all those who still trust the IR for some begone reason. From what it appears to be differs by huge proportion what it actually is. So, technically, it’s no more something to be gravely annoyed by, unless one has to catch a connecting train due for the next hour. Basically, with IR, one does not play dangerous.
But what annoys me the in train journeys are- stinky toilets and co-passengers with outrageous, unmanagable toddlers. The first one is too vague a problem to be solved. But the second issue takes it into your skull..
These kids are not just hyper-ecstatic, overjoyed, excited for each succeeding nano-second for the next 18 hours, but are also unapologetically communicative. Yes! One could be imagined narrating the neighbour’s secrets on loudspeakers around the locality for crowdsourcing help, solutions, logistics, whatever. I have no secret ways to this particular pack of little kids who have just begun at playschools or have learnt to recite Song of Six-pence impeccably. I see notoriety in their faces, and perplexity in their mothers’ habit. Their shrilly voice pierces through the hardbound held firm (and vulnerable) in your hand and darts into your ears like ultra-sound wavelengths. I wish I could change my seat three coaches away today; for, I wished to spend this train journey rather productively.
Soon, I learnt that the kid sitting in front of us was NOT shy at all, went to school, got periodically punished for dancing in the classroom, loved maths, and would dance over the Moon whenever her sums turned out to be correct. She was on vacation and was visiting her mama-r bari (maternal granadma’s place). Ria, apart from many things that she had already confided to me, confessed pretty soon that she was greatly confused by D and me because we, apparently, did not look of our age. She failed to make out why I should be the eldest one among we three and decided to call us by our names. I liked the way she skips the ‘h’ after getting the first syllable in my name. but that, wouldn’t be probably the last to be seen, enough to melt the snow.
“what’s the best thing about train?”
“I can’t see the entire train at once. It’s sooooo long, so big”, she says with her animated eyes as if trying to find out the exact length of the train we are in. I like the way how she puts extra stress upon her expressions meticulously. Silent hysteria.
“do you like maths?” she puts the most dreaded topic topped with innocence as she searches for pencil in her square Hello-Kitty satchel.
“I like it, but I cannot solve them”, I try to look busy turning pages, hoping that she takes it without another question. She tries to hide her giggles by covering her face behind those tasselled hair, but fails.
“I love maths.” That familiar expression, fails to leave me unnoticed. She loves maths, just as I do literature. Her eyes now remain hung in some invisible thread leading to a mysteriously complex mathematical theory. “I like how 1 and 2 always make 3”. That’s the ingenuity of a barely six-year old in being touched by the simplicity of the subject, despite the Number Theory that will soon be cruel to her expectations like ice-picks on the skin. Or, she might get too dazed, too spellbound to be crushed by it . She looks out through the window trying to estimate the stars we are passing by. Soon, waned by disinterest, she comes back to her piece of paper and pencil, trying to draw the solar system. Eccentricity of the concentric circles and trapped hyperbolic ideas.
Her grandfather reminded me every time of my own grandpa. Ria would knock her head at his wobbly tummy, punch his back, rub her cheeks against his, and would look greatly amused by his moustache and unshaven face. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, when she flaired her fingers around her face, gesticulating amusingly, imagining cat’s whiskers protruding from her cheeks. Both laughed. Balloons. Confetti. Their playfulness reminded me of our moments. It still does of us, framed in steel placed on my study table in my room.
This apple of the eye, frolicking little child, I learnt, liked to run after her granny’s pet cats, away from the mother’s firmament. The two persona stood poles apart- the air would make anyone feel that. She complained to me about the strict dictum of the after-school regiment, as she pulled out her school-timetable neatly copied on a white sheet. The folds lent her creative maneuver a support. Leaves and flowers in colour pencils emerged from the brown frame, leaving the ‘RECESS’ cut asymmetrically.
Two hours of music class after completing homework by 4, and forcefully putting her to bed by 10 were ‘obvious’ reasons for her to chide her mom. I could realize how deranged her routine was- too heavy for a six year old. She tried to smile through the folds of grimaces while adjusting her hair falling upon her forehead despite hard backward strokes.
The train slowed down as it approached Kharagpur Station. The gleam on her face began to radiate twice on seeing her uncle standing on the platform to receive them. She gobbled on her sandwich as fast as she could and tried to reach for the exit impulsively. Her bag matched with her blue pin-tuck frock, and her hairband sat loosely on her disheveled hair, now fearless of her mother’s furious looks at her hair clips that kept falling loose all over in the train.