Chamundi Express

So, I am sitting at the Bangalore railway station and this woman comes and sits next to me. I had had a very long rather disappointing weekend in Bangalore, which was visible from my face, and i just wanted to get out of the city. Waiting for my train, the Chamundi Express, I decided it would be nice to have a cup of tea. Now, before we go further, let me tell you how much I love tea. Tea is like everything that is good about this world, gently brewed, just the correct amount of sugar and milk, and they give you little portions of heaven for a meager 5 bucks. 

Back to the woman. When She came and sat next to me,  I gave her very little attention. After all, she was only one of the thousand faces i would see in the city. The desperation to leave Bangalore was so high, that all I could think about was  to board the train and leave. Visibly upset by what had gone through a few hours ago, I was putting all my energy in not breaking into pieces and crying like a baby. 

Then suddenly out of nowhere, I hear a voice, breaking my spree of thoughts. A voice so calm, I thought I imagined it at first. But then, She repeated her question to me. I couldn’t understand what she was saying as she was talking in kannada. I said, “Kannada illai”, which means No Kannada. She just nodded and smiled. The expression on her face was not that of disgust at my inability with the language as most kannadigas expect. It wasn’t neither resignation nor indifference, just mere acceptance. I probably wouldn’t have given her expression so much thought had I not been so vulnerable myself, that the little act of mercy affected me in ways I couldn’t imagine. 

I smiled back. She looked at me, and in what I remember to be not more than a whisper, she said, “Idu uttamavāgiruttave”. I still didn’t understand, but I didn’t question it. Just said, Thank you and smiled back. 

The train was late. So, I took another cup of  tea and asked her in the universal sign language if she wanted it too. She declined and clutched her little bag, which, I now noticed, was all she had. She was quiet, so serene. Her face was glowing with all the energy she was not wasting talking. 

I sat back down next to her, and started playing with my smart phone. She was amused by it first. She kept looking into it. Then, gradually, she lost interest. I switched to another game, because I wanted her to be interested again. But, She had lost it all. She was just looking around,at random people, like measuring them up, observing them. She looked so superior to them all in her humble attire and just one worn out tiffin bag. 

Finally, our train arrived and we got in. As I had a local ticket, I made my way to the general bogie. I found myself a nice empty corner and made myself comfortable. The train started moving and now, not being distracted by the lady, I was sucked in the sadness of how my weekend was ruined again. So much so, that I didn’t even realize when a small rebellious tear rolled down my cheek. I quickly composed myself, as I didn’t want to make a scene. A few minutes later, when the train stopped next, a few men sat down in the same compartment as me. Their presence intimidated me but nevertheless, they had every right to sit there. Then one of them talked to me, asked me, where was I supposed to get down. I said Mysore.  They were loud, in a language I didn’t understand, throwing wrappers out of the window which mostly would fall on me. 

The minute I decided to get up and leave, I saw the same lady coming in the compartment and sitting next to me. She didn’t say a word. Just sat down next to me, with a calm yet firm expression. While it comforted me, her presence most certainly unnerved the guys. Rest of journey, there was no more hullabaloo around my seat. The men sat quietly, like in the presence of a head master, and I was the favorite student of the headmaster, because She was clearly there to protect me. 

What stunned me the most was that she didn’t utter a word in the entire journey and yet, I could understand why the guys were uncomfortable in her presence and why I felt comfortable.

At the end, all I could contemplate was how words had hurt me so bad that I was almost in tears at the station, and how silence had comforted me beyond compare, coming from someone I barely knew.

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