The Iyers in the Train

Posted On // Leave a Comment
Painting by Bijay Biswaal
(Click image to enlarge)
Every time I board a train a few parallel thoughts race in my head as I scan my fellow passengers. My mind quickly forms opinions about the people inside based on how much they respected the space of others, and how well-arranged their luggage is.

The auntie fanning herself with her soiled legs sprawled on the opposite seat topped my list of people I didn't want to talk to. But as soon as I reached near her she shrank back to let me enter. I automatically smiled at her. My opinion of her had changed instantly.

I stowed my bag away and took a long look at her. She looked well-dressed. A beautiful and crisp saree with a tired face. She was traveling with her husband who sat in a side-lower berth. They looked like they could be Iyers, and I named them so. 

Mr Iyer was busy scanning the man occupying the rest of his berth. He was smiling indecisively. But before he could open a conversation, Mrs Iyer called him to attention. She was ready to serve the dinner. 

Mind you, it wasn't even six in the evening, the train hadn't even moved from the source station, and the Iyers were ready to eat.

The train began moving as Mrs Iyer fished out a box of rice. She divided it into two neat piles, taking her time doing so. On the piles she poured dal. And on each pile she put a pickle. With utmost care she got up and walked over to Mr Iyer to hand over the pyramid of bhaat. Mr Iyer smiled at himself and dug in.

Mrs Iyer returned to her seat and watched him shake side-to-side with the motion of the train. His short white hair were screaming with joy. His shoulder bumped into the man encroaching his berth. But all Mr Iyer saw was his dinner. I could almost feel my stomach grumbling. And that's when it hit me.

Painstakingly I could see my parents in another train eating their dinner together. The Iyers seemed to be of the exact same age. The calm, adjustable Mrs Iyer was actually the opposite of my loud, panicky mother, but somehow I could see them through another perspective. The similarity grew so strong that it started bothering me.

I watched them finish their dinner. Mr Iyer got up, carefully, and went to the trash bin to deposit his paper-plate. Mrs Iyer followed him after he'd returned from this brief excursion. Making use of her absence, Mr Iyer turned to me and asked about my seat in broken Hindi. I understood what he needed. 

He must be looking to swap his upper berths to lower ones. Fortunately I had one lower berth on my name. I happily agreed to swap. 'Happily' is too small a word, actually. In that moment I wanted to believe other young men like me swap their seats for my parents too. Does Karma work that way?

Wanting to do more, I helped set up the bed for both of them. Mr Iyer eagerly helped Mrs Iyer into the lower berth I'd cleared and with a very satisfied smile climbed into his middle berth without further ado. He thanked me in a raspy voice masking a cough. 

I climbed up into the top-most berth and wondered how much similar the life of my parents is exactly. If there is no differentiating line, I wanted them to be as comfortable as the Iyers. It's then when I picked up my phone and called my mother. After three rings I was connected.

0 thoughts:

Post a Comment