Another day blossomed in the Plant of the Universe. The sun was young; a cool guy—yet to become a tyrant. Sharma had left home for the station much earlier. On the way, he bought a sweet packet from a Sweet Meat stall. ‘Why, I couldn’t speak to the motorman so far? I must speak to him today by all means and hand him this packet as a token of my gratitude for what he has been doing to me and my family’, Sharma thought, grinning.
Stepping into the platform, Sharma went straight to the place where the motor cars of the unit trains would halt. He sat in one of the rugged cement benches and focused his eyes on the tracks.
A few seconds later, a unit train chugged into the station with its motor car halted at its usual place with a thud. Parking himself comfortably near the car, he looked through the window, holding the sweet packet tightly. Gosh! His man was not there. Instead, he saw a sturdy young man sitting behind the wheels. Sharma’s face went pale. Disappointed, he returned back to the bench, perked up his ears, waiting for the hooting of another train.
Two hours went by, but it seemed a decade. Sharma flitted about the station for some time, had seen many trains screeching to halt at the station and then chugging out of the station with screams. But, he couldn’t see his man … his benefactor’s face. He became restless; the agony of waiting got into his nerves. ‘May be, the motorman is on leave today’, he moaned not taking his eyes from the tracks. His eyes became heavy with fatigue; he felt something tugging at his heart. Finally, after some more waiting, he abandoned his ‘Operation Dharshan’ with great reluctance. His heart whined; he became nervous.
Dispirited, he began rambling on along the platform again. When he came near the SM’s cabin, he saw a big crowd milling around therein. An old woman was wailing inconsolably, her hair disheveled, eyes swelled. She was sitting on the floor, beating her chest with hands and crying endlessly. Lying in state near her on a bench was the body of an old man.
Sharma bent down and looked at the body. He shuddered, his heart collapsed. He couldn’t believe his eyes. To make sure what he saw was not an optical illusion, he looked again at the body. No doubt, it was the motorman. He could very well recognize the goatee trimmed haphazardly. The face, full of creases, wrinkles and scars, was familiar to him. Sharma turned his head away from the body in disgust.
‘I saw him yesterday. He looked fine. How come he died so suddenly today, sir?’ He asked the SM [he is Sharma’s long term acquaintance] when he came out of his cabin calling out the wailing old woman, the motorman’s wife.
‘He’s Daniel sir, one of my best friends,’ the SM spoke in a whisper, his voice broken. ‘Dany had his off today. He came to see me. We were talking about his daughter’s marriage. Suddenly, he complained of chest pain, started throwing up. We scurried a doctor from a nearby hospital. But before the arrival of the doctor, he collapsed and breathed his last. Life was not kind to him. His financial hiccups got better of him.’
Sharma stood transfixed for some time. The unexpected death of his favorite man began to oppress him badly. But, he stood strongly on his ground. It only took a few minutes for him to recover himself from the shock … to make up his mind. Having got rid of the sagging spirits, he walked out of the station hurriedly after throwing the sweet packet on the tracks. ‘I got to live, no matter how many skies are falling around me,’ he thought. When he got home, his mother knitted her brows in wonder and asked him: ‘Why, Sharma? Why did you come home so early? Are you alright?’
‘Aiyo, Amma, I saw a dead body in the station. An old man. He looked so decrepit and ugly’. Sharma spoke smugly, his face contorted. ‘I couldn’t bear the sight of his face. It’s disgusting. I felt like throwing up. The moment I saw the body, I felt as if some impurities had crept into my body. I want to get myself cleansed. I must take a bath now. That’s why I rushed home without going to the office.’ Sharma went to his room, took of his clothes and draped himself in a towel.
‘Did you see the motorman today? His mother asked. Her face was writ large with anxiety; thoughts were hovering over ‘Boomi Puja’.
‘No, Amma. I didn’t see him today, nor do I want to see him hereafter. After all he is a human being, not god. I heard a Sadhu from Kashi coming to our Hanuman temple tomorrow. We’ll go and have a Dharshan of him.’ Sharma said after stepping into the bathroom and slamming its door.
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