the little pamphlet lay there, on the floor.
I had, by then, climbed on to my berth, on top. I was exhausted by the day’s work, and sleep was beginning to take over. it was that pleasurable feeling of tiresomeness, when the body has worked hard and longs for rest. the rhythmic sway of the train always puts me to sleep, and I was only glad. the solitude, amidst the multitudes of people – families, children, couples and what not – was a silent reminder that bums are, at the end of the day, essentially alone.
for a while, I took pleasure in watching these kids. she must have been about 12, he a few years younger, not more than 6, by my estimate. she would, every now and then, look into my eyes, and then quickly whisper something into her mother’s ears. she seemed perceptive, I once heard he telling her mother, “he is looking at me”. indeed I was, for aren’t children a joy to watch? yet, for fear of being mistaken as some pathetic paedophile, I turned away, every now and then. the boy was the more boisterous kind. his age, I surmise, hadn’t yet taught him the way of the world. he was blissfully unaware of the strange co passengers around him, his curiosity still alive, he was hell bent on knowing how one could get to the top berth and wouldn’t allow his dad to rest until it was actually explained to him. he was the typical boy, he wasn’t impressed by the constant attention that his elder sister gave him, by nudging him, pinching him, tickling him and kissing him alternately.
earlier, I’d just managed to board the train. my dad, every time I’ve had to travel with him, was always well in time, be it for a bus, train or plane. he’d want to play it safe, it was wiser, according to him, to go wait in time, rather than run in, just in time. unfortunately for me, I never took to my dad in this aspect. I’m always rushing, usually praying the train or bus is late, which works out in most instances! I have to admit I get lucky, even though there have been funny situations. like this once when I rushed to the station, boarded just in time, as the train was moving, only to figure that I’d boarded the wrong train! or this other instance, when I was well in time, but got to the station and realized I hadn’t carried my ticket. or even this once, when I figured I was there, only, in the wrong station – my train was departing from a different station in the city!
coming back to this time, I’d managed to finally find my place, settled down, was taking in the surroundings, the co travelers, who, in this today’s strange world, hardly cast a glance at you. strangers are strangers, and strangers they will be, such has become this world, why, even my own dear India, She who is known to have welcomed strangers with open arms for centuries now.
as I sat there, somebody unobtrusively walked by, and dropped this little piece of paper on our seat. I hadn’t at first bothered to look – it isn’t uncommon to find physically disabled folk, to pass on a note written by someone, seeking alms. I don’t normally need endorsement to give – if I have, and if I can afford to part with, I do so. yet, this time, my eyes inevitably ran towards the piece of paper.
“Yesu yaar?”, it read (“Who is Jesus?”). it was obviously some kind of promotional material. I wouldn’t think of myself as someone who was intolerant, but proselytizing, in mind, is a crime against humanity. I wouldn’t know or understand why some religions ever resorted to it, except for political power. I was angry. I had, on earlier occasions, confronted some of these people in own bummy ways. like this once, when this guy, on a Sunday afternoon, knocked my door, claiming to be distribute free copies of the bible. I’d picked a copy of the Gita from my bookshelf, offered it to him, and asked him, if he’d like to read it. he stepped back, gave me a scandalous look, and flatly refused. I thanked him too, and said I’d read the children’s bible, and that I wasn’t interested. the expletives that followed, I shall not describe.
before I could break my chain of thoughts and look for who had dropped of this pamphlet on the Prophet, the person had disappeared. I gritted my teeth, and climbed up to my berth. not that I have anything against Jesus Christ – far from it, I am a great admirer of him. I believe he was born human, yet his greatness lay in transcending every barrier, that was essentially man made.
so I sat up on my berth, readying myself to sleep, I noticed the pamphlet had flown, and was now lying on the floor. as I sat there, wondering what the prophet himself would think of this, I noticed somebody, every now and then, walking across the compartment, was stepping on the literature. I got up, climbed down, picked up the pamphlet, crumpled it, flung it out of the window, and climbed back.
He deserved more than being trampled upon. He was free now, out in the wilderness, nobody knows where. Ironic how a bum had to free Him! the kids had gone to sleep, the silence was beginning to descend.
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.
– Samuel Johnson