The stretch of platform covers the entire plain, the tracks compresses the whole earth, the mighty roof shelters the vast concrete base, and people from all walks of life gathers beneath it, hurrying towards their respective platform with their belongings, though they eye on the happenings by their surrounding as well. Thousands they were scattered here and there, trains bearing different number come and go and so does the crowd, heading towards diverse destination, thus their journey of thousand miles begins from the common point. Yet the hustle and bustle never ceased within the Howrah Station. I was one among the many, this time heading back towards my college.
My two day stay in Kolkata was an enthralling one. Unlike the days which I spent idly in my room back in the college, having only a single companion from Bhutan, I was more socialized down there. Sharing the meals and laughter with doses of affection, it reminds me the days how I spent the days in boarding schools back home. And especially the New Year party, it was a moment to be cherished in my life. But my stay there was short as we are not having holidays, thus reverberating within my soul, the impermanence of our life. Meeting causes departure.
Our new friends there then reached us to the station at around 9:00pm on 2nd January 2011. Our train was to leave at 10:20pm so there was more than an hour to linger within the vicinity of the mighty station. Of course, the street kids and beggars are something which never miss.
Coincidently there were around five seniors of my college who had come to Kolkata for giving their competitive exams. They were also on their way back to their home state. So unlike the journey forward where two of us were alone amidst strangers, we were in a group, but within the train we were in separate bogies. This time we were to go by sleeper class. Ours was S2 and the bogie in which they were travelling was S8. So in between there were six bogies.
It was very cold at the station. The cold breeze blowing from the river brought more chill, so as soon as the train arrived the station at 10:00pm, passengers rushed in to locate their respective seats. We also entered the train and found that our seats were in the middle couch. Exactly at 10:20pm, the train drifted slowly like the waves that caress the shores, before finally it picked up its full pace, leaving behind the dusty, noisy and crowded station.
Life itself is a journey filled with hardships, joy, laughter and finally the lessons. The path in which we travel is never smooth so in the journey of life different challenges test our courage and determination, albeit the experience teaches us to prepare ourselves for toughest of hardships. Our journey by sleeper class is going to be a hardship with lessons to learn.
In AC class, the couches are facilitated with heater and air-conditioner. Besides they provide us with quilt, pillow, bed sheets and towel which make our journey more comfortable. Though it is a service which they render in return for the extra sum we pay. We were not aware that blankets were not provided in sleeper class. In the winter night when the temperature dropped below 5degree Celsius, I couldn’t imagine the bitterness of cold breeze.
The windows were left open, a gush of wind trapped like a tides of oceans, making us shiver. Nearby the window was an elderly man. He then pulled up the slide and closed the window. There were youngsters seating by the adjacent berths. Seems they all went for giving the competitive exam. They were discussing about the questions, and as such the murmur of different passengers filled the train noisy. It was not as peaceful as in AC class. The noise never lowered, the movement of people never ceased, but gradually most of them started sleeping. They were all having thick blankets. They hide their shoes underneath their blankets. While in AC class, we leave our shoes beneath our beds. That itself is an indication that sleeper class is not safe.
‘How dare one would steal away others shoe.’
I and my friend were more or less like naked, in an icy cold night. We were to sleep on the upper berths. With only our casual dress, which we were wearing the whole day, I couldn’t imagine a sound nap. I didn’t put off my shoes also. By 12:30am, most of the passengers were asleep. With my bag as pillow, I covered my head with the jacket which I was wearing. Yet the air seeping by the pores of my cloths never let my eyes close. But somehow I managed to take a nap for two hours peacefully.
When I was awake the time was 2:30am. It was bitter cold, my body was shivering. I found that my friend was also awake. On the other hand, people were in deep sleep, snoring as loud as honking train. Many could be enjoying in their dreams but our journey was a worst of experience. At 3:00am two of us then rushed towards S8 where our seniors would be sleeping. Reaching there we found that they were enjoying the night cozily. At first I hesitated to awake them but, as they told us in the evening before that at midnight we may come to their couch if we cannot sleep, so with those hearty words in mind, I awaken one of my seniors. He then called on another senior and two of them managed to sleep on the same bed. Having provided a blanket to me and my friend, two of us with a sigh of relief, slept on one bed, under their auspice.
"Hey, wake up”. A voice awoke me. I opened my eyes; yawned and looked at my watch found that it was 7:30am. One of my seniors was standing by our side and said, “How was the night"
“At least we should be prepared up to some extent to face the consequences in adversity.” I replied. "It was a bitter-sweet journey."