One Friday afternoon, I started for home by train. Not all train journeys have given me the same experience, though the route has been the same – Kannur to Coimbatore; Coimbatore to Kannur! While I have enjoyed some journeys that I feel interrupted when I reach my destination, some have been so annoying that I wish if I was teleported, so that I could just evaporate. At times, I make friends with people who share my seat; a few times, I sleep off like I was drugged! Otherwise I get absorbed in the view through the window or deeply in some reading material.
This time, my pick was a book. I was so involved in it that I hated any sort of distraction. In such a state of mind, passenger train is perhaps the worst option. But a hostel-living, college-going student’s luxuries were very limited. While I usually enjoy “Pardesi Pardesi jaana nahi” by Indian Railways-sponsored Lata Mangeshkars and Kumar Sanus; this time I almost closed my ears. I gave the singing-duo some money, signaling them to evacuate the place.
A family consisting of a thick-bearded father, loose-tongued mother, pranky son, restless daughter and an ever-crying infant got seated in the same aisle as mine. I cursed my stars for picking the wrong spot, not foreseeing irritating neighbors for the next few hours! To not top up the disaster, I decided that I will be all to myself and at any cost, will not draw the attention of kids. I could feel the little ones turn monkeys, hopping from one end of the compartment to the other. I could smell samosas and chai, could hear biscuit packets being crushed and kur-kure chewed. I was also listening to their endless silly doubts on almost everything under and over the sun.
“Appa… Why are the trees running backwards when we are moving forward?”
“If I pull the chain, will they arrest me or Appa?”
“Will I see original God in Kerala?” (…even I did not undertand!)
I sat numb to all the activities around me, not taking my eyes off the pages of the book.
That is when I heard the lady repeat the question, “Where are you going to?” I knew answering the first question will lead to 100s of them following. So, I kept quiet, not even looking at her. The lady seemed to be capable of making me puke even my ancestral history! She continued, “Where are you going? Palakkad?” Wow… stars started pouring down my mind and brain when I heard ‘Palakkad’. Hopefully that is where they are going to get down!opeH
She told her son, “Share your biscuits with that akka” (‘that’ akka is me!)
Son, “No… I will not” (how sweet and obedient!)
Lady to me, “Please don’t mind huh… At times, these kids are out of their mind!”
I still did not react… (Wonder how I managed to do that!!!)
Lady to her husband, “From then I have been observing, I think this girl is deaf!”
Husband, “May be…”
“The biscuit question was only to test her; I was sure Pappu would only say NO! Now I have confirmed”
Wow... What a hilarious woman. I cannot tell you how hard it was to hold back my expressions and laughter!
Rolling her eyes and pointing her finger at her son who continued to be an irritating brat, she said, “If you don’t sit quietly, you will also become deaf like that akka. She lost her ears because she was also unruly when she was a kid.”
“Unruly???!!!” I froze! Look… how I am being used as an example!
Anyways, the mom’s trick worked. He sat next to her wordlessly, scrutinizing me.
The girl opened her question bag again, “Amma… deaf people are also dumb right?”
“There is a nerve which connects your ear and the tip of your tongue. For such people, that nerve is not long enough to complete the connection! …and so, she is dumb and also deaf”. Then she looked at me with a sad face.
Her explanation reminded me of Raghupathy (the boy in my hostel mess), who asked me once, “Is it after they started making computer mouse using dead rats, that plague started spreading in India?"
My mobile started vibrating from my pocket. I was sad about breaking the fun when it is at its peak. They turned statues when I answered the call, “Ah… Amma, I boarded the train; I shall give you a call when I am about to reach home. …okay bye!”
Girl, "Amma, her nerve is very well connected!"
The expression which bloomed on the lady’s face followed by her husband’s smile and chillingly question-marked kids were worth 10 million dollars!!
(The lady did not open her mouth till they got down at Palakkad and I continued to smile at myself till I reached Kannur. The journey was definitely more entertaining the book!)