Laxmi4 mins 164 4 mins 164
Dragging my luggage beside me I stepped onto the platform. It was overflowing with people waiting to board the train. I exhaled through my mouth looking at the crowd. The weather was warm, the humidity in the air making things worse. The phone vibrated on my jeans pocket. I struggled to take it out.
“Have you reached the station?” Came the worried voice of Maa.
“Yeah, Maa. Now, don’t worry and hung up. I’ll call you when I reach the hotel.”
The public address system announced the train will be half an hour late. It irked me beyond the limit. I was having such a bad day. Maa hadn’t pressed the white shirt I’m wearing right now, it showed nasty creases down the middle. I didn’t get a cab and had to cram in a bus, thankfully it was air-conditioned. The platform is overstuffed as it is – and now this. I grumbled and looked around for a place to sit. At a distance, there was a bench. The light glimmered on its black tiles. I hurried across and managed to get a sit before anyone else. Deciding to work on the presentation, I brought out my laptop.
“Bhaiya, want to see a trick? If you like it, give me a rupee,” I heard a voice and looked up, my brows furrowed. A girl – not more than 5 years old – stood before me. Her face had an innocence only a child possesses. It overshadowed her tangled hair and tattered clothes. She held a small metal ring in one hand and a silver bowl in the other.
For reasons unknown to me, I couldn’t bring myself to speak. Instead, I nodded and her face lit up. Smiling, she held the ring up and passed her whole body through it. The way she managed to do it made me think she was no less talented than the professional gymnasts. She went on showing various tricks for another five minutes. When she stopped, her forehead showed beads of sweat. She looked at me with expectant eyes. I smiled and handed her a five rupee coin. “Want to sit for a while?” I asked her. She agreed. I shifted a little to my left to make space. She sat down and started dangling her feet.
“What’s your name?” I asked once again.
“Laxmi,” she replied.
“Do you live in the station?”
She nodded her head. Her radiant eyes darted here and there while talking. “Where are you going?” She asked.
“Mumbai, for work,” I said. She widened her eyes. I raised an eyebrow.
“Mumbai is so big, isn’t it? Maa told me that you can get lost there.”
“It’s nothing like that. You’ll never get lost if you know where you want to go.”
“So do you know where you want to go?” She asked in return. I was about to answer but stopped midway.
Do I really know where I want to go?
A through train passed the station, a sudden gust of wind swept our faces. It sent her giggling.
“The wind tickled me. It does so every day,” she said once I asked her the reason for her laughter. I couldn’t hold back a smile at the innocence of the thought.
“Don’t you want to go to school and study?” I found myself asking.
“Yeah, but Maa says it takes money. We don’t have money.”
I lowered my head and reflected on all the complaints I had a mere twenty minutes ago about my life. What she said next made me even more ashamed.
“But I’ll go to school one day. I’m saving money for it.”
We chatted for a while more. Thirty minutes whooshed past. The public address system roared back to life once again to announce the arrival of the train that would take me to Mumbai. I stood up and turned to face her one more time.
“What do you want to become in life?”
“A pilot,” she replied in no time.
I cast a quick glance at her. The train had entered the platform. I grabbed my luggage and walked toward it. She followed me to my compartment. I placed my luggage on the place assigned to me and came back to the door.
“Becoming a pilot isn’t easy. To be one, you need to study hard and be physically fit. You also need a strong and resilient mind.”
The train whistled, signaling its departure. She pondered over my words and when the whistling stopped, she spoke up.
“That’s just three things.”
The wheels rolled.