Vadiraja Mysore Srinivasa

Romance


4.4  

Vadiraja Mysore Srinivasa

Romance


The Last Train

The Last Train

14 mins 1.4K 14 mins 1.4K

Yogesh stood staring at the elderly judge who glanced at him and then at the written judgment and asked Yogesh with a straight face; his eyes piercing Yogesh.


“I am about to pronounce the judgment. Do you want to say anything? Since the trial started, you have not spoken one word.

This is the last chance for you to say anything relevant.”


The judge looked at Yogesh who simply stared back at the judge. After a while, the judge read out the judgment, sentencing Yogesh for 10 years of simple imprisonment as the eye witness account stated that Yogesh pushed the man who was about to attack him with a knife. The dead man had a history sheet while Yogesh had a clean one.


There were very few people in the court including his only friend from the company where he worked.


Arvind looked at his friend standing without any expression and wondered, why this guy refused to explain what exactly happened and why did he do it?


Yogesh was taken away by police to Arthur Road jail, even as Arvind looked.


He was shown his cell; there were two beds but the other person has just completed his sentence. He chose the bed which had a window overlooking the garden maintained by the inmates.


He lay on the bed and closed his eyes. He could see Roshni’s eyes looking at him with a glint. Slowly he wept.


The words Roshni wrote haunted him. He just couldn’t get her image away from his mind, no matter what he did.


No one came to see Yogesh in jail as there was no one whom he could call a relative or friend.


Yogesh was an orphan; losing his parents very early and slogging his way to complete a degree and moving to Mumbai from his native Bihar in search of a job and finding a girl to get married to and start a family.


Yogesh cried.


He never expected to be in jail for 10 years…. that too for trying to save a girl with whom he fell in love at first sight!


Does she remember me now? Does she even know the price I am paying for trying to save her life? He thought.


He closed eyes and could remember every detail as if it happened yesterday!


Yogesh checked his watch and looked at the big clock on the platform. They both showed 12.55 midnight.


Yogesh knew the last train that leaves Churchgate station would be at 1.00 a.m. He hurried and was expecting the train to be almost empty; he was surprised to find it almost full though not overflowing.


He found a seat, relaxed and took out the evening paper to read. He smiled at the irony; he was reading an afternoon paper past mid-night while the day’s paper would already be printed and on its way for distribution throughout the city that never sleeps, well almost. He smiled. The last train reaches Borivali around 2.00 a.m. but within an hour and a half, the first train would already have left the station!


What a City, he thought shaking his head and started reading. Even as he held the paper to read, over the rim of the newspaper, he could see her.


It was strange for a girl to be traveling at this later hour, that too in gents’ compartment. He continued to hold the paper while he scrutinized her.

She did not look a day over 20; maybe less he thought. She had large expressive eyes and neatly manicured eyebrows and a little Garish makeup, he thought. She was looking outside the window and her profile looked like a painted picture.


She had a long and well-sculpted nose and sharp chin. There was just a cheap-looking thin chain, obviously bought on the roadside with a small locket adoring her slender neck.


She would look better without that gaudy makeup, he thought as he kept looking at her.


She turned her head and looked around the compartment and then her gaze fell on his. She could see his eyes over the rim of the newspaper


She kept looking and when he lowered the paper to expose his face, she looked for a second and then, looked outside the window.


A man of around 40 years of so was sitting next to her engrossed in reading a local newspaper but kept his gaze on the girl and when she looked around the compartment, he too looked.


Yogesh took the newspaper and once again, held in such a way, that he could glance at the girl every now and then.

Most of the passengers were sleeping except one or two who were either reading a newspaper or just gazing outside the window.

When the train reached Andheri, the girl stood up and the man took a bag kept under the seat and lead the girl.


Yogesh thought he too should get down and perhaps follow the girl; but he decided against it as it was the last train and the girl had, what looked like a bodyguard.


For the first time in several years, he thanked his employer for giving him the late-night job.


Next day he reached the station early. The train from Borivali had not come. He looked around. The girl could not be seen. Maybe, she is not coming every day. Maybe she came from the outstation and was going back home, he thought.


As the train came to the platform slowly. He waited and boarded the train thinking it was the same compartment. He looked-for tell-tale signs to check whether it was the same.


Then he saw her!


She was sitting in the same window seat and the accompanying person also was the same. He looked for a seat opposite and continued gazing at her.


The girl saw him and appear to recognize him. She casually checked that the man was busy reading the newspaper and looked at the young Yogesh and smiled.


Yogesh was on cloud nine. He smiled back at the girl. 


Next night, the same thing repeated. It was obvious that she too traveled in that last train. What confused Yogesh is where does she work? Who is the guy who is accompanying her?


He decided to write a letter and hand it over to her. He decided to write in Hindi as she didn’t look like a person who might read and understand English.


He stood up when the girl also stood to alight the train at Andheri. He knew that the man who was with her would be standing first and the girl just behind him while getting down.


He made his way and stood just behind the girl and gently tapped her hand. When she looked back, he thrust the chit in her hand.


The girl’s eyes widened and she just managed to squeeze the letter in her hand, got down and even as Yogesh looked, she hurried after the man without looking back.


Yogesh was in deep thought when the Last train came and halted in Churchgate. He was very tense. Did the girl give the letter to the man? Will that man come after him today?


He boarded the train and sat in his usual seat and glanced over the newspaper, now customary for him.


The girl was looking at him and just tilted her eyes asking him to stand near the door by looking at the door.


Yogesh understood. She is likely to move towards the door much before the station came and wanted him to be there.


He stood, put his paper away in his bag and looked out; it was Bandra station. Still, a couple of stations to go. He made his way and stood near the door; there was no one near the door.


The girl stood and spoke in a low voice to the man who looked at her and then said yes by nodding his head and even as Yogesh watched, she made her way and came near him.


She exhaled deeply and glanced at the man who was busy reading his paper.


The girl came close to Yogesh and with her back to the man, handed over a chit to Yogesh and quickly moved to the other side of the door and stood looking outside.


Yogesh too realized that he can’t read the chit now and just put in in his pocket and moved to the next door.


He observed the girl getting down at Andheri and ensuring that the man also followed, found an empty seat, sat near in the window seat opened the chit and read.


As he read the letter, Yogesh’s face turned red and water started dripping from his eyes.


The letter, written in Hindi had just three paragraphs; but the letter conveyed her heart-wrenching story.


She was brought to Mumbai a year ago and pushed in to work as a dancing girl in a bar along with several others.


She wrote that if the man ever found out that she exchanged a letter, she would be killed.


She pleaded with Yogesh saying that she actually likes him but wants him to avoid her as it would be too dangerous to him to deal with those guys.


In the end, she wrote her name, Roshni.


Yogesh was so engrossed in thinking about the girl, he had to be reminded by a passenger who was getting down, that the train has reached Borivali.


Yogesh tossed in his thin bed in his bachelor’s single room accommodation on the floor; the room was so small that one couldn’t put the cot in it as it also functioned as a kitchen. There was a common bathroom and toilet for 15 of the tenants in that Chawl.


It was almost 6 in the morning when Yogesh fell asleep and woke up at 10. He just took bath and skipped cooking breakfast and lunch; will have to eat out today, he thought as he left his house for work which began at 11.30 and ended at 11.30 at night.


He made several mistakes in his office work; he worked as an accountant in a small company and managed several other chores as well.


He finally closed his books and left and reached the station almost 10 minutes early.


The girl could not be seen.


His heart started pounding with speculation in his mind; have they found out about the letter? Have they already done something bad the girl?


Yogesh heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the girl and the man coming hurriedly inside the cabin even as the train moved.


The girl appears to have some bruises on her hand as Yogesh watched her closely. There were no marks on her face; but she had removed the artificial bangle she had put on her left hand instead, there was bandage in that hand.


Yogesh’s eyes started welling up with tears.


The girl kept looking out of the window and avoided looking at Yogesh.


Yogesh couldn’t just sit there and watch; he stood and moved near the door and stole a glance every now and then at the girl.


The man accompanying the girl was not reading the newspaper today; instead, he kept a vigil and was looking around the compartment as if to search for someone.


Yogesh was desperate to hand over his second letter. Finally, after several minutes, the girl looked at the seat where he used to sit and then shifted her gaze towards him.


She was virtually pleading though her eyes to leave her alone and go away.


The man sitting next to the girl followed her gaze and looked at Yogesh and stood up.


The man walked towards Yogesh and stood and stared at him and then looked at the girl. He took out the chit from his pocket, obviously taken away from the girl and dangled it in front of Yogesh.


Yogesh’s eyes widened.


Even before he could move, the man pulled a switchblade knife from his pocket and moved towards Yogesh menacingly. Yogesh, in a split second, moved sideways and with all his strength pushed the man.


The man lost his balance and fell through the running train and hit the ground and died.


Even before Yogesh knew what was happening, persons who were watching the episode caught Yogesh and someone pulled the chain.

In the commotion, Yogesh lost the sight of the girl.


The train moved and halted at the station; police took Yogesh to custody while two others went in search of the body.


A weeping Yogesh sat on the ground. He believed that what he did on that night was right.


He sighed and looked out of the window; another dawn was breaking and birds were flying in search of food.


Days went by.


He spent several days going through the routine. He was given several options to work; he opted for maintaining a small library with books, periodicals, and newspapers in addition to helping jailor with typing reports. He would anything, just to keep his haunting memories at bay.


He looked at the sentry and spoke, for the first time in several days; “can I get book and pen to write?”


The sentry looked at the young Yogesh who had been behaving properly since he came to jail almost 6 months ago and nodded his agreement.


Yogesh spent most of his free time writing. First, he had no idea what and how to write. But he simply started scribbling and filled the pages of the book.


Is she alive? Does she remember me? Will I ever see her again? Questions for which, Yogesh had no answer haunted him day in and day out.


He lost count of days and months.


One day, when the jailor sent for him, he had a quizzical look on his face; the sentry simply shook his head indicating he does not know.

The jailor saw Yogesh and motioned him to come and stand near his table.


The jailor, an elderly man who had only couple of years for retirement has seen hundreds of prisoners in life. But, Yogesh’s behavior bothered him. He was no criminal, thought the Jailor.


He actually liked Yogesh who helped in the completion of reports etc., with all the sincerity and was eager to help whenever called.


Jailor looked at Yogesh and asked him.


“Yogesh, do you know today’s date?”


Yogesh looked blank and shook his head.

“You have completed exactly 5 years of your term. Because of your behavior and your clean record, the government has issued a notification to free you tomorrow, Independence Day.


You are a free man, Yogesh from tomorrow.


I know you have been away from being normal and it is not easy to get a job and start life all over again easily. I have a friend who needs someone who is good at work and most importantly, honest and sincere. I have recommended you. Here,” The jailor handed over an envelope to Yogesh.


“Take this letter and go to him tomorrow itself. This is my gift to you for being so good and helpful.


All the best to you. You will leave early in the morning, much before I come to the office. So, do well and keep away from trouble.”


The jailor just patted Yogesh on his back and sent him back to his cell.


Once in his cell, Yogesh opened the envelope. There was a letter and the kind jailor had put some money as well.


Yogesh started weeping; he never expected to go out so early.


Yogesh got his dress which was preserved. But the shirt appeared to be lvery loose as he had lost weight.


The first thought that came to Yogesh’s mind as he set his foot outside the jail was, is Roshni alive?


He pushed all his thoughts and concentrated on meeting the person whom the Jailor recommended for a job.


The interview lasted only five minutes. The elderly businessman who wore dhoti and Jabba and traditional turban just said only one thing.

“Yogesh, you are recommended by a friend whom I trust. No one provides employment to persons coming out of jail, but you are different. I have lots of pending work and I expect you to work honestly and for long hours.


Yogesh looked at the old man and said.


“Sirji, I will work 24 hours for you. I have only one request. I don’t have a place to go to. Can I sleep in the shop itself, at least for some time?”


The businessman looked at Yogesh and said, “In Andheri, I own a chawl. I will ask the caretaker to provide you with a room; no rent or advance. You can stay there.”


Yogesh went around the fort area once he finished his office at 8.00 pm. He wanted to catch the Last train; his instinct told him that she will be there.


Yogesh reached Churchgate station almost half-an-hour before the last train left for Borivali.


He sat on the bench observed; the station had undergone lots of changes. There were more people in the station than he could remember.

Everyone had a mobile in their hands and were either talking or listening to music.


Yogesh put his hands in his pocket and removed the letter written by Roshni and read it again and again.


As the time approached, Yogesh’s heart started pounding.


The last train came to the platform ever so slowly and halted.


Yogesh tried to remember the exact bogy in which he used to travel. He finally zeroed on one he thought fit to the description his mind was trying to recollect and entered.


There was a larger than usual crowd and people were already standing making it difficult for Yogesh to wade his way.

But, finally, he managed to squeeze his body and started looking for the seat which he used to sit, five years ago.


The seat was taken.


He still managed to squeeze and stand in between the seats and looked at the window seat opposite to where he was standing.

There was a girl sitting in the window seat and staring outside. As her face was turned away, Yogesh couldn’t identify her.

He looked at people sitting next to her and found none of them appeared to be traveling with the girl.


Even as Yogesh looked at the girl, she slowly turned her gaze and looked at where he was standing.


Yogesh's heart stopped.


It was indeed Roshni, albeit, a little older.


Roshni looked at Yogesh and there was a cloud of doubt in her eyes; Then her eyes widened and she got up and virtually pushing people who were around, came to Yogesh and hugged him!


Yogesh was stunned!


Is this real or am I still in prison and dreaming?


He looked at weeping Roshni and spoke even as all the passengers were looking at this extraordinary scene.


“I am coming on this train every day for the past 5 years I had no idea where you were taken. I know if I have even a one percent chance of seeing you again it would be in this last train!


I was certain that one day you will come to meet me in this Last train” said Roshni weeping loudly.


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