It was my early college days during the winter of my third semester. As usual I was travelling on my passenger train in the cold dawn heading towards Sindri, my eyes fell fast asleep after the train started. About half an hour later, I woke up with sudden jerk of train chain pull in order to load bags of coal by local folks.
These are those group of villagers especially woman and children that offload chunks of coal from a goods train, the dangerously close overhead, high-tension wires do not bother them. All they are concerned with is picking up as much coal as possible, before the train starts moving again. They have been doing this for years and this is how they earn their bread, their livelihood.
As usual, these folks sat in groups and talked in their native language which is slight different from common Hindi. It was a similar day except that I heard a very sweet voice among those group of young girls sitting round the door guarding their respective bags of coals. It was very pleasing for me to listen to her voice and enjoying her loud laughter. Though I didn't bother to notice her face nor bother to look at her. With my drowning eyes sitting by the window side and listening to their childish talks I reached my destination.
On my way back to Dhanbad on the same day after my day's college was over, I took the same seat and expected to meet those young group of girls again. As for, I was sure those folks boarded on the train just before the train was scheduled to leave the station. But among them the girl with the sweetest voice was missing.
Well the return journey was little boring and tried alike other days, but God's knows why my mind was not peaceful and was thinking of that girl, why she didn't join with other girls as usual. Anyways the journey ended and I reached home.
I used to go to college daily with the same train and return on afternoon. Never had I felt bored or missed someone on train before yesterday's journey. It felt as if that girl with sweet voice had chanted some magical spell on me.
The weekend was over and no one likes to move out of warm quilt and get ready for the Monday College. But I was ready and was quick to the station only for the reason so that I can meet her again. And this time I thought I would definitely try to talk to her or at least see her smiling face. Well about half an hour later, the train was forcefully stopped by chain pulling, bags of coal were loaded and so did those local coal thieves. I would call them thieves since it's an illegal practice to offload coal from goods train and sell it for own purpose.
This time those group of young men did not get up into my compartment. So, at the next station I decided to change the compartment. I moved into another compartment and it was bit crowded. I managed to sit partially but could not last long. However, I was happy that I managed to see those girls with innocent faces and talking loudly in their native language.
I was condensed to hear the sweet voice of that girl. Her shrilling laughter shattered my ears at the crowd as if she was standing just by my side and whispering something that I could partially make out. That compartment was a so crowded that I could hardly move. I was not able to see her complete face. She was sitting with her back facing towards me and could partially figure out her face.
My college for the day ended and all the day along I thought of that girl. I wonder why I am thinking so much about her. I had so many friends, so many colleagues who are girls but never had I thought of them twice. Maybe because she belonged to some different class of society, or maybe because of her charming voice and her sweet laughter has flattered me, or maybe I was not able to see her face since past couple of attempts. But this wasn't some sort of love towards her. It might be an initial urge to like her or something alike in that sense.
It was Wednesday of the same week and a bit colder than other morning. So, in order to avoid the cold breeze I decided to move to the upper tier and take a nap for an hour.
I was in deep sleep then and was not awakened by usual train jerk this time. But instead what I heard of that girl's sweet voice again. Initially I felt I was dreaming but soon I looked down towards the lower berths I saw that the same group of young girls sitting and gossiping loudly in their native Hindi.
This time I was very pleased to see that girl with the sweetest voice. She was just sitting right in front of my lower berth. I kept on watching her, watching her talks, her smiles her assents and all. She was wearing a simple dark brown long grown stitched to full sleeve with patches of marigold designed over the dress. She was very cute and good looking and had fair complexion skin. Her lips were board and had a beautiful smile. She laughed openly with her teeth out and whenever she blushed, she forms a dimple in her left chick. But what I liked most was her eyes. She had wide, black eyes as good as some model or actress. She wore black kajal round the eyes that attracted me more.
At times she too looked back at me but not with same perception as I did. I just wanted the train to move on and on, so that I could see her longer. But this never happened, I reached my college. She also got down with bags of coal and headed to sell them.
Her beautiful and charming face made my day. Some great feelings of affectionate and interest, or some special attraction grew towards her. Soon I decided to approach and talk to her.
The next couple of days, luck wasn't on my plate. I could neither meet her nor her group. I was full of anxiety and a bit restless. I only fantasized about what should I talk to her, how I should approach her. Should I approach her or not after all she was from different class of society. She was just a coal thief forced to live her livelihood by stealing coals.
I was perplexed about her livelihood and her family background. What forced her to become the one she was today? Was it her fault or her parents or something else? Why was she destined to be poor and become a coal thief? There were series of such questionnaire striking my mind.
The week was over and I had been waiting relentlessly for the coming Monday. As usual I was ready to confront her but still confused what should I talk to her. I decided that at least I will ask her name. The train stopped with a jerk, local folks and group of young girls boarded on train hurriedly shouting and howling with their bags of coal over on their head. It took few minutes for them to settle down. Those group of young girls were sitting on opposite corner of the compartment. It wasn't crowded so much that day, I left my seat and decided to join those girls and try to be introduced to the girl I was fantasizing about.
I started with a harsh note questioning them about their work and the illegal activities involved in it. I continued talking to them raising my concern about the illegal deeds and its punishment. I reminded them about the strict laws and order by Indian government and about their risking jobs to offload coal from goods train.
However, it seemed that my lecture didn't have a slightest effect on them. Perhaps they have been used to listen for such suggestions and remainders.
They didn't even care to listen since they all are aware of the fact that this is wrong and this is the only job their family has been doing for years and they too need to contribute in their work. All that matters to them was the kilos of coal they sell at the end of day. That’s the way of they had been living their life.
I had my own intention in lecturing to the group. I just wanted a topic to talk to the group and get close to that girl. Soon I started talking to the black eyed girl as she was the eldest among them.
I asked her, “What’s your name? Where are you from?”
She said,” Saheb, I am Gauri Kumari basically from a small village near Begusarai, Bihar”.
I replied, “I am Prabhash and you can call me by name.”
She seemed reasonably listening to me when I lectured on the do's and don'ts of illegal coal offloading from goods train. I talked to her about her basic education and about her family. I asked about her lifestyle and her daily routine. She was very open in nature. She answered about all her details.
Her voice was charming and sweet. She looked so pretty in her winter look that I kept on starring her deeply as if her black eyed had hypnotized me.
As it is said that good hour passes soon and so I realized that we have reached our destination. We boarded off the train. It was a busy schedule on my college with lot of practical works. My college for the day got finished and I returned home.
Even in that night I was hardly able to sleep. I don't know what maybe the reason. Maybe I had finally approached her and started talking her, or maybe because knowing about her bad fate and being involved in such illegal activities, or maybe because I wasn't doing the right thing by starting to like her. In every sense, the only thing that came in my mind and was about her.
I could hardly wait for the next day as my heart was full of anxiety to know more about her and talk to her indifferently. This time there was no chain pull, rather the train stopped purposely at the same location where bags of coal got loaded.
I was sitting on the same seat number as yesterday. I thought the seat to be lucky where I met Gauri for the first time. Anyways by luck, those group of young men took the same seat. They might be little dishearten to see me on the same seat thinking that I may lecture them again as before.
This time Gauri spoke to me first.
She asked, “Prabhash, what is your occupation? Where are you from?”
I was little shocked to hear that because we have not talked much and it sounded little weird from such girl to ask. I thought she would take our conversation as a casual talk, but indeed it wasn't such thing. Something makes her happy or satisfied talking to me. Though her Hindi was little native and different from mine, it didn't matter to us. We could easily understand and communicate with each other.
I answered her, “Presently, I am a second year engineering student. I am from Dhanbad. I am not working yet. I think I am too young for a job now. I would love to enjoy my college days as of now”.
She certainly knows what am I talking about and what had been she is missing for years.
I came to know about her background that she had studied till 8th standard in a primary government school in her village. Thereafter, her education discontinued and she started helping her parents in their occupation. Earlier her father used to work in some local factory nearby the village but it wasn't enough to run her family. Her mother used to work as maid and at times she used to assist her in her work. She had a small sister too studying at 5th standard then.
Once her uncle came from the city to visit her home and suggested her parents that she could go with her and work along him because she will be paid more in the city.
Gauri didn't have the slightest idea of the work she was going for. By any chances, her parents wanted to refuge such offer from her uncle. They considered it as a blessing that her daughter would earn more money by working in the city.
She moved with her uncle to live in outskirts of Sindri town. She got dissatisfied when she learnt about the kind of work she would be doing. She was afraid since stealing coals from goods train was much a risky job than working as maid and washing dishes. She tried to protest saying that she would want to return to village and didn't want to do such job. Her parents were still unaware of the job she was doing. They were only considering the monthly money she used to send to her family.
With all these sobering talks, we had reached our destination station. We boarded off the train. I tried to bid a simple bye to her but she didn't even care for that because for her what was more important was unloading the bags of coal before the train actually halted.
After my college was over for the day, I returned back to home. On my way back, usually I find few of those young girls still carry bags of coal at this hour, but Gauri remains absent among them. So, I asked them about her and I learnt that she goes for selling the bags of coal at this time. I was satisfied to hear that since it's a part of her job.
The next day I sat on the same seat, hoping that she and her group would sit on the same place. I was waiting for the chain to be pulled and those girls to get into the train soon.
Thereafter, they boarded up the train with scores of coal bags with them. It seemed that it was their day to rejoice as they had managed to get more than the usual count. I saw those girls sat somewhere else but in the same compartment. This time I didn't had the guts to get up and sit with them with the intention of talking to Gauri. It will be like too much of nonsense for my side and it could make me feel embarrassed.
So, I remained sticking to my seat and was restlessly thinking what could be done, so that I could talk to Gauri.
I was astonished to see that she herself stood up and came to sit by me. I was little worried maybe I have disturbed her by talking and asking about her background and family. But that wasn't the case I was thinking of. It seemed she was much relieved after talking to me about her. I think she liked talking to people whom she admires. She looked little different today, little neat in her clothes and neat in her face. It was as if she was prepared to meet me on the same seat as we had met yesterday. Also, she might be wanting my attention towards her.
I didn't think much about it. I continued talking to her about the pleasant sunshine after a cold winter last night, about the cold breeze by the window side, about the flowers that blossoms every morning, about the bees that sucks nectar from the flowers and about the chirping birds singing some melody tunes.
But for a moment I paused myself, I found she was just starring deep into my eyes without flickering her eye lids even after I stopped speaking. I gave her a light jerk, so that she comes out of her thoughts.
Soon I had the realization that why was I speaking of such talks about sunshine, flowers and birds. I had no idea what had happened to me, why was I so strange when I started talking to her. I have never said such words ever before.
She started querying me about my studies, my college and my friends. I told her about my college subjects, about engineering life, about semester exams and viva-voce. I bet she could hardly understand anything but still she continued to listen to me. I realized that she wanted to know more about knowledge and technology.
She liked science and social studies and inquired me a lot of things about why this or why not this. I answered them mostly sometimes from my side and sometimes from Google. She was satisfied with the answers and her expressions after listening to the correct logical explanation was photogenic. She used to say that she topped her class and her class teacher appreciated her a lot.
Her feelings towards me was simple. Maybe she tried to fill the void on her life that she had missed as her childhood. But on my side, I had different feelings for her. Maybe I was attracted toward her. I liked her smiles, the way she talks, the way she gestures. I liked everything about her even though she was little untidy in her dressings. Sometimes she looked prettier partially covered with coal dust.
Today we talked much longer as if we had been known to each other for years, as if we are like very close friend. But in reality, we have hardly met about one month prior. It seemed that I began liking her, maybe it was some unusual sort of attraction that grew slowly from the first day of our meeting.
The weekend has come around and I had to wait for another two days to meet Gauri again. It was very weird of me to feel bored in weekends and wait for the weekdays to come. I wondered about what had happened to me after I met Gauri, I was never the same before, I never thought of any girl never before. I never planned for someone, never planned about how to spend time with someone, what topics should I talk. Maybe this is what people call love.
The next couple of weeks went all similarly. We met on the same compartment and in the same seat. Sometimes we sat with the group of those young girls or sometimes we sat alone. I asked her about what things make her happy, which foods she likes, what things she likes to do. Though she hardly knows about films and Bollywood, still we talked about it. Maybe she wanted to grow interest on it.
I think that she had started liking me. Her gestures and closeness pointed to me that she feels comfortable and safe whenever she stays with me. She said that I was the first boy to whom she talked so much and shared so many thoughts. I thought of asking her whether she love me or not, but I felt it will be too early for me to ask for that.
Sometimes, it used to rain lightly and she used to get wet. She used to sit near the door step to get herself dried. She used to hang her legs outside with her long coarse hair wide opened that would flatter with the wind. She looked so beautiful then with her broad smiles and pretty black eyes. She used to flip her hairs from one side of neck to other and mummer some old songs or rhymes. I liked those attitude and style in her that boosted my great feelings of fondness and warmth towards her.
Four months had passed on, my semester was about to end. But for her she had nothing to do with studies, nothing about exams. She was above me in these terms. She had already been known and experienced to society, people and market.
Though she had a limited education, she always wanted to have more knowledge about science and technology. She didn't have any mobile phones nor any contact information. Whenever we met, she used to listen to some YouTube video in my phone for gaining more knowledge and information about technology and science.
It was time for the semester break and I knew it would be very hard for me to control my emotions and feelings towards her. It was a long six weeks gab that needs to be passed. I didn't have the slightest idea how I am going to stay without seeing her smile, without talking to her. I tried to stay calm for few days but it didn't work. I was becoming restless and unpleasant even in minute things. All the time I thought was about her. Finally, I decided to go to college during the semester break.
I met her as usual on the same seat of the same compartment. She was very happy that day as if she had found something she had lost. She sat close to me and said that she missed me on the other days. I replied her the same. She confessed that she started liking me and wants to stay close to my heart. All this vacation along, she thought of was about me. She wanted a photo of mine so that she could see it whenever she misses me. I gave a photo of mine that I used to carry in my wallet. We enjoyed a lot that day and had some peanuts and snacks sold by the hawker in the train.
I was addicted to meet her at least once in every two weeks. I just excused my parents about some extra classes from the college.
I introduced her about the social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I shared the WhatsApp and Facebook memes and jokes. Since she didn't have any phone, she used to take a lot of selfie with different possess and laugh in it. Sometimes we listened to recent Bollywood music or watched some movies in a single headphone sitting close together and feeling her warm breath in my neck. Such moments always remained memorable for me.
My vacation was going to over and I decided to present some gift to her. Firstly, I thought of presenting a wrist watch or pair of sandals. But I thought it would be too much for her to accept. As far as I have known her gifts such as wrist watch will be futile for her. I know much of her likes and dislikes, still it becomes very difficult for me when I try to surprise or present her. I decided to take some churiya, a packet of bindi and one deep maroon nail polish. I just hoped she would accept this small gift.
The train halted with a chain pull, as usual those group of young men boarded up the train. Gauri and I had usual talks about our weekend. I presented the gift to her. She was amazed on seeing the churiya and multi-color bindi. I loved her charming smile on the face as a return gift. She took one black bindi and wore it, thereafter, we took lot of selfies together and shared some love quotes with her head resting on my shoulder. She seemed to be the happiest girl in the world and I was satisfied to be part this happiness.
Our destination for the day has reached and I had to wait for another eight hours to meet her again. Since it was during my college holidays, I didn't have anything to pass the time. I went to my hostel room, tried to take a short sleep.
All along my sleep, I dreamed of her. I had repetitive thoughts of her. I had some lovely feelings for her and such feelings are beyond any words to explain. I became so obsessed in her thought that I decided to tell that I love her. I would be relieved then.
The college day was over and I was on my way back to my home. On boarding to my compartment, I was astonished to find that Gauri was already sitting at the place and waiting for me. She usually goes for selling the bags of coal at this hour, but today she must have taken a break from her daily life.
As the train started, I confessed, “Gauri, I think I am in love with you. I had been liking you from the first day I met. I had been crazy for your beautiful attire and your lovely voice”.
She became speechless, paused for a moment and started with a sober note, “Prabhash, I think I too like you. You are always been special to me. My respect towards you has increased limitless.”
She continued, “But I guess it will be our last journey together since I am moving out with my uncle to Raniganj”.
She looked down with a disappointed note and with tears shedding down her chick. She said that she was unsure about what type of work she would be going to do there, whether she would continue to be a coal thief or do some other legal work. She continued blaming her fate that why she needs to depart from me. It would be very difficult for her to forget me and erase these beautiful memories.
I continued to consolidate her and gave her assurance that she would be fine. There would be something better that will make things sorted out. But internally, I was also broken when I heard that she will be going forever and there are almost no chances that we meet again. But now when she will be gone, I will be really stressful. It had become an addiction for me to talk to her, to watch her smile and to listen her sweet voice.
We talked about our fate and destiny. We had been liking each other long before but confessed today, unluckily on the day of our departing. We continued talking what would we do when we would depart, what would we do to forget each other, what we would do if we miss each other. We decided that we would take care of oneself and try to do best in our job whatever we do. We just prayed that we could meet again.
Finally, the train had reached its last station of the journey and so our story of inappropriate love. We will be departing few minutes hence. We didn't want to get up and leave the moment but the rush crowd forced us to do so. On our departing Gauri presented a pen as a small gift that she received as a present while she topped in her school. She thanked me for every bite of love, respect and satisfaction she had received from me.
Our eyes were full of tears still we couldn't cry. Our mouth had lots of words to speak still we couldn't talk. We just starred at each other for almost a minute and then had a tight departing hug. I just asked her that she will be fine and she should try to switch into some legal safe job. She just whispered good bye into my ears and kissed me in my neck. I stayed there rigid on my feet and she ran away without turning back to me. I just wanted to see her smiling face for the last time, so that I can remember this face every time I think of her.
That wasn’t a happy ending at all. All my plans with her would remain incomplete. I was standing with a smiling face just waving my hands and bidding good bye. But internally, I was sad and broken. I had no words to describe the feelings of my heart. I gave a false expression to remain happy.
Now it had been a couple of months past after Gauri had left. I continued to go my college taking the same seat of the same compartment and kept our memories fresh. I could even feel her sitting next to me with her head resting on my shoulder and talking to me about nature and life. Those group of young girls was still on their daily work of offloading coals illegally and selling them.
I wonder what I should call to our story. Like Gauri and I met, talked to each other and fell in for each other and then we departed because we had our own destiny. I would call this as unusual love and would never ever let this unusual love die.