This heart of yours,
May it be mine,
This heart of mine,
May it be yours.
The train came to an abrupt halt. The night was still young, darkness all around except for the flickering yellow light coming from a little distance. Except for the chirping sound of crickets, the atmosphere outside was filled with stillness. The wind gushing through the windows and the rhythmic swaying of the train had lulled most of the passengers to sleep. In just few minutes after the halt, the passengers started getting restless. The warm summer night was the reason for the passengers getting restless. I was also getting restless but I had a different reason.
I was going to get married. The train was scheduled to reach Howrah the next morning and then a road journey in the outskirts of the city. That was my destination.
“Tomorrow is the most auspicious day for marriage, even better if the rituals are performed in the day time,” the temple priest had announced to our family.
“But, after tomorrow mid-night the planetary combinations make the period inauspicious,” he had observed his words of caution.
We were still eight hours away from Howrah and the feckless train had stopped in a nondescript station. My parents and few friends were travelling with me; the other guests from my side had planned to arrive to the destination directly from various places. Minutes turned into hours but the train showed no motion. I paced up and down the dark platform in exasperation. The overhead electric wire had snapped somewhere and the technical support team were being mobilized. That was the only update the exhausted Station Master could share.
“Knowing the way Indian Railways work, nothing will happen before daybreak,” I overheard a casual remark of some irate co-passenger.
My heart sank hearing such blunt observation.
“I must inform them that the train is delayed.” I thought while walking towards the exit, the train stood motionless in a far away platform. The queue outside the only telephone booth filled me with resentment. It would take hours before my turn came. I stood in the queue impatiently. “Can’t people be quick when the situation is grim,” I wanted to protest.
The year was 2002, mobile phones had arrived but only limited to cities, you step away from the city limits and the device was nothing but just a fancy gadget. Further, sensing competition, the state run telecom had slashed rates especially in the night time. People we taking full advantage of the rebates, they were talking without restraint, no need to keep an eye on the digital display showing the bill.
“What if the train leaves while I wait,” I thought nervously. I left the position and sprinted towards the train. It was still standing like a stubborn bull. I had switched off my mobile phone and slid it in a drawer before leaving home. I didn’t want official calls during the two days of the ceremony. After all it was going to be the moment I had waited with wistful longing. How could I allow an uninvited phone call to ruin my moment?
“Only if I had carried my phone, maybe I could have dropped a SMS and informed about the status,” I thought helplessly.
Few ambassador cars were parked outside the station. The drivers gathered the moment they sensed a potential passenger.
“Will you go to Calcutta,” I asked.
“Six thousand rupees,” declared an eager driver. Greedily.
I agreed readily. “Well, then wait while I come with my luggage and family.”
The driver shrugged, he was now unwilling to go. The cars were too old to travel such long distance and they had expected that an exorbitant price quote would discourage me. Only thing they missed was “my desperation”.
The queue outside the telephone booth still seemed endless while I crossed it on my way back to the train. Most of the passengers were now on the unlit platform fighting the pesky mosquitoes. I paced the platform pitiably, the beautiful memories with my ‘would- be wife’ floated in front of my eyes.
“May I join you,” she had said. We were sitting around a table in the library when she approached us and wanted to join. That was the first day in college. Days rolled by, few occasional words here and there. It was only after the first semester that we started to talk and I realized that she was a wonderful person. We would meet in the library and I would walk her to the hostel.
“What is your name and which stream do you belong,” bellowed an unknown professor in the library. We were talking softly but unknowingly we had progressed to loud giggling and conversation. The “Silence Please” policy of the library was challenged by two young students. The professor was visibly annoyed and it was best to escape from there. We started meeting outside the library, walking the metallic road crossing through various departments, they bore a deserted look after dusk, an ideal environment to spend quality time. Even the trees and the bushes all around stood in stillness lest they disturbed the growing friendship.
The intercoms connecting the hostels were seized by us. All other calls could wait for two hearts were meeting. We spoke for hours, night turned into day break but our talks never ended. Months turned into years and soon two years looked as if passed in a jiffy. It was time to go our way to start our professional career. It must have been predestined that in few months’ time I was in Calcutta. Soon after office I would rush to take the Metro train to meet her. Waiting for her in the decided place, I knew that she would surely come. If she had to wait, she also knew that I would come. The trust was cemented deep. We kept our small promises, always. Calcutta was known for hasty bandhs , the entire city came to standstill, no means of transportation functioned. Only the humble tram shuttled through the city, no passengers yet it chugged through the city. I would start in the morning only to reach her place in the evening, walking some distance, taking the tram and then again walking. It would already be time to leave soon after I reached. We would just meet for few minutes and I would start my journey back home. I just couldn’t wait for the next day without meeting her. She knew that I would make it despite all odds, such was the trust.
That night trudging the platform I knew that she would understand and wait. Only in this case there were many relatives and friends who also had to believe her.
Our friendship transformed into love and we dreamt of a life together. Uncertainties ahead but the courage of a beautiful partner filled me with joy. No obstacle appeared unconquerable; together we were sharing hope and nurturing the future. Those were uncertain times, the economy was in a transition, the prospects of the nation as opportunity provider was developing but the ground realities were those of struggle. I changed city for better prospect. Initial resistance from parents and then with time the situation became agreeable. Both set of parents agreed to our unison. The marriage was agreed and then after seemingly infinite time the day finally arrived.
After covering such a tumultuous journey in the relationship, it was quite unfortunate that the train was acting as a spoiler.
“I should have put my foot down and taken an extra day leave, it would have been better to have arrived at Calcutta as day before the marriage,” I thought ruefully. But bosses those days were insensitive and considered an extra days’ off as a huge dent to the organization. They would have been happy if the vows could be exchanged through phone, they could have saved lot of man days’ of work.
The sky started turning blue. I knew in sometime it would turn grey and the day would break. It was impossible now to make it to Calcutta for the rituals fixed for the afternoon.
I had heard of the groom returning empty-handed, some for arriving drunk and others due to wayward dowry demands. I had never imagined that I may also have to return empty-handed and that too for reason as petty as “Snapping of wire of the railways”.
That sun now shone brightly in the sky. I was in despair. It must not have been before 10 AM when the train finally motioned with a whooshing sound. The passenger heaved a sigh of relief. I just hoped for a seamless travel with no more surprises.
“A delayed train is always delayed,” I overheard the words of wisdom from within the compartment. I felt angry this time. The train ran in break-neck speed. The railways were perhaps too ashamed and were trying to make good the loss of time.
It was already evening when we arrived at Calcutta. We were rushed to the venue. Soon after reaching I changed into the groom’s dress and sat for the rituals. Most of the guests had already left by then. The vows were exchanged and we were pronounced ‘Man and wife’. I looked at her and smiled. She blushed. We were finally married.