Thursday 15 August 2019

Short Story 2019 Shortlist, Dr Anitha Chakravarthy

Please Don't Miss Your Train

It took a while to come back to self-realisation. Just like folk lore, long long ago, so long ago had I written last? I do not remember how I took a liking to writing, writing for me was always a long lasting pain. We grow, we evolve, we mature so does our choices and thoughts. Ever since science and technology has evolved our sensitivity has declined, we have adapted ourselves to work just like a robot with tubular vision to survive in this extremely competitive world. The world of evolution for me has been so narrow that, I can stage it as SSLC, pre-university, MBBS and now MD. When I look back I see only this. I am sure it’s not way too different for anyone reading this. Probably, if it’s not your evolution, it definitely is your child’s.

Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, many hundreds of years ago said every organism developed from a tiny cell. But if he been around today, his cell theory would have boomed in this highly competitive society that we live in, because we evolve every second and just not from a cell to an organism.

After coming down the lane of my narrow tubular evolution, I got a post-graduation MD seat in a prestigious medical college in 2015. I was on the cloud nine unaware of what was in store for me. Soon, I realised I was no better than King Trishanku. The great king who neither ascended to heaven nor come back and live a life on earth. I could best relate to this story and shower all my pity to this great king whose story I had laughed at once.

It simply seemed like a world filled with politics. The genius in me started to fade everyday but there was one thing that kept me moving, that was my strong belief in lord Narayana whom I always worshipped in Krishna’s manifestation. I was waiting patiently to prove myself with silence on my lip and an atom of hope in my heart that, very soon this would end.

Every year, the state organises a Medical Conference in one prestigious institution. This is a feast and once a year gathering for all the medical faculty to meet many great pioneers who come from all over the country and learn many advancements in the field of medicine. For post-graduates like me it’s a stage of honour to see great men who wrote such huge impossible books and also to participate in presentations. More than all of this, to be away from work for a three day period. 

In 2016, I got a chance to attend a state conference in Dharwad. As the culture goes, we had to prepare for presentation of research papers. Frankly enough, I really put in a lot of effort into this not wanting to make a fool out of myself when the stage was ready.

I remember a lot of positive incidents occurring to me on the day of leaving to Dharwad. It was Krishna Janmashtami and I couldn’t celebrate it is the way it is done at home. I lit an oil lamp and boiled milk. However, I forgot to dispose the milk cover, just like any other student would do. When I returned to the room in the evening, I had a constant thought that I hadn’t even been able to get sweets for arpanam. As I entered the room, I went to the kitchen and was flabbergasted to find the empty milk packet I had left on the slab filled with butter. I was dumb struck unable to find words. I picked the butter and put it into a container and left it in front of Krishna’s idol. I felt his very presence in my room. I lit the lamp, prayed fervently and thanked him for giving me a sign that he was with me and left to Dharwad.

I was a mere speck, amidst hundreds of postgraduates who had queued up to present their research in front of the august audience. With a few good remarks many walked out joyfully from the stage and many others went out unhappily. I finished my turn!

An uneventful happening forced me to discontinue my stay and continue my journey back home. I boarded a train and fell asleep. I woke up in the midnight and checked the messages on my phone and to my surprise there were so many messages of congratulations on my inbox that I was selected as the top five best papers in the state and was supposed to present it on the main stage. What do I do now!! I am on the train, I cannot go back nor could I continue my journey, now do you understand what I meant by Trishanku’s Swarga? My father said I couldn’t get down anywhere as it was past midnight and asked me to continue my journey. I couldn’t blame him, he’s right as a father.

It was past midnight, I checked my watch, it read one o' clock, I looked back, the train had left and I got down at Chikkajajur, a small station on the outskirts of Davanagere. I called my father and told him that the train had left and that I was going back. He cut the call angrily. I had been dutiful for so long, it must have seemed like I had committed the most hideous act. My only support now was my mother who said, “It’s okay my dear, don’t be afraid the lord is with you. Get yourself a ticket and go back to Dharwad”.

I took an open ticket to Dharwad for the next train which would arrive only at four in the morning. I was not alone on the platform as I was surrounded by street dogs and few passengers sleeping on the floor. I found myself sitting on a wooden porch with just one lamp post above it. Staring into the dark, I saw a dark figure coming towards me. He was short, dusky and slightly hunched. The hair on my body stood upright when he said "Yenamma indha neratthile inge thaniya yenna panre?" (What are you doing here at this time of the night?). It took me quite a while to register someone speaking to me in Tamil in a deserted station in a small town. With a lot of uneasiness I replied back in Tamil that I had to go back to Dharwad because I had some work and I got down from the train.

After seconds of silence, he replied saying not to worry and that there was a train at four in the morning and it stopped for two minutes. He assured me that he would stay with me till the train arrived and get me on to the train and go. His words were nectar to my ear. I smiled as I looked up at him more confidently. He was short, dark skinned, had chapped lip with wrinkled skin, chapped nails and shabby hair, a man probably in his fifties. He stood beside my porch for the next two hours watching out like an innocent toddler. After this he never said a word. I didn’t get a wink of sleep either.

As I checked my watch the hour needle showed 3:16 am. He asked me to buy tea from the chai guy, when I offered him he said he doesn’t drink any beverages. I sipped my hot tea and saw him stand beside me as faithful as before. It was 3. 57 am and he asked me to start walking in the direction of the only one platform I could see. As the train pulled over, the man started knocking hard on a compartment door and got me safe into it. I thanked him with all my heart because he was that stranger who came to my rescue in the dark. He didn’t harm me but protected me like a god. He didn’t speak much but never left me.

As I entered the compartment, yet another surprise awaited for me, it was full of Tibetan monks who offered me a berth to sleep. Even though sleep was at bay, I was preparing myself for the presentation mentally. The train reached Dharwad at eight in the morning, I got down and rushed to the hotel, took a quick bath and left for the conference.

The stress of the event made me forget all the tiredness and prepared me for the upcoming event. The rest was a happy ending. I had made it. Well, was it really me?? Life is full of miracles. We have just become so insensitive that we fail to realise what happens around us. I really don’t know who the stranger was! Was he my guardian angel? Was he god? Or was he just a stranger in the dark? For me this really doesn’t matter, he was my hope, my belief, my force, my guardian, my strength, my thought and my very self, THE KRISHNA!

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