“A 4 year old is travelling in train for the first time. Amused by the whole ordeal, with one finger busy picking his nose, he looks at his elder brother for help, his innocent God-like eyes seeking answers to questions like ‘Do we have to sit on these wooden planks for a whole day?’, ‘When’re we going to reach home?’, ‘Is that policeman really going to jail me if I do not behave?’ The elder brother, reading his brand new Stardust magazine only half willingly to answer the pile of questions raised by the angelic eyes, with a gesture of his fingers points to the policeman sitting beside them and all the questions are shoved away instantly. How beautiful it looks!”
Things have changed; the brothers have grown up, the elder brother is married with two kids who’re both in boarding schools while the younger an aspiring writer is doing his MBA from some unheard college located in the distant edges of the city. Unlike the past, no questions are raised now; not on dinner table, not in the car journeys, no words are spoken unnecessarily. ‘When’s Mom-Dad’s flight?’ one would say. ‘This Friday!’ and that would be the talk of the day. It’s almost as if the angelic eyes have accepted the dark silent energy surrounding the place that was once a home. And the kids, the soul of any home are sent away to get good education. Why do we send our kids away from us?
“The train has stopped and sudden brakes have filled the room with laughter of a 5 year old kid. ‘I might have fallen off, mummy!’, he makes a point. Some people board the train at the station, policemen included. But he’s not scared of them anymore; the new scary monsters are the beggars who he’s told steal the luggage and footwear and children who do not behave properly. He inspects carefully the activities of the suspicious sweeper who’s mopping the floor with one hand while his other hand is safe with God. He feels pity for him, but he’s scared to show any emotion.”
Now; now he’s grown up; he’s no more scared of beggars, he’s frightened of the rich now. He has also understood the importance of laughter inducing brakes in lives; the silly outings and family picnics or night-out with friends and a walk with her. One needs a break after a while from all this unnecessary noise and dirt; one needs some cleaning of heart and mind.
“The train has blown the whistle; the elder brother asks the kid who’s busy reading Chacha Choudhary to push the train. He tries, he tries very hard and suddenly the train starts moving slowly and steadily. He thinks he has the same power as Sabu has. He cheers like a victorious king and jumps from seat to seat singing his victory song ‘jo jeeta wo sikander, jo haara wo bandar’ waking up his father in the process, with pride he announces ‘I will go to WWE one day’ only to be finally quieted down again.”
It takes him five years to understand that a single person even if he’s as powerful as Sabu cannot push the train to start that too by being inside it. It takes him some more to realize that you cannot bring change in the evil system by being a part of the system and though, he doesn’t admit it openly, he knows he as a singularity has a very little power over the massive train of injustice.
“His Mummy wants Chai [tea] but hates the pantry car’s one. She asks [orders] his father to bring fresh Chai from the station when the train stops. Mister obliges. He watches in astonishment, what was so wrong in this Chai he wonders. ‘I will never marry’ a decision is made quietly. The train starts rolling in a few minutes. The boy with panic looks everywhere in the bogey for his father, failing to find him, he alarms his mother who’s reading Grihashobha ‘Mummy, Papa hasn’t come back. Should I pull the chain?’ ‘Don’t worry, your Papa is smart, he must have gotten into another bogey’, says the ever so calm lady. The prospect of pulling the chain excites him and he starts praying ‘God please let me have a chance to do it.’ But that’d mean his Papa has to be stranded on the station.”
In life as well, he will come at junctions from where he’d not see things clearly, the path will be broken, and not necessarily will he have the option to choose everything he wants. He will realize that he cannot pull the chain with his father sitting beside him. He would have to let go of one of them. He would have to make tough choices. Remember for a kid of his age, the biggest mystery of life was ‘What really happens when I pull the chain?’
He also learns that Mummy was right. Even a cup of hot water is better than the cup of pantry car’s Chai. Mummy is always right!
“His uncle is listening to the new Sony Walkman; he asks for it and is refused. He listens to the sounds the train creates, ‘chuk-chuk-chuk’. He finds it strangely melodious when the train changes its tracks; he tells his brother ‘nowwww, did you hear it?’ He is shooed away. He looks at the fan that is spinning slower than the fan in his old house. He looks at the lights and the weird people quarrelling in a foreign language in the next compartment. He looks at another kid with a strange looking device, that’s a new videogame he recognizes. He had an old one which got ruined in the rains. Its official, he hates the kid on the other seat and wants his mummy to stop offering the stupid guy his toffees. He makes a mental note ‘Do not eat food for two days, get a new videogame.’”
The kid’s long gone, with his toffees and videogames, grown up. These days when he travels, he carries his tablet and his smartphone. ‘I’m connected to the world all the time’, he thinks. When would he connect with himself; his desires, his goals, his life? Now, he likes to travel undisturbed, he hates people who talk in the compartment, he hates kids who jump from seat to seat, and he turns off the speeding fan. He’s changed; he’s more sophisticated and less simple and grounded. He has forgotten his roots, he has forgotten where he came from; the place with peace, simplicity and innocence- his Childhood.
Some times when he gets out of his cool properly lit AC compartment to use the washroom, he stops right beside the gates and as he stands there, he listens to the melodic sounds of train changing its tracks and he remembers everything that was, everything that isn’t. Eyes filled with tears he sits there accompanied with the Sounds of Yesterday that are long gone to never return. ‘Nowwww, did you hear it?’ He smiles and cries and wonders in amazement and for those moments he feels connected.
He makes a mental note- ‘Do not eat food for two days, somehow get that child back!’
kya hua jo hum itna badal gaye?
khud se hi itna dur ho gaye;
kya jarurat hai aise jeevan ki,
jo hum jeena hi bhul gaye?
meri maano toh bas ek baar,
jao waha jahan bachpan bitaya,
jaha yaadein banayi;
dekhoge, toh samjhoge,
tum kya banna chahte the,
par tum kya ban bethe!