I had a train to catch to Dimapur, train no. 15904, Chandigarh-Dibrugarh Express. It was 1:40 pm and the train was running late for over 2 hours. I had plenty of time to kill until the train’s arrival. I was seated on the round concrete black tiled seat made around a platform pillar at NJP. I was at platform number 1 listening to all those announcements made in different languages one after another. It’s December 27th and the weather was warm and no scorching sun to hide from, unlike any other days here in Siliguri. I wanted to plug in my earphones but again I didn’t want to miss the announcements for my train so I sat there and just watched the busy station. I had my phone and Jio but I need to be stingy with my battery so I put it in my pocket and do what I do best, observe life happen around me.
The lady seated towards my right was a mother of a small child who had just started to walk. I can see her husband trying to make her walk. They spoke in Nepali and some other language which I didn’t understand. To my left were a Nepali girl and a boy. The boy seemed to be in his late 30s and was holding an iPhone 7plus and both of them were busy taking selfies. People were all over the floor, sitting and many sleeping on thin plastic sheets printed with all sorts of ads. As the train got more delayed, more people were disintegrating on the floor.
Above all, there I can see a girl in front of me leaning against the station wall. I didn’t notice her until she was right in the font. She was wearing a pink jumper, a black skinny pant with Adidas printed on the side. She was wearing a black cap, a pair of round glasses; she had a mask covering most of her face. She had long brown hair which was tied at the back of her cap. She was a woman whom I guessed was her mother. She had an iPhone 4 and they too were busy posing and clicking photos.
All that time I watched her because her eyes behind those glasses looked so pretty, it was something different than most regular pairs. Her hair looked so clean and wavy. Her skin was so fair and clean. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. There was no way I could have talked to her or even eyed and smile cuz she looked too pretty, and I was already nervous. So all I did was watched her smile and talk with her mom.
In about a few minutes they came near and posed before the train that had just passed by in the platform. As she posed she sets her hair free and tucked in the hair band in her jumper’s pocket. With her hair set free, she seemed even prettier. I really wished I could go and talk to her but like a fool, I was just dreaming. But as if luck was on my side something happened. She accidentally dropped her hair band while she was tucking in her pocket and it lay right in front of me on the platform tiles and she didn’t even realize.
So I smiled and waited for a while that maybe she would realise the drop. But she seemed to be too busy talking to her Mom and gazing into her phone. So I took this as a sign, to talk to her. I went near the band and I took few clicks from my phone before I picked it up, and she didn’t even see it. I picked up the black hair band and rose up. I smiled, closed my eyes for a short while, turned towards her and went to her, “excuse me, you dropped this”. She turned to me and looked at the band in my hand and checked her pockets. She smiled and said, “oh, thank you”.
But both her smile and thank you were not visible and audible under her mouth mask, all I could see was her eyebrows stretching as she smiled and the mask move a little when she said thank you. With a disappointed spirit, I replied, “welcome”, and turned back and went to my seat.
As I sat there looking at her she looked back at me too.
I can see she was smiling back at me and I smiled back. As we exchanged few more looks I realised that I had my mask on too, I had completely forgotten about it cuz now that I am used to wearing the mask. It was 4:30 PM and finally I could hear the announcement for my train and within no time the train whistled and crawled in the platform and everyone started to grab their bags and stood up. I too stood up, I looked at her, she looked at me, I was breathing heavy in my heart was racing, she held her bags, there was something communicated to us, but before I could understand what it was and moved to my coach I looked at her one final time and slowly pulled down my mask towards my chin showing my smile to her, and she looked back right at me, eye to eye and slowly pulled her mask down revealing her sweet wide smile.
We smiled to each other one last time and moved for our coaches and as the train pulled out of the station I felt a joy in my heart that was full of her smile that kept me captivated for the rest of my solo journey.
THE BAND – PART 2
First of all, I had never thought I will be writing this story. You all must remember the first part of the story that I wrote a week back on my way to Dimapur, Nagaland. I didn’t even know it was going to be called first part until today. If you have not read it then you should, otherwise, this one will not make complete sense to you. Well yes, I am writing this continuation to the first part not because I want to but because I was forced to, not by the readers but by that person whom I had written about in the previous part. No no, don’t think she read the story and texts me or anything of that sort. You will know how I was forced, as you read the following paragraphs.
I was all set for my return journey to NJP from Dimapur. I had a wonderful time in Nagaland, it’s a wonderful place, rich with lots of cultural heritage, and you should visit if you have not done so already. I had booked my tickets for 3rd January, train number 14055, Brahmaputra Mail. Again like nothing new about Indian trains, my train was late but this time it was more than my onward journey. It was about 10 hours late, yeah it was that late. As they say, “nothing can beat experience”, this time I used the railway app to find out the updates of the train’s arrival so this time I didn’t have to wait in the station for a longer time. I went to the station only about an hour ahead the delayed time.
I reached Dimapur railway station at 3:00 PM and the delayed boarding time was 16:29 PM. The station is a small one with just three platforms and it’s unusually silent, unlike other railway stations. There were no blaring of the speakers with announcements echoing the platforms. There were no big electric billboards with displays of arriving and departing trains, they just had one small one with all the list of delayed trains flowing in red letters. I could see about three to four trains all listed as delayed, some six hours and some four hours along with mine 10 hrs beating them all. There were weary looking passengers all over the platform. In fact, they were all over the place sleeping, sitting, dozing and guarding their luggage that I even didn’t find a place to sit. I went up to the very beginning of the platform and walked back right to end yet there was no seat, no benches free, except the near waiting room and cloakroom passages.
This time my compartment was S3 seat 27 upper berth, so I asked the potter where would S3 stand and went up to that block, looked for a place to lean and rest by back. The only wall available was the wall next to the bookstore. I excused myself towards it leaping over few stretched out legs of varied complexion and length. I blew off the dust on the floor and finally rested my bag, relaxed my back. The station was still so calm with no train engine murmuring, with no vendors screaming, I actually liked the platform that I wanted to stay longer. So I had now about an hour to spare. I listened to people talking beside me, some of which I could understand and some were foreign to me. This time I could see the host of army gentlemen in front of me, I knew they were army by the fact that they were seated on black steel boxes with their names written along with some long sequence of numbers ending each with a letter. I could hear a man with a turban to my right talking to someone he was in love as he was speaking low and often blushed. To my left was a group of Naga boys and girls all flat on their bags. Most of them glaring into their phones and some fast asleep. There was nothing much to do so I plugged in my earphones and stayed there for about 40 minutes and as I got restless and I wanted to answer nature’s call, I stood up, hooked my bag and headed for the restroom.
When I reached the waiting room block right in the first platform pillar I saw a girl I had seen somewhere before. It was just a quick glimpse because I was in a rush to take a leak so I just headed for the loo. On my way out I wanted to clear the confusion so I went to the other side near the tracks and looked at her. She was turned to the other side talking to someone, she was dressed in a long blue flowing dress, white sandals, and held a black bag on her lap. She had the same long brown flowing hair set loose. This time no band, no cap and no pink jumper. Yes you are right and I am, right, we are all right as she turned towards me… she was the band girl I wrote about in NJP.
She immediately recognised me because she smiled right at me as soon as she saw me. She had the same sweet charming smile, the one I had encapsulated in my heart at NJP. Oh, how can I ever forget that smile? How can I ever confuse her fair flawless skin with anyone else? Call it an accident or coincidence or an act of some superpower but she really was the band girl. My heart was so excited that from slow tortoise pace the beats jumped to wild run. I felt like I was sweating underneath my skin, I seriously froze there for about I guess 60 seconds looking right at her like a man who has lost his directions. I smiled back when I came to my senses, which was really an embarrassing realisation.
The fact that I was in the same dress head to toe as in the first time we saw each other was even more embarrassing (My travel dresses are usually the same). I am sure, my clothes were one of the reason how she was confident that it was me. We didn’t know what to do other than just smile and it was so awkward that I had to move over slowly and while she turned back to her conversation. When I reached my place by the wall the first thing I did was I took off my jacket and stuffed it into my bag. How I wished I had done it a bit earlier given the fact that Dimapur was already warmer, at least I would have spared the embarrassment of being spotted in the same attire twice. Gosh, how I hated my dust baked pants, jacket and shoes at that moment. The whole time I sat there I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I stopped my music, all the people taking beside me became deaf to my ears. It was like I was in another place, all still, numb and blur.
I just had a few minutes before the train paced in, I had to do something before the announcements were coming in like before. I took out my phone opened the app and checked where my train had arrived, the status showed me I just had about 10 minutes. So before the same events repeated like last time I stood up and went towards her, my heart was almost jumping off my chest, I was now in t-shirt yet I was literally perspiring. But even before I could reach to her the silent station echoed with a soft male voice about the arrival of my train to the platform. I could see all the fatigued passengers rising up with their half faded smiles and the platform was alive once again. The crowd was coagulating and I was finding it difficult to reach to her. My bag at my back was getting stuck with the rising irritated passengers so I brought it to my chest and head towards that pillar where she was seated.
I could see the blue dress flowing through the crowd, I could see her hair, and her white sandal flying off the platform tiles, she had stood up, she was heading for her coach. The train whistled and the platform got even more crowded and I was finding it difficult to squeeze in my way. Was I late again? Will I make it to her?
THE BAND Part III – The story continues…
Hummmmm…… where was I?……. oh yes I was heading out to see her before she left. I couldn’t take any chances for who knew I would be given such second chances or not? So this time I was determined to meet her anyhow and talk to her for real.
As I brushed myself through the crowd towards her it became difficult with my bag and lots of paranoid tired travellers rushing in to get to their seats and crash. I could see she was headed for AC coaches, which was completely opposite to my coach’s direction. I know I was being stupid going to the other side of my coach but this was something I had to do, otherwise, I would be regretting for the rest of my life. She was picking her speed and I could just see her dress now between people behind her. I just hoped that I wouldn’t lose her. Finally, after a lot of coaches, she stopped. She stood at the door of the AC 3 trier which was of course jammed by travellers trying to get in. Now as she was halted I was getting closer, each step I took brought me closer to her and everything felt like it was getting played in slow-mo. My heart was beating fast, I don’t know if it was because of the chase I was in or because I was getting closer to her.
Finally, I was there, I was facing her back. Now that long brown hair was right at my arm’s length. I wanted to touch it for once cuz it looked even more smooth and silky and wavy and all that the best hair have at this distance. I didn’t have much time to spare as I even had to head for S3 my coach which was now really far away. So this was it, I took in as much air my small mouth can gulp in and lightly tapped on her right shoulder which was of course covered with her hair. I must tell you that hair were softer than I thought it was. She immediately turned back as anyone would especially when one is travelling solo (I assumed she was alone because she didn’t have her mom with her this time and was walking alone).
She saw me and smiled. I blurted out, “Hi”, which I am sure was filled with more nervous than a high school kid delivering his first assembly speech. She replied back, “Hi”, it was short but it was sweet.
I was completely unprepared what to say so I just spoke up what was easy and what came to my lips, I told her almost with breathless, “are you travelling alone?”. She looked puzzled but she replied, “yes, I am”. I was glad when I heard that yes was travelling alone because that guy she was talking to at the platform was just one of the other traveller. I smiled to myself and I believed I must have looked stupid smiling all the while.
“You know, I wrote a short story about our meet in NJP, so if you want you can read it”, said I out of nowhere. She smiled and said, “thank you” though she looked even more confused as I was being so weird. I quickly told her, “I wish to end that story with a good finishing so I would like to know your name if you don’t mind?” This time my hands were speaking more than my lips with my fingers pointing to the direction and explaining to her where my coach was and that I had to rush back. She smiled at me as she watched me do all sorts of hand movements. All her coach passengers had gone inside and she was the only one who was left outside the coach. Before I could speak more and do my hand movements which I do when I am nervous, the train whistled and creaked its first pull, now I knew I had to run back the opposite direction and I had to do that fast. She understood the situation she stepped into the coach and asked me, “what’s your name? I will follow you on Facebook and read it”.
At that time I realised I had completely forgotten to introduce myself. I stretched out my hand towards her and she held her left hand to the steel door handle and offered me her right. As we shook our hands I told her, “Ccir Cyrus Gurung, my name is Sisir Cyrus Gurung with Sisir spelt as Ccir, kindly do add me”. She smiled again and said, “ok I will” and with that we let go of our hands and I ran back to my coach as fast I could just in time to get in as the train pulled out of the station.
After I was in my coach I didn’t even hunt for my berth like I usually do when I get in my coach. I just went and sat on the empty seat one of those that are single seat right next to the long berths. My coach was not so full and the seat in front of me was empty so I stepped on the folded seat in front of me. I rested both my elbows on my folded knees and thought of what just happened. I felt like it was a dream but yet I knew it wasn’t. I can still feel the soft hand of mine and her pretty eyes blink at me with that signature smile. I was happy, I was excited I was relieved. So I sat there for a while, smile to myself like a crazy person and then headed for seat number 27, upper berth. As I laid there flat on my berth staring at the curved roof of the train I realised that she didn’t tell me her name. I felt a little sad as that fact dawned on me, but yet, I smiled again as I knew I had a hope that I will get a friend request from her.
Few hours past after the train had moved out I took out my iPad and started to write this story. When I was done and was going through the final time, guess what happened? My notification bar popped up, it read, “1 friend request”. I immediately stop editing the story and touched the notification bar and there my Facebook page opened up. To the bottom left of the page, I can see red “1” on the Friend request icon.
I take my index finger over it just a few millimetres before I touch it I closed my eyes, took a long sigh, smiled and then touched it……?
[Thank you all for reading….]
Writes: Ccir Cyrus Gurung
TheDC Editor’s Note: This story was written in three parts as it happened, but we decided to share it in one go so that our readers could enjoy the whole story