Friday, August 20, 2010

The gift

As I got on the train that cool rainy night I felt apprehension for the first time regarding the journey we were about to undertake. I must have come to terms with the excitement, joy and curiosity that had eclipsed the prospect of travelling to and seeing a new place. Now I trudged warily into the compartment pulling my luggage behind me that suddenly felt heavier than it was. The atmosphere was filled with general excitement, confusion and noises as fellow travellers strove to settle themselves in their respective seats. Trying to shake off negative thoughts I determinedly attempted to blend into the environment. It helped that I had to focus all my attention on finding my seat and keeping my belongings in their allotted places. But as soon as we were all settled the apprehension came back. I said a little prayer this time to keep the worst of my fears at bay; the fear of all the possible things that could go wrong and uncontrollably awry. After a while as the train began moving, Dad struck up a light, humorous conversation that further allayed my anxiety. I did purposefully allow myself a little apprehension though, to prime myself in the face of adversity.
A couple of hours or so into the journey had passed and the cacophonic environment had changed into a slumber haven as we crept into the late hours of the night. To the one still awake the atmosphere could either infuse in one’s heart an eerie loneliness in the midst of a train full of travellers or a peaceful solitude, detached from the stillness of the world outside, together with a few people most of whom as an added advantage had wilfully surrendered to the realm of temporary death. I wished for the latter; to indulge myself in a sense of serenity. But the remnants of my impalpable fear had let the former reign for a good part of my waking hours. I knew my attempts to sleep at this point would be futile. So I just lay on my berth and tried to turn my mental loneliness to my favour. I kept glancing at my cell phone screen that, when network allowed, showed names of new and bizarre-sounding names of places whose reception areas we passed through. I held on to it like a lifeline that connected me to the outside world. Occasionally the cell phone chimed and I would find a message from a friend who seemed to be living in a safe part of the world, not gripped by the vice of uncertainty. Later I would find this thought to be preposterous because my rational mind then would point out the obvious fact that the world of events is a prime representative of perpetual uncertainty. With my heart tipping towards vulnerability, rationale seemed like its least possible aid. Consequently I began thinking about things that had occurred recently. I remembered the day when Dad announced the confirmation of our train tickets. When he added with great flourish that we would be travelling in AC compartment it drew a lot of cheer and relief from everyone except me. I muttered my disapproval over its boxed confinement, its heavily tinted windows with poor or no outside view, the pungent staleness in the supposedly conditioned air and the overall lack of freedom of openness. I expressed my preference for second class compartments.  I had to relent owing to the hearty approval of the majority. It was too late anyway to make any changes. The next day, the subject of our much anticipated trip came up once again and Dad announced that our return journey would be in second class compartment. Amid the mini-chaos that followed I was profoundly touched the immense consideration in this small act of his. He had promptly transferred the seat reservations from AC to second class at just the whiff of my half-heartedness. His concern and thoughtfulness overwhelmed me and the feeling was little affected by the hostile vibes of AC cab preferring enthusiasts.
Lying on my berth I smiled as I recalled the incident and my heart lifted a significant bit. The atmosphere started to feel much serene and less lonely. More thoughts and memories came flooding into my mind and I revelled in them. I was amazed at how a mere shift in the state of mind dispelled fears and lifted my spirits. Some amount of wariness still remained but it existed as a persistent by-product of my alertness. I glanced at the heavily tinted window. Even with the poor visibility I imagined a cool, ink-blue, star-studded night with a partial moon struggling to outshine other heavenly entities. The train was moving with a steady speed now. The tell-tale rhythmic sounds of hundreds of wheels turning over gapped metal tracks and the pistons and the engine and the occasional distant blare of the horn created an unprecedented  mechanical melody that dipped and soared as the sounds echoed off nearby and far-off valleys, hills, plains and houses. The melody filled me and lulled me and the steady swaying of the cab infused in me a distantly familiar calmness. As I slowly drifted away from consciousness I remembered a familiar deep but gentle voice that crooned age old lullabies and the strong hands that held and cradled me to sleep under the partially moonlit, cool, ink-blue, star-studded night.
As I slept dreamlessly, hours passed and miles were traversed of which I was blissfully unaware. From across the bridge of nothingness a voice called out my name, faintly at first but gaining strength with every call. The voice was same as the one I had remembered as I had drifted off to sleep. It grew louder but not uncomfortably so and as my mind broke through the realm of sleep, I realised someone was gently waking me up. The voice spoke my name again and I slowly opened my eyes, registered the all too familiar face through the early morning gloom and smiled sleepily at my Dad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The contest VII

 The blog contest is back. Show your best on the July edition of the Blog contest.