The train journey from Coimbatore to Kerala always enchants me. It is a dawdling shift from dry land to the pleasant green grounds. The accompanying cool wind offers a pleasantry feel even to the dreariest man on earth. In addition, Kerala is the place on earth I get to eat plenty of fishes. As a foodie, this factor makes me thrilled.
It was one such journey. The compartment was filled and there was a military uncle with his big family sitting beside me. I guessed he is a military professional because of his posture. He had thick protruding moustache with the ends curled. He was wearing a full sleeve ironed shirt and was sitting straight. There was no smile on his face and his expression sometimes made me feel that I am someone invaded into his territory.
Somehow I stereotyped the wives of military heads as gorgeous and proud. That was true in this case as well. The uncle had a beautiful wife, draped in golden yellow saree. However, his two daughters were not so good looking as their mother. They seemed to have got their father’s features and had pretty sharp pairs of eyes. There was a son for him and the boy was a clear representation of the father’s strictness. The boy’s eyes looked scared all the time and he was too lean for his age.
There were a few others - a pompous aunt, a grey haired man who looked like that aunt’s husband, a man in his 20’s et cetera. I did not observe them much mainly because the military uncle was staring at me whenever I looked at the people around. He seemed to hate me-maybe he carried some kinds of premonition about the girls of my age.
After half an hour of fighting with his staring eyes, I decided to stretch my head out and enjoy the change of scenes. The new boy cut I did kept my hairs intact even in that gushing wind. Few stations passed and the train was nearing Palakkad. The railway station at Palakkad is always busy, mainly because it is a major town station after Coimbatore. While many people climbed down there, the new ones joined us for the rest of the journey. The train stopped for fifteen minutes there. After the rush of people, the platform became a little calm and there were only the chai-walas roaming around.
I simply looked at the military uncle sitting opposite to me. He was staring at something on the next track and a strange expression was drawn on his face. I peeped into the same direction. A girl, perhaps of the age 15 was sitting on the left most track. She was trying to get up from there and wanted to climb the platform next to it. Something prevented her from standing up. Her long skirt was unnaturally wet, especially behind. She kept one hand on the platform and tried to stand up again. Nobody on the platform noticed her. From the tiredness on her face, I felt she was hungry. Her shirt was torn on the right shoulder and the piece of cloth hung behind, revealing her bare back. I felt too uneasy and badly wanted help her. I knew I was helpless and looked at the military uncle, who too seemed to have the same feeling within him.
The train began to move. I remembered there is a women’s helpline saved in my mobile phone. I got it from some hoarding kept at bus station. I chose that from the phone’s contact list and rang the number. Although the number was saved long back, that was the first time I was using it. I did not know what to tell them, but I knew I must try. The sight of the girl was moving away from me and the ring went on.
“The number you are trying to reach is not reachable. Please try again later,” the announcement banged at my ears. The train moved faster and I kept trying for a few more times.
The military uncle was looking at me, but I knew this time his expression was not hatred. Rather it was that of a helpless father pronouncing the pain. The howls and chats in the compartment continued as usual. Neither the cold wind nor the greenery entertained me. We two souls were silent and kept bearing that tragic scene ever.