Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Man with the Lantern

It was twenty past twelve.
And through the shades of midnight the Rajdhani Express suddenly halted.It was unexpected as Rajdhani stops only in some stations..clearly it was nothing but a matter of signal..I can hardly take bed so early thus I stood up and peeped through the glasses.

And I got stranded.
A beautiful night awaiting for me outside.

The station was totally empty..over the glasses I saw some yellow green leaves running scatterdly over the platform in winds..sky clear..stars shining at regular intervals.

It became tough for me to remain within the train.
I walked from the AC –Sleeper class,opened the door and stepped into the station.

As my feet touched the platform, a wind swept me which bear an unknown fresh smell
.Is it a smell of the soil?
Is it a smell of the cattlefields?
Is it the smell of the tree, its branches?
Or is it the smell of the night?
I don’t know but I felt the smell contains ingredients from all of it.

I looked front. There was no trace of any signal.

I started walking. The scattered leaves now roamed over my feet.
The wind blowing in different tunes..the sky looks amazing..no trace of clouds..a faint moonlight spreading herself over this unknown station at this particular night..the air is cold..

I stared at the mesmerizing view of the night which lay before me.

The station though almost empty has a view of solitary loneliness..only a light of the lamppost of the station glowing and pouring on a banyan tree..the tree is old with numerous branches..some green..some yellow..some without leaves..some with leaves shaking in winds..throughout the station beneath the the blue sky the banyan tree with all its shades of colour and spreading of green leaves among the yellowish image resembling as if the only symbol of life..behind the plots of cattlefields..behind some bushes..I saw ..quite far from here..a hazy layout of a steep plateau like structures..from which direction the winds are suppose to be blowing..there was hardly any sound in the place except..the clattering of a night bird..the flapping of its wings..a dog running through the fields parallel to the tracks..a cow standing in the night over the grazing fields..sometimes nodding its head unconsciously..all pictures of loneliness..all a piece of singleness trying to hold the epigraph of time..of life..all sketches of solitude..all pictures of a different world which made this night,this moment,this station so very precious to me..

I thanked God that the train stopped here..

It was really unique..far from all the resemblance of our known world..far from the sorrows and daily struggles of survival..this night showed the vast epitome of the world..lesson of feeling the world for some moment instead of only running and searching for meaningless worldly things..a desire of surrender to this world..to open myself completely and absorb all the wonderful gifts that the nature had to offer..a raga of timeless sensations..a feeling of individualness which can be so pure..so mouthful of essences of rendezvous..

I looked again in front..
Still no signal..
I prayed silently.
That may these moments continue as long as it can, let the signal be not sounded,let it be delayed..let it be delayed..
Suddenly there was a sound.
It gradually came near.

And then to my great surprise, I saw a person appeared from the darkness, behind the banyan tree..

He was an old man..with hairs a mixture of black and white..his face..a conglomeration of ripples..showing his age..his eyes..looking for someone..his hands..holding a lantern..the light now falling on my face..

And then a voice came..a voice which initially was of amazement but gradually reached that of shouting..
‘Harish..tu aaya..?’
The light of the lantern was now totally on my face..a heat coming from the lantern..
I was finding it utterly difficult to open my eyes comfortably..

I did after a while as the light got removed as the person now holding my hand.
‘Harish, mujhe pata tha..tu aayega..akdin na akdin tu jaroor aayega..kahan tha beta tu itne din..’

The old man before me almost looking at me as if he found his lost treasure..he went on speaking some meaningless words..which was enough to realize that there was some mistake going on.

I removed my hand and said in Hindi that I am not Harish and there must be some mistake.

The old man laughed..again tried to hold my hand..he said in a very soft voice.. Tera gussa abhi tak hai..’

I got disgusted and shouted ‘Choriya mujhe! Hat jaiiye Ihanse!’

Maybe my voice reached a higher pitch.

It broke the silence..a bird flew away from the nearby tree..within the scattered light of the platform another person came running and said, ‘Master sab, signal hogaya hai..ab chaliye..’

Hearing his words I looked at the old man, he is wearing a black suite and also in his left hand he has a lantern..indeed he is the stationmaster.

He looked at me strangely.
Winds swept between us.
A cluster of dust whirled.
Moonlight now in strips kissed the shaking leaves.

The stationmaster in disbelief once again hold my hand and said… ‘Tu Harish nahi hai?’
I nodded.
He kept looking at me for some moment.
The moonlight touched the old eyes, Is there any droplets of water?

He started walking back slowly.

Instead the other person who came later on and holding flag in his hand and appeared to be linesman said to me that to forgive the stationmaster. He said he was a poor man who lost his son twenty years back. His son Harish went from here but never came back. Thus the old man for these twenty years hoping each day as each train passes through this station that one day his son would come back.
But it never occurred.
Today also, it didn’t.

‘Usko maf kar dijiye babuji, who bhi Insaan hai’(Forgive him as he is also an human being) The linesman hold my hand and then ran back towards the station room.

Soon the signal was shown.
The green light flashed.
I boarded the steps of Rajdhani.
The train started slowly.
The yellowish platform passed.
The beautiful banyan tree passed.
Its dancing leaves passed.
The blue sky with numerous stars passed.
And then passed the ‘board’ on which the station name was written.
The light of the station as well as the moonlight fell on the name.

Another wind splashed.
I looked at the signal room.
There is the linesman.
And there is that old man.
Waving flag tiredly, slowly with the lantern in his left hand.

As the train was passing I saw that the old man was looking towards me as I stood in the door.
Did the flag and the lantern trembled?
Or is it just an illusion of mine?

I came back to my seat.
Through the looking glass I saw moonlight kissing all corners of the earth outside.
The outside world with all its people and their emotions was running again parallel to the train.
Another station came.
Another came.

I closed my eyes.
I can still see the old man with the lantern in his hand and saying with his eyes fully lighted and with a desire of all his life, , ‘Harish..tu aaya?’

His eyes waiting for the answer.
He is living his remaining life for that answer.
A little answer.

And I behaved with him roughly almost treated him like a beggar?
But what else I can do?
I opened my eyes.
I found my eyelids wet.
I am crying.

Looking outside through the moonlit landscape of the night I slowly uttered one word.
But the word ‘sorry’ never appeared such meaningless to me.




Little Girl Lost said...

Shubhadip jano, tomar lekhar shonge kichu ta bibhutibhushan er mil achey...
descriptive power tomar oshadharon

mon ta ektu kharap hoye gelo :(

ARUNA said...

wow its so touching and real!!! I pity the poor old man! And ur description is wonderful!

Arnav said...

It almost happens very often that we realize our mistakes only after a long time , and then there is no way we can reach out to the point and if there are means the "sorry " does not have any value then...

U know what I do wen i face a similar situation try to make someone else happy :)