Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Unfinished Sketch ...

Kerala Express came to a halt and was like it was tired running all night stopped with a sigh of relief. The train which was supposed to reach Coimbatore last night at 8 reached late the next morning at 6 am. The hissing engine and the early morning Coimbatore station were like made for each other. The smell of the jasmine flower, hot idlis and the smell of hot vada and coffee was an inviting wake up call to those who were sleeping.

"Which station"
"Coimbatore I guess" said Kannan, being a seasoned traveler by then.

Stepped out of the compartment. The smell of the metal inside the train was broken by the cool morning breeze at the station. 

"Coffee... coffee ... chaai ... idli vadae ..." the usual station sounds was a welcome alarm for the others.

"oru coffee" and Kannan bought a cup and gave the vendor his change. 

He sipped the hot coffee with milk with sugar to sweeten up the morning and looked around. The station was not as busy as usual. He saw the hawkers here and there some selling cucumbers, flower, newspapers, coffee, tea, breakfast, idly wrapped in plantain leaves and newspapers porters trying to get the customers into the on going trains, some relaxing smoking a beedi. Few more hours and he would reach his destination, Ernakulam, back home Kannan thought to himself. Happy about his meetings in Delhi and the work he had ahead of him all the thoughts and the freshness of the coffee gifted him a smile. He looked into the compartment and most of them were still sleeping, not knowing what was happening around them. 

"Train number 2625 Kerala Express from New Delhi to Trivandrum Junction will leave from platform no 3 shortly" the announcement came with the typical IVRS style with varying tones and a cling.

The train hissed again and the horn was heard. The signal became green. Kannan quickly boarded the train. He saw people rushing into compartments here and there. He saw a bright faced young girl come running towards the gate he was standing. 

She seemed to be a college girl returning home for vacations. In her bright yellow churidar she seemed to be a marigold running towards the train. Fresh and happy. Smiling in the morning sun. She had the smile in her face and the confidence that could beat the world. Kannan moved to the side and she quickly boarded the train and the train started moving. The train left the platform where the station guard was flashing the green signal. He went to his seat, the corner seat by the window. He saw the girl sitting on the opposite seat. She seemed to be so happy and was looking out of the window to the bright morning with trees whizzing past the train with the beat of the train sounds.

Kannan looked at her and thought "Happiness .... is that her name?"

She looked at Kannan for a moment as if she heard what he thought and then turned away to her own world of happiness. looking out of the window and enjoying the wind in her loosely tied hair. She was hugging her bag as if it were her loved one. No books to read, no tiredness on her face, all that he could see was the excitement. He did not want to disturb her and he returned to the thick Robin Cook book he had bought from New Delhi station when he started back. Time to time, Kannan looked at the bright tingling eyes of the young girl sitting next to him. She was looking at the other passengers, listening to them talk; see the dresses they were wearing. It was more of observation than budging to their privacy. She would again return to the window sights of the morning village side. Kannan got busy with the medical mystery he was reading and didn't know when he slept of to the cool breeze by the window. He was woken up by the train halting at a station. 

The girl smiled at him and said "Sir your book"

Kannan had dropped it while asleep. "Thanks" he said and took the book from her.

She was full of energy and seemed to be far away from the work troubles and pressures. Kannan wished he could take a small amount of the exuberance she had in her. He took his sketch pad and started throwing lines here and there like the hair on her face being tossed by the wind carelessly. He kept sketching the face and got engrossed in it. The hustle and bustle inside the compartment did not bother her in enjoying the happy moments nor Kannan who was sketching the lively marigold sitting on the opposite seat. "Happy marigold" he thought to himself. He was sketching the eyes which were so lively and the train came to a halt at Palakkad Junction. She grabbed her bag and quickly got down. As she was walking away she looked at my sketch pad... smiled and walked away. Till he reached Ernakulam Kannan was trying to finish the unfinished sketch and draw the eyes and fill her eyes with the energy she had. The life could not be captured after she had gone but it remained in his mind.

Years passed and Kannan never saw her again. Many days the journey remained in his head and from time to time he recollected the happiness in those eyes but never finished the sketch. His work kept him busy; home was another thought in his mind and ten year later Kannan was in Dubai with work. Every journey Kannan bought a new book and would finish it during the journey. Trips were reading time for him and flights, cars and trains were reading rooms for him. Centers of relaxation. 

It was vacation and work together for Kannan this time and waited in the boarding area where he was to catch his early morning flight to Nedumbassery. He was sitting in the corner seat and saw a kid playing with a superman toy in his hand. The kid’s energy and smiles brought back his memories of his Delhi Ernakulam Kerala Express journey. He continued reading when the airport was busier than usual around him. It was going to be six and the flight boarding announcement was awaited. 

The busy previous day and the night dinner meets had made Kannan tired. He did not know when he dozed off in his chair. He was woken up by the announcement and a lady standing in front of him. She smiled and gave him "The Princess", the book he was reading, which had fell off while he slept. She was holding the kid by his hands and said "Sir... your book"

Kannan looked at those eyes. It was a moment of silence. He felt as if he has seen her before. Tried to recollect but in vain. The same eyes he had seen years back. Is she the "Happy marigold"? his thoughts sparkled. She gave the book and walked away. The silence around him covered him with awe and amazement. 

"Passengers your kind attention please ..." he heard the announcement.

Some moments of silence still haunt Kannan. Who is she....? Is she the same person ... Journey of life does not have an ending. The sketch book awaits another journey may be. But the life in the eyes taught him one thing. The life's paths change, take you places but the life and its happiness is from within and remains within you.

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