I don’t know why people always mistook him for being a hard-nosed person.When I got close to him, I felt he was more like a coconut, hard only on the periphery, but very soft deep within. May be, people never got too close to him to find out his true colours. Though, he was very neatly dressed, as would be a village-chief, there was nothing flamboyant about his looks. A cream-colour dhoti along side a translucent, somewhat oversized, silk-kurta was probably doing justice to his body. A turban was sitting atop his head, reminding me of a character in a Rajasthani play, I witnessed in my college days. I am not good at guessing numbers, but he looked to be in his early forties. But, I was soon proven wrong, when I noticed the black spots on his face, reminding me of times when vaccine for chicken pox was still elusive and being developed. My mother used to tell me rich people never grow old, looking at him, I felt she was right. May be, Rich people know how to defy their age and time.
I had heard from my friends that he hardly opens up in front of strangers, so I was taken by surprise, pleasantly though, when he offered his hand. Those were probably the hardest and roughest hands that I ever had a handshake with.
I know, this is not the ideal time to ride the train, today being cattle’s fair in neighbouring villages. So along with human beings, you will also have goats, sheeps, calves as your company. But this is now how it usually is. You should give this train another try.
Though, it was stinking inside the compartment, somehow, his kind and empathetic words made me forget the stink for a moment.
Hey, don’t tie the cycle to this window, can’t you see, I am sitting in this compartment, he was shouting at the top of his voice, as he announced his arrival.
You could have taken a bus or a boat, why did you choose this jam-packed train, MukhiyaG asked me.
Where else you can ride for free ?? I promptly replied.
MukhiyaG burst out laughing. I appreciate your honesty. Not many people from town are like that.
MukhiyaG had this wrong notion of people, living in cities, to be mean and dishonest. I don’t know what he saw inside me, but he started opening up in our conversation.
Do you live in town ??
Yes, I do. Why did you come to the village then ??
I am returning from a pulse polio drive in neighbouring village.
How about you ?? I asked back.
What will I do in town ?? I am a damn villager. Only once in my life before, I have been to town, when I went to drop my daughter. You know, there are no colleges in village, so I had no other choice, but to send her to town. Today is the second time, I am going to town. My daughter wants me to see her new campus, her new hostel, her new college building, her new life.
The discussion was becoming more and more personal.
But why did you send her for further studies ?? The moment, I uttered those words, I felt like crossing the line. I wish I could take back my question.
See, Girls at my daughter’s age are being married off, some of them have even become teenage mothers, but I wanted my daughter to be different. I want her to set an example for others to follow. Girls are not meant only to be homemakers and baby-generating machines.
Very brave. MukhiyaG was living up to his billing of a fierce communist warrior.
Which college does she study ??
Is not that too hi-fi a college ?? I have seen boys and girls roaming around freely holding each others’ hands. Aren’t you afraid your daughter will forget her roots.
No, not at all. I have infinite trust in her.
I hope, your trust remains intact, I kept my thoughts to myself.
If you don’t mind, I want you to introduce to my daughter.
Will she be there at the station ??
Yes, she should be waiting for me.
As the train crossed the last unmanned signal, I knew, the end of our journey was near. I pulled out the glasses out of my short’s pocket, MukhiyaG adjusted his turban and stood motionless.
Oh man, people have already blocked the door. How will I get down ?? MukhiyaG was increasingly getting worried.
Don’t worry, I will help you. And the train will stop for nearly 5 minutes, so we have enough time. I tried calming MukhiyaG nerves.
The train came to a screeching halt. People started shrieking, almost crushing the cattles seated next to the toilet. MukhiyaG eyes were scanning the platform, searching for his beloved daughter.
To Be Continued ...