Station was all empty, hardly any passenger there . It was a cold wintry December night. Fog was thick and had wrapped the entire town in such a way that jt was very difficult to see even few yards ahead .
Mohini could see that Jitesh was restless in anticipation , very uncomfortable and tense indeed.
In spite of the repeated news of the robbery on the route ,they both had very bravely decided to travel in the night only and that also in an empty first class cabin.
They knew this area was full of dacoits and thugs but They were short of time, so to save the days for working, preferred to travel this way.
There was only one bogie of first Class in the entire train and seeing the fare difference, used to run empty mostly, Many advised them that journey wasn’t safe in the night specially in an empty first class cabin .
‘But one can sleep comfortably without dealing with the choked suffocation of an over -crowded place and its stale air . We will also save one working day’..was their reasoning for this uncomfortable decision.
They knew there is generally a guard with the gun on most of these trains, so there was really no fear of any major mishap. After all unnecessary fear makes one coward. They shrugged of all the worries with a one big smile.
Standing behind the heap of a big pile of suitcases, there immediate worry was how they will shift all this in the train in five minutes, if they do not find any coolie to help. Both sighed on the painful realisation that they had too much luggage and train stops only for such a short time. How will they manage, was their biggest worry at the momebt.
There was really no coolie present on the station, at least they could not see any there.
The train was on time.
Mohini took his hand in his hands and tried to comfort, ‘Do not worry . We will manage somehow!’
Suddenly at that moment, two men came from no where, their gamcha wrapped face was not very friendly though, but their twinkling eyes were. They litted up bright seeing them on this remote small town station and in a very soothing voice they both asked,- “ Shall we go?”
“Which bogie sir?” was their prompt reply.
‘ Oh Yes,’ hurriedly he said ‘ first class, luckily right here, just in front of us.’
” No problem Sir!. follow us.”
They did not have to walk very far. It was really right in front of them.
It felt good .. No waiting on a filthy station any more. Generally they arrive either an hour early.or few minutes late, then pufing and panting catch the train or get bored to death waiting. But the story was very different this time , there timing could not have been better and they boarded the train very comfortably.
There was no body else except them two husband and wife in that cabin of four, which was also comforting , they can have it all for themselves and sleep without worrying too much about safety.
Train left on the schedule time. She could hear few people still banging on the firmly shut door .It reminded her of her younger days when Jitesh used to bolt the compartment from inside and will not open the door for anybody at any station , no matter how loud or how hard they banged or kicked it . Once, when things got really uncomfortable and out of hand, she asked ” Wasn’t that wrong and immoral of him to shun out others like that? ”
“ No”, he replied .”It is called survival in the jungle. We do not want any trouble. Do you know how much animal like these people are? They will not have any mercy on you or me. We are just a piece of meat for those hungry wolves. It is a notoriously famous route for all sorts of troubles and it is safer this way .”
Things have changed a lot for better since then, but she still feels frightened remembering his that night’s facial expressions. Semi-understanding his stern and firm message but not fully agreeing with it , she just nodded her head and surrendered.
One thing was clear to her there were clearly two different world of rich and poor and they lived very different lives. .
After checking that everything is ok with her he said good night and was fast asleep, she could hear him snore in no time. One thing which his busy career and fast life style has taught him is to cherish the sleep, he could sleep anywhere and at any time.
But to fall asleep was not that easy for her tonight. There was still an uncomfortable unease in side her…a sort of eery feeling that something is not quite right.
With the one shake of head she shrugged off all the nasty thoughts of theft and robbery then and there and started to prepare to go to bed.
Their coupe was last but one in the row of six , quite near to the washroom. Jitesh had repeatedly told her never to leave the purse unattended in a journey But she did. Thought, she would be back in no time .It will not take her long and there was no body else in the compartment any way
Everything looked settled and comfortable all around , no small street hawkers in sight and train was also running at full speed It will be another two hours, before the next stoppage. She felt safe and ready to bed after a very hectic day..
They have travelled umpteen of times on this route and there has never been any mishap.. To wake him up just to hand over the purse would have been so cruel.! After all everybody is not a thief only here in India! Who will be interested in her purse so much as to rush in as soon as she leaves the compartment! Rich people travel in first class and it is past midnight already, every body is fast asleep.
Feeling satisfied with her reasoning she went to the basin and brushed and cleaned herself.
Came back and changed in her gown, took off her rings and watch and put them into the inner zipped pocket of her purse…all her regular night routine really, then switched off the light. But it was impossible for her to sleep , may be the effect of the standing in the cold outside or mere nervousness.
She got out reluctantly and just hid the purse with blanket and pillows on her seat and tiptoed out of the compartment, leaving the door partially open behind so it will not make noise and disturb Jitesh in his sleep
Hurriedly she returned, but her heart missed a beat when she saw a man gushing away from her coupe. He looked very nervous As if he has done something wrong.She even saw few sweat droplets on his forehead. Instinctively she knew something was really wrong, but prayed it wasn’t. A heavy amount worth of stuff was there in her purse, one could buy a comfortable house in that much money even in todays inflated economy. She ran towards her purse which was now lying on the top of the blanket But when she left, she hid it under the pillow, she remembered restlessly!
She opened the inner zip , looked in all the inner pockets, looked at Jitesh and knew instantly that her precious jewellery was stolen. It was definitely not the Jitesh who had taken it in his safe custody because he would have taken the whole purse. And there is no time to waste either- she reminded herself- He is still in this compartment only. She can not let him get away with this loot. Rock is too expensive and important for her both in monetary and emotional value .…then.!!!.
.Like a women possessed she ran out but the man was no where to be seen!
With a steely determination she walked almost running. God knows how many doors she opened or knocked and how many times she said sorry but she found him at last sitting in one of those cabins. Sitting all alone, big ruby , emerald , turquoise and coral rings decorating all his ten fat ugly fingers and a thick gold chain adorning his equally ugly neck. He busted out in sweat again. She felt disgusted with the wretched man. So this is how he massed up his wealth. Must be a collector or a jeweller to eye it from such a distance and so quickly.
A filthy rich man indeed or a thief or robber in disguise! She thought again and was really sick inside but soon calmed herself down with a deep breath. She really did not have any time to waste.
They both were facing each other now and her heart was thumping clear and loud. This was the moment to win or loose, she was an honest and straightforward person so without a moments pause she said it all very calmly and in plain words “Do not force me to call the guard and hand you over to the police. I know what you have done and I demand that you hand me over all my stuff back immediately. All the windows are sealed here in this ac bogie and train is running at a very high speed,. You cannot run or scape from here. Your whole reputation will be ruined and people will beat the hell out of you if I shout for help and call them now.
.Just give my stuff back and I will go away. No body will know.
He looked back at her as if measuring her resolve and determination, then took out all the stuff from his shirt’s pocket all wrapped and secured in a white hanky. But before handing it all back to her, to her utter disgust and surprise thief blew his nose heavily into it.
Still she took it. She was thankful to god that he gave him wit and courage to get her stuff back. .He was one of the emerging filthy rich of ambitious India, for whom any means justifies the end. Avoiding that wet and disgusting part, She felt the bundle carefully, all the three things were there. She felt really happy and relieved but really nervous also. He could have hurt her, could have denied everything. She did not see any guard on board the train and she was not that brave or strong either.
With long and fast steps she just walked back to her seat , where Jitesh was waiting for her.
Immediately She emptied everything out and flushed that dirty cloth in the toilet.
By this time Jitesh started to ask several questions, if everything was o.k. with her and why she was running to the toilet again and again?
“Yes”, “Everything is fine.” she replied calmly
“ What is the time?” was his next question?
“2 ‘o clock.” She replied calmly again, ignoring all the buzzing noises in her head.
‘ Still four more hours left, better I go back to sleep’., He said lazily and went back to sleep.
She heaved a sigh and switched off the cabin light but there was no rest for her, she switched them on again. She wanted to share her experience with him, still she could not wake him up. In the end she decided she will tell Jitesh about this filthy rich man , once they reach home. It js much safer and peaceful this way.
Once he knew, hell will be loose. He will not leave the man unpunished and she has not got any proof to show that he really did steal it, who will believe her! Even that dirty handkerchief is disposed off by her.
That filthy man may deny everything straight away!
‘ No point in creating a futile feud.’
Morning sky was breaking now but there was still some time left for her to rest, she heaved a sigh and switched off the cabin light again, hopefully this time to sleep for couple of hours.