At the commencement of this year around six months ago, I was travelling back to Hyderabad from Calcutta. As always with that route of travel, I was a little depressed to leave home and loved ones again toward a city I didn’t like. Thankfully the feeling didn’t last long because it were the ultimate time I would be travelling on that route. We were scheduled to move from Hyderabad to Pune in a few days upon our return from Calcutta, and that at least brought a streak of joy inside me. Normally when I travel by Indian Railways, I pray silently for a lower berth after booking the ticket. The God of Railways doesn’t like me much though. It has been a middle or upper berth for me each time I have travelled in the last three years. This last time turned out to be different, as the Gods were moved by my sufferings and I was granted a lower berth. A happy me arrived at the station for boarding and checked the passenger list, just in case. To my disappointment, the co-passengers in my coupe were three elderly people, an octogenarian gentleman, a septuagenarian lady and another gentleman just shy of being a senior citizen.
I was a little upset, yes. At the same time I and my husband prepared ourselves to offer the comfort to them. Being in my thirties, I am still capable of keeping my claustrophobia (of middle berth) in control than forcing the elderly into discomfort. We enjoyed the limited sprawl of lower berths for about two hours until the train reached Jamshedpur and our senior co-passengers boarded the coupe. I was half expecting a frail couple considering their ages on the chart, but was greeted with amazing smiles from two surprisingly agile people. The gentleman was the quintessential Bengali silver-haired grandpa with a permanent smile in his eyes, and the lady resembled my mother more than grandma. We promptly offered them both the lower berths that we had, as they panted for breath after running a long way to board the correct coupe. Their companion for the journey was a distant relative who was evidently very fond of them. It didn’t take much time to strike a conversation in Bengali, and then there was no dam to hold the free-flowing adda.