Read Part 1
"I need your help.. Please.. It's urgent.."
He gave her a perplexed look. They were at the Nandiad station. The Gujarat mail had set off from Ahmedabad at 10 pm and was scheduled to reach Mumbai Central at 6.45 am. The train prior to Gujarat mail had derailed leading to their delay. The train had earlier made slow attempts to move on but was stranded at the Nandiad station since midnight and they were still a good 400 kms away from Mumbai. Shiven had plans to board a bus first thing when the day breaks. That would roughly be 2 hours from now..
Here a number of passengers had strolled aimlessly within the compartments. The second class was worst hit as the rains began lashing on the windows and the Indian Railways train windows, true to their reputation, gave up.. The second class was practically flooded. He couldn't have a moment of peace in his 2Ac compartment due to the constant complaints of ladies and the never ending cries of the children they carried. Men looked around helplessly, while some thought smoking and suffocating the co-passengers was a better option. He had stepped out into the platform to find a cup of tea. He regretted it the moment he put his foot into the muddy waters that ran deeper than he thought..
"Yes.." he replied back.
" I need your help to get down my bag.. "
wow that was some emergency.. He thought.. Before he could say another word she had taken to her heels and headed into her compartment. his compartment.. He wondered why she hadn't asked anyone else to get her bag.. There were so many others and as he thought this his jaw dropped. The compartment was deserted..
His immediate response was to get his bag first. He pulled on his windcheater and put on his bag on his shoulders while she watched him.. He then headed to her compartment and tried pulling down the bag.. what did she carry? Rocks??
"Where has everyone gone?" he asked her.
"Didn't you hear the announcement? The railway is providing transit bus to take all passengers to Surat.. From there we will get another train to take us to Mumbai.."
"No.. I didn't.. What were you doing till now then?" He asked her.
"I was sleeping.. The lady next to me woke me up while she made her way out..Everyone was rushing.. You were the first one I saw on platform and so I asked for help"
"Ok, let's take you to the transit bus.. " He said as he managed to get hold of her heavy suitcase. In addition she had another bag and also a handbag.. she must have carried Ahmedabad with her!!
"Oh no!! The buses are so crowded.. Come on run before the bus goes away.." She panicked . She could have ran but she only took hurried steps as that was the speed of Shiven's run with her heavy bags..
"You have to wait for the next bus lady.. This one is crowded!" said the officer in charge of the transit..
"Come on! The bus won't topple with just one more passenger!" she tried reasoning.. She looked calm and for a moment Shiven felt the officer was intimidated.
"Tell you what? The bus may topple with the number of passengers we already have on board.." He winked at her.
After some convincing and his rebuttal, she finally asked him.. "So when does the next bus leave?"
He looked at her and then at Shiven. Shiven wondered what the officer might be thinking was the reason of their delay..
"We just left 8 buses.. It may take 2 hours for more buses to come.. Don't worry the transit train won't leave till all passengers are on board.." he tried consoling her.
They went back to the platform. She slumped into one of the chairs in the common waiting room. He dutifully carried her bags there. She looked up at him.. Shivered a bit.. He now had a clear view of her.. Her fair oval face with deep brown eyes.. Long lashes that whipped away what was going to be a tear.. Her high cheek bones which accentuated the rosy cheeks she had.. Her eyebrows were arched in a natural fashion.. not like the way women got them done in beauty parlors.. Her nose sharp yet not arrogant..Her delicately shaped light pink lips which she wet with her tongue every now and then.. Her lips trembled..
"Should I get you some coffee or tea?" He asked. He knew she was scared out of her wits. She was probably travelling alone for the first time. She put on a brave face and he liked her instantly.
"Shukriya." she smiled faintly..
He turned around to walk to the tea stall when her cellphone rang..
"Walaikum assalam.." she said softly..
Someone just dashed him and he was about to say something to that person when she put a finger on her lips and made a soft gesture for him to keep his mouth shut.. He carried on his way without hearing anymore..
He had failed to realise earlier that what he thought to be a scarf wound about her head to protect from the rain was actually her costume.. What he thought was a trench coat was actually a modernised hijab... She was a Muslim..
what was so upsetting in that .. Something had stirred within him.. Knowing that she was a Muslim..
When Shiven returned back, she looked composed..
"Are you going to wait for 2 hours?" He asked only knowing that it was the most reasonable thing to do for a young girl travelling alone..
"Are you going to go anywhere else?" she asked.
"I just enquired with the people at the stall.. They say a private bus leaves at 4 from here.. That would be an hour from now.. Very few people travel in that bus he says.. Even if we wait for 2 hours we won't be sure we will get space in it.."
She considered his suggestion and then asked.. "Where does this bus leave us?"
"Borivali.." Shiven answered.
"But I want to go to Jogeshwari! How do I go there with this luggage?" she said pointing at her bags..
"Ok now Borivali is only 4 stations away from Jogeshwari and only 20 minutes distant by local train.. We will get down at Borivali and then I will leave you at Jogeshwari carrying all these bags.." He repeated her gesture in a childish manner and she giggled..
"Ok.. We will go in private bus.."
They had climbed on the private bus and caught a seat. She leaned her head on the window..
"By the way.. I m Shiven.." She giggled some more..
"Oh I m Sara.." She was too tired yet she managed to fill him with some details on her life.. She studied at the Mumbai University.. She was originally from Gujarat and stayed with her uncle and his family at Jogeshwari.. It happened that the big suitcase she was carrying contained all the goods and gifts sent by her extended family in Gujarat for her uncle and family.. She herself was carrying only the small bag and handbag..
Shiven had only told her that he was in final year of engineering and was about to begin to say some more when he felt her head lean on his shoulder and she slipped into a deep slumber.. Sara, who had been alert and cautious, slept like a baby..without a worry.. on his shoulder
He was warmed by the trust she had shown in him.
He knew it then that he would never break that trust.. Never make her cry.. Never leave her unprotected...
Strange how he had done all of it...
(to be continued)