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The Goods Train - A Short Story

Discussion in 'Stories (Fiction)' started by sureshmiyer, Jun 20, 2021.

  1. sureshmiyer

    sureshmiyer Silver IL'ite

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    Surya was peeking from the balcony of his old flat. The excitement of moving to a new and bigger house was written all over his face. He was extremely happy but equally emotional too. The achievement of moving on to a new house was there but he still felt blank. He was flooded with the memories of the existing house and staring blankly from the balcony. He looked at the crushed old coins kept carefully in his purse over the years. He would rewind his childhood days in this house. He could hear the whistles of his friends Unmesh, Kedar and Robin calling him to play in the Society premises. He would sneak slowly from the house and slip away from his parents and go out to play. How carefree were those days? Surya smiled at himself. His friends were living in the same flat at different floors but left for new abodes over the years. He even lost touch with them. Then suddenly he thought someone like Bhau open the gates of their Society premises and coming in and waving him from below. His face turned pale.


    He soon came inside the house and closed his face with his hands. There was a sense of guilt in his face. He was soon interrupted by his wife Maha.

    “Hey, are you alright? If you are having headache, I shall get some coffee”

    Surya soon nodded his head and tried to force a smile in his face as his wife brought him out of his daze.


    Twenty-seven years passed since that incident but he was still feeling guilty about Bhau. That dark moment was a turning point in his life. It led to a metamorphosis from an exuberant child in Surya to a shy, reticent personality. Whatever happened to Bhau should not have happened had he intervened or was it inevitable? Many other things happened in his life in this home including the day he had to see his father pass away But the image of Bhau would make a lasting impression whenever he went into rewind mode and make him feel guilty. Did Bhau really die because of him? He felt like a chess player. Of course, it was his game and he has to be the King. Unmesh, Kedar and Robin were like the Rooks, Bishops and Knights. Bhau of course was the Queen, dashing and dynamic. But instead of checkmating their opponents, they cornered the Queen and knocked it off. Or were they all pawns in this game!?


    The momentary dark clouds in his mind disappeared into thin air as the aroma of hot coffee prepared by Maha had a calming effect on Surya. He smiled at her. Maha’s face looked radiant and the joy of moving to a bigger house was very much evident in her face. His daughter Swara was seen playing with his relatives who had come from Native Place for the housewarming ceremony that was to happen the next day.


    Surya brushed off those thoughts and indulged in the things to do for the housewarming ceremony. A car was arranged for taking him and his relatives in repeated trips to his new home. He would watch his daughter Swara excited moving along in the car in the repeated trips it made. Lastly, it was his time along with wife and daughter to get down into the car and say goodbye to the home he lived and look forward to a new home and an exciting life ahead. He looked back from the car at the old home he was leaving. He took out the old crushed coins that he had kept in his purse and kept in his shirt pocket. He could see Bhau waving hands at him from the gate of the flat.


    As a child, Surya was never fond of confining himself within the four walls of his house. He would throw away his school bag from the door and used to run away. His mother used to often come down with milk in hand following him but Surya did not have time to stop or listen to anything. Kedar, Unmesh and Robin were a year younger than him and would be waiting eagerly for Surya to join them. They loved going to Patharli Village nearby to see the railway tracks. Bhau was the eldest amongst them and was two years older than Surya. His father had passed away when he was young and he was with his mother. He was studying in Class X. Bhau was the one who would take them often to the railway tracks. All of them were fascinated by site of railway tracks and they would keep their visit to the Railway tracks a secret from their parents. Bhau was like their guide and mentor. After a walk of around two kilometres, there ran a solitary railway track, which ran across a beautiful field. Only some Goods trains ran on them. Surya just loved the rumbling sound made by the Goods train as it majestically ran on the tracks. He and his friends would jump up and down whenever the Goods train went past them shouting “Bhau ka Goods Train”.



    Goods trains passed through these tracks only once in two hours. So, they had great time playing on the railway tracks till they witness the Goods train majestically passing them. They raced along with the Goods train in the adjoining fields, till it passed them fully. Surya would always mistake the number of bogies he counted each time the Goods train passes by him. Soon it would be dark and they all would hesitantly make their way back home. They would steal some of the vegetables grown on the field while making their way back home. Each time, they would have a different story to tell among themselves. They would laugh heartily and the echoes of their laughs would fill the fields amidst the backdrop of the rumbling sound of the Goods Train.

    Their summer vacation passed happily, till one day, they were really scared when few farmers chased them from all sides and trapped them inside the field. Surya and his friends were very scared. They hid behind Bhau. A big moustached man introduced himself as Pandit Mhatre and had a big knife in his hand. He threatened to cut them off, if they were ever seen near the fields. Bhau apologized before him and vowed never to come again. As they were returning back silently, Surya felt very angry. He thought that one day he would acquire super powers and beat that Pandit Mhatre black and blue. He thought he would never be able to enjoy the Goods train pass through across the field.


    After two days, his friends Unmesh, Robin and Kedar started whistling and calling him. Bhau had promised them that he would take them to the railway track again. This time, Surya had sneaked a few coins from his father’s pocket. All were excited but were careful not to pass through the fields again. This time, Bhau took them through a different route and approached the railway track. They were thrilled and began running across the railway track like mad. Surya pretended himself to be a Goods train and tried to run across the edges of the railway track. Others followed suit. Soon the screeching sound of the train came from a fair bit of distance. He showed the coins held by him and they kept coins along the railway track and waited for the train to come. They were all within the railway track and dared the train to come near them. As the Goods train came very close to them, they began jumping off the track one by one. Surya got very scared and looked at the Goods train in daze, till he was pushed by Bhau safely across the track. The Goods train passed him angrily crushing all the coins kept across the railway track. Surya collected the coins and took them home. He collected the crushed coins and happily took them home to keep as memoir.


    The other day, they again ran across the tracks. They could see a big railway bridge ahead of them. They were very excited and ran towards the bridge. They were very careful to watch out for any Goods train coming, as the bridge was very narrow. As they were passing the bridge, they were thrilled to witness a beautiful sight. Four to five railway tracks ran under the bridge and local trains were running on them every three minutes. The trains were packed with men and women. They teased the commuters in the trains from above the bridge. Surya also threw stones at them. When few guards chased them, they ran away mocking at them. Sitting outside the compound walls of their homes, they would recollect their experiences all night and laugh to their heart’s content.


    Vacations were getting over fast. Surya knew that schools would reopen again and he would be moving to the next class. He could not be spending much time with Bhau and his friends. As they again made it to the railway bridge, they saw enough security around. They realized that policemen have become alert of their stone throwing activities. Hence, they hurriedly crossed the bridge. The Goods Train again passed them. In fact, it was the Goods train which saved them from the Police, as it distracted the Police. They sped away to a nearby village called Kopar. They had been to the village for the first time. The village had a beautiful pond and a temple near it. Without any further thoughts, they jumped into the pond and started playing splashing water all around. Their visit to the Kopar village became a routine for them the next day onwards, till one day, a group of around ten boys came from the village and attacked them. A vigorous fist fight ensued between the two groups. Soon Bhau shouted and urged everyone to stop the fight. The eldest among the rival group was called Shyam. He challenged Bhau for a cricket match.


    Next day, Surya took out his bat and proceeded with his friends. They were fully determined to defeat their rival team. They had full confidence in Bhau who was a very good cricket player. It was a ten over match. Bhau’s team batted first. Surya opened the batting and hit the very first ball for a four, only to get caught out off the very next ball. Bhau batted very well on the other end, but the rest of the team did not really support him. The team got all out for just 38 runs. The opposition team scored 20 runs for no loss in just four overs. Just when everything seemed lost, Bhau came up with a hat-trick of wickets after which the rival team folded up and lost by three runs. Surya and his friends were thrilled and carried Bhau on their shoulders. They splashed themselves in the pond nearby and were very happy. Surya felt like he was Sachin Tendulkar and vowed that he would never forget this match for the rest of his life.


    As they returned home merrily, they were to cross the bridge again. Luckily there were no Policemen or security. So, they decided to have some fun over the railway bridge by watching some local trains pass through. This time, they were careful not to throw stones at the trains running below. They were thrilled to see a Goods train standing under the Railway bridge. It was quite long. Bhau decided to get down the bridge and walk over the Goods train. Others including Surya egged him on. Surya challenged Bhau playfully if he could get down the bridge and get to the Goods train. Unmesh, Kedar and Robin also joined in chorus. Bhau took on the challenge and got down the bridge and jumped over the Goods train. He started walking over it. Surya and rest of his friends clapped and cheered Bhau. As they were ready to get down and join Bhau, one of Surya’s friends shouted, “Look the Goods train is moving.”


    They saw the signals turn Green and alerted Bhau.
    Bhau panicked and tried to climb up the bridge. He suddenly caught the live electric wire above him. In the next moment, to the horror of Surya and his other friends, there were electric sparks; Bhau fell over the goods train, slipped and fell over the tracks. Surya was shocked. So were his other friends. They shouted “Bhau, Bhau.”

    But Bhau did not wake up. Surya’s hands started shivering. He was in a daze. His friends Unmesh, Kedar and Robin stared at him. Surya started running away from the spot like mad. His friends followed him. No one knew what to do. Surya did not see anything till he reached the second floor of his flat and quietly knocked the door. He freshened himself and just kept low. He was really scared deep within and feared deeply of getting caught. That night just passed away. The next day he realized that there was an unease in the Society premises. He could realise that everyone in the Society had realized by now that Bhau was missing. Bhau’s mother was crying like mad. Surya just shut himelf from everything as if nothing happened but feared of getting caught if Unmesh, Robin and Kedar opened their mouths. Surya could also hear murmurs from other members of Society how Bhau was irresponsible which made me feel deeply guilty. Surya’s mother would often come up to me and say, “Enough of your going out, if ever I saw you with your vagabond friends again, I will never take you back at home. Mind it!”


    Finally, the Police came and by know everyone had come to know the stark reality. Bhau was spotted dead over the Railway tracks and his body remained unidentified the whole night. It was only after his mother’s frantic search and visit to Police Station, it came to the knowledge of everyone. There was a deathly silence around Surya. He shut himself inside and became highly introvert. Each day passed and he made sure that no one came to know that he was with Bhau that fateful day. He felt satisfied that Unmesh, Robin and Kedar must have also kept their mouths shut but did not bother to ask about them or like to broach the subject with anyone. Slowly days and months passed by and Surya got slowly but surely confident that he got away with this Crime but the guilt remained with him. He concentrated himself on studies and started playing chess. His sudden introvert nature endeared himself to his parents and those around. But he knew deep within that he had put on a mask to keep away from the virus of guilt.


    By now, the sight of his house was far away as they neared the place of their new Society premises where preparations for housewarming ceremony was in full swing. Surya had a deep sigh. He looked at the crushed coins that he had kept with him. He could hear the sounds of the Goods train passing by crushing the coins and going far away out of sight. He threw the coins away and proceeded to embrace the further chapters of his life. It was time to permanently move on from this chapter of his life. Forgetfulness is the biggest gift given by the Almighty to mankind, he thought. Else everyone would have got mad with their guilt and dark secrets. Surya had a radiant smile and lifted his daughter Swara as they moved their way into the new flat.

    Written by Suresh Iyer
     
    umaakumar, Amica, Rihana and 4 others like this.
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  2. Tamrakshar

    Tamrakshar Gold IL'ite

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    Guess what Bhau said waving his hands.

    "You cannot flee mate. I will be waiting at the platform of the Hells Gate Station with barbed wires in my hand. In the meantime, cheers!"
     
  3. sureshmiyer

    sureshmiyer Silver IL'ite

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  4. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Suresh I enjoyed reading the narration and relate to this story. It seems non fiction. But lengthy one. You have brought the scene picture perfect.

    In rural India of past with no big avenues for pastime, it happens many times the rural boys gang up together near railway tracks looking at long hauling goods train that used to have nearly sixty wagons in various shapes and sizes.

    The boys always get excited hearing the long drawn noise and vibration that are musical.



    At near Dharavi, Matunga - Mumbai , during monsoon urchins with long iron rods would be waiting for local trains that pass through or near their hamlet. Commuters holding their brief case standing at the brim of entrance to the compartments would be their targets.

    In dim light as in dusk when locals in slow movement during amber signals, the urchins would strike with iron rod the wrist that holds the brief which would get dropped instantly. Many returning from office during last working day of the month would lose their salary to this strike-rod snatchers.
     
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  5. sureshmiyer

    sureshmiyer Silver IL'ite

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    yes true Thyagarajan Sir
    Thanks for liking my story. Its part fiction and part non fiction.
     
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  6. sureshmiyer

    sureshmiyer Silver IL'ite

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    thanks a lot to all for feedback
     

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