THE GOODS TRAINPintoo’s exams were over. He was very happy. He threw away his school bag inside the house and ran away. His mother told him to have some milk. Pintoo did not have any time to listen. He did not even care to remove his school uniform. His eight to nine friends were waiting for him. Bhau was the eldest of them. Bhau studied in the tenth standard. They all lived in Patharli Village. They were fascinated by railway tracks. 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. Pintoo just loved the rumbling sound made by the Goods train as it majestically ran on the tracks. Pintoo’s friends mocked him whenever the Goods train went past them shouting “Pintoo 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 alongwith the Goods train in the adjoining fields, till it passed them fully. Pintoo 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. Pintoo was very scared. He 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, Pintoo 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. Two days passed. Pintoo was sad. But he forgot everything when he saw his friends calling him after two days. Bhau had promised them that he would take them to the railway track again. They were excited but were careful not to pass through the fields again. This time, they went through a different route and approached the railway track. They were thrilled and began running across the railway track like mad. Pintoo 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. 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. Pintoo 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 by him across the railway track. Pintoo collected the coins and took them home. He collected the crushed coins and happily took them home. 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. Pintoo 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. Pintoo 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 ten boys came from the village and attacked them. A vigorous fight ensued between the two groups. Pintoo thwacked atleast two of his rival gang, but was also beaten up badly. 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. If Bhau and his team lose, they shall never enter the village next time. That was the challenge. Bhau accepted the challenge. Next day, Pintoo 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. Pintoo 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. Pintoo and his friends were thrilled and carried Bhau on their shoulders. They splashed themselves in the pond and were very happy. Pintoo 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 Pintoo egged him on. Bhau quietly jumped over the Goods train and started walking over it. Pintoo and rest of his friends clapped and cheered Bhau. As they were ready to get down and join Bhau, one of Pintoo’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 electric wire above him. In the next moment, to the horror of Pintoo and his other friends, there were electric sparks; Bhau fell over the goods train, slipped and fell over the tracks. Pintoo was shocked. So were his other friends. They shouted “Bhau, Bhau.” But Bhau did not wake up. Pintoo’s hands started shivering. He and his friends ran like mad. They rushed to their homes not knowing what to do. They quietly knocked the house of Bhau. Bhau’s mother opened and asked “Where is Bhau.” They cried in front of his mother and told her that Bhau laid unconscious on the railway track. What happened afterwards was a nightmare for Pintoo. A small crowd had already gathered around the body of Bhau which was now kept on the tracks. Bhau was dead. A solitary Policeman and few railway men were controlling the crowd. Bhau’s mother went berserk with agony on looking at his dead body. Pintoo was really scared. Pintoo did not eat properly for a few days after this incident. He vomited frequently and had high fever. His parents scolded him not to venture out for the rest of his life. It seemed as if everything came crashing down over him. Pintoo’s father soon got a transfer to Bangalore and they shifted over there. 23 years later, as he was sitting in the window seat of the 1st class of the Local train with his Laptop Bag, Pramod @ Pintoo watched a Goods train pass under the Kopar Bridge. He offered a silent prayer in his lips. Experience can really be a cruel teacher, he thought. It gives the test first, allows us to learn the lessons later. Luckily Pintoo learnt his lessons but Bhau failed the test. The Goods train chugged past him with its usual rumbling sound. As Dombivali station approached, Pintoo silently got down from the train and proceeded to one of his friend’s homes as his friend had invited Pintoo for his wedding. The sound of the Goods train still haunted somewhere back at his mind.