Sweta boarded her AC two-tier compartment just a minute before departure She looked around her lower berth and found no ladies nearby. One middle aged stout man in spotless khadi with ash and vermillion mark prominently on his forehead was in the opposite berth and was rolling beads covered partially by a cloth with his eyes partly closed. She could not see the two men who were already on the upper berths. On the side lower berth, she saw a young man of her age staring at her, who smiled when she turned towards him. She ignored him and looked at her mobile for messages. When she lifted her eyes after a while she saw the young man still watching her but he quickly lowered his eyes.
As she took out a blanket from her bag to cover herself preparing to sleep, the khadi man’s hand rubbed hers presumably by accident and he was profuse in apology. What a contrast to the ogling guy she thought. She was travelling to Chennai to attend her college mate and close friend’s wedding.
She could not sleep as she felt uncomfortable at the constant attention from the young man sitting close to her. But, she drew comfort that there was the pious gentleman clad in Khadi just across her berth whom she can always approach if a need arose.
She must have dozed off to sleep and around 1 am she felt to her horror someone rubbing her back when she heard a loud shout. She sat up abruptly to find the stout man standing close to her and the young man from the side berth shouting at him in anger.
“Why do you people wear khadi, caste mark and roll beads when your mind is dirty? I have been watching you for a long time frequently getting up and standing near that young lady and brushing your filthy hand on her. I thought initially you were going to toilet but you never went even once. Why did you do that? Don’t you have sisters or women in your house?”
“Don’t utter a lie. You do not know who I am? I will break your teeth. As I got up, my hand accidentally brushed against her once. Don’t you see I am fat and the space is narrow? Ask her if I did not apologize to her the first time?” he said in an angry tone.
“I agree if it happens once. But, you have stood by her side half a dozen times. It is because of you and concern for the lady I did not sleep and kept watching,” the young man said
“Who is she to you, sister or lover for you to take care of?” he asked with shameless audacity
The other passengers woke up meanwhile and looked in bewilderment at the stout man not knowing what had transpired. When he saw the others looking at him, the khadi man mumbled something and sat down quietly.
Sweta was much embarrassed and looked at the young man somewhat gratefully for coming to her rescue.
Turning to her, he said “Please do not worry. I suspected his intentions right from the first time he brushed his hand against you. It was deliberate. I knew he would trouble you again and did not sleep keeping a watchful eye. As I surmised he turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you wish, you can call the RPF and complain. I will be a witness.”
“No, no. It is not necessary as I have a marriage to attend to early in the morning. Thanks to your vigilance, nothing serious happened. I will remain seated and awake for the rest of the journey. I am grateful to you,” she said in apologetic manner feeling bad for mistaking him initially.
The young man exchanged his berth with her and asked her to sleep in peace.
At the queue for prepaid taxi at Chennai Central, she noticed to her surprise the young man standing just before her in the line. When he saw her, he exclaimed “The world is round. We are meeting again,” She smiled a bit shyly
When his turn in the line came, he said “T. Nagar” and paid the money. He turned back and asked her where she was going. When she said T Nagar, he asked her whether she was willing to accompany him and that he would drop her at her place en route. She readily agreed with all her suspicion gone.
They did not speak much during the journey except exchanging names and stolen glances. When the car neared T Nagar, he asked her for her destination. When she named a marriage hall, he was startled and literally jumped making the driver to look back.
“My God, what a strange coincidence! I am also going there. Whose side are you representing?” he asked.
“Sunita, my classmate and closest friend, is getting married” she uttered when he jumped again to her great amusement and said” Oh God, she is my cousin, my mom’s sister’s daughter. She had never told me she had such a sweet friend”
“What did you blurt, something like sweet or savoury?” she asked in mocked anger.
When Sunita, who by chance was standing at the entrance of the marriage hall, saw them alighting from the same taxi ran to Sweta and hugged her tightly. Turning to the young man she asked “Suresh, how did you manage to hook my friend already? Do you know her for long? In fact, I have been wanting to introduce you both during my wedding but you two stole the thunder so cunningly. She is such a sweet girl, if you are not already aware. I bet you both would make an ideal pair”
Sweta lowered her head and started scratching the ground with her toe nail, while Suresh said “I would be beholden to you, Sunita, if you can carry it forward.”Verily a marriage was made in the train and not in the proverbial heaven.