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I am Bobita

I was about to travel in the general compartment of a train with my old father. Well, it was my idea of tasting the nagging crowd that I tasted a decade’s back when I was in college. I was quite nervous too because my ailing father was to accompany me. I had asked him to reserve a ticket in AC compartment for himself but he refused. The train route was from Guwahati to Hujai which is a small town in the interiors of Assam. I bought 2 railway tickets for 80 Rs, unimaginable. I asked twice at the counter before making the final payment,” Did I hear 80 Rs?”. The old man was aghast at my question. I without repeating my question for the third time, paid him the money and ran towards my father,” Only 80 bucks”. I was so surprisingly excited. Come, let’s have sambahar-wada with the left over money. From the railway station canteen, we went to the platform where train was about to arrive. Dady had reminded me “ bhag ke seat rok lena warna nai milega”. I told him not to worry. After waiting for 2 hours, the train arrived. I saw the crowd running towards the end of the train. My instinct said ”run” and I ran. Finally, I was able to grab the seat for two and I was fortunate enough that the train coach was not that crowded. I saw dady being uncomfortable on the seat. But both of us were helpless. Soon a lady came and sat beside me. She was shouting, infact talking to herself” kuttar baicha shala amamr choshma niya bhagi gese” means “ son of a dog has snatched my specs and ran away”. She was now looking at me and was murmuring those lines again. I thought maybe she wants to talk to me. So I replied “What happened?” She stared at me, took the polythene that she was holding from the seat into her lap and turned her back on me. ’ What the fuck is this’ I thought. She was a dark and tiny lady draped blue, low-quality synthetic sari. Her greasy hair was tied in a tight bun at the back of her small and round shaped head. The big red bindi on her dark forehead was looking very beautiful and was adding a grace to her slim personality. She was only wearing shakhapola. Her lips were dark red due to the pan that she was chewing. The only luggage she was carrying was that polythene bag that was now comfortable resting on her lap. Initially, I was quite uncomfortable to share the bench with her. The way she looked, I thought she might stink. But to my surprise, there was a fragrance in her body. No, it wasn’t the perfume but a pleasant human smell that you may usually find in your mother. I smiled at my thought and was continuously observing her. She was continuously talking with other two young boys who were seated right in front of her. Maybe they were with her. Three of them were quite in comfort zone with each other. Eventually, somehow from the corner of her eyes; she noticed that my eyes were on her. She turned towards me and directly looked into my eyes. I became uncomfortable, passed her a smile and turned my face towards the side window. I still felt her inquisitive eyes on me. But sooner again she had turned her back on me and was facing towards the window at the other side. By now, other co-passengers had started noticing both of us. Well, she was in limelight in our bay from the very beginning she had stepped in.

After a while, she took out her half-broken Nokia mobile phone, quite an old model that she held right in front of her face, approx a meter away. I was watching her activity as I was actually enjoying her silent company. I found that she tried to see-through the display screen. ‘What the hell is she doing’ I thought. I looked around and saw rest people looking at her with same question. I smiled and seeing me smiling the 2 boys also smiled. “What happened?” I asked. With her eyes still trying to see-through the display of the phone replied “ Kuttar baicha amar choshma nia bhagse. Number dekhte pari na je” means” Son of a dog has stolen my specs so I am unable to see the number”. “But why did he steal you specs? What will he do with that?” I asked inquisitively. Maybe she didn’t like the question I asked. I could make that out with her looks “ Aami kemne koimu?” means “ how would I know”. Well, yes true, how would she know? “ amamre bibhasher number lagaiya do” means “ dial bibhash’s number for me” she requested to me. So I dialed the number and handed over the phone to her. She held it in her hand in loudspeaker mode. She was quite loud while talking to Bibhash. From the conversation between the two, I could hear that Bibhash was her husband who did not or could not board this train. She had left him in the Guwahati station. She was quite tensed now. “ You forgot your husband in the guwahati station?” I asked intentionally to pull her leg. “Hei. Bhuliya gelam to. Oi loktao uthlo na. Aami je koisi na” means “Yes I forgot. He did not board the train because I forgot to hell me to board the train” she replied with a concern. “What” I was surprised. She dialed the number again and told him to board the next train for Hujai. She looked quite relieved now. ‘ What a couple?’ I thought. That man has so much of trust in her. My eyes were still on her and now she was comfortable and was engaged in conversation with me. She talked a lot about her 2 daughters and a son-in-law who has to in search of a job to Chennei. She also told me that he has gone in a sleeper class that too in a reserved seat. They believed it to be an achievement. She was now telling me about her son-in-law with pride. He works as a construction laborer. She also told me that he loved his daughter a lot and takes a very good care of her. I appreciated whatever she said. Her world and my world were so different. She asked me if I have ever traveled in sleeper or not. I simply said no I haven’t. She smiled and I could see the pride she has for her son-in-law. I liked that. We were about to reach Hujai. Throughout this journey, I seldom took off my eyes from her. She had engaged almost everyone in our bay. Be it an old man or young boys. Later I came to know that those 2 boys were not with her. Her innocence had won everyone’s heart. “What is your name?” I asked. Again she didn’t like my question. She gave me a hatred look and again turned her back on me.

’What the fuck is this? I only asked her name’ I thought and I really felt bad. I too turned out my face towards other side. After a while I could feel her narrow eyes on me but I ignored. She again turned towards other side. She turned back to me again and asked” why do you want to know my name?” she asked with a serious node. ‘Does she have a criminal record’ I thought. “I…I…just like that. Why?” I replied stammering, not know what I should say. I didn’t expect her to get serious just on asking name. “No, it’s ok if you don’t want to tell” I said. “I am Bobita” She said shyly. “Ah! Bobita. Nice name”. I replied. ‘The name doesn’t suit her at all’ I thought. “You have asked me my name because I am talkative” She asked inquisitively. I looked at her and surprised that just my one question had really unsettled her. Our eyes met and there was a silence. I had no answer to her question as this was a very general question and I could not make out from her facial expression what was going in her mind. But I am sure she was quite disturbed by this question. “Ah! Well I asked because I enjoyed your company. You are qute an entertainer”. I said with a smile but again I guess she didn’t like what I said. She looked at me and her smile was vanished by now. There was a question or rather I would say a doubt in her eyes “Oh!” She replied and turned back again. After few minutes, the train came to a halt. I said goodbye to her but she didn’t reply. I kept looking at her in the station till she disappeared. There was something in Bobita that I can’t explain in words but only felt it.