While disembarking my bulky body in the stair-case of the hotel at Secundarabad, a thought floated up in my mind. As a meticulous person, bound on a journey for twenty –two hours by train, I could not risk forgetting the medicines that I needed most for myself. Those days I suffered from bitter cold and chest congestion and for that usually I used to keep two or three tablets with myself for the journey.
As I checked out, I requested the person at reception to keep an eye on my luggage for a while, so that I could buy my medicine from the nearest chemist’s shop. He nodded his assent and I pushed up to bring my medicine. As I stepped into the shop, the owner of it smiled at the familiarity of my face and inquired about my need. I told him name of the tablet and put a request to give me two. That day, for the first time, he appealed to me to buy a full strip, containing ten tablets. I was surprised at my own reaction while I nodded ‘yes’. Usually being an inveterate miser, I denied all such requests to buy ten in the face of my need for two. I pocketed the tablets in my upper pocket of the shirt and proceeded towards the hotel lobby and collected my luggage, exchanging a smile of thanks with the receptionist.
As I reached the station and sat on the bench on the platform no.1, waiting for the gargantuan train to pull in, the nagging thought of buying a whole strip of medicine came off once again. My own logic tortured me. I regretted my own decision to come under the influence of the words of the Chemist and buy ten in stead of two. I repented the waste of money that I made. I was convinced that I committed real spendthriftness.
The engine hooted as it tugged the bogies. I was cocksure that I had the berth no.40-the side upper seat in the compartment of S-3. Confident, I pushed up and reached the S-3 bogy and climbed up on the narrow steps at the entrance.
A woman was seated there on my seat and a beautiful blonde by her side.
I enquired about their seat number and to my utter surprise the reply matched mine.
As I put forth my demand, their male companion turned up and enquired about my tenacity. We rushed to the train ticket examiner, standing among crowd on the platform and the latter asked me to show my ticket. I took out my purse and brought the ticket out. As I cast a glance, I was surprised at my own inanity, knowing there that my bogy number was actually S-5, not S-3. I apologized profusely and almost ran in shame carrying my luggage.
As I reached the compartment, again I looked through the numbers of ticket and matched
with the number, painted on the bogy. Then I climbed unto it and reached the berth number 40. I found a handsome man in his early twenties was seated on the lower berth. As he saw me, he extended unanticipated courtesy by helping me to place my luggage properly. While I sat near him, I just expected a casual exchange of words. Firstly I offered him a gentle inquiry about his destination. He replied in Hindi that He would alight at the next station, next to mine in our state of Orissa.
This pleased me for I had a co-passenger from my place, who spoke my language. The things, those transpired then, served me with a life-long inspiring divine experience.
As the train moved on its serpentine way, we chatted exchanging our details. Oh my God, all our personal fine points matched to the letter. What a coincidence!!! We came to know that his father worked in the same Bank where my father worked. Like me, he was a Post-graduate in Business administration and worked for a long time in a private firm.
I was glad as our wave-lengths matched.
Where had he gone? Literally I jumped to my feet when he responded to my question.
He told me that he had come on a visit to the monastery of his spiritual master and stayed there for a month.
It warmed up my heart to learn that his Guru- spiritual master was also my divine master since my childhood, whom I adored from a very early age. We dove headlong in an animated discussion about our Guru. We narrated to each other about the miracles we had seen due to his divine grace without knowing that our meeting itself was also a miracle.
Why had he been to the monastery for a month?
My heart melted as I knew that he had lost his job and he was facing a number of family troubles. His relationship with the manager at his workplace went bitter and subsequently he was asked to resign. He went to our Guru’s place to seek his grace in harrowing times. The divine master was not there and he had to linger there for a month till he received the opportunity to see him. At last he narrated all his woes and was comforted by him that those would be redressed ere long.
We ordered meals to the caterer and were merged in a spiritual discussion- in a vivid description that whatever grace we had received so far from our spiritual master. As the food was served on platters, we ate silently and on the completion of it, moved towards the wash-basin to wash our hands.
Alas, my buddy was vomiting. I rushed up in surprise to help him. As I touched his body, it was shocking for me to know that he ran a very high temperature. I ran my hand over his back and helped him to get to his berth and made him sleep on it. He had stayed in the monastery for one month and woke up in the wee hours and bathed in the chilled water. Due to that he had caught acute cold and which had developed into fever. He did not carry with himself a single medicine. In fact he was so pre-occupied with his grief that he had no time to buy medicine.
Very soon he began writhing in pain and started crying. I sat helplessly at his feet. It was almost 10:30 P.M.
Soon the flash of thought of ten tablets of the morning appeared. I marveled at the thought that the ten tablets for acute cold were still there in the front pocket of my shirt. I started serving him there diligently like a nurse. I made him seat on the berth and pushed a tablet down his throat with the help of a bit of water. He lay there, still crying.
Soon he was sweating and I had to ensure the fall of temperature only by touching his forehead in the absence of a thermometer. While I comforted him by running my hand over his body, he began sleeping a fitful slumber. Then I could climb unto my upper berth and remained there without a wink of sleep. In the night I alighted thrice from my berth to see whether he was fine?
In the morning, he woke up at nine o’clock and was looking somewhat relaxed. But the fever was there with a slight remission. I gave him one more tablet with the cup of warm tea and few biscuits.
While the train entered Orissa, a band of political protesters stopped it at a relatively unknown station, where the train even did not have a stoppage. There only we came to know that it was a strike by some political organizations and we would be held up there sine die. My buddy was feeling restless. I asked him to lie down and rest. Again the temperature of his body was rising. As hours passed, I prayed to our Guru in silence to make the train move. At 2 p.m., I gave him the third tablet. The train only started moving in the evening. Although, the protestors were dislodged from the railway track, we heard that at a distance of seventy kilometers, the agitators damaged the tracks, which delayed the departure of the train till the evening.
Every thing went through a chaos when local passengers had a chance to get in to our train. Soon by five o’clock our bogy was packed to its hilt. Literally I had to shoo every local commuter away under the plea that my buddy was sick without allowing anyone to sit near him. His grimace on the face showed that he was not feeling well. We knew at the time when the train moved with the first jerks that we were destined for a belated arrival of ten hours. We won’t be reaching our destinations till the late night.
As we surpassed the stations and the local commuters went off the train, we had a bit of free air and again I was praying for my buddy. A curious onlooker asked me that why I served him so much. When I remained silent, he tried to judge us in silence and said that my friend could have developed pneumonia.
At nine p.m. in the night I found the fever in his body was coming down. He was looking better. We sat resting our backs, looking in each other’s eyes in silence for a long time in wordless love. Finally we ate bread and jelly that I bought at Hyderabad. Before sleeping I gave him one more tablet. Perhaps he was improving due to timely doses of medicine at every interval of seven hours.
I woke up at 1: 30 A.M, when my station came. I saw him in a sound slumber. As I shook him up telling him that I was leaving and perhaps we would not meet once again in my life, he woke up immediately and escorted me up to the door of the train. I took out the rest of six tablets in the strip from the upper pocket of my shirt and pushed it in his hand. He looked at me, bewildered. I told him it was for him, while patting his shoulder. He gripped my wrist and dragged me in a tight hug and then I climbed down the narrow stairs of the train wiping a tear.
Oh, I still marvel that how I managed my own cold without a single tablet during the journey. How I agreed to buy a full strip of tablets? Who allotted our berths in this way?
In what a strange way our similarities met and familiarity was born!
Was this a coincidence?
But still I miss him-my soul-mate.
Srikanta Mohanty, MBA (Symbiosis),
HIG-1/60, Kapila Prasad BDA Colony, Bhubaneswar-751002