“Why the hell did I choose this train?!”
It was 12:45 past midnight; I was standing alone on Kanpur Railway Station being harassed by the two vulturous men who like the high skies’ predatory creatures slowly circled around their prey, devoured my helplessness and looked ready to attack me any time.
I ran through the scene of being attacked. I imagined my defending moves of using my elbow to puncture their stomachs, using my knee to injure their crouches. I cursed myself for never taking a self defence class in my life. I cursed the entire education system which doesn’t not prepare you for real problems in life. I cursed myself for choosing this train which has a reputation of being late. It comes to UP via Bihar; what else could one expect from a train coming from Bihar. I cursed Bihar; why does that state exist. I cursed the Indian railways; why can’t they ever run on time. I cursed myself again, why the hell did I bring this suitcase. Why couldn’t I carry the bag pack like usual. A suitcase is such a liability while travelling. I cursed Kanpur; this shithole where no girl can ever be safe. I cursed all the rich mill owners who left the city as it is today: an endless dump of jobless angry youth who have no aspects, no career to look forward to. All problems can ultimately be traced back to the thankless rich, who plunder and destroy cities and lives.
When these two men started circling me, throwing glances at me, started singing cheap bollywood songs to me, I didn’t bother about it. In Kanpur, this is very common. I was alarmed when they followed me to the other platform when the train scheduled got changed. Now I lost all the confidence and cool and started imagining the worst. I started walking around the platform with the miserable suitcase in my hand. There was no sign of the train, I was tired and sleepy but couldn’t afford to lose my vigilance towards these men. I couldn’t go and sit in the waiting room which was at platform 1. So, I positioned myself near a bookseller cart and tried to calm myself.
I thought about the few hours earlier during the day which seems like a distant dream now.
I had taken the last bus at 10 pm from campus to the city to reach the station. After dark, there is no other reliable mode of transportation for girls in Kanpur. When I boarded the bus from its last stop near ShopC on the main road, I found the bus to be crowded. Many Kanpuriyas (nick name for local residents) were going home for mid-terms break. I had to move to the back of the bus to find a seat. While proceeding to back, I noticed him sitting in the bus. This guy, referred to as AG by me and my gfs, was my first crush in IIT. In fact he qualified to be my first crush ever. My heart would start jumping at the sight of him, my mouth went dry, I didn’t know what to do with the expression on my face, I didn’t know what was the expression on my face, in confusion I would look here and there while stealing glances at him, it was the exact filmy “dobby dobby” experience. Not that this guy was a hunk Brad Pitt or sweetheart Tom Cruise or spoke like George Clooney. It was just that in the crowd of IITian boys consisting of stinking, unsophisticated, impolite, horny idiots, this guy was an outlier: very polite, decent, well-read, having-a-mind-of-his-own kind of person, who can possibly see more than tits and butts in a girl. I found these qualities in him irresistibly attractive.
Just riding the bus with him and being able to watch him through the gaps between two seats in the bus was enough for all the trouble I could expect in the rest of the journey. People started getting down and soon we were near the station. AG was still in the bus and I had also moved my seat closer to the driver ahead of him. So as he was standing in the line waiting for his stop, we started talking. When he found that I was going to station so late at night all alone, he offered me to go with him to his home and wait there for a few hours. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of his offer and his thoughtfulness. Obviously, I said no, since it would mean an imposition to him and his family. But he insisted and sounded quite genuine. Plus a sound inside me was shouting “I would get to spend time with him and see his house too!!” So I said yes. And we both got down at his stop. My heart was on a wild trip.
Apart from eating a very nice sweet delicacy which his mom had offered me, there is not much I can remember about that rendezvous. I just know that I was in the seventh heaven, I forgot all about the approaching train journey. So when our cycle rickshaw ride from his home to station ended and he dropped me off, I was in still up the clouds. The reality of Kanpur station hit me when those two goons started torturing me.
And they were still here. Thankfully, the train was now arriving in next 10 minutes. I could finally get rid of these a**holes. Suddenly a thought left me paralyzed. What if they board the train with me?! Then anything is possible. At night, they can do anything with me. I boarded the train in a boggie which wasn’t mine to fool them and passed through many compartments inside the train to reach my seat. It was a middle berth and I put my suitcase on the berth so that it remains safe with me. I was certain by now, that even if they do not do anything with me, they are sure to steal my suitcase. Within next few minutes, while the train was still at the platform, I saw one of them pass through my seat. He must have seen me.
That night was one of the longest nights spent in complete fear and helplessness. I was sleepy but had to stay awake to keep guard in case I am attacked. That night I promised myself three things: I will only travel in most reliable trains, I would try to travel in company and I would never carry a suitcase. After a sleepless uneventful night, I realized those guys never boarded the train. They just wanted to scare me and have fun at my expense. They might have wanted to do more, but even with what they did they managed to make me miserable. I learnt that being scared is like inviting the adversary to torture you. First step in saving yourself is to be brave and show it well on your face.
If you are wondering what happened to AG and me, it had the same ending as most IITian one-sided love stories. But I had no worries. I knew my love story can begin only after the college ends.