A Short Story
It was Saturday early morning, I had got up at 4 am and got ready. The over night stay at Hill Palace hotel in Chana market, Karol Bagh was really good. I checked out, and started walking towards Panicker Travels for my trip to Mathura – Agra. I had a hot cup of tea on the road side and got into an auto, he dropped me just before the bus that was about to leave to Mathura.
When I got into the bus I found someone had occupied the window seat. Actually, when I had booked that seat on this bus then I was the first person.
‘Do you want your seat back?’ He asked, lifting his face from some book which he was reading.
‘No, you can have it!’ I said, keeping my luggage, taking my seat next to him. Anyways, you don’t really need a window seat in a Volvo bus, I told myself.
‘Thank You.’ He said, returning back to reading the book.
The bus left the place at 6.03 am. The cool air coming from the air conditioner felt good inside the bus. I looked back and found the bus completely occupied. The bus stopped on the way to pick a family who sat on the seat opposite to me. They were young and had a cute little daughter. An old couple were seated behind their seat.
The bus conductor distributed free water bottles to all passengers. The driver inserted some DVD into the DVD player. I wondered which movie it would be? It was Amir Khan’s PK. I had seen this movie more than once and I had liked it.
‘It’s a good movie..’ He said, looking at the TV screen. I was able to see the book cover now…it was ‘The girl on the train’ by Puala Hawkins.
‘Yeah..’ I replied, ‘How is this book?’ I asked him.
‘Well, it is a thriller something line ‘Gone Girl’. Actually, the only similarity between these two is the missing girl. Nowadays, thrillers have all bad people in it. They are either bad or worse..’ He replied, ‘I like Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer books…am a fan of their writing.’
‘Even I like Sidney Sheldon and am his fan too. I have read all his books. They are good page turners, you can’t put them down until you complete them..I had spent many sleepless nights reading his books..’
‘Same here!’ He said, still smiling at me.
‘I still remember during my return train journey from Hyderabad, one fellow had borrowed one of Sheldon’s novel which I had bought in that city. He stayed awake whole night and kept on reading…whenever, I woke up from my sleep I saw him busy reading the book. I was worried whether I’ll get back my book. Fortunately, he completed it as the train reached Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station.’ I said.
‘Is it? So, you stay in Bangalore…are you visiting Delhi for the first time?’ He asked me.
‘No, this is my second visit to Delhi. I had come earlier too.’ I replied.
‘So, what do you do?’
‘I used to work in a MNC at Bangalore.’
‘Used to work?’
‘Well, I don’t any more. I had quit my job sometime back…Actually, my dream was to travel across India and I never planned to quit my job. It just happened.’ I said, occasionally looking at the television screen.
‘Oh..’ He said, somewhat surprised to hear this.
‘It was , as if, something was beckoning me to give up on my mundane existence and experience something more fascinating in the outer world which I realized was welcoming me with wide open arms.’ I said, ‘After eight years in the corporate sector I quit in 2013.’
‘Please continue…’ He said, insisting me.
‘In fact I didn’t even have the required savings but still I went ahead with my decision to quit. I believed in my dreams and took a leap of faith. I decided to travel solo and discover myself and India.’ I continued.
‘That’s something wonderful !’ He replied very pleased, ‘Even I dream of traveling across India, learning about different cultures and people. Every person has a story to tell. Maybe, I could bring many real stories to my writings…like the one of yours, which has touched me.’
‘You know, Every one of us dreams in some way or the other, but only few of us dare to risk everything and go after it.’ I said, smiling at him, ‘Somehow, our heart and soul knows more than we know. If we trust them they will be the torch bearer in our unknown journeys of lives.’ I added.
‘Agreed. That’s what my fav book of my life The Alchemist says!’ He said.
‘It’s my fav book as well. By the way, tell me something about your writing?’ I asked.
‘I started writing short stories and poems. Now, I even write my travel experience in my travel pages. Also reviews on movies and books.’
‘That’s really good. Only few people find time to do it in their routine busy schedule of life.’ I said, ‘even I write short stories and poem in my leisure..’
‘That’s good. Nice to meet a fellow writer in this trip.’ He said, smiling at me.
As I was tired and had limited sleep for last couple of days, so went to sleep. When I woke up I found that a guide had got into our bus. He started adjusting the mike, as he had to address something to us all.
‘Mike testing 1,2,3… All Panicker travels people…you will having breakfast now. All giving 100 rupees to the reception in hotel. You having idli, upma, bonda, etc. Only half an hour time giving and you getting into the bus back.’ He spoke to all of us.
Soon, the bus came to a halt near some hotel. I found him seated alone in a corner and having his breakfast.
‘May I join you?’ I asked him, holding my plate in my hand.
‘Sure..’ He said, looking at me, with a smile.
We finished our food and got back into the bus. Soon, we entered the old Mathura city. The guide instructed us to leave behind our cameras, mobiles, and bags behind as photography was not allowed inside the Mathura temple. We left our foot wear in the bus too. Mathura temple was really good. After sometime, the bus left to the Agra Fort. The guide had got down on the way, before leaving the Mathura city.
A new guide got into the bus entered Agra and his English was far better than the previous guide. We entered the Agra fort, our guide started explaining us about the fort and its rulers. Then he took us to the terrace of the Agra fort, showed us the place where Shah Jahan was kept as a prisoner, but my eyes kept drifting towards the Taj Mahal which was visible at some distance. I tried to zoom my camera lens to capture it.
‘We will be going there shortly…don’t worry!’ The guide said, smiling at me.
Later, the guide took us to a place where he said was the great King Akbar’s court and he explained how the King’s voice reached everyone with a mike in those days. His narration was so interesting that I found even a squirrel from a tree looking at him, as if listening to him with full attention.
My writer traveller was trying to take a selfie with his mobile.
‘May I click your picture?’ I offered.
‘Sure..’ He said, smiling and handing his mobile to me, ‘I didn’t bring my camera along as it was a business trip.’ He added.
‘No worries..’ I said, clicking some picks of him with the fort in the back drop, ‘If you don’t mind, I can click some of your pics in my camera and send them through mail later.’ I offered.
‘Cool..’ I said, clicking his snaps with my canon power shot camera. I showed him his pictures clicked with my camera and he liked them.
‘You seem to know photography well too.’ He said.
‘Well, I did a course on photography…’ I said, with a smile on my face.
‘That’s really good..’
Next we went to a handicrafts showroom and the guide told us that we can get Taj Mahal replicas made out of pure marble at that place. However, no one bought anything from that place. Later, we went to a hotel nearby to have our lunch. We both shared the same table and ordered the South Indian cuisine. The food was okay .
Finally, the bus went to Taj Mahal. The place I had wanted to see since my childhood days. Finally, it was coming true now. He told me the same thing, which brought a smile on my face. I came to know that the old couple had lost all their valuables like credit/debit cards the previous day. They too were from my city.
They asked me to click some of their snaps on my camera and send them by mail later. I readily agreed to do that. I also clicked some of his pictures. He clicked my pictures before the Taj Mahal as well..
‘You too seem to be good at photography..’ I said, seeing his clicks on my camera.
‘Thank you, I like photography…’ He said.
Later, the bus left back to Delhi in the express high way. I found him trying to get some sleep and even I tried to get some sleep. Later, the bus stopped for a tea/coffee break.
‘Well, the journey is finally coming to an end…’ I said, sipping my cup of coffee.
‘Yeah, it was really wonderful experience..’ He said, sipping his cup of tea.
‘Really nice to meet you,’ I said offering my hand for sake, ‘It’s so strange we don’t even know each others names…’
‘Oh, yes, I’m Vasu!’ He said, shaking my hand.
‘I’m Swati!’ I said, smiling at him.
He showed me his family picture which he had in his wallet.
‘Your daughter looks so cute…so much like you!’ I said, ‘What’s her name?’
‘Thank You,’ He said, ‘Her name is Keerthana!’
‘That’s a good name!’ I said.
The bus resumed the journey back to Delhi. He had provided me his email id as well as his blog id. I had taken the email id from the old couple as well. I like going on solo trips with complete strangers, have been doing it for quite some time now. I have made some really good friends through these solo trips I had been. Every person has a story tell and my journeys provide not only story ideas, but also wonderful characters for them as well.
The bus finally reached Delhi, and I said bye to my new friend, Vasu and the wonderful old couple as well, promising to send them their snaps soon.