The year was 1992. I was a student then traveling unreserved from Bangalore to Tirunelveli via Cochin. I know it is a long route but then it is a looo..ng story too. I was wearing a beautiful pink chudidhar with grey prints on it with a black bottom and a blacker dhuppattah; I remember it because it was my travel favorite; comfortable, covered and yet stylish! Had very limited funds at hand - barely enough to survive my three days long journey. Three days? From Bangalore to Tirunelveli? Yes, I told you it is a looo..ng story!
There was a strike going on between Karnataka and TamilNadu and no buses were running between the states; so I decided to take the train via Kerala. Was it a smart idea? Hardly so. First of all, I had never done that before. So had no clue what route it would go, what connections I should take, how long it would take, how much it would cost, none of that. Secondly every one had similar plans it seemed like. Bangalore station was FULL! Full to the rim and overflowing! Only at the station I am deciding which train I should take. Since I didn't know anything, my Cochin friends suggested I go with them upto Cochin and then from there I could go home. Of course, I could if only I knew what was next. Anyways, we went and bought a ticket - upto Tirunelveli, via wherever, who cares; the destination was home!
So where were we? Yes on the train! The journey had started with a lot of company in a very crowded train. It was so packed that we were only sitting on our suitcases for a long time. However soon (may be after 8 hours) we got seats. Sooner it was time to wave off my friends. Here I am all alone in the compartment, with no friends and only scattered passangers. Did I tell you I had limited funds at hand? Actually I was exaggerating. I had no funds at all! My ticket was all paid for but since the journey took a day or two longer than expected my funds at hand had dried up. All I had was a guava; a very memorable guava at that! A very cherished one too. Juicey and crispy just the way I like it. My heart was content.
Don't recall which station the train had stopped at. But I remember it was somewhere in Tamilnadu as the boards and ads were in Tamil. Just as the train pulled off I decided to dig into the guava I had. The train was off the platform and slowly moving. That's when I saw this little boy outside who came running towards the train.
His clothes were dirty and his face only dirtier. He came running to my window and said, "Akka! Akka! Please give me something. I am very hungry. It has been three days since I ate anything". Sure, he looked hungry. I wanted to help him; feed him, clean him up, put him in a school, raise him with us, all these thoughts flashed in my mind. But I didn't have anything to give; told you already!
I felt miserable. I told him, "Sorry! I don't have anything." He persisted, "Akka! Please-ka. Anything ka. Something ka..." I said, "I am honest thambi. I really don't have anything to spare you". For whatever reason the train had stopped at the trailing end, making me more miserable having to argue with a hungry little boy.
He looked sad. I felt even sadder. Looked in my purse, pouch, luggage zipper and everywhere to see if I can find at least some coins to give him. Alas, none! The train was almost moving. I frantically continued my search for a coin, looking under the seats, over the seats, in between the seats to see if I could find one out of nowhere. None! Not even one! Pity!
I was just hoping he would move on to another compartment with "richer" people. He wouldn't budge. I was almost in tears and he seemed so too. Then suddenly he pointed at the guava in my hand and said, "Can I please have it?". I responded, "This? I don't think so. I have bitten it already!" He insisted, "It is okay akka. Please give it akka. Asking you like my own sister akka. Please give it."
I just reluctantly gave it to him the last minute as the train moved on. I could see him eating the guava with such a glee. I kept staring in that direction with tears in my eyes even long after the scene had rolled. After all these years, with life speeding away in such a frenzy, amidst my busy day, I can still recall the scene as fresh as it was just yesterday.
How is he? Where is he? What is he? My mind ponders. Before it gets heavy again, I tell myself he made it in life - a big man now, loved much, lacking nothing, having his kids in school! I honestly believe so. Wish him so...
P.S: How the hungry me finally reached home, that's a whole another story; I will save it for later!