It was a long weekend during the Dassara festival last year. I headed to my hometown in Mangalore. The thought of a long weekend itself was sufficient enough for relaxation. But the unplanned travel, crowded stations were an ordeal. Barring this the break was a fantastic one. Enjoyed and relaxed as well.
It was time to return to Bangalore. Being October 2nd, public holiday and Dussera the tickets were unavailable. Hence I changed the mode of travel to Train. The overcrowded station itself gave me the glimpse of the travel I would be having for the next few hours. Though didn’t have a reserved ticket I managed get into a reserved coach and secure a seat.
In less than half hour, the train halted at the first station. And that was Kukke Subramanya, a pilgrim place. Undoubtedly the train almost was packed to the full with passengers, making the journey next to impossible. I had still managed to retain the seat. But lost it in the very next stop.
At 5.30PM the train reached to Hasan, another sea of crowd got in. just a little later an old lady asked if Hassan had reached. Few students who were beside her responded to her. One of the students gave her his seat. Sitting there she unfolded her story that keeps me thinking even today.
Her’s is a sad story. Just like the millions elderly who are left alone in the railway stations, bus stations and home for the aged. Abandoned by so called their OWN. She was told by her son that they have planned a visit to an outstation and would like to take her along. She agreed to travel with them. Little did she know what was awaiting her. It was a trap conspired to leave her in the railway station! How cruel people can be! Some times I wonder if humanity still exists.
Left with no other choice, she phoned up her relatives. One of them who lives in Mysore came to her rescue and called in there. So she was supposed to get down in Hasan and catch a train to Mysore. Unfortunately she missed that station.
The old lady looked very strong to me. She told her entire story with no tears. Later I learned that this was not the first time that they have done this to her. So she was quite prepared to face consequences. Hearing her heartbreaking story some said few sympathetic words, others cursed her son and few started to narrate their own stories. It was definitely a humanitarian issue! And I found at least some in the train so human!
I was witnessing the drama from the corner of the train. Listening, observing and seeing the things unfold I turned inward. How much the world has changed! We were taught to respect our elders and what has become of our culture!
I was brought back to the present by the loud chatter once again. One of the students asked the lady as to what she would do now since she missed the station. Then the lady tried calling one of the relatives in Bangalore. Luckily she received a positive reply. All faces lit up. There was a big sigh of relief in the coach.
Humans as we are the issue was settled and soon people in the coach talked about politics, Nationalist view, news etc… Later I too got involved and joined in their conversation.
It was about 8.30pm in the evening, when the trained arrived at Bangalore. The old lady tried to inform her relatives that she is almost reaching the station. Alas! There was a twist in the story! They said they cannot accommodate her due to lack of space in their house. This came in as second shock to us. How can one be so cruel to an elderly person?
Once again the old lady became our topic of conversation. One of the students volunteered to take her home and put her on the next day in the Mysore train. Another one asked if she had any money. To our surprise she had only Rs.30 with her. The crowd which was already emotional further moved and started helping monetarily too. Finally some of the students suggested that they could buy her a ticket to Mysore and leave her in the waiting room so that she could travel next day to Mysore. I though how kind we humans are!
Finally we reached Bangalore. The crowd which was so emotional during events unfolded in the train, was just running out to catch the Metro. I could find no one. Even I lost the sight of the students in the chaos. I looked for them for a while and just like one of them I too walked towards the exit lost in thoughts.
By: Roshan D’souza