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2014 writing scholarship

INDIA | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [1008] | Comments [3] | Scholarship Entry

I sat huddled outside the toilet door of an overcrowded sleeper class compartment in an Indian train with a retired soldier and a medical student on my way from Delhi to Mumbai.  

We seated ourselves our bags and covered our faces with hands to handle the stench.

I had Rs.35 and a broken phone in my pocket.

All trains on the direct route from Delhi to Mumbai were cancelled due to Gujjar riots. This was a special train with a longer but a safer route.
“See these bullet marks.”

The soldier removed his immaculately polished black shoes and showed us two peculiar brown and round scars on his otherwise fair skinned right ankle.

“I got these while protecting you. I am proud of it,” he said thumping his chest with his right fist.

We nodded and kept quiet.  

“Are you both eloping to get married?” He asked us after a few minutes.


We both replied resoundingly in earnest efforts to assure him, also an equal stranger.  

“Oh! Then why are you traveling alone, like this? Not safe,” the soldier asked, now wholly conversing with me.

“Because of the riots and I have to be in Mumbai by tomorrow,” I replied, trying to keep it as short as possible.

He sensed my discomfort and offered me an ancient looking silver fountain pen as a gift. I wonder how my face would have looked like at that moment – bewildered by his gesture or vexed by his banter or amused by the idea of owning a fountain pen.

“I mean no harm. I am trying to look out for you as my daughter,” he said smiling widely, showing his tobacco stained teeth.

 In the next impulse, I took the pen and thanked him.
“You are the captain of your fate,” he said.  I thanked him again.

He then started humming some patriotic songs.  The student busied himself in a book. I tried to sleep to avoid any further interrogation or strange gifts.

After about five hours, the soldier reached his station. He took his bag and left in a hurry. After few minutes, he came back with a middle-aged woman with a big vermilion bindi on her forehead.  She was holding four plastic boxes of food and smiling at us.

“Some food for you, kids.  This is not a trick. Eat some. Trust me. My wife made it. I will eat some to reassure you,” said the soldier.

He ate few bites and left the food with us.

I don’t know what came over me but I ate it. It made me feel like a guest who was well cared for by a stranger.

Tags: 2014 writing scholarship



Congratulations buddy.

  Amaobi Nwachukwu Jun 9, 2014 10:45 PM


Hey thanks a lot! :-)

  epicurean1508 Jun 11, 2014 4:16 PM


Superb writing and congrats!

  Surbhi Aug 14, 2014 2:13 AM

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