Twenty Years

— “You have one thousand and twenty rupees.”

— “What? One thousand and twenty? You must be mistaken, didi. Please check again.”

— “I am not wrong. It says clearly that you have one thousand and twenty. See! You can ask others in the compartment if you do not believe me.”

— “So, it is not eleven thousand?”

— “No. One thousand and twenty.”

The old woman fumbled with her wrinkled and faded plastic packet in her hands. One could understand that something was disturbing her and that she wanted to ask something to her co-passengers. I was sure that she did not know that the train we were travelling in was a galloping one.

Suddenly, she said to the woman sitting right beside her, “Could you please tell me how much money I have in my account? Here’s my passbook.” The other woman looked like a school teacher. School teachers have a typical appearance, you know. The lady was wearing a brown dhakai sari with a red blouse, and a pair of thick rimmed spectacle. She looked at the old woman and giving a judgemental look (or was it just me?) took the passbook from her hand and began going through the pages.

The old woman stared at her co-passenger as if she had seen god. It was as if she was desperately waiting for a miracle. If only somehow, somehow the figures in her passbook would magically change into something else. Her eyes were brimming with tears. Hope is really a terrible thing.

— “Who operates your account?”

— “Why?” she stammered.

— “Come on. Tell me.”

— “My son.”

— “How old is he?”

— “Twenty.”

— “Do you have an ATM card?”

— “The thing you use ta take money out of that machine?”

— “Yes.”

— “Yes. Yes, I have a card.”

— “Who has your card? You?”

Silence. By this time, the old lady had hung down her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. The question was repeated.

— “Tell me. Who has your card? You?”

— “No.”

— “Then? Your son?”

There was a faint yes from the old woman.

— “Your son has taken away all your money. Go home and talk to him.”

This was too much for the old woman to gulp down at once.

— “No, no! Please don’t say that! My son will never do such a thing. He’s a very good boy.”

— “Who else would do then? It is your son who did this. Your son has your ATM card. Your son operates your bank account. Your son has taken away all your money. It’s so easy to understand.” (It was as if the woman felt a certain pleasure in saying these. Helping someone gives surely gives us pleasure. But this was a very different kind of pleasure that this woman was experiencing. Or is it just me overthinking again?)

— “My son is not like the kids of these days. He does not have many friends. He does not have the habit of indulging in addas too. How can…”

She could speak no longer. Her tears had choked her. She was looking out of the window. Many a time we try to stub out our intuition. We try to hammer out the voices ringing inside our heads. But deep in our hearts we know what the truth is. We just don’t want somebody else to spell out the truth. We know the storm is going to arrive at any moment; the sky will crumble down at any point of time. We just don’t to delay their arrival. But how long? The volcano will erupt, the volcano has to erupt.

The train was about to enter Howrah station. She carefully put her passbook back in her packet. She wiped her tears with her sari.

— “This generation, I tell you. Your son pretends to be a mama’s boy in front of you. But outside, he must be smoking and drinking with his friends. You know nothing about your son’s whereabouts. Be careful from now on. And don’t ever give your account details to your son.”

The train entered Howrah. All the passengers started to go their own way except for one. For her, twenty long years had burnt away within a few seconds inside a local train.


Image Source: Myself.




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