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It is All New for Me
K S VENKATARAMAN

I just got into my compartment, located my seat, placed my meager luggage safely in the stand above my head and after doing such a hard work, naturally ensconced in my cushioned seat happily.

Quite appropriate to my young age, (I am just 67) I always derive a pleasure when I get a seat by the side of a window. Beware, when I don't get it, and when others are not so considerate as to give it to a young person like me on their own, I take some ingenious steps to get one, before the victim becomes fully aware of it!

Thus settled, I briefly surveyed my co-travelers. Two seats had already been occupied by a young couple, whose body language clearly announced to the world that they would like to be left to themselves. Three more seats were found vacant. I directed my attention outside the window.

The railway station was overly crowded. There was clamorous excitement everywhere. The latecomers were pushing hard everybody with impatience, trying to find their accommodations. Many people were anxiously searching for the TTE with their own doubts and needs. I pitied for their ignorance; they did not know that the TTEs are usually the last persons to appear and get into their respective compartments.

There was no dearth of emotional scenes as well. We could see people hugging one another and delivering encouraging messages.

How many varieties of farewell are there! From silently gripping the other person's hands, to boisterous laughs accompanied by teasing remarks, we could see several kinds of farewell there. A section of people are parting with another section; for the day or for the year or for lifetime, who knows! We could hear last minute appeals, hasty and serious narrations, heart-melting sermons, firm commands, and even threats!

Some were trying not to break down; some others actually broke down; some were trying to break free from the arms of others, discreetly wiping a tear or two from their eyes; some were seriously breaking others' hearts.

The train should have started; but it seemed that it was respecting the emotional waves of the people and giving some time for them to settle. Somebody was thinking aloud impatiently, "It is already five minutes late."

An old gentleman was hurriedly nearing our compartment. He was tightly holding the hand of a young man, maybe in his late twenties, who was not keeping pace with the old man. The way in which he was lagging behind and looking around at each and everything made me feel that he was mentally retarded.

Somehow the old man managed to get into the compartment, while his son was loudly exclaiming, "Dad, did you see those lights! Already it is green daddy!"

I cleverly made it out. So, they were father and son! Why such a grown-up son is behaving like a child, with an inexplicable wonderment in his eyes? Coming to think of eyes, I noticed a black ring under his eyes, as though he had not slept properly or had applied some ointment there. After seeing them at close quarters, my former idea of the boy's mental deficiency disappeared. He looked intelligent enough but his eyes were peculiarly wandering without rest! It looked like the eyes of a kid being taken out for the first time in its life. His gestures were equally powerful and conformed with his eye-movements. For his age, it all appeared weird!

For a moment I worried if he would demand my seat. Luckily he made a beeline to the window-seat opposite to me, slightly pushing the couple, who moved like a single unit, to his left. His father sat by my side.

There was already a trace of irritation perceptible with the couple. The husband glanced at the young man and quickly turned his eyes away from the rest of the world.

When the train started moving, a loud jolly noise emerged from the throat of the young man, surprising me; and the couple winced.

A few minutes later the young man shouted, "Dad, see it looks like the trees and lamp posts are moving!" To this genuine appreciation of eye-deception, I did not know how to react; the couple knew. They let out a derisive laughter. The father looked embarrassed.

The young man was in the world of his own. The flying birds, colorful fields and trees, vehicles moving on the parallel road, the rural children who waved their hands at us joyfully, the railway announcement boards in three languages, the station staff waving the flags ritually in the stations on the way, a river that we crossed, the special sounds emanating while the train moved on the bridge, the cattle leisurely moving on the grazing grounds, crows perching on the electric wires without getting hurt, … I deliberately check myself here. The things that kindled the interest of the young man were too many to describe.

I could see that his ceaseless, carefree talk and the manner in which he was conducting himself were getting on the nerves of the couple. The lady was an expert in grimacing. I started wondering in how many ways a lady's single face could express disapproval! She was lazily running through a colorful fashion magazine but her attention was more on the young man's energetic utterances.

That is when it happened. The magazine fell down from the lap of the lady. The young man suddenly leapt down to take the book, saying aloud, "Daddy, see, the photo is so beautiful!" Just then the young lady also had bent and their heads collided with a thudding sound.

The lady straightened herself vigorously rubbing her head and emitting the rays of hatred towards the young man. It was the last straw on the camel's back for the husband. He started shouting. Looking at the son, he said, "Erumaimaadupola valarnthirukkaye, unakku konjamaavathu moolai irukika?" (You have grown like a buffalo but do you have at least a little brain?) He turned towards the father and yelled at him, "Yenya, ippadi paithiyaththellam velile konduvare. Kondupoi paithiyakkaara aaspathiriyil cherenya." (Why the hell you have brought this mad fellow out like this? You take him to a mental asylum and get him admitted there.)

There were tears in the father's eyes. He pleaded softly, "Excuse me and my son, sir, I got him discharged from the eye-hospital only today morning. Though he is a graduate, he is seeing the world for the first time. For my son, who was born blind, this is the first day after his vision was restored."

The attitude of the couple suddenly changed. Their faces became mixed bags of embarrassment, regret, understanding and so many other positive feelings now. Both of them profusely apologized to the old man for their wrong attitude. The husband embraced the young man and for the rest of the journey the enthusiasm of the young man had engulfed all of us.

I told myself, "Judging the world is a very delicate job;
it needs to be done with love, patience and intelligence."


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