"The auto-wallah called. Should be here in five minutes," I said.
"Yeah, I'm ready too," Abhishek told.
Yes, after a 50 days long ordeal the MBBS II Professional Examinations were over. In normal circumstances that means now I can scream at the top of my voice, play Metal at the top volume, watch Hannibal all day long, dreaming about all kinds of paranthas my mom is going to prepare for me in these vacations. But in the past one day, since the moment I have known that the train I’ve booked has been rescheduled, I have managed only to put up an I-won’t-reach-home-on time look since yesterday, ate veg biryani to tummy full, watched ‘Lucky-The Racer’- A Telugu movie, dubbed in Hindi, featuring Superstar Allu Arjun- in the common room of the Hostel while most of my friends were en-route to their sweet homes.
Thanks to the near zero temperatures in the North, our train, 12192 Shreedham Super-Fast Express, was rescheduled, already running late by over 20 hours.
"Should be here by 17:30- one hour to go," I said after checkingindiarail.gov.in probably after twentieth time in the day.
In ten minutes we were down at Hostel's gate. A thought always has kind of freaked me that what it'll be like when we all leave this hostel for the final time. The thought of final farewell makes my heart skip a beat or two. But you can’t stop, so we bid farewell to Brajesh, Gyan bhaiyya, the guard, the hostel building and the roads of AIIMS Bhopal and of course to the Hostel Baba.
On the way I pictured the farewell function in my mind. Such thoughts make me feel as if someone has gagged my throat, so I stopped thinking. I put my head out of the auto and pulled a breath of cold evening air. (Children, do not try!)
Anyways, we reached Habibganj station in 15 minutes as my watch showed 6:30 p.m.
“Bhaiyya, assi se kam nahin lunga.” The auto-wallah was a tough-nut, and all my bargaining efforts turned futile.
“Auto-wallahs are the same everywhere you go. Be it Bhopal or Agra,” said Abhishek.
“Yeah right,” I said, cursing them mentally. Auto-wallahs:1– Kamal:0.
The Indian Railways’ digital time table said that Shreedham Super-Fast Express' expected Arrival time was 20:30, one hour more to go.
Like most of the Delhi-bound trains, our train was also to arrive at Platform no. 3. We pulled our trolley-bags through the overhead bridge up to Platform No. 3. I’ve always liked this sound the small wheels produce against the rough station tiles, makes me feel like I’m drag-racing. We descended and walked about 50 meters to reach just before Hasruddin ki liscensii dukaan. The digital time table was close. So were the patties at Hasruddin’s shop. This place was strategically chosen as we still had about 90 minutes to kill and we haven’t had our dinner.
“Not much of an interesting crowd, eh? May be they all pick Bhopal Express and leave,” I said.
Abhishek did a quick search and came up with an answer and a smile.
“7 O’clock. At the water cooler.”
I checked and returned a smile.
Indeed, there was an interesting crowd at our back- a man probably in her late twenties sat with a younger girl who would have been at least ten years younger, a bunch of girls- three pretty looking girls just about our age, constantly giggling and laughing, who were likely to be returning home just like us stood behind the man in his late twenties and there were a lot of ‘uncles and aunties’.
Now, if you are thinking that the story that you are reading is about our encounters with those pretty looking girls, sadly it’s not. Those pretty looking girls leave us soon when GT Express arrives ten minutes from now.
Once the girls were gone (God! Why did they?), we talked for 20 minutes about our experiences at the Viva-voce with the external examiners, especially about the Pathology and FMT exams (and you know about whom, don’t you?). The good thing is that the lingering spirits of La Viva Memories are exorcised soon once the Result Knight is out for a hunt.
It was just about 20:00 hours and I decided to buy some patties.
“Bhaiyya patties hain?”
“NahinBhaisaab, patties to khatam ho gai hain.”
I scanned Hasruddin’s shop. “Accha to do packet Britannia cake de do aur ek ye 50-50 de do.”
We devoured one packet of cake and kept the other eatables in my laptop bag. I crushed the packet in my fist, at this moment the protagonist of this story arrives, who had an impact on my conscience-at least then.
He appeared from my left and left my gaze fixed on him. It must have stood about one and a half foot tall. He was of moderate built, with a cream colored fur, walked with an enchanting elegance as if he had participated in a lot of dog shows, with large brownish eyes, long dangling ears and hey-I-am-cute face. It seemed to have surrounded with an attracting aura, if the heavens allowed dogs, he would have been one of them. My first thoughts were,” Hey what are you doing here at the station, dog. You are kind of misfit here.”
It did not looked like a station dog, rather it looked like a pet dog from the nearby Arera colony, lost and stranded here. The dog sat about two feet away in front of Abhishek.
“Sorry buddy! Hard luck. The cake just got finished,” I looked at the dog and said.
I turned to Abhishek,” The dog seems to be of a good breed. I wonder what it is doing here.”
“Hmm, looks different. Not like any stray dog here. Better stay safe. You remember that rabies lecture, right? Dumb rabies and stuff.”
“Yeah, who can forget that horrifying video? I had nightmare about being bitten by dog monsters for the week! Even the Hogwarts’ 3 headed dog visited me once! ”
But the dog intrigued me. As I watched him, he stood up, walked and again sat beside my feet. Oh! Now you are interested too, eh doggy? The pictures of the pets that I once had swam in front of me- a parrot, a pup and numerous white mice. “He would make a nice pet,” the corner of my brain called stupidity said. “What should I name him?” It’s a strange thing about humans; sometimes they get interested in people, things, etc. in a way that other humans would call it a stupid act and they themselves at one moment commit such a stupid act. Maybe, love begins with a stupid act.
“Alright. A name, a name, a name. What about naming him after that bully who lived in my colony or that P.T. instructor who slapped me for no reason in my middle school or….Hey! Hey! Stop man. Why name him after a bully? Seems to be a nice dog, can’t you think of some nice dog name? O.k. Rocky? Bolt? Entertainment? Hachiko? Sheru? Hmm. Sheru seems good for now.
Sheru pulled up his body as he lay on the platform in this chilly December night. Occasionally, he would look at me expecting some food. I stood up and threw the crushed cake packet in the bin nearby the shop. As I returned he stood up thinking I must’ve brought something for him. I sat cross legged; Sheru moved closer and started licking my boot. I leaned forward and he raised his right paw maybe asking for a handshake. I wish I could respond back to the gesture but something resisted, something hard to define, maybe a product of sanity and my insecurities. Moreover, this wasn’t the first time that I had resisted.
I admired the dog for a minute and we talked about the pets we had. Abhishek told me about his cats and kittens and how he had protected them in his childhood. At this juncture, another not so appealing typical stray dog came from my right, passed in front of us to reach the man in his twenties (Remember him?). The dog was greeted with hostility and the man in his twenties shoo-ed him away. The dog looked at us for a moment and jumped off the platform, searching for food. I wondered whether I would have done the same with that dog like the man in his twenties. Most likely, yes, I would have. Maybe, that’s the price of unattractiveness.
Finally, it was time. The announcement that Shreedham Super-Fast Express was about to arrive at Platform 3 was made. The sound shook me back into reality from the world I’ve escaped in. We stood up, took our luggage and moved below the display that flashed ‘S4’. I softly said; ”Goodbye Sheru. Have fun!” I wondered what fun the poor dog was going to have in that chilly night.
The train arrived in two minutes. I saw Sheru running up to the bogie adjacent to ours, sniffing around, probably hoping someone to drop some eatable but all actions went in vain. Hard luck again, eh, Sheru?
I started regretting for not opening the other packet of cake. We stepped up and entered the bogie.
“27 and 30,” Abhishek said.
“Hmm,” I said still thinking about the dog. Some attachments never develop into a blossoming relationship. The cords of attachments however built of pure emotions, snap away against much stronger forces leaving you with memories- of love, regret, etc. Maybe, that’s called fate. What do you say?
We kept our luggage and sat. “There is nothing like finding your seat after 21 hours of delay!” Abhishek said with a relaxed voice, “II Prof over. Now it’s time to move on.”
“Yes it is!” I said.