I have a train to catch by 8pm. Reached the platform at the nick of time and somehow managed to board the train.
I am a Sales Executive, 32 years of age, of a prominent marketing company. My boss called me in to his chamber this morning and asked me to rush to a district town tonight only, for an important meeting with a client tomorrow. It will be a big order if I can get it.
The admin guy handed me the train ticket. It was an AC 2 tier reservation, but because of the last minute decision, they could manage only a RAC ticket. Oh no ! That means I have to share my berth with another person. That will be bad if I cannot manage a full reservation through the TT, the travelling Ticket checker on the train. It will be a long full night journey, reaching my destination tomorrow morning at 7am. Fortunately my meeting with the client has been fixed for the next day afternoon.
After boarding the train, I met the TT. He gave me a lower berth seat number, which I will have to share with another person. I requested him to manage a full berth, but he said that the chances are slim as the train is full and possibly there will be hardly any cancellations.
Anyway requesting him again, I made my way to my berth.
On locating my alloted berth, I observed that the co-sharer of my RAC berth is a married lady, which I understood seeing Sindoor on her forehead. I told her politely, that I will have to share the berth, as I have a RAC ticket, to which she said that she knew, since she also had a RAC ticket.
I didn't have much luggage, as my visit would be for a maximum of 3 days possibly, depending on how the sales deal progresses. I put my luggage, under the seat. I found the lady's luggage already under her part of the seat. The train had started in the mean time. Other passengers were settling down.
As it is customary for RAC berths, we were alloted the aisle side lower berth. Unlike many people, I always prefer this berth , the lower one on the aisle side. It gives me my privacy. You see though I was in Sales, I am more of the silent type; do not like the company of a lot of people. So, this aisle side lower berth is perfect for me. Yes it is a little uncomfortable for tall people, but that also doesn't bother me because at 5'3" , I am short even for an average Indian standard male height. Also, these aisle berths are narrower than the central berths, which also doesn't bother me, as I am rather a small man, weighing around 54~55kgs. Ofcourse, sharing one such small side berth between two people, will however not be so comfortable.
Now that I have settled down, let me divert my attention to my co-passenger. She was looking out the window now. Looks to be around 28~30 years, it's difficult to gauge a woman's age by her looks. Talking about looks, she was quite ordinary looking. Her figure looked impressive though, quite athletic rather. Couldn't judge her height sitting down. She was wearing an ordinary sari, no makeups, hair of medium length just held together by an ordinary band. She possibly felt my eyes on her and turned towards me. I had to say something.
I smiled at her and said, Have to go on a short notice for an urgent work. Office could arrange only a RAC ticket in the last minute.
She just smiled back. I thought of continuing the conversation, just to get acquainted better, since we will have to adjust in one small berth for the whole night.
I said, I had been working during the day, and now sitting up the whole night will be tiring.
She said, I had a busy day too. If you want to stretch your legs, we can put down the seats, to make the berth. In that case, both of us can stretch our legs.
That's exactly what I was intending to do, to stretch my legs, I was tired. Good that she has suggested that herself. I stood up to put my side of the berth head down. She stood up too for the same purpose. We joined the two ends to make the berth and straightened up standing side by side. I found that her head was extending far more beyond my head. My head level was coming only upto her lips level. I was so astonished, I was just gaping up at her.
She sweetly smiled down at me and said, Since we are standing might as well spread the bedsheet now itself.
I came back to my senses, startled. Yes yes, why not,I said, let's spread the sheet now.
The railway attendant had given each passenger a packet of 2 white bedsheets, a blanket and a pillow each. We took one of the sheets, and both of us spread it properly on the lower berth. We then put each of our pillows and blankets on either side of the berth heads, so that we rest our backs comfortably while sitting. As a gentleman, I then offered her to get inside and sit by the windows, so that I will sit by the aisle side.
She smiled, brought her face down a little near my ears and said softly, I think it's better if you sit inside. Actually my legs are a bit long, and this side berth is short. So if I sit on the outside, it will be easier for me to angle them out of the bed, if at all we arrange to lie down. You see, it's tough to sit up like this straight back all night through.
I understood her logic very well and said, Sure, sure, I'm getting inside. I sat down, and was opening my shoes to change over the slippers I had brought in my bag.
She said to me, I'll just come from the wash room, will you kindly guard my luggage down under the seat. I could only manage a Sure, sure. She was looking so much taller, with me sitting on the berth changing my shoes.
I changed into my slippers and waited for her to return from the washroom. Once she came back, I went to the wash room. On my return, she stood up to let me get inside the berth. Now that I had changed from my shoes to my slippers, I felt even smaller standing beside her. I got inside and made space for her to stretch her legs.
We had settled down at the opposite ends and adjusted our pillows for comfort, when the train catering service guy came to take our dinner order. I had packed some fast dry food from the station counters. So I refused. I asked her if she wants to order something, to which she replied that she is carrying some packed tiffin. I bought a bottle of water from the vendor.
Since she was sitting on the outside, people walking up and down the aisle was a constant disturbance. So she pulled up the curtain beside her, turning our berth into a small tent. I switched on the light inside the berth.
The first thing I told her after we both settled down was, Madam you have a fantastic height for a woman. If you don't mind, may I ask how tall are you ? She laughed and said, Thank you, I am 5'9".
Whew , I said, that's 6" taller than me. She laughed again.
I introduced myself, I'm Sandip. I'm a Sales Executive, I am travelling for work.
She said, I am Seema.
I asked her, Are you also travelling for work? She said, Yes.
That's all, she did not elaborate. I could not ask.
I said, It's getting late, shall we eat. She said, Ok.
We brought out our own packet of food. I saw she had brought a tiffin box from which she was eating Roti and some sabji (Vegetable preparation).
I had bought a chicken cutlet, a fish fry and some sandwiches. They make brilliant cutlets at this station outlet.
Rather than offering her my food, I asked her, May I taste your Roti, Sabji please. They look delicious.
She seemed very pleased and immediately divided her food into two halves and offered me one part on the lid of her tiffin box.
I divided my food, and similarly offered her half of whatever I was having.
She said, No, no, you have yours, I won't need any more.
I said, that's not fair. I asked for your food. You have to take mine.
She smiled and said, You're smart. I laughed and said, Why ? She said, No, nothing.
After we were through with our food, we went to the wash basins in turn and finally settled in our cosy little berth.
What's the plan for the night ? I asked. Do we try sleeping in this sitting position ? Or, we take turns in sleeping? I have an important meeting tomorrow afternoon.
She said, See Mr Sandip....
I stopped her, Cut out the Mr., call me Sandip only.
She smiled and said, What I was saying was, that since you will fit in perfectly in this berth, why don't you lie down on that side, where you are sitting. I can sleep in a half sitting position.
I said, Again, it's not fair, Seema. If I sleep on this side, why don't you stretch out too, putting the pillow on that end. You see, I'll turn on my side, and will not take much space.
She said, Listen Sandeep, I know you won't take much space. I'm worried about my own legs. They are so long, I won't be able to stretch them fully inside this small berth. I will inadvertently bend them and I'll put them over your face or head, in my sleep. That'll be very bad.
I said, No, nothing will happen, how can I go lying down sleeping, when you will be sitting up whole night. In that case, let us take turns in sleeping.
She said, No, you said you have an important meeting tomorrow, you need your sleep. Let's do one thing, let us sleep with our heads on one side only. It will be a little tight, but you are quite a thin guy. And I'm not fat either. Let's sleep on our sides, so we will fit in quite well.
I wasn't sure I was hearing it correctly. This married lady is proposing to sleep on the same side of the berth with a totally unknown man, for the whole night.
Since we were sitting face to face discussing the alternatives, I asked her straight away. Seema, you don't know anything about me. Aren't you scared ? And you are married too.
She looked straight in my eyes and said, I'm not scared of you. I don't know anything about you, but I feel you are a good person. Are you married ? Are you scared of me ?
I stammered, No, I'm not married. And I'm not scared of you.
She said, Let me tell you, I'm not married too.
I looked surprised, Then why this Sindoor on your forehead?
She said, I know you have a lot more questions. I'll answer them all. But first let's be comfortable lying down. Then I'll answer all what you want to know. We need a bit of adjusting now, in this cramped up berth.
I was inwardly thanking my Office Admin guy for getting me this RAC ticket.