Kishan regretted not listening to Ramni. She had warned him, as usual. He had not listened, as usual. He looked at Ramni. She was snoring peacefully. Kishan had also tried to sleep. But in the last half an hour, he had managed to frame a life tip and that was that a man who has not had a proper meal, and has no peace of mind and especially a tooth missing, cannot succumb to sleep. He decided to carefully feel the grey floor of the train with his feet. He thought his feet might spot the tooth. But the minute he stretched his legs from within the seat, Ramni turned her face towards him. He almost had a heart attack but was relieved to find that she was still asleep. He knew if Ramni woke up because of him again, she would give him an earful again and he was not in a state to listen to her scolding, well…again! After having lost a tooth, Ramni’s anger was the last thing he wanted twice in a day.
He looked at Ramni’s face.
“Huh! Even in her sleep, she is snooty!” he thought.
“I am sure she must be dreaming about how she was right and I was wro-,” he stopped. He cannot accept he was wrong. That would give more power to Ramni over him.
But Kishan knew in his heart that he was wrong and that Ramni was right. But making a journey from the truth that is in your heart, to replace the obstinance in your brain, is more than just tough. As he fidgeted with his feet and his thoughts, he recollected the happenings of the last few hours.
Kishan had been asked by his office to make a trip to Amritsar. The trip was a recreational one and the company had also asked his wife to accompany him. Kishan was initially elated with the two tickets that he had received in his email. His first thought was to ask his college friend, Rajneesh to come with him. But while he was dreaming about the trip with Rajneesh, Ramni had bent over his shoulder and read the email herself.
She had exclaimed aloud. “They want me to come as well?” she had asked pointing at the computer screen.
“What? No! What?” Kishan blurted in reflex.
“Yes, they have! Look there it is!” Ramni pointed at the email.
Kishen’s dreams and plans were killed by Ramni’s heavy suitcase. He did not want to go on the trip with her. The last time they had gone on a trip together was on their honeymoon and Ramni had managed to be extremely consistent with her scolding and sarcastic remarks on Kishan throughout the trip. Kishan had almost burst out crying when she scolded him for having two katoris of kheer in Manali.
She had said something about leaving her and having the kheer and how Kishan could be so dumb and her scolding could have made sense if Kishan would have cared to listen. But all he heard or more like, understood, was that Ramni did not want him to have the kheer. And this was not digestive to Kishan.
“Why and how could she be so cruel that she would forbid me from eating kheer?” Kishan had thought for days after they returned from the honeymoon.
Ramni had packed all her clothes and other necessities in her huge, black suitcase while Kishan had managed to scrape off a piece of gum from his old duffel bag and keep his things in it. When their nosy neighbour Meenu had commented on the size difference of their bags, Kishan had mumbled something about how Ramni’s suitcase has not only her clothes but also her taunts and sarcastic remarks. He had later thanked God that Ramni had not heard him.
On the morning of 19th August, both of them took a taxi to the railway station. Kishan beamed proudly as he sat in the taxi.
“Nothing like a taxi which your company is paying for”, he exclaimed and cheerfully patted the driver’s back. But the driver gave back a cold look and Kishen decided to keep his hands and cheer to himself.
They reached the station on time and boarded the train. Ramni took the window seat while Kishan struggled with the luggage. He made a face at her and she almost saw him but a coolie came in between them and Kishan heaved in relief. He took his seat and waited for the train to start.
“I have packed paratha and achaar. They are in the side pocket of your bag,” Ramni said.
“But why? They are going to give us food. And we don’t have to pay for it also. All of this is inclusive in the ticket. And the company is paying for-”
“I know they are paying. The taxi driver knew they are paying. Meenu knew they are paying. Can you stop saying that again and again?” Ramni quipped.
Kishan nodded meekly and looked away. He did not like Ramni. She never understood him or even tried to. This was supposed to be a huge thing for him. A paid trip to Amritsar! Rajneesh was so happy to hear the news, Kishan thought as he showed his anger towards Ramni by not looking towards her at all.
The train was on time. At sharp 8:30 am, the train started moving slowly, away from the station. Kishan smiled. Ramni remained stoic.
It had been 2 hours in the journey when the caterer lads started bringing in food items for the passengers. Two hours in the journey and Kishan had hogged down both his and Ramni’s breakfast trays as Ramni nibbled on her parathas. As Kishan’s pot belly inflated by an inch, the coach door opened and a caterer lad came in with a huge tray in his hands. Kishan stretched his neck to see what was the next treat for him and was delighted on spotting a banana peeking from the tray.
“Ah! Fruits! Nice.” he mumbled.
The caterer lad reached their seats and lowered his tray. Kishan’s face lit up seeing the apples and bananas and guavas. He did a fast calculation in his head about how apples and bananas were still affordable but Guavas had become a luxury in the past one month and so he extended his arm to pick up a guava.
“Don’t!” Ramni said. “Don’t take the guava. The seeds are not good for your teeth.”
Kishan frowned, his hands still extended in the air and his eyes on the plump guava.
“But I really want to,” Kishan said, looking at Ramni.
“Your teeth are sensitive. They might break. Don’t take it,” Ramni repeated.
“But…” Kishan persisted.
“Fine! Do whatever you want to,” Ramni said irritatingly and turned towards the window.
Ramni’s words were a golden ticket for Kishan. This is what he wanted. To do what he wanted. He picked up the guava and smiled at the caterer lad. The caterer lad returned a cold look.
“This cold, brutal world,” Kishan thought as he polished the guava with his handkerchief.
He dug his teeth in the plump guava and took a bite.
“Ouuuuu!” he yelled.
Ramni, who had dozed off, woke up with a start.
“What happened? What is stolen!?” she said in a reflex.
Kishan held his left cheek and writhed in pain.
“My tooth! Ouuu!” Kishan yelped.
Ramni saw the guava in his lap and understood what had happened.
“I had warned you! I had warned you! Now, look what happened. Fool!”
Kishan’s eyes watered as Ramni went on a scolding spree for the next five minutes or so. He was in extreme pain. Was this woman really never able to see his emotions and feelings?
After having scolded Kishan for a good long 15 minutes, Ramni repeated Kishan’s favourite line, do whatever you want to do now, and went back to sleep. Kishan sat still for some time and realized that his pain had dialled down a bit. He also realized that his tooth had fallen down and could be anywhere from next to his feet to next to a passenger’s feet, two-three seats ahead. He decided to find the tooth. He cannot afford to lose his self-esteem and his tooth in one day, he thought as he looked towards Ramni who had helped majorly in losing his self-esteem.
He decided to slowly and steadily kneel down and look for the tooth. After a great struggle of 20 minutes and three weird positions later, Kishan was finally on the floor of the train, kneeling towards the aisle. He bent down and looked for his tooth. No luck beneath the seats ahead. Then bending down more, he looked beneath the seats before his seats.
“Is that it?” he mumbled as he spotted a tiny speckle beside the passenger’s shoes. Before the passenger would stomp the tooth, he quickly reached out and picked up the tooth. As he held the tooth in between his finger and his thumb, he looked at it with a wounded warrior look. He turned and looked at Ramni and smiled as if he had won a battle against her. As he placed the tooth safely in his shirt pocket and was about to stand up, the train jerked and his glasses flung and slid away in the same melody the train was moving. Kishan frantically bent down again and looked for his glasses but they seemed to have vanished away.
Giving up on the trip and himself, Kishan stood up, dusted himself and sat down on his seat. Ramni’s snores rhymed with the trains motions and Kishan accepted that Ramni and the universe had conspired against him. As he felt the tooth in the pocket and sat half blinded without his glasses and with his obstinacy, he finally regretted not listening to Ramni and could not help thinking by himself, “I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop”.
The train’s wheels did not stop though and Kishan drifted to sleep.