Clandestine Travelers

 By Shobha Diwakar from Jabalpur, India

Kamlesh was a regular traveler. Although he often took the flight when fares were low, this time he decided to travel by train. The unfortunate part was since he could not get a first class reservation he was compelled to travel in second class AC. It was a neat compartment although the people around him did not seem to be the ones who would indulge in casual chit- chats. Since Kamlesh was an avid reader, he soon drowned himself in an Earl Stanley Gardner novel that was his favorite.

The train rushed from one station to another rapidly and he could feel the sharp jerks when it speeded along through fields and tunnels with an echo that rang into his ears for a long time. He felt relaxed as he drowned himself in the novel and long after was quite unaware as to when the ‘cool’ breeze sent him off to sleep with the book flat on his face. Although Kamlesh was reading Gardner’s novel somewhere in crept into his mind Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poiret but that did not matter for he was cozily tucked into a world of fantasy… relaxed and careless about his whereabouts.

It was sometime later when a vendor called aloud-selling tea and coffee along with some Haldiram snacks while another followed behind him with a bucket full of cold drinks. Kamlesh stretched himself forward and hailed the former for tea and a pack of ‘khatta meetha’ namkeen, and once again settled down with Gardner and forgot all about Agatha Christie and Poiret. He was beginning to enjoy his train journey when a family of  four entered the compartment at a station, and soon there began a lot of chirping as the mother of the two small boisterous children tried to keep them under her command, however, children are children and the more she tried to control them the rowdier they became. When the two had exhausted their energy, they sat down and fell asleep.

While all this commotion was in progress Kamlesh wondered how mothers’ all over the world must keep their young ones safe from mischief just as he had witnessed the two young ones in the train running helter- skelter with not a care in the world; banging around, shouting and peeping here and there. He thought just as well, ‘I am not married,’ and switched back to reading his book. By now, the train had crossed many stations and wherever it stopped people rushed to climb; it seemed as though there was no end to passengers boarding and getting off the train. How different all this was from a plane journey where you only disembarked when the flight came to its final destination. Nonetheless, this journey by train seemed to be quite interesting because it gave one the opportunity to know one’s fellow- co travelers as he observed those around him making conversations with each other, albeit he remained to himself occupied with his book.

Night had fallen deep and looking around he saw most of the passengers either fast asleep or snoring away. He remembered suddenly he had, had no dinner. It was obvious others had finished theirs so he ducked into his bag, opened his Tiffin and began munching on his sandwich, and snacks, which were all that he had with him. Little did he realize that a little beyond him sat an elegantly well-dressed fellow watching him closely who suddenly got up and seated himself beside him (Kamlesh), drawing him into some interesting episodes he had seen on Discovery channel.

Although Kamlesh wanted to nudge him aside, something seemed to draw him towards the man who finally introduced himself as Ranjeet and that he was a salesman and so traveled all across the country. “Oh, oh, that’s why he seems so friendly and talkative to unknown people… so he can sell his wares,’ muttered Kamlesh to himself though all the while wishing to dismiss him curtly and continue reading his novel. Nevertheless, the man seemed in no mood to leave and kept switching from one topic to another until finally Kamlesh lost his patience and told him roughly to leave him alone and get back to his own berth as he wished to sleep. Reluctantly the man got up but not before he had dug into his pocket and offered Kamlesh a small sample of the perfumes he marketed.

As soon as Ranjeet left, Kamlesh once again stretched himself and lay down to sleep. The sample left still remained ignored until he caught sight of it near his legs. Since curiosity kills the cat, something urged him to pick it up. The packing was captivating and the cologne smelled lovely, although he had not yet opened the bottle; (little did he realize that Ranjeet had slyly smeared a few drops before leaving), he casually smelled it deeply and soon afterwards fell asleep. He dreamt he was in some far away land and beautiful young girls were dancing around with their partners and enjoying some celebrations. Kamlesh standing aloof felt excited to join the crowd on the floor and dance with an attractive girl who seemed to eye him coyly but though he tried much, he could neither move nor speak aloud. He felt as though he had lost his voice until someone shook him rudely. He woke up with a start to find himself surrounded by some people among them a police officer.

Kamlesh, still not fully awake wondered what all this hullaballoo was all about; rubbing his eyes and making an attempt to sit up and face the ordeal he asked, ‘what’s up? Why are you fellows shrugging and shaking me up from my sleep?’ No one spoke for a second and then the police officer said, ‘the train has come and halted at the last station. All other passengers have left for their homes. A cleaner found you stretched out as dead as a mouse and alerted the authorities. Now you tell us what are you up to?’

Kamlesh was taken a back; he was floored; he could not understand a word of anything they told him. The officer ordered the assistant to splash some water on his face to wake him up from his drowsiness. As the assistant obeyed, Kamlesh now fully conscious was ready to face any questions asked. He then narrated how an elegantly well-dressed young man had sat by his side; lured him into conversation and before leaving had offered him a bottle of cologne, which he had left unnoticed until it’s fragrance reached him when he picked it up from under his leg where it had been cleverly left. The police examined the bottle and to his dismay found that it smelled as if some strong sedative was mixed with a few drops of cologne, which doused Kamlesh in deep sleep. When Kamlesht ducked to check his luggage, …it had vanished and along with it his bag with important documents, his check book, credit and debit cards besides all his cash.

Kamlesh was a broken man for without money he could do nothing except inform the banks to block his cards. The police officer was a kind- hearted man and offered Kamlesh some cash, which he could return when he reached home. Gratefully he accepted the loan money but not before he swore, he would never again travel by train. Beware of strangers friends. Everyday media reports how people are robbed and looted while travelling by train. Do not buy from vendors unless they are authorized and possess railway identity cards although these can be forged and misused.

About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar  servers on the Advisory Board of www.writerslifeline.ca. 

 

3 Comments

  1. It’s a good eye opener & a warning especially to those who hardly travel by train. Cheats come in many forms…well dressed ones are the most dangerous ones because they are sweet tongued monsters well versed in the art of behaving as thorough gentlemen & then looting and robbing their victims after gaining their confidence.

  2. O K R Sivagnanam says:

    Appearances are deceptive

    And so too are words

    Packed with honey

    Taking us for a ride

    But with a lesson or two

    Earning for ourselves

    And keeping them ever ready

    To serve the purpose later!

  3. well commented upon ASB and OKRSji
    reminds me of Shakespeare’s famous words, ‘ a goodly apple rotten at the heart’

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