The loud whistle of the train signalled its imminent desire to leave the platform. The relatives and friends who came over to drop their loved ones begin bidding their final good byes.
The one’s having to leave, started running towards the door and just then a middle-aged man in his 40’s hurriedly latched onto the door handle to get inside.
He though had to wait before he could climb inside as the people wishing to leave were still crowding the exit.
A tall man with a thick moustache and greying hairs, he immediately began searching for his berth.
The hawker’s loud cries selling their snacks, tea and toiletries began to recede in the background as the train slowly moved forward.
The man finally found his berth but continued to stand in the corridor, his mind still entangled in some deep thoughts.
Of the two lower berths, one had a man in his early 20’s occupying it, while a very old senior citizen lay on the other one.
The man hesitated, before tentatively asking the younger occupant if he would be willing to swap his berth with him; go to the upper berth allocated to him, so he could sleep on the lower one.
The youngster who till now tried to evade an eye contact least he is presented with such a request didn’t even looked up before denying his request. The thought that he was still physically fit to sleep on the top berth prompted him to reject his plea so rudely.
The man didn’t ask again and sat on the edge of the berth occupied by the old man after seeking his permission and keeping the solitary bag he was carrying under the seat. His face was devoid expressions while his steely eyes remained unfocused.
Within a couple of hours, the entire train blanketed in thick deep slumber carried on chugging nonchalantly on the metallic wheels, the man still awake, continued sitting at that same place.
He was probably waiting for everyone to sleep.
Once he was sure no one is awake, he slowly climbed the steps towards his top berth. It was a very slow and gradual climb as his right leg refused to bend, while he still somehow carried it to the top.
He grimaced with pain upon reaching his seat and decided to lie down for a while trying to catch his breath.
However, he got up within a few minutes and carefully removed his trousers, underneath, lied his prosthetic leg.
A Kargil war veteran, he was traveling to Delhi for some urgent work. He placed the prosthetic cautiously on one side of the seat towards the partition before lying down to sleep.
The man on the other upper berth sleeping till now, woke up at night and couldn’t believe his eyes, shocked at seeing the man’s prosthetic legs. He though was amazed by his tenacity to still climb up even with such a disability
Thinking of speaking to him in the morning, he slept again.
The next morning, the man was gone even before others woke up.
The one who saw his prosthetic, told the occupant on the lower berth with whom he asked for a seat swap about his condition.
The youngster regretted his actions. As they were leaving, the man on the upper berth, glanced at the reservation chart. His curiosity nudged him to search for the name of the person with prosthetic’s.
‘Lt. Col Raj Rathod’, it read, a Kargil war hero. The guilt and shame filled their
hearts and mind as they recounted their conducts.
The Colonel though left even before the young man could get an opportunity to express his guilt.
The post is dedicated to our men and women in uniform on the occasion of Kargil Vijay
Diwas. Lots of Love and respect to these brave hearts. My father was also in Army, so I have a special affinity for our forces.
(PS – Inspired by a true story. I am not aware of the source though and would
be glad to give credit if anyone could share)