I am in a train, it starts from Banaswadi in Bangalore. A kid is sitting on the opposite berth. That’s not his seat and his father is sitting away, on the side berth, focused on his mobile. There is a small tray table, folded against the side. The kid looks at me and says, you can unfold the table , keep your phone on it.
He opens the conversation, are you Hindi. I said in Malayalam, I am Hindi. He says aloud, oh Malayalam. I ask him who is that. He is my father. We came to buy things from Bangalore. Do you want anything, this is my phone number, he opens a bill book, which has listed items, quantity, rate and price. I will give you discount.
I am going to Chalakudy. This train will not stop in Chalakudy, what will you do , I asked him. It will stop, where are you going. I said, Ernakulam and which class are you studying in ? UKG.
Travelling with his dad, I guessed, must be a business man, and the kid is picking the tricks of trade. He wanted to know why am I going to Ernakulam. I said to meet my mother , sister, my brother.
What is your mother’s name. I said Lochana. And sisters name ? Indu. Many Indu’ s are there, he said, write your mother’s name here. He opened the bill book and I was not sure how important that bill book was, and hands me a pen. You write your name here, he shows me a space at the bottom of the page. See my name, ZAIN, you write yours. I wrote, RAJAN. Now you write your mother’s name. I wrote, her name. He would look at my face and look for space in the bill book for me to write my sister’s name, INDU, while suggesting where all I can write. His cuteness completely engulfed me and my heart. I showed him my grandson’s picture and told him he is Aniketh and he is also in UKG. .
“Is n’t he scared” looking at the picture of Aniketh feeding a cow , he asked. Why should he be scared, are you scared of me ? No, he said. What is in his hand. I said that is a watch. So big ? Can he read time ? I said, no and he was looking towards his father, I thought, he is going to ask his father to get him one. The train stopped at the next station, krishnarajpuram and all the seats got filled and he walked away to be with his father. Once everybody settled on their seats and the train started moving , I looked out for him and he was busy on a phone watching some video.
In the middle of the night, he came near my berth and I was awake. He asked me in malayalam, athu ketta, meaning, did you hear that ?.With all lights off, I heard a snoring sound, and asked him is it that and he said yes. I stood up and lifted him and brought him near the man sleeping in the middle berth. He put out his hand and held the man’s nose. The snoring stopped after maybe two seconds, the man, muttered eh, ah, ugh, and we sat down before he opened his eyes, wondering what happened. We saw him raise his head, he thought he was dreaming, when the kid gave out a big laugh. I had to suppress mine, not fair to be kidding at my age, with a stranger.
I put ZAIN, that’s his name, son of Zulfiquar (as told by him), next to his father and said, go to sleep. Next morning, at 5 , his father was trying to wake him up, their station was nearing and he was reluctant. Finally the father made him sit next to me and he dozed off again. I shook him up and asked him what was the school’s name he was studying in. He opened his eyes and said cresendo ( that’s what I heard). His father said he is always travelling with him, Bangalore, Mumb ai, Surat, he is in garment business. Most of the time when he is not in the school, he is in the shop. No wonder, the first thing he offered me was a discount. The train stopped at Trichur and I accompanied them to the door, I told him bye, when the father asked him to say bye to me, he looked back and waved and walked away holding his guardians finger, into his next now.