“Come fast, Gungun!!! We are getting late,” My mom shouted as I came running down the stairs with a backpack. We hurriedly sat in the gypsy, papa was talking to someone on the phone. My mom asked me, “What were you doing in the house so long?”
I answered, “I was feeding my Barbie dolls, we are going on such a long vacation won’t the dolls starve to death?”
“You and your dolls,” my mom gave a small laugh and said, “and what exactly did you feed them?”
I blushed and said, “Clay toast with cotton milkshake.”
“WOW!” My mom said and let out a giggle.
My dad was hearing our conversation from the front seat even as he was talking to someone else.
Finally, we reached the railway station. We were in Agartala because of my Dad’s posting, so we had to catch a train from here then go to Delhi. I was just so happy that I could not contain my excitement. Yes, we were going on a foreign trip. Papa had booked an SOTC tour package where there will be a group of Indians. We will have a complete tour of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
Our gypsy driver unloaded our luggage and we went inside. The train was late (in India it’s a common thing so we didn’t bother about it). I bought a Tinkle double digest from a small stall. Papa was reading news on his mobile and mom was chatting with her friend on Whatsapp.
As I devoured a packet of chips I saw a family sitting next to us. There was fat father, a normal mother and two bulky children. The girl was almost of my age and her brother was younger than her. They were looking at me as though they had never seen anyone eating chips.
I could clearly make out they must have eaten almost a factory of chips. My mom looked at me and said, “Gungun, give her some chips too. Go make friends with her. It’s a long journey you might need someone for company”.
I looked at my mom and thought why does she have to do it every time. After seeing my look my dad also joined in. He had not even listened to the conversation but still said, “Yes mummy is right. See I have been browsing an app where it tells exactly where your train is and when will it arrive. So, our train will arrive in almost half an hour.”
As I saw there was no support from my side I slowly went and offered the girl my chips. I thought maybe out of courtesy she might not take them but she did and not just one or two, but a handful!
Then her brother emerged from nowhere and also took a handful (I had not even offered him the chips). I gave a smile and looked inside my packet and saw only two pieces of chips left and thought that I better eat these two up.
I came back and my mom smiled and asked, “What did you two talk about?”
I said, “We didn’t talk”. Somehow, I don’t like people who are so greedy.
Suddenly a big horn roared and my dad stood up and announced that this was our train.
We boarded the train and went to our compartment. It was a three tier compartment so I was on the top, my Dad was in the middle and my Mom was in lowest bed. We were just settling in when the fat family arrived in just our opposite compartment. OH NO! I don’t know why, but I did not like them and they had to land in our train and in our compartment only.
My mom said, “See Gungun your friend”.
I shouted inside myself, “Who said we were friends!” The other girl’s mother also heard my Mom and she smiled. I had no other option but to give a smile in return.
After we were settled in we took out our tiffins. My Mom had made really tasty food and just as we were starting to eat, the drama began again. The girl was looking at us. Then my sooooo helpful mom always doing so much social service again invited the girl for some eatables and this time also I did not expect any courtesy. I was right. I wondered why the girl always wore a cap maybe she must have stored some food inside…
In the night I could not sleep, of course, because of the fat family’s loud snores. UFFFFF when will this journey end. In the morning when I opened my eyes I gave shriek!!! The fat girl was also sleeping in the top bunk and she was looking at me as if I was doing something unusual.
After I came down I got freshened up and then started reading a book with my Mom and Dad. I don’t know why the girl always kept laughing on stupid things. Her laughter was also horrible. After some time my Mom said, “Why don’t you go and talk with the girl?”
I gave a disgusting look. My Mom said, “Never think anything about anyone just by their appearance, this is stereotyping.”
I was stuck. So I went and sat next to the girl. She was playing a game on a mobile. Even as she was losing she was laughing. I said, “Hi!”
She looked towards me and said, “HELLO!”
Her voice was heavy. I introduced myself and asked about her. She told me that her name was Divya. She was home schooled. She said she was going to Delhi for a vacation. I wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible.
Divya said, “You look just like your Dad.”
I smiled and said, “Yes ,everyone says that.”
She then said, “I also looked like my Dad.” And there flicked a small drop of tear from her eyes and down her round cheeks. Then remembering that I was sitting next to her, she wiped her tears and gave a laugh. I asked her what was the matter but she did not want to answer. I understood that there was a deep dark secret inside her. But then suddenly I don’t know what happened and she said, “I don’t know but I think I can share my story of life with you. I think you will understand.”
I was a little moved as I did not expect this to happen but of course she might be thinking that I would understand because I understood when she was hungry!
She then started her story, “When I was 6 years old my Mom and Dad died in a car accident and since then I have been living with my Aunt and Uncle.”
I was astonished and then asked, “OOOH so they are not your real parents?”
“No,” she said.
She asked me, “Why are you going to Delhi?”
I told her everything about my trip. She said you are so lucky. Suddenly I had a soft corner for this girl.
Then my mom called me and said, “Gungun we are about to reach Delhi in a few minutes so get ready and wear your shoes and then you can talk with your friend.”
When I came back I sat next to the girl again and saw that she was as usual wearing a cap.
I could not contain my curiosity and asked, “It’s not cold then why do you always wear a cap?”
She smiled and took off her cap.
I was just speechless as the girl was bald.
She then added, “I am suffering from fourth stage cancer and have only two weeks left to live. That is why I am going to Delhi. To enjoy. I wish to enjoy every last breath of my life. I am so lucky that I now have a friend like you and even got to taste such tasty food made by your Mom. Thank you!”
Just then her uncle came and said, “Let’s go we have reached the station.” We gave a smile to each other and she went away smiling. When she went I just could not control the tears in my eyes.
I thought we make a fuss about so many things in life but there are so many people in the World who do not even have time to make a fuss. We can never find out about someone by their appearance and once I remember my Mom telling me that a wise man once said ‘NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER’
My Mom came and asked me what happened but I just could not answer. We got down from the train and sat in the taxi. Just opposite our taxi was another taxi and there was a chubby hand waving goodbye to me.