Four rupees a kilo

A mostly fictitious story I wrote on a train journey from Delhi to Calcutta in 2002. The most difficult part of this story was to decipher the illegible scrawls I had made on the train and to write out a final version of the story
The scenery scrolled past, as I sat there, lost in my thoughts, looking out, admiring the horizon. I was traveling alone this time and my train was chugging through the lands of Uttar Pradesh, headed towards Calcutta.

I was going to meet my parents after 6 years. A long span, no doubt; and even after talking to them on telephone every week, meeting them meant a whole lot more. Modern times may have provided us with means to bridge distances, but it’ll never be able to find a substitute for actual proximity.

As the sun set into the plains, eventually submerging itself into the paddy fields, I became even more homesick. Memories of my mother and father playing with me in the backyard of our house crossed my mind.

The train, running smoothely so far, began slowing own. Within five minutes, the beauty of the paddy fields and the crimson skyline was replaced by the hustle-bustle of a railway station.

“Allahabad aa gaya” remarked one copassenger.

Having skipped lunch [for some strange reason I can’t quite remember now],
I got down, onto the platform, in search for something to eat. Just as I got down, I was greeted by dozens of guava sellers, selling huge, bright green guavas at prices that were unheard of in any other city.

They sat in a row, each showing off their lot, trying to tempt the by standers into buying a kilo or two.

“Paanch Rupiya, Paanch Rupiya” said one.

“Barah ka do kilo” said another.

As I stood there, trying to select from whom I would buy the guavas from, I noticed a boy, about 10-12 years old, sitting there with a packet full of small, dirty guavas; calling out “Four a kilo, Four rupees a kilo”.
He stood there in a corner, teary-eyed, looking at people helplessly.

Curious about how he knew english, and pitiful of his state, I went up to him, and asked why he was selling his guavas at four rupees, while others were selling for more.
His eyes lit up, probably to the fact that he had gotten some attention.
“Are you Papa?” he asked. Stunned by his question, I replied.

“No, why?”

“Mummy is ill. I need to buy medicines for her and I don’t have any money.”

“But where is your Papa?”

“Mummy says Papa is going to come by the six o clock train. Three years ago we were travelling by the 6 o clock train and papa got down to buy guavas because they were selling for four rupees a kilo. But Papa did not come back.
That is why everyday I sell guavas at six o clock, so if Papa gets down again, he will see me and come to me and he will buy medicines for Mummy.”

As tears filled my eyes, the train sounded its horn. Speechless, I took out my wallet, and stuffed a few notes into his hand and then ran up to catch the train.

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