She stood outside the train with a small child. Thin and lean as she was, it seemed like she was the one who needed support; the child was like an additional burden she was unable to bear. The onlookers helped her enter the train.
I was returning home for my summer break in college and had two bags of luggage of my own and couldn’t have thought of helping the woman. Entering the train, I sat on my assigned berth and the young woman sat in front of me. She looked flustered, frightened and confused, like a fish out of water. She tried keeping her luggage under the seat but her round belly was going to sing the saga of an additional burden. I offered to help and settled her luggage. She finally sat down in peace and the train took on the journey. I wasn’t much of a communicator so I plugged in my earphones and abandoned the sublime existence of the world.
The woman kept looking at me. She wore a red saree, adorned with red bangles. She looked beautiful, but her eyes narrated a completely different story. Her stare made me curious and I asked her where she was headed. She said she was going to her parent’s place for the remaining term of her pregnancy. She took out a packet of biscuit and began munching on it, she offered some to me but I declined. She looked really young, more like a child but it would be embarrassingly impolite to enquire about her age. So I abandoned the thought and concentrated on my music. She interrupted my thoughts and asked if I was studying. I told her I was a student at Delhi University. She exclaimed and said, “Yes I’ve heard a lot about that place.” I told her about my course and college and her eyes which were previously devoid of emotions began to sparkle. She enthusiastically asked questions about my teachers, studies, food and places to visit in Delhi.
When I was done bragging about my college, she smiled – the most painful smile I had seen. I couldn’t hold back myself anymore and I asked her how old she was. She said she was around 17. I almost exclaimed in astonishment. She understood my predicament and narrated that she had been married two years ago. I didn’t want to bombard her with further questions so I remained silent. After staring outside the window into the open void for some time she said “I used to go to school too, I learnt maths and English, but Science was my favorite.” I enquired about what happened next. She said “My parents thought it was time for my marriage and before I could even understand the word ‘marriage’ I was sent off to my husband’s house.” She was now obligated to perform her only conjugal duty and her belly was a testimony of that woeful tale.
Her eyes spoke of the dreams and hopes she held but her saree, bangles and child pulled her back to the harsh reality. To break the melancholy, I asked her if she liked music. She happily agreed and said that Arijit Singh was her favorite. I offered her one plug of the earphone and we remained silent while Arijit Sigh with his ideas of love and romance tried to break off the sadness in the air. After some time she pulled out the earphone and said that her baby was hungry. I watched her undo her saree and corner herself so no one would notice while she fed the baby. Her eyes were again filled with the realization of a life devoid of dreams and happiness. She looked outside again into the void; maybe she found solace in knowing that the world was also empty just like her soul.