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THE STRANGER

Her heart was failing. Her chest heaved in an irregular fashion from the effort of breathing. Her peppered hair stuck to her sweaty neck. Her lips quivered and her body buckled uncontrollably. Mother was resting her head on my shoulder.
The crowd was overwhelming even as many took refuge in the seething heat of the railway station awaiting the only train that would make a stop in the forlorn forest village.
I was not in a condition to contemplate the consequences of not reaching the hospital on time. It was half a day’s journey to the city hospital and traversing through the forest was not an option.
The distant hum of the train was barely audible before which all the people had already started creating a ruckus, pushing and pulling to assemble on the tiny platform.
The train would only stop for a minute. The crucial minute of life.
I hurriedly wrapped my arm around mother’s malnourished body. We squeezed through the crowd, her feet dragging on the platform. My feet were tiring me, I felt as if I was wading through the sea waters. Each and every part of my body throbbed to get on that ride.
The train sounded the horn as it sluggishly moved through to exit, even as the impossible throng streamed into its various carriages.
My heart clenched in fear. I had not noticed that I had started screaming, my voice carrying all those years of suppressed emotions. Even then people pushed past us, sparing glances of disgust.
The vehicle was picking up speed. Tears were making infinite streams across my face, leaking across my tired body.
My drooping eyes suddenly noticed something. Before I could register what was happening, my mom and I were dragged across to the moving train. The stranger pushed us into the carriage and we landed gracefully on the train floor.
I immediately made my way to the door lending my arm to the kind stranger. I had enough time to see the face of the young man, but we were far too gone. The man collapsed onto the platform as the train hurled the carriages away from the station.

_________________________________________________

Mother was slowly recovering. The doctors appreciated me to have brought her on time, if not, there was no chance of survival.
My thoughts were drifting back to the stranger. I made it a point to find him at once. As we reached back to the village, I immediately set out to find the young man. I proceeded to the tiny railway station to start my search.
On the bill board of people who had lost their life due to untimely medical help, was etched the new face of the young man.

“God love good people, for he takes them the earliest.”

-shreya

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POSSESSIONS

I scurried through the crowd without a sense of direction, letting my gut-instinct carry me along the right path. The warm and cosy airport would have been an inviting sight if it was not for the state I was in. Agoraphobia was creeping upon me even as I seated myself in the allotted terminal.

My stomach growled in frustration for I had had nothing since morning. I decided to stay hungry rather than talk to the waiters at the restaurant, the prospect was terrifying. But my stomach said otherwise.

I decided to grab a drink from the vending machine, trying my best to avoid any kind of human interactions. “Please choose your preference and drop your money!” the vending machine said. From the corner of my eyes, I spotted a kid watching me with curious eyes. “Need to hurry!” my mind probed me. I slipped my hands into my jacket pocket, only to feel the empty warmth. I hurriedly searched my pockets, my wallet had vanished. Fear was gripping at my throat even as I remembered how I had possessed it until I had entered the terminal. I have been robbed?!

My neck tingled as I could feel peoples’ gaze over me. I decided to settle myself at the corner seat of the lounge silently thanking god because the wallet comprised of money alone and nothing else of much prominence. It was true that I had to stay hungry but that was half as bad as walking around without a passport.

——————————————————————————————–The flight was roaming lazily along the runway preparing for take-off. I had skilfully acquired the window seat so as not to get sandwiched between a plump Indian-lady and a girl who looked like her daughter. However, I was stuck with the lady sitting beside me. She had that annoying habit of talking loudly over phone and fidgeting on her seat crushing me against the window.

Just as we took off, the lady asked, loud enough for the entire crew and passengers to hear, “Indian?” it took me some time to realise that the question was addressed to me. My heart whimpered. “Y-yes” I managed to say. “Haye ram! So difficult to find an Indian in this damned city. Glad to meet you young lady. Are you flying alone?” the string of words didn’t make much sense to me but I managed to stutter a ‘yes’ to her. She continued to banter on until the stewardess served the food.

It was served only to the other girl, who was clearly not the plump Indian’s daughter. I eyed the food hungrily. The girl seemed to notice my stare and ignored.

“Didn’t you have anything from the airport young lady?” the Indian asked scrutinising the situation.

“Umm…I…Uh…actually…my wallet was robbed.” I confessed with some difficulty, my heart leaping with the effort. I couldn’t believe I was socialising.

“Ayyo such a misfortune! And you look like you are hungry. Jeez, I wasted all my money in that shopping mart too. You wait!” I didn’t completely catch what she meant.

“Girl, don’t you hear what is happening, why can’t you share a morsel? Kids these days!” she bawled at the other girl. I was bewildered at how the things were proceeding. “No, no aunty. It’s absolutely fine. I will manage.” I said in alarm.

The other girl however embarrassed by her carelessness handed me her sandwich wholly, plugging in her ear pods her eyes popped out in amazement. I flushed with embarrassment.

 “Eat it!” the lady said, suddenly sounding like my mom. I smoothly obliged and swallowed it in a couple of bites. The onward journey commenced with a speech of her thoughts about the city and the people. I didn’t utter a word until it was time for us to depart.

“Young lady, it was a pleasure to meet you. Remember to be careful the next time you travel” she winked. She turned to leave and exclaimed, “Ayyo, the other girl left her wallet here. Did she leave?” I found my chance to make up with the girl for the awkward situation that I had created.

 “It’s ok aunty I will hand it over to her.” I said.

As I plucked the wallet from the seat, I was struck with the similarity it posed with my belonging. I opened to find my photo stuck along the nape of the wallet.

The money looked exactly as I had left it, just two notes missing, which probably went into buying the food that had filled my stomach.

Indeed I was full!