There was huge apprehension in my family about my Kumbh trip. To make matters worse the railway footboard bridge at Allahabad Railway Station collapsed just 3 days before I was to leave. Now it was like -why do you want to go to a place like this? Thankfully I spoke in time to Vandana, who was there on the day of the tragedy and was reassured. And now I was even more determined.
I was to board from Thane, while two of my friends were to board from Kurla. As luck would have it they were running late and in no way would reach the 12.20pm train. Now I had bigger question-should I travel alone. I am going to Allahabad, Kumbh all alone!!! I decided to leave it on my Guru. 10 minutes before arrival time, I got a call from my friend that they had managed to board the train as it was delayed by 10 minutes. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I boarded and hugged my friend as if we had climbed Mount Everest.
We settled in our seats. There were two more passengers on our adjoining seats. A youngish man in his early 30’s, dressed in office formals and a middle aged man in his 40’s who wore slightly greasy clothes. He looked more like any UP, Bihari bhayya’s who work in Mumbai. His name was Sharma. The young man smiled warmly. I returned a half sceptical, half polite smile. They both were going to their home town Allahabad. I ate my food quietly without the courtsey of offering it to them. Furkaan ate some curds and others had their lunch at home early. As time passed the two guysbecame friendly and were very polite. Also took great care of us. At a halt, one got them got down and realised that I was looking out for chaiwala, so ran and fetched tea for me. I still doubted them. My head was full of ‘Is it safe to trust these men? What about all stories that you hear? And we are 3 women travelling all alone? What if we get drugged? So on and so forth’. I offered him money. He declined and said ‘ Arre abhi toh pura safar baki hain. Baad mein aap pila dena’. I thanked him and reasoned in mind that even if the tea was drugged – My others friends are not drinking it. So it would be Okay. As time passed we realised that the two gentlemen were being extremely polite and were taking care of us in every possible way. They got us fruits, Amul Cool bottles, Curd packets. We got them tea and coffee. We in return shared our dinner with them. They offered their lower berths at night to make us comfortable.
Next day we learnt that Sharmaji deals in some machine parts and has a shop in Shewree. The young man was a sales person named S.M. Furkaan, worked for a dealer of Samsung. We chatted about life in Mumbai. In course of discussion I realised that Furkaan was a young man with a modern outlook. He argued about how a housewife needs help to look after kids even if she is at home. He said he had changed because he saw his brother help his wife at home in Muscat. I must say, I was impressed with this mindset and was slowly changing my opinion. The next day when Sharmaji learnt that they we didn’t have a confirmed return ticket, offered his Ticket Agent’s contact and shared his mobile number. He also offered to book it in tatkal and said I could pay him back in Mumbai. I was wondering how he can trust me when I may not meet him ever again. I exchanged my number with a little hesitation. Towards the end of the journey when we thanked him, he said Mumbai has offered him a chance to make living and earn monies for last 15 years. This is his way of paying back in kind to the ‘Mehman’ who are visiting Allahabad. I really was humbled by this person’s approach. He warned us to not trust people blindly, not to eat alone at any place in Allahabad and said there were many crooks who will take us for a ride. He asked us to call him if we needed any help and promised that he can reach in two hours if we were in trouble.
When we alighted at the station, they helped us carry our bags and put safely in the auto that had come to pick us up. Furkaan had already offered his car in case the auto guy didn’t turn up. We said our good-bye’s with a heavy heart. Ashamed at how most of Mumbai ites treat UPites and Bihari’s in general. I also wished that some political parties who beat up North Indians read this and realise that this country belongs to all of us not just to locals of that place. Sharmaji called me to check if I reached the ashram safely and called again on the last day to check if I had managed to get a return train ticket.
In my life, I have never met such kind people who took so much care of me ever across 17 years of work life. I also think that we have stopped trusting each other as humans. Now whenever I hear Allahabad, I will remember these two good souls.
In the picture on left behind is ever smiling S.M. Furkaan and right side behind the lady in specs is Sharmaji.