The luggage was arranged and the seats occupied; all ready for the journey to commence. Usual stories from elders about how time had flown and the three-day long toil was reduced to a 24 hour activity were to be heard. Despite going through the same many times, the idea of yet another train journey still didn’t fail to excite me. After all it had a bit of everything one wanderer could ask for; the ever-changing scenery; those few exciting minutes through a tunnel or over a bridge; and even the childish attempt to get a look of the train’s tail. Not to forget how the change in culture could be seen in small packages as the locomotive passed through various states of our culture rich nation. And definitely how unknown people would turn into buddies long-lost by the arrival of the destination – it had it all.
As the railway platform slid behind sight and a quick retrospection was about to be completed, from the corner of my vision I saw Him; with a trunk of a behemoth and a face of a child, He sat there in absolute blankness.
He was different. Or at least the ‘humane’ society of which I too form a part had made him different. With classifications and categorisations as a special kind or the less fortunate, we the self proclaimed normal, rather sane humans have developed superiority for ourselves. The ever sympathetic looks or the ‘we are so fortunate’ comments did no good to bother Him. ‘Special’ is a good usage, for He is actually special.
The traditional large lunch boxes which had gone through akin journeys a large number of times and their new accomplices – disposable plates and spoons were out soon. A meal is a great happening during a train journey. Not because of the food but; the setting up of the plates and careful serving of food by the elders so as to not spill any and the clichéd ‘eat less while you travel’ all made the occasion an interesting one. It looked that He didn’t find it interesting. But He certainly was.
The afternoon was silent, with only the rhythmic ‘chuk chuk’ of the train to disturb it. I lay on the top tier thinking about Him. Something was intriguing about Him, probably because it was the first time I thought about ‘Them’. We have always felt that They are the ones with a lesser mind. Little did I know that we were criminally mistaken.
The changing scenery makes you forget how time flies by. A few hills, a couple of bridges and half a dozen tunnels were all what it took for the evening to arrive. The evening however was long; long as the scenery didn’t change. The giant locomotive had come to a standstill in the middle of nowhere. He was about to do something drastic and none of us had a clue.
The train which was far from moving any time soon, became a breeding ground for curiosity. The first couple of minutes were speculative, “Why did the train halt?” “There must be a signal issue”; “There might be a crossing.” The chatters grew louder. As another minute passed curiosity was overcome by impatience. There was movement and commotion within the train; it didn’t move though. The traditional and tested method of men getting down the train and inspecting the surroundings gave no new results. They peeped out the window, leaned out the door, many got to the tracks but none got the desired result. Idiosyncrasy was at its best. Time crawled along like a sloth, impatience turning into frustration. Could not blame anybody for that; close to 45 minutes in obscurity would get the better of any normal individual. As few beads of perspiration trickled down my neck I saw something drastic – it was Him. He sat there as if He wasn’t there, unfazed by all the commotion going around Him; caring not even little for what was happening around Him; He sat there with a familiar blankness. He seemed normal; His normal that is.
As the sun bid adieu and the darkness approached, the relief finally arrived. The deafening honk was heard and the scenery changed slowly. We could sense the train picking up pace. The chatters began soon, obviously this time the essence was different. “What a relief. It is so frustrating to sit in the middle of nowhere and be able to do nothing.” “The train is catching speed. We will make up for the delay”. He crossed all limits. He still sat there with the same absolute blankness, the way I first saw Him.
The dinner wasn’t interesting for me; it couldn’t be for I was somewhere else; mentally. He did nothing until then, later He made me think. On one side were we, the ‘sane’ who got curious, impatient and later frustrated about an uncertain happening beyond our control. On the other side was He, who remained unaffected by what was going around Him. On one side were we, the ‘sane’ who got ecstatic at the sight of something favourable. On the other side was He, who still remained unaffected by what was going on around Him.
If all that we could do is act slave to any uncertain happening by losing our composure, the sanity which we boast is nothing but a misnomer. A simple question occurred to me – who here is actually sane? The few hundred odd ‘normal’ intellectuals who made great speculations about the reasons for the halt, who hurled abuses for the delay, who cried in impatience for nothing; the opportunists who were overcome by ecstasy on fulfilment of a negligibly relevant happening? Or Him for the way He was; He is?
We were all happy being sane. He probably experienced an unearthly bliss, for He was no less than a saint. I turned left to catch a sight of Him. For the only time He smiled. He spoke a million words without getting his lips apart.
I sat by the window, basking in my own mediocrity of being a ‘self proclaimed’ sane and acting likewise. The cold December wind ruffled my hair as if sympathising me; and unlike Him, it did bother me. The only star in the sky twinkled as if laughing at our helpless existence. The train didn’t halt anywhere other than where it should, the journey went on, and it goes on; beyond sanity.