(Author – Soma Vyas)
It was one of those hot, humid summer days when you wish that you never came out of the shower!!! And yet here I was; totally drenched in my own sweat with one bag in each hand, running hard to catch the train along with my father. So you could imagine my sense of greatest satisfaction to get the window seat of an utterly packed sleeper class coach… priceless!! Both of us took a sigh of relief and smiled at each other as this was one of the most awaited times of my student life ….a real two month time of summer vacation at home with my parents!! I cherished every moment spent with them …. And so the long 36 hr. journey began!
I love traveling in sleeper class in India as it is so full of life and is abuzz with activities…there is not a single dull moment. So many different people, so many different voices, noises, discussions about everything from politics to cricket from neighborhood to different continents , sometimes you make such good friends and sometime you bang your head with critics …. It’s all there!! But the best part were hawkers with different food items ….And from here my pampering started which would last for the two months of summer vacation …I felt special!!
Soon it started getting dark so I stopped staring out of window which was my favorite time pass in this long train journey and started unpacking our food. As soon as we finished our dinner, I started feeling very tired and sleepy … it was indeed a long day!! I couldn’t imagine how tiring it was for my father at the age of 70 and in such a hot weather so I was surprised to see him reading a book. I knew he always read before he slept….”Don’t read for too long, you must be so tired … sleep early.” I told him before climbing to my berth and as usual he gave me one of his warm smiles.
I slept like a log!! It was already half past nine when I got up and checked my watch. Strangely my father also didn’t wake me up though he was an early riser. “Papaji you didn’t wake me …rest of my words trailed away as soon as I saw my father still lying on his berth with half-opened eyes, looking very tired. I immediately climbed down with concern and touched his shoulder gently, “Are you all right?” …..and he woke up with a start. “What happened?” “Why are you looking so tired?” Are you in pain?” I kept asking question after question till he signaled me with his hands that everything is all right. Then he asked me if there is a girl sleeping on the side berth. I nodded affirmatively with confusion creeping in as what that girl has to do with his condition. Finally, he started telling me in a slow, deep voice as what happened the previous night. It seemed that girl was traveling alone and was sleeping peacefully on the berth next to us. As soon as my father was about to sleep he noticed a shady kind of character was standing near her berth. After observing for some time my father realized that this person was trying to touch her inappropriately and had ill intentions. He also realized that the coach was empty by now; so before the things got out of control, he decided to intervene. He quickly switched on the lights and sat bolt upright in his seat staring directly at the stranger. After some time that guy started becoming uncomfortable and soon moved from there, maybe out of the coach but my father didn’t want to take any chances so he kept the vigilance. It was only after the sun came up and morning activities started then he got relaxed and lied down. Listening to this simple act of responsibility, kindness and prompt action was an awakening. How a simple man by a simple action can make a significant difference in someone’s life ….I witnessed that day!!
I was just marveling on this fact when I saw that girl climbing down from her berth … totally unaware of the fact that while she was sleeping so peacefully… there was this silent angel who was watching over her. I felt a tear trickled down my cheeks that I am so blessed to have such an angel in my life who sees a daughter in every girl.
“Beti chai logi?” I heard my father’s voice offering tea to her which she accepted warmly. I was itching to tell her about the previous night but one look from my father and I knew that he doesn’t want her to feel awkward or embarrassed in front of us. Soon her station came and before getting down she thanked my father,” Uncle, you paid for my tea, I owe you ”.
Little did she know that he not only saved her a petty amount of money but he actually saved her honor…… little did she know!!
Ps: It’s almost 2 years since you left us and not a single day went when I didn’t remember you in my day-to-day life, in the small simple acts by which you taught me that it doesn’t take much to be human …I will always try to follow your footsteps father …you will always be my silent angel!!
Special Note: Based on a real life incident.