Train Friends

Shivani Salil posted under Flash Fiction QuinTale-03 on 2018-11-28

She hopped on to the local just in the nick of time. Office hours were going crazy with the new projects rolling in. Antara loved her job but the odd hours scared her. Her colleagues' reassurances about Mumbai being safe and all did little to assuage her fears. Somehow the small-town girl’s fears were not easy to overcome.

The compartment had a handful of people which was just getting sparser with every passing station. Her destination was still a few stops away when she saw him looking menacingly, or at least that's what she felt, at her. She averted her gaze and fished in her purse for the phone. Talking to someone would help but she just couldn't locate her phone. The cavernous hand bag had swallowed it or what. She recalled the phone was in her hand when she ran to catch the train but whether it made to the bag is what she didn't remember. Now she was agitated, what with a potential molester and the loss of her lifeline. 

She was ready to burst into tears had it not been a public place. Gazing blankly, averting those tears, she saw a gentle old lady at the far end of the compartment, smiling beatifically at her. She couldn't help but acknowledge it. What made her get up and sit next to her, she didn't know. It wasn't as if the old lady would fight away her demons. Turned out that she worked in a bank near Antara’s office but was delayed today as she was meeting some ‘train friends’ after work. This term intrigued Antara but apparently everyone who travelled by train seemed to have a bunch of them. As one thing led to another, they started talking and realized they lived not very far from each other. Before they departed, Aunty mentioned that she took the second ladies’ compartment of the 7.42 local every morning. Antara didn't have a fixed train but the warmth of a conversation and the human interface made her take the same next morning. To her surprise, she heard her name from amid a cacophony and realized it was Aunty and her train friends. She beckoned and Antara was drawn towards them. As aunty introduced her to the gang, a tiffin found its way into her hands. There was laughter, food, conversation flying everywhere. The bonhomie just warmed the cockles of her heart.

It became a wonderful routine as she looked forward to getting on the train every day to feel welcomed and wanted. This rag tag bunch of females of all ages and professions had nothing in common except the 7.42 local, and were now her lifeline. As she got off at her workplace waving them good bye, she couldn't help telling herself, the night I lost my phone, I found my ‘train friends’.