I remembered Abba’s Nina Pretty Balerina’s lines, that goes thus : “Everyday in the morning on her way to the office you can see her as she catches the train – Just a face among a million faces – just another woman with no name ” – whenever I saw her. She was there, on the dot, at 08.30 a.m., for the morning train. She wouldn’t smile, but she always wore a pleasant face. Some days she would look at me directly, just an acknowledgement; just to let me know that she knew I was looking at her. After all, all of us boarding the train were strangers, and it was just the half an hour train journey that
acquainted us to each other.
She must be in her mid fifties, but could pass off as a lady in her thirties if one doesn’t look very carefully. Her maroon coloured round bindi matched her round face. All the days that I saw her, she was almost always impeccably dressed. I don’t know where she worked, but I knew that she was someone important, wherever she worked.
Just once, she spoke to me, to find out whether a particular local train had gone. Otherwise, we shared no more a relationship than the fact that both of us were co-passengers who traveled in the same train to our respective offices. Both of us boarded the train at the same station, and both of us got down at the same station. But the minute we get down, the milling crowds will see to it that we lose sight of each other in seconds.
I was no sauve gentleman, not impeccably dressed, not handsome, not very modern, or very “fashionable” either – I was just a worker in the huge concrete building that overlooked the Railway station. But I had one thing in common with that lady. I too, was always punctual like her – it was the local train that sometimes mocked at our punctuality and delayed us on our way to the office. But The daily routine of
train commute to office, had a set of people, friends, strangers and acquaintances, and she was there amongst them.
Until one day, I did not see her. Or the day after. Or the next day. I surmised that she must have taken ill or must be on leave for some reason. And then I saw it – a small picture of her in the local newspaper – yes, there was a name on it – born on a particular date, and died on a particular date – the date of death matched the day I
missed seeing her the first day. The obituary was inserted by her family, which thanked her for being in their lives, and for being there for many others. I wondered whether she would have ever mentioned about me, or any other commuter for that matter, to her
Since I did not know her personally, I did not grieve – but since she was a co-passenger who shared the same train commute and was part and parcel of the group of people who made “MY” train commute, I felt sad that her pleasant face would not greet me, even if unsmiling, from now on. Would I miss her? To this question, my rational and reasoning mind was telling me, “How can you miss her? She was JUST a passenger who shared your commute! And besides, you don’t even know her!” But my heart was telling me, “What if she was JUST a passenger? She WAS human, just as you, and you know she acknowledged you. Remember the time she almost smiled? Remember the time she asked you whether the train had passed?” The heart has its own reasoning, justifying the emotional bonding, the occasional teardrop, the affectionate (construed) glance. The heart, in its eagerness for justification, may find reasons where none existed, and I was aware of that.
Excusing myself from both my mind and my heart, I sought solace within my soul, and it was then, that realisation dawned….We come into someone’s life, just as a train commuter, and get out just like a train commuter – But the journey of life, goes on. Whether we miss someone or not, should NOT be our worry. And whether someone misses us or not, should NOT be our worry either. But we should NOT miss being there, when we SHOULD be there….
To end the story :- the daily commute continued mechanically, and none seem to have noticed, nor seemed concerned, that one person was less, that one person was missing, that one person who made up the commute, was not there. It was, business, as usual….