A Memorable Train Journey: A Story by Dr. Lalita Vaitheeswaran

Bhola and Lakshmi had got their railway tickets booked in the sleeper class. It was after five years that they were going home to celebrate Chatth Pooja in their hometown in Bihar with their family.

With little Pooja in her arms, Lakshmi climbed up the stairs of the train compartment with aching arms and a bleeding heart with Bhola lugging in an old suitcase and a tattered kit bag from behind her.

As they both figured out their seats, they tried to settle themselves looking forward to meeting their family the next day.

Lakshmi’s eyes had become dry and sore after that dastardly incident five years ago. Not a day passed without crying.


How happily they had gone to the fair in Ghaziabad where Bhola had got a new job in a garment factory. Sumit, their six-year-old son was insisting ongoing on the giant wheel.

As they bought tickets for the ride, and were about to enter the gate, there was a ruckus and loud voices. A gunshot was heard and people started running hither and thither. Little Sumit pulled his fingers off Lakshmi’s hand in the melee’ that followed and disappeared in the darkness. Distraught Bhola and Lakshmi ran around looking for Sumit but everyone seemed to be running aimlessly to save his life.

The police station was already choked with people who were bleeding, gasping, crying, shouting after the fracas that had ensued. Somehow Sumit’s missing complaint could be lodged with difficulty.

Days and months with no news of Sumit. Both Bhola and Lakshmi were inconsolable but surrendered to fate.

Four years passed and Lakshmi gave birth to Pooja. Even if they say time heals it could not for the couple.

“If he had died that day we would’ve accepted the bad fate….but where did he go suddenly?’’ Bhola would cry often

The train whistled and started chugging.

Chai Chai…..Pakode……cutlet…….the vendors were busy

A boy in tatters almost smeared in soot and grease came in ….’shoe polish……shoe polish …..’

Maa ji……ma ji……shoe polish

Lakshmi looked at him………and started shouting

Sumit…….my sumit…… Bablu……….

Bhola came down from the upper berth and before he could understand, he saw Lakshmi holding the boy close and throwing rapid-fire questions.

Sumit shared that he remembered being separated from his family during a shootout in a town. He was carried away by a group of the angry mob and dumped elsewhere. A  cobbler took him home and fed him after making him labor for the whole day. He taught him the trade and now it’s been a year that he travels in trains.

Lakshmi showed him her picture holding him when he was six.

They got down in the next station, with Sumit, and headed straight to the police station to claim custody on their lost son who had been found.

They all cried and mentioned ‘what a memorable train journey this!’