This took place on a platform last June-in a bustling railway station between Bombay and Poona called Karjat famous for it's vada-pao- an Indian burger- bun with a delicious aloo bonda and green fried chillis optionally sandwiched! No rules really! Like life!

After indecisions and delay I was finally on my way to a forest collective where a bunch of folks were getting ready to do some reforestation work but mostly enjoy the natural beauty without harming it in a place called Vanwadi. From Karjat I had to take a local train to Neral -then a bus to Vaara village by foot.A long journey which I hoped to break by meeting a group coming in from Bombay - I eventually missed them.

In an early morning flurry I had boarded the wrong train from Poona! To my horror I learnt from my elderly retired fellow passenger that the train most probably stopped at Karjat...but MORE possibly at Kalyan! WHAT!? I 'd be stranded in the middle of no where if I had to touch Bombay and travel back the 2 extra hours. It would be late afternoon by the time I'd reach my destination! There'd be no buses plying to the sleepy hamlet.

All the while two boisterous Hindi speaking pan parag chewing young men dressed in fancy gold work and sequins sherwanis listened in.Earliar one of them had tried sitting beside me- changed his mind to go sit on his luggage near the door. I keep running into men who love to sing in public specially when women are within range- I got lucky again! I imagined one to be rather effeminate. The other had a roving eye. By then I had got my sling bag to the corridor near to the exit - this time it was me who was asking for a share of rightful space. No complaints! Why would they complain- I thought - a bit cynically! I didn't look too bad in my faded red kuta or my jeans.

But exteriors are not the best indication of what lies beneath!

They had been listening keenly to my discussion and said, unasked, the train slowed down at Karjat -infact it might stop. I could chance it.

As the station approached there was huge rush - Are you getting off ! Are you staying? Move! Get out of the way! Whew! Insanity for second must have taken hold- I plead guilty.Was it a light headed feeling of wanting to fly- be airborne for one whole second! Who knows!Then someone yelled -it won't stop here! Too late! I saw my baggage flying out in front- and me following- in a split second sprawled on the platform- people running up to where I sat fuzzily.Me dazed smiling foolishly muddy kneed unhurt except an angry red left palm beginning to sweat blood. The light headedness had not left.

Suddenly I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from the train- my sherwani clad friends- one in red the other in gold- besides me."Are you ok, ma'am? We saw you jump You followed us- thinking if they can I can-right!" Smiling at me.There English was not too bad. The mind dwells on such non-essential details at even the worst of times. A faulty machine to depend on ! The jolt had brought a clarity - making me acutely aware how I was a second away from leaving this world for another unknown destination. Heightened awareness follows shock- that's the law, I guess- it's a means of getting high for many who live dangerously on sex , drugs, adventure sports, speed and the traumatic continuum of unhealthy relations.

I shook my head-smiled sheepishly. What do you do they asked me. I had a cloth bag with the logo of an alternate printing house. A journalist? No- I shook my head like a child.I was teaching kids from a Calcutta slum art - I wrote a bit- and now wanted to plant some trees- and that's where I was going. I was a not-quite-post-traumatic 65 kilo baby!

Wow! You do all those things- see! I knew she was a writer!- said RosenC. to GuildenS. Will be a pleasure, Ma'am to help you because you're trying make the world a better place.We'd be helping indirectly, no? I felt moved by their naive faith and admiration- I could be lying after all!-- I felt choked- was I really doing enough? Was I truly as altruistic as that? Is one job really better than another. Especially in this hotly debated subject rediscovered in the last century and rechristened as ecology- there was burgeoning awareness world over- and a self-conscious finikiness among many to be 'seen' or 'heard' at among right groups and people. Using the right nontoxic shampoo or ecofriendly labels are just skimming the surface. The very concept of 'us' and 'them' within the single substratum called homosapiens- be it because of the jokes one cracks or funny accents or whether he puffs Charms or Ecstasy- is unecological.

I guess each one of us are part of the puzzle. And each one had a role. And each one counted. Irrespective of our nine to five jobs.

These two young men were ICICI agents -travelling back from a wedding - on their way to Dombivili.They needed to catch up on sleep and get back to work. They did not have to spend their time leading me across the overbridge or standing in queue. Or their money buying my ticket or buying bandages for my wound. Or crack jokes to put me at ease or lend me their mobile phone to call home or put me in a lady's compartment or wave me good bye like family or old friends do.


If any one can ever get through to a certain Kapil Agarwal at 9323887586. Somehow I never did -it's still in my diary in his hand. Do thank him on my behalf. He probably isn't expecting it though. He didn't seem the sort who catalogued his deeds- specially good deeds.

Posted 7th March 2007