This was a journey in which I experienced only sorrow throughout.
I was travelling from Bombay to Delhi in a train many years ago. The cloudy atmosphere outside the train added more gloom to my grief caused by my losing one of my favourite brothers elder to me by several years close to a father figure. To my surprise a matronly looking woman and a puny fragile old man seated right in front of mine seemed to be in mourning too.
The two of them made such a depressing sight that I wanted to look away from them with a handkerchief held to her eyes, she sobbed intermittently, while the old man beside her had moist eyes. Even though I felt like avoiding looking at them, I could not resist seeing her face again and again; she was a splitting image of one of my close college friends with whom I had unfortunately lost touch with for quite a few years.
I thought it would be unnatural if I did not ask my co-passenger what made her uncontrollably sad. I brought myself to enquire sympathetically about the cause for her bitter crying.
In reply what I got to know was that she had lost her only sibling eight years younger than her just a few days ago when death descended on her in the form of a cardiac arrest. She was fit and had no history of any cardiac problem. She was a brilliant student, was holding a high post in the educational field and was doing her doctorate. She endeared herself to one and all by her warm and friendly nature.
“Even though she was so much younger than me she was of such a caring nature that she was like a guardian angel to me and looked after my aged father (sitting beside me) who had single-handedly brought the two of us following the death of my mother, in an exemplary manner, fully repaying the debt of filial gratitude. She did not bother to marry one of the reasons for opting to remain single was her worry for her father and me feeling lonely. I am a spinster, not by choice.”
Proceeding further in her tearful narration she told me with what flying colours she had passed out in her post graduation from the Bombay School of Economics and Sociology. At this moment I intuitively asked her the year in which she finished her the year in which she finished her post graduation. When I heard the year of her passing out, which was the same as mine, I at once connected the striking resemblance on t of this lady to my friend. “So, you are Kanta’s sister!” I exclaimed tears welling in my eyes at the thought of my dear friend’s demise.
“Arre, how do you know my sister’s name?” She questioned me, her melancholy expression momentarily changing one of intense surprise. “How can I forget her name since we were studying in the same class for M.A in Sociology for two years during which we grew very fond of each other? My name is Girija” I told her. “Oh, I remember her mentioning your name while talking about her classmates.”
Kanta’s sister sympathized with my bereavement. We were sailing the same boat, hence we could plumb the depth of each other’s sorrow. But her sorrow was much deeper. She had no sibling, no mother, had a decrepit old and ailing father who had of late turned somewhat of a recluse and not the least important factor, she was a spinster perhaps destined to remain single because of her age. In contrast, I had so many elder brothers and had a small happy family, living a normal life. She had little to look forward to. Loneliness loomed large before her.
She once again lost control of her emotions when she told me her father and she were going to Haridwar to immerse her sister’s mortal remains.
The journey came to an end. But a longer more arduous journey-of life-lay ahead. It had to be traversed bearing the void in our hearts with stoical resignation.