I was travelling to TVM a few months back, chugging along in Sabari Express, a book in hand, mind wandering. It was raining, and since I was travelling in sleeper class, I was having a hard time trying to shut the windows to keep the water out. I had got the side berth, and the one opposite mine was empty so far.
When the train reached Coimbatore station, a man got in and occupied the seat in front of mine. A middle-aged man, tall, moustached, wearing a safari suit. When I travel alone, I don’t chat up with any of my co-passengers. I bury myself in a book, or look outside the window (Point #8 under the first heading of this post totally makes sense, you know). I don’t talk to anyone, and if anyone tries to make conversation, I utter a few non-committal words and send clear signals that I’m not interested in talking (which brings me to the question, why oh why have I never had any good-looking, charming guy as a co-passenger? Never happened. Not once.) Unlike my mother. Oh she’s a talker, when she gets onto a train. By the time the train journey is over, not only will she know their names, she will also know their horoscopes, what time they were born, what time their children were born, what course their children are studying, which bench they sit at in class, what colour sari they wore for the wedding, and will suggest names for a child to be born. And the cutest thing is, she’ll come and share all this with the rest of us, very animatedly. :)..
So anyway, back to the person who got in from Coimbatore. He asked me whether the seat was taken, I nodded a no, and looked back quickly down to my book, afraid that a second longer might lead to an unnecessary conversation. After a few minutes, he asked me what I was reading. I showed him the book (I don’t remember what it was). He then asked me what I do.
“I work for GE”. Back to my book.
“Oh really? As what?”
“As a Communication Consultant.” Admire the rain.
“That’s interesting! What do you have to do in your job?”
Ok. Let me take a second here to mention another thing. Being the self-obsessed person that I am, the moment someone starts taking an interest in me and what I do, I will lose all interest in the book.
“ Well, I basically have to deal with all the internal communication happening there. Mailers, posters, presentations, etc.” Standard line that I dish out to everybody.
“Ok. So what did you study?”
I did a monologue for about ten minutes (Ya, turns out, I didn’t have all that much to talk about myself. Sigh…), during which I told him that I studied in HCU, worked in radio , what my hobbies are, and that eventually, I would like to write book.
Then I asked what he does. He told me he’s a DySP with the Tamil Nadu Police, stationed in Salem. Ah, that explains the scary moustache, I thought to myself. We then got to talking. The spotlight shifted from me to him. (Ok, maybe not a spotlight. A tubelight. Fair enough?) I was very interested in knowing about his line of work. We’ve only seen police officers on TV and movies, travelling around in those jeeps with the red light on top, jumping out of it even before it comes to a halt. I almost asked him whether he was carrying a gun as well, then decided not to. So he told me his cases, about the times he has put his life at risk, etc..
He then asked me, whether I’m a Hindu or Christian. I told him that I’m a Hindu. And just to be polite, I asked “What about you?”
“I’m a Hindu too. But I’m a devotee of Jesus. Jesus was there when I needed him the most. There was a point in my life where I feared I had lost everything. My father’s business had failed. My mother was ill. I was not able to get a job. Every avenue was closing its doors on me. Then one day, I decided to end my misery by ending my life. I got into my room one afternoon, closed the door, and tied a rope to the fan. But just as I was about to put the rope around my neck, I fainted. I then had a dream. In my dream, Jesus came to me and told me that he will always be with me, and not to end my life because my family needed me. I had never experienced anything like that before, but I remember waking up a totally different person. I was suddenly filled with hope and optimism. From then on, gradually things started to smooth out. I applied for a police job, i got through, my dad’s business recovered, I was able to support my family. I went to church, and still go, unfailingly every Sunday."
“But didn’t your family not have any problem with it?”
“I met with a lot of opposition from my family because of this. My dad threatened to throw me out of the house. I had to secretively go, and thankfully for me, I got married to somebody who is also a believer in Jesus. Now me, my wife and our two daughters together go to church every Sunday.”
We were silent for a while. I didn’t know what to say. I’ve not been the kind to go to the temple religiously and pray. I used to go during exams and festivals, but now I don’t go on those days too, because I feel it’s like bribing god. I believe in God, I don’t believe in bribing him to get my way. I light the lamp at home everyday, and pray at the wayside temples everyday. Does that make me any less of a believer? Does that put me on God’s black-list? If it did, then I’m afraid, God is no different from humans. Me and Him, we have a different kinda connection.
The train had almost reached Salem. The man got up to leave, and then he said something that really touched me. “God bless you, my child. I have never spoken to anyone about all this. I generally don’t talk to anyone in trains. But somehow, I felt like sharing this with you. It was as though God himself told me to share it with you. May you have a good life, and may you achieve whatever you want to in life.”
I believe that it’s not which god or religion you believe in that matters. You just have to have faith. The college that I studied in was run by Christians, and I often used to go to the chapel. Because it was very peaceful. I used to hear some of my Hindu friends who stayed in the hostel complain, though, about how the nuns used to force them to go to church. Is that how you can get a person to believe in God? By forcing them? I would turn resentful rather than religious, if I was forced to pray. My mother used to chide me for not going to the temple more often, and would drag me along when she went. But now, she basically leaves it to me to decide whether I wish to go or not. And she never had a problem with me going to a church either.
That person was not trying to convert me into Christianity or anything. He was just telling a tale of faith. I could either believe in it, or not believe in it.
I chose to write about it.