Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A story worth telling

I was travelling to Chennai by train in a third class compartment. There were six of us – me, one uncle and four aunties. We silently stared at each other till it was time to eat, during which I made some small talk to break the staring match, and then we ran out of things to talk about so we sat and stared again till it was time for us to put up the beds and go to sleep. I was on the upper berth, much to my relief, and I gladly made my escape.

I climbed up the iron rails and heaved myself onto the berth, when suddenly I felt something cold on my arm. I looked down, and to my horror, my left arm was covered in blood, which was steadily dripping onto the blue leather. I instinctively covered my hand before opposite Uncle could see it and make a fuss. I tried to discreetly slink (well, I don’t think I can slink with my bulk, but I tried) down to see what had happened, while trying to casually retrieve a piece of cloth from my bag at the same time. Unfortunately, I was right under Uncle’s nose and he saw some blood drip from my arm. I smiled wanly at him, while he exclaimed loudly,

“OMG! You are hurt! How did that happen! OMG! Blood is coming!”

“Er, yes, Uncle, it’s nothing, not even hurting, see I’ve got some tissue...”, I said, desperately hoping to get him to lower his volume.

Meanwhile, Aunty in opposite middle berth saw what was happening, and springing up (banging her head on the upper berth in the process), started fumbling about in her handbag which she was clutching:

“Oh beta how did you hurt yourself! Wait put some cream to stop the bleeding! Tie a handkerchief round your hand! Let us ask for the first-aid box!”

And then she said this..

“Oh no beta, I only have Fair and Lovely! Will that help?”

I smiled at her and said it was really okay, and that the bleeding would stop soon. Except it didn’t.

I inched closer to the edge of the berth and noticed a large nail sticking out of the side. So that was the culprit! I examined the wound again, wondering if there were chances of an infection, wishing everyone would shut up and go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, everyone in my compartment was up, and before more suggestions were made, I asked one of the Aunties for talcum powder. Opposite Uncle suddenly looked excited and said he had a small dabba of talcum powder in his shaving kit. He scrambled down the berth, looking very pleased to be of help, switched on all the lights, pulled out a large suitcase from underneath the lower berth, and proceeded to unpack. I didn’t protest, feeling a bit silly, a bit guilty. He pulled out a bag, from inside which emerged a pouch. He unzipped it and handed me a small Ponds talcum powder dabba triumphantly. I put some on the wound, tied it up with my stole, and thanked him relievedly. I switched off the lights before any further ado and the night went on peacefully.

I went to Pondy after that, where I spent a lovely weekend playing music and watching crocodiles with the boy. I had a waitlisted ticket for my journey back to Hyderabad on the same train. My mother was travelling on the train too – both of us were in separate coaches. At the last minute, my ticket was confirmed and to my surprise, it was the same berth and compartment as it was on my onward journey. I went to my mother’s place and gave her company for some time. I told her the story of how I hurt my arm, and she said, “Of course you’re going to look out this time, considering you know there may be something on that berth that can hurt you.” We had dinner and I left back to my coach.

I held on to the ladder rails and hurriedly climbed up (I was afraid I might step on lower berth Aunty’s toes), when I felt something cold on my left arm. I looked down, and my worst suspicions had come true. I had done it again! A symmetrical, deep cut now dripped blood, just below the previous wound. I messaged my mother, who came to my berth, did some first aid and rubbed the embarrassment in.

After some time, the attender came to my berth with a giant pair of pliers, asking where this nail was. This was my mother’s doing. He yanked at the nail and pulled it out, thus ending the story.

It’s been over three years since this happened, and I still have two scars just below my elbow on my left arm. They look like they’re going to stay.

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