Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Journey

he Egmore railway junction was teeming with people. Madhumathi was catching the night train to Tiruchirapalli. A departing train sounded the horn and the announcer on the public address system cautioned the passengers against thieves.

Madhu walked the platform looking for her coach while trying to manage the olfactory assault on her senses—a pot pourri of smells that was a combination of the stench of urine from the tracks, of fish from large baskets that lay on the side of the platform and body odor of hundreds of sweaty people who walked haphazardly. An eatery made brisk sales of idlies and dosas. A group of eager viewers were watching the news channel on the television that was showing the news about the swamiji and his carnal escapades for the last few hours.

‘Another one bites the dust’ thought Madhu. She was never a believer in God or men who claimed to be one step closer to God. She found her sleeper coach, checked for her name on the reservation chart and located her seat number. Within the next few minutes, she got herself settled in her seat and immersed herself into a book.

The train pulled away from the station.

Madhu did not realize that a man had taken the seat opposite hers. She noticed him only when the ticket inspector interrupted her reading by asking for her ticket. The man sitting opposite her was handsome, in his early thirties, wearing a polo T-shirt, jeans and a musky cologne.

He started the conversation after the ticket inspector left.

“Hi, I am Sridhar. I am assuming you are traveling to Trichy as well. Business?”

“No. I am on a short vacation and visiting my family back at Trichy. I am Madhumathi, by the way.”

She shook his hands.

“I have some business meetings that I must attend tomorrow. It has been a crazy day for me.”

“How so?”

“Haven’t you seen the news? The swamiji scandal…”

“Yes, Sridhar. What about that?”

“You see, I am a news producer and I work for a major news network. We do first class investigative reporting. Our network broke the news on the swamiji and his indiscretions… it has been on the airwaves for the last six hours!”


“Yes. We had been on this case for almost six months and we got a break just a few days ago when we received an anonymous tip. Rest of it is history now. We keep unearthing this string of scandals involving religion and religious figures and it seems to be fertile ground for news stories. First it was that guy who was convicted of murder… Then we had the one who was accused of conspiracy and murder… More recently, we had the priest who was accused of having sex inside the sanctum sanctorum of a temple and now this…”

Madhu stood up to get to the upper berth.

“I don’t believe in godmen. You are doing a good job exposing scoundrels like him before they go around cheating more people.”

Sridhar also stood up. The noise of the electric fan punctuated the momentary silence. She could smell his cologne in the close proximity offered by the aisle.

“Do you want the lower berth? I wouldn’t mind swapping”, said Sridhar.

“Well, thanks for the offer. I prefer the upper berth. Good night!”

Madhu smiled at him for his chivalry and he smiled back. She climbed to the upper berth.

* * *
The train had already reached Trichy Junction and was stationary on the platform. Madhu wiped her eyes and got down. She searched for her footwear under the seat and located the pair.

All other passengers including Sridhar had disembarked. She thought she would at least exchange contacts with him before they went their separate ways. He seemed like a nice guy.

That is when it hit her like a ton of bricks—her two suitcases and handbag were missing! She looked out the window.

The newsstand was open. Swamiji was smiling on the front page of all newspapers.

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. The characters and organizations depicted in this story are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.


  1. Good one. When going by train, i always lock my suitcase to the window with a chain.

  2. U have sent a message of caution during train journeys...a nice blend of reality and fiction..

  3. Nice built up...really captivating story. The climax is really amazing!

  4. Excellent story, short and crisp.. :)

  5. nice read..great..enjoyed it thoroughly


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