“Parashuram express?” Phalgunan woke up from his dream when he heard it out of the blue. He had forgotten about the existence of such a day train that travels across Kerala from Mangalore to Trivandrum. The Train that changed his life for ever. It has been years and Phalgunan has become Phalgu to the truncated world but he still remembered the countless long journeys in the train traveling to trissur and kochi and then returning back to Calicut in the executive that runs back in the evenings.
It has been twenty years, and it interesting to hear someone speak of ‘Parashuram express’ in a cheap coffee joint oceans away from Kerala. But the guy did not sound to be a Malayalee, must have studied somewhere in Kerala.
“May be Calicut, would it be REC?” He wondered immediately jumping into some fond memories of life; friends, politics and college. His thoughts were cut short when the name of ‘Parashuram Express’ came up again. He leaned backwards so he can hear better.
Some guy is with some friend of his to whom he is detailing how he met someone in the Parashuram express.
“Meeting someone in the train. What do I have to remember about Parashuram express?” He knew there was something special in his life too, just can’t remember. Not the countless travels, not the snacks on the way, the delays, no, something else, something more pretty, sweet and beautiful.
He moved through time, walking through the compartments in the train that ran across time, years and stations in his life. He looked around and saw nothing but unknown blank faces that never looked back at him.
Then he stopped, in front of someone as she turned to him and stared “yes” he remembered “1995, November”, she was there, she was there” that life changing trip to Kochi.
He had known it the moment he saw her, this was the girl he wanted, he knew it in that first look. But she was with her dad. He tried hard to stand there and get her attention, but could not. He was such a weakling at that time to take a step and get introduced that was his biggest mistake.
“If only I had asked her, followed her, maybe I would have been able to tell, even married her and had kids with her.” He would not have been sitting single and having coffee in this restaurant eves dropping on the neighboring table. He even knew her name, had heard her dad call her… “what was it…?” He tried hard to remember
“Sunanda” Said the guy and Phalgu almost jumped out of his seat. To avoid attention he blowed hard on the hot coffee indicate what made him jump up, but eagerly continued to drop an ear on the other table.
“Yes Sunanda; that was her name” He thought. “But how does this guy know, who is he, it must be someone else they are talking about, how many Sunanda’s would have travelled in Parashuram since it started” But he wanted to know more.
“So you met her in Prashuram?” The friend asked
“Yes, it was fun” The Guy said “I was on my way to Kochi as usual and she was there sitting with her Dad. I still remember, there was also one other guy there eyeing her” The guy laughed
“I was worried he would make the first pass, but he chickened out and walked forward after a few attempts to get her attention” The friend laughed at hearing that
“When was this?”
“1995, November 5th, I still remember” The Guy said “It was raining heavily that day”
“1995 Nov 5th? Raining?” His heart started beating so fast that he felt it would stop before the guy’s Parashuram express reaches the Shoranur stop. “It must be her; how can so many Sunanda’s travel in the same month. it is his Sunanda, the scoundrel, how dare he?”
“Then what did you do?” The friend asked and again interrupted his thoughts of her
“She must have got in a few stops before, she still had a few rain drops sliding from her long hair and onto her cheeks, she looked real pretty”
“Leave the explanations there, it will take you to your old times and that can be dangerous, tell me more on how you met?” said the Friend.
“What a Jerk? Does not want to hear about her beauty?” But Phalgu was thankful to the friend in one way “thanks Dude” He thought “You stopped him from praising her with his foul mouth”
“Well it was quite simple” The Guy said. “When the moron in front of me moved forward I was able step into his place” The Guy then stopped for a moment “I think he helped in a way” The Guy smiled “Not him but something he dropped, a hundred rupee note” the guy laughed
“You bastard, so you picked it, Do you have any idea what I went through that day? My whole life would have been different, Even Sunanda would have been mine” He felt he would turn and strangle the guy
“I took the Note and asked her Dad if it was his” The Guy laughed and continued “I knew it was not his, but you know Sunanda’s Dad; and a hundred bucks was enough to do the trick” The Guy laughed again shamelessly and continued
“He thanked me and said he had forgotten to keep it in his purse and gave me a little space to rest my ass as well” Both the Guy and his friends laughed out loud
“Bastard, it was my hundred Rupee note, you scoundrels” He was boiling as his coffee got colder and before he could act a sweet voice stopped time from moving
“Are you guys talking about me?”
“Hey Sunanda; yes in fact we were talking about you” the guy said
“Sunanda? Sunanda? My Sunanda, My dearest” He felt as if his life would end there.
“So what were you asking him” She asked
“Nothing, I was asking him how he had met you” the Friend said “And he was telling about the hundred Rupee note and how he connected with your Dad”
“Did he say about my Dad?” asked Sunanda “You must have said bad And that too to my husband?”
“Husband? Who is the Husband? Aha, you scoundrel, so you too never got her and you sit and blow your horn” He was relieved that competition had lost but still broken in pieces “Sunanda, how could you”
“I am sorry Sunanda” The Guy Laughed again “I was just being honest on how I met you all”
“Did you also tell him about the poor guy whose hundred Rupee note you stole?” Sunanda asked sounding as if she was feeling bad
“It was me Sunanda, your Phalgu, it was my hundred Rupee note my dearest “ Phalgu wished he could turn aside and tell her that, but he kept quite.
“Anyway one day I will meet him and repay him” Said Sunanda, “I have faith, you have no idea what he must have gone through” She said
“You are right? Sunanda, I had to beg on MG road to get back to Calicut, Sunanda, my dearest, you would not have married anyone else if you had known how losing that hundred rupee note changed your Phalgu’s life”
“Yes, Yes, you should if you meet him” The guy laughed more viciously now “but you are free to repay me, because if your Dad had not taken it I would have pocketed it” The Guy laughed wickedly
“You Bastard, I was going to forgive you but you are a bigger scoundrel than I thought, you deserve to be hanged” Phalgu bit his lips.
“Okay here you go” said Sunanda “This is a Hundred Dollar Bill factoring the inflation. And I want my Dad cleared of all his doings. I am transferring the repercussions of the ill doing to you”
“No Sunanda No” He wanted to turn around and stop but he could not move an inch as the Guys voice again pierced his ears and heart
“I will take it, A Hundred Dollar Bill will never hurt and I can buy myself out of any repercussions” The guy mocked her accent.
“You Jerk, you are now profiting on my hard earned money and making fun of her, you bastard” He then took the fork in his hand and tightened his grip.
“It’s getting late” said the friend; no sunanda’s husband “We need to pick our little ones”
“Little ones? Sunanda, how can you, what have you done?” Phalgu was in tears thinking about the kids that could have been his; only if he had the guts that day to pursue her, Only if he had one more Hundred Rupee note that day.
“Yes sure folks” The guy said and they all got up. Phalgu wanted to turn and look at them but he could not.
“Thanks for the money” said the guy
“Be sure you pay him back if you ever meet him” replied Sunanda
“sure sure….” The guy roared
They started walking in the opposite direction and as the footsteps got far enough Phalgu turned and looked at them. Sunanda holding her husband’s hand and the guy, the jerk acting like a clown walking with them.
“Sunanda, my dearest, I forgive myself for not having taken that step, I also don’t have anything against you and your husband. I was weak at that time, but now I am not” He thought in his mind and took the fork in his hand and slowly walked after them.
“But I will not forgive this guy for mocking you, It was my Sunanda and it was my hundred Rupee Note, Now it is not my Sunanda and I can live with it but it sure is my Hundred Dollar bill now” Phalgu was transforming back to Phalgunan and retracing his steps to twenty years ago walking back in the compartment of the same Parashuram express, he was ready to avenge for everything he had lost and gained…