The doors shut, and the surging crowd pushed Ram into a corner of the compartment. The train was packed. He took in a deep breath. And smelt Dior. Mesmerised, he hunted for its owner. There she was, standing next to him, a voluptuous nymph, clutching a red leather handbag. A long gold chain plunged down her neckline, bearing tiny letters in rubies, “Tina”.
She pulled a pink journal from her bag, and jotted something. “You can’t write much on a moving train!”, Ram said, to break the ice. She glared. He flashed a charming smile. Her luscious lips, painted in soft hues of pink, returned his smile and she looked down. Ram looked away. Then, she looked up. And their eyes met, more than once.
The compartment was cramped. A baby started crying. The mother, a rather plump, but pleasant-faced woman tried to pacify the child. “Don’t cry, Darling. We’ll reach soon!”.
Tina tried to concentrate, but the baby’s cries pierced through the compartment. She raised her manicured hand and delicately massaged her temples.
As if to distract herself, she suddenly turned towards Ram and said “I’m an events manager..”. Ram nodded, surprised.
“You know, Jo, the famous actress, is having her first baby-shower ? I’m organizing it!”.
“There’s so much to do! Look at this list!”, she continued excitedly, and showed him the journal.
“Interesting”, said Ram, surprised to see the words sprawled haphazardly, in big, childish letters.
“Its a wonderful event for a woman…” she turned the gilt-edged page…”I’ve even designed Jo’s outfit. Isn’t my drawing beautiful?”
The baby in the compartment wailed. Tina shut her ears. “Babies are such a pain, aren’t they?!”, she whispered loud enough for the mother to able to hear.
“I mean, they just cry all the time. And the dowdy-looking mother! Can’t she tell the kid to shut up?!”
Ram shifted uncomfortably, and looked apologetically towards the mother. And angrily at Tina.
“What?! Its true. Children are demons!”, Tina scowled, looking more ugly than he could imagine.
The mother seemed oblivious to Tina’s rude comments. She lifted her baby out of the pram and rocked gently, until the sobs receded. The baby smiled, a lovely dimple forming in each cheek. The mother smiled back and kissed her forehead.
“Phew!”, said Tina, and resumed her monologue. She wrote down something on a page, tore it out, and pushed it into Ram’s hand. “Call me sometime!”, she said, with a feminine tilt of her head.
Ram looked confused, then slowly crumpled the sheet and pushed it back into her hands.
“Tina, your journal’s attractive .. Only on the outside”.
He looked away, towards the mother and child.
The next stop arrived. The mother pushed the pram towards Ram.
Ram put his arm protectively over her and said “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you when our baby was crying, Meera. I just couldn’t move through the crowd!”
And they made their way out.