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My commute time to work consumes 4 hours of my daily life. You get a whole lot of exposure to different people, who can influence you. It’s a small story of a vegetable seller who showed me, what’s it’s like – “Never giving up“.

I work in US shift from 12:30 – 9:30 PM during daylight savings. Yeah! I catch the last train to my home. It’s regularly late for me. Winter here is charming and chilly for the average people who take out the blankets whenever the temperature falls below 15 ℃.

December 2018! Another year successfully wasted. That’s what it felt like… But not for the guy peacefully sleeping at the corner seat on the train. Looking at his appearance and age (close to 70), I felt bad. I was busy in catching up with the news on my phone. He was wearing a old shirt and sewed up trousers. You can easily tell by looking at the patches on his trouser; were done by him/someone novice in sewing. And it’s not the first day I saw him. He was a regular traveller in the compartment.

He was awaken politely, by one passenger. That’s when I realised that he felt asleep while eating his evening snacks at 11 PM. Yep! Evening snacks at 11 PM. I remember his exact words, “Eat something uncle. How much will you suffer?”. He wakes up, eats a bite, looks out of the window, gives a damn, scolds at the passenger who woke him up and again goes to sleep. I was bit surprised by his rude behaviour. But I definitely understand, what old age is like!

Following that day, I saw that person every night on the same seat and the same position. I thought he is a drunk. But who knew, one day I will feel ashamed on imagining him as a drunk. I work in a MNC, and I like to follow the dress code strictly. Initially I used to get uncanny looks from the fellow passengers, but that person, that old man never gave a damn if I was ever present on the train. Gradually I made acquaintances with fellow passengers.

It was a chilly night and that person was not on the train. I asked a passenger about the old man. “It’s good that person is sick, at least he will sleep at home”, the passenger said to me. I was bit shocked and continued, “Fever”?

“No! It’s his right hand. He had one of the surgery a year back and got infected. But he took too easy on the infection”. I was still catching up with his statement and interrupted, “To be true! I felt bad about that evening when he was adamant and argued with you”.

The passenger (46 and me 30) smiled, and narrated, “He never sleeps. He is a farmer. Wakes up at 6 AM. Packs his vegetables after collecting it from field and carries 85 kg of entire vegetables to the market 45 km from his home. After selling his vegetables, he will go to an office to work as a janitor for 8 hours and catches the last train. After reaching his destination, he will go to the society building to work was a night watchman. Where he might sleep for 2-3 hours and again wakes up at 6 AM. He had two sons. He educated them both. Unfortunately the young son died in drunk and driving incident and the elder son a homeopathy doctor has left his own parents. His wife suffered a heart attack and passed away 7 years back. He got injured severely on his precious right elbow. He got it operated and came to work the next day. But this man will never give up“.

“Education is valueless if there is no ethics and morality. I was introduced to this old man by my father. I have seen this man to work hard for more than 50 years. Saving drops of money to fill up his small glass. But you cannot control your life can you”?

I was a bit taken aback. The silence after the narration was tough to break. I had to get down to my home station. TGIF!!! I looked at the time, 11:45 PM! The weather is now stinging. And I hate the chilly night breeze. I lit up a cigarette. It takes me 10 mins to walk to home from station, but that night was the longest walk.

70! A number. I am pretty sure, I may not survive that long. And there was this old man who was working 3 jobs. At age 70, everyone is enjoying with their grandchildren and there is this man, who works 3 jobs just to survive. At age 70, death visits many places, but not to this old man, who has seen enough. I decided I needed to talk to this guy once.

After many days, after Christmas, I finally got a glimpse of the same man sleeping at the corner. I decided to take the seat opposite him. He woke up at the sneeze of a fellow passenger. It was awkward for me to ask him any question. It would have been a ghost show if I tell a stranger, “I am sorry about your wife”.

He had a wrinkly face and yes, he drools. He stared at me. I stared at him with as much politeness my eyes could provide. I carried this habit for one working week. He got suspicious of my pattern. Can you imagine, getting confronted by an old man at the last train? Seems funny!

Monday, he talked to me. “What do you want”? My instant reply, “I want the window seat”. I know I shouldn’t have said it, but that was the reply of my instinct. He looked at me as a spotter works for a sniper. I decided to get down and go to the next compartment. But he said, “Give me one reason to give you this seat”. And again like an idiot I replied, “I love window seat”. I guess, he had an awesome day, so he didn’t listen to me and said, “Don’t disturb me. I have a night shift”. I replied, “I know”!

That’s it. I have pressed the AZ-5 button (refer to Chernobyl season). I have a very bad experience in comforting the distress.

Prateek Gangopadhyay is from Kolkata, an IT professional and currently works in a renowned MNC. He is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader and likes to play the guitar in his free time.

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June 25, 2020 11:00 pm

Well expressed, keep writing more!