Having worked in this place for more than five decades, Sridhar found it very difficult to leave it. He hated the fact that he would not come to this place the next morning. He could not think of a life beyond this place where all trains stop for a while and many dreams take off in the form of wonderful journeys. He has seen many things happen in the course of his life. He loved the sound of the approaching trains. He loved the sight of empty railway station in the mornings and late in the evenings. Earlier in his career, he would climb the stairs up to the second floor to see the happy image of an approaching train and would wait until it left to catch a glimpse.
Later, he saw the expressions of people getting ready for the trains. When there was a huge cyclone and all trains were cancelled, he had to ensure that people felt safe in the platforms. He had to face the heat of the distressed travelers. Most of them thanked him when the train came as they liked his hospitality.
Sridhar joined as a junior executive and grew up the ranks as a Station Master by taking control of all the activities in the Railway Station. He felt proud the day he was promoted ten years ago. He did his job with aplomb and received many awards for handling things efficiently. He loved his job because he loved the trains and anything to do with trains.
Coincidentally, he met his wife on one of the trips. Once, when he had to go to Delhi for some training, he traveled alone and met Shalini on the train. It was a long journey of twenty four hours. Though he did not get a chance to talk to Shalini during that time, he made friends with her family and they were pretty impressed with him. Within a few weeks, her parents came and spoke to his parents and they were married. Shalini also told him that she loved trains and enjoyed journeys. Though his job did not involve much of traveling, he traveled with Shalini and his kids whenever he got an opportunity.
Raju is the elder son. Hema is the younger daughter. Raju resembles his mother. Sridhar is not sure about Hema’s resemblance as he is the foster father. One night, he found a baby wrapped in a cloth on a lone chair at the east end of the platform. The child started crying as soon as the sun’s rays hit her early in the morning. Sridhar tried to search for the mother everywhere in the platform. He also sent people to search for details about recent deliveries in nearby hospitals. He could not find any information. Sridhar did not know what do with the child. He did not like the idea of handing over the little girl to the authorities. But, he thought he had no other choice.
When his wife, Shalini, came to get him lunch that afternoon, she saw the kid. When the baby would not stop crying, Shalini sang a song for her and the baby felt warm and slept on Shalini’s lap. Raju was already three years old and doctors told them that they had no chance of having another kid. Sridhar realized that his was a gift from God and immediately adopted the little girl and named her Hema.
When Hema reached twelve years old, Sridhar told her that she was not their daughter and that they found her in the station. Though Hema was disappointed initially, she accepted the fact. She wanted to try searching for her parents, but had no idea as there were no clues.
Sridhar recollected the fact that Hema is grown up and has her own kid. He looked up at the sky and thanked God once again for sending him across an angel.
Raju and Hema were the best of siblings. They never fought with each other unlike other kids. Raju took care of her every time. Fortunately, Hema found a good guy as her life partner. Vasant is a smart man with a noble heart. Though he was very intelligent and had the qualifications to earn more, Vasant preferred to work for a non-profit organization.
Sridhar wondered how his life revolved around trains and this railway station. He thanked God once again for giving him the idea of adopting Hema.
After walking through the platform and greeting all the people he has known over the years, he felt nostalgic and did not want to leave the place. He wanted to be young once again and start his job in this Railway Station. He had many more plans for this place in the forthcoming years. Suddenly, he realized it made no sense to worry about things. He did not like the idea of not coming to the train station. He decided to travel more often with his wife from the next week. He was pretty sure he would be depressed if he had to stay at home for long.
As he went back to his cabin to pack his stuff and leave for the day, he heard a knock on the door. An old couple walked in.
The old man must be of the same age as Sridhar. The man asked him about some of the trains that would go to Bangalore this evening. Sridhar wondered why he preferred to ask him when there was an information counter at the main door.
The man and his wife went out. For a moment, Sridhar caught a glimpse of the old man and his facial features. His heart skipped a beat. He could not believe what he found. He immediately took out his mobile phone. He felt glad his son gifted him this smart phone and scanned all the photos from their childhood albums. When he scanned through the photos, he saw a picture of Hema when she was ill and became very thin. Sridhar looked up at the old man and noticed that he had the same features as Hema. After having seen so many people regularly in the station, Sridhar was confident of his abilities. There were many instances in his career when he found missing kids in this station based on the features of the parents.
Sridhar immediately sent a message to his son-in-law, Vasant. He said, “Can you come to the station immediately with Hema and your son? It’s an emergency. Everything’s fine here. But, I want both of you here.’
Outside, the old couple were hesitating about something. It was so obvious from their expressions. Sridhar walked to the door with his water bottle trying to overhear their conversation.
The wife said, “Please ask him. He must be knowing something. Or, at least he must guide us to someone who knows something.”
The husband said, “I’m not sure. I was about to ask him. But, it has been twenty six years. Do you think the same set of people will be around? It all seems so dicey. I’m not sure if your uncle told us the truth. We’ve already asked the cops in this station many times. But, they had no answer.”
Sridhar understood the situation.
The wife agreed to what the husband had to say. They seemed to be educated and the kind of husband and wife who preferred to agree more and argue less with each other. Sridhar wished he and Shalini were like that.
It started raining outside. Sridhar could see anxiety in the eyes of the old woman. As Sridhar expected, she started crying.
Sridhar shouted at the old man. He said, “It’s raining and cold outside. Why don’t you both come and sit inside?”
The man thanked him and they came in and sat in the waiting chairs.
Sridhar opened one of the drawers in his table. He took an old bag. Within the bag, there was a towel and a handkerchief. He took them and walked towards the couple. The woman recognized the towel. She knew she wrapped her daughter in that towel that night.
The man and his wife started crying. They wanted to ask many questions. But, they were busy hugging the towel and the handkerchief. The woman kept kissing the towel.
Hema walked in at the same moment with her son. As soon as she saw an old man and woman with the towel, she realized what was happening. She did not go forward to them. She walked to Sridhar and sighed at him asking him if it was true. They had this communication.
The old woman recognized Hema as soon as she walked in. She could not believe her eyes. She continued crying and there was some happiness in her sorrow after so many years. Her husband did not get it initially.
Sridhar held Hema’s hands and took her to the old man.
The old couple and Hema cried for a few minutes. They had no words to speak. Sridhar felt bad that a kid had to introduce herself to her parents after so many years. She said, “My name is Hema.”
Hema’s husband, Vasant, was watching everything and he could not control his tears.
Sridhar left all of them alone and walked out. He looked at the sky and thanked God for letting him fulfill this one last wish. His daughter always asked Sridhar to find her real parents.