A Short Story
She sat on the last seat of the minibus looking out with glee. Her young mind of 11 years was trying to get as much information as the bus chugged along the highway. She wore that white shirt and black skirt washed and ironed. She had one more in the small bag she carried along with the food for the night.
She did not want to ruin her dress, her first new dress in her life. She proudly sported the name of her school on the shirt. The dress was sponsored by her school, something of a luxury which her small school could rarely afford with the limited government grant. As the bus ran along the highway, she looked at awe at big buildings and the hundred of cars that ran on the road. She looked at the people with their bright clothes walking on the road and also sitting in the big cars.
She had seen nothing like it. Back in the village where she had spent most of her day gathering leaves so that her mother could use it for burning to cook food, this was so enchanting, so much like a dream. She looked around in the bus. Girls of her age, her school looking outside with awe, as happy as they can be. She saw ‘didi’ (elder sister) reading a book in the front seat.
She was her teacher but everybody in the school called her didi. It was a sign or respect, a sign of love but she was too young to understand it. She was happy to learn from her favorite didi who thought her numbers and alphabet. Coming from a family where day to day existence was a struggle in itself, where her older brother had started working before he reached his teens and his father who worked somewhere very far away, her education was a miracle especially when girls rarely went to school in her village.
She looked outside as the cars and trucks sped by and then she saw it. A long big series of metal boxes running parallel to the road.
“Didi” she shouted.
Didi looked back expecting to be the usual fights among girl but was surprised to see her jumping excitedly on her seat. Didi smiled; just like she had smiled when they started the journey. The girls were an excited lot since they left their small hamlet in the morning. She looked at the small girl jumping excitedly on the last seat. More girls joined to look outside.
Didi looked outside to look at what was so exciting. Running parallel to the bus was a long train chugging happily. The small girl rushed to the front.
“Didi! Train” she was shouting excitedly.
“Nice! Isn’t it?” Didi smiled at her.
“Yes! It looks exactly like in the picture, like that picture in the book” Didi just smiled at her.
“Will we ride in that?” She asked excitedly again. All the other girls looked at them, expecting to be a ‘yes’
Didi smiled and took her in her lap. “No dear! We are not going to take a ride in it. Here sit here”
She sat on Didi’s lap holding her hand as the train speeded ahead of the minibus. Didi held her close, her strong hands clutching the frail 11 year old. They did not speak. It was not neccessary to speak. The small girl was smiling stupidly in excitement and the teacher smiled in satisfaction
It felt nice to be part of an excitement. Who knew an ordinary train could bring extraordinary excitement in a small girl’s life.
Sometimes happiness does come in small packages.
Note: Inspired by an article in Rediff. The article described a young girl living in rural Bihar who saw a train first time in her life because the small hamlet where she lived did not have a railway line. What we consider as normal can be a luxury for some.