Bon Voyage

by: Ishita Bhown

Product Details

ISBN:9789380914695
Price:Rs. 245, $ 1.99
Language:English
Pub Date:Sep 2016
Format:Paperback, eBook
Pages:192
Edition:1
Subject:Fiction & Literature, General
Imprint:GENERAL PRESS

In India, by the time a girl reaches her mid-twenties, speculations about her marriage start taking place. The society takes it as their unasked responsibility to search for her life partner and get her settled.

Kia, the bubbly daughter of Mehta household, was not an exception to this social setup. She had barely completed her first year in the job, when an acquaintance proposed the profile of Nakul- who could be a “perfect match” for Kia.

Things happened sooner than anyone had expected…

The first meeting turned out to be promising. They clicked instantly and within a month, they were an inseparable part of each other’s life. They tied the marital knot and started their new life in London - with just the company of each other, immense trust, and a hope to soak in the joys of matrimony. Love nurtured.
From observing small habits to talking about bigger ambitions, the sweet little nuances of love made a part of their lifestyle. From strangers to life partners- this transformation was quick- but needed a lot of compromises.

From lonely days, to homesick nights, from career depreciation to lack of appreciation -the list of her complaints grew longer. Gradually the compromises became a bone of discontent between them.

Destiny decided to shake their new formed foundation of love and Kia’s decision to return to India played the demon.The testing times had arrived. The tussle between career and love starts.

Long distance relationship for a married couple is different. The challenges that neither of them anticipated mocked their fate.

6 months- a very small period in the long race of life…but the same 6 months which were crucial for the newlywed couple were detrimental for their marriage.

The brawls increased to such a level that Nakul walked out- leaving behind just a good bye note.

Was that note enough to reignite their lost love?

Was it enough to make her realize the blunder she had unknowingly done?

Was Nakul really so hurt, to never look back at the golden period of their life?

Was a phone call with her mother going to be the reason for her divorce? Was Nakul even asking for a divorce?

She knew that they needed another chance- to start afresh.

Was Nakul willing to take that chance?

With a heavy heart, she was set to seek answers to these questions and coincidentally met Sita in the train.

Sita, having seen over 60 years is not just another old lady who has succumbed to fate, but is an epitome of struggle.

She has had her share of good days- but as time changed- her life changed along.

From the luxurious bedroom of her house- to homeless nights on a footpath- she has seen it all.

The wedding vows which they took 40 years ago were long forgotten- had Shankar too forgotten them, or was it her decisions that had sabotaged their marriage?

Had Shankar been over expecting, or was she less supportive?

Was it Shankar’s passion for painting that split their family, or was it her own self-respect that had been shattered by his ruthless allegation?

Had she really been careless and had killed his parents?

Was Shankar a loner, or was she actually the one?

Was bringing Ekansh to the world a mistake? And abandoning him a bigger mistake?

Was leaving Shankar a hasty decision?

Were the 40 years of struggle her punishment for impulsiveness?

Had she been wrong or was she wronged?

Was her present life, with an adopted family really better than a life with her own family?

It was probably too late to answer these questions. But was it late enough to forget the past and start a new journey of life.

Could Shankar see this from over the sky and be happy to see the family which he always hoped to have....

The two ladies- traveling in a same railway coach look back in the past.

Are their stories connected in any way, or is it the destiny that brings them together- as a secret guidance to take the reign of their messed up life.

Does Kia manage to save her marriage?

Does Sita manage to seek redemption from the guilt of ruining her own family life?

Read the story of almost all the Indian youth today- who are caught between the dual responsibilities of family and a career- love and ambition…yet they struggle to find happiness in every day and make the most of it by learning from the experiences of their elders.

I am a writer by choice and an author by chance.

 

A curious reader and an avid scribbler. A confusingly happy soul who derives pleasure from smallest of things. First rain, a child’s innocence, a genuine compliment, unexpected phone call from friends, cool breeze, or at times, even good food is enough to make me smile. Though I work as a full time software engineer, yet I try to live outside the virtual world. I love to explore the real emotions of people around me. I look into things ever so closely and try to weave stories around my observations.

 

My debut novel, ToGetHer , is a tribute to the beautiful feeling of friendship and has been well accepted since 2012.The love of readers is an addiction that has motivated me to continue my companionship with pen and paper. I hope to always keep learning about life and writing about it.

Chapter 1


“Seat number 32. Here! Here’s the berth Aayi!” A heavy suitcase in a tattered state, landed merely inches near my foot, crushing the delicate pair of sandals which I had taken off just a few minutes ago.
Feeling sad for the footwear, I was about to place them at a safer corner when the suitcase was pushed backward, taking my footwear along.
Reflexively, I looked up from the book I had just started reading. A middle aged man, with thick mustache and a pot belly was busy searching for something in his left pocket, while pushing that heavy suitcase under the berth with his foot. I looked at him for a few seconds, but he certainly was in no mood to acknowledge my stare. 
“Bhaiyya, one minute. Let me take out my sandals from under the berth,” I came to the rescue of my newly bought mojari.
“Sure!” The man now bent down and kicked my shoes aside, making space for the heavy suitcase under the lower berth. 
An old lady, in her late 60’s entered the cabin and silently stood behind the man, who was now tying the suitcase to berth with a steel chain. Once done, he handed over the key to the old lady and muttered something in Marathi.
Despite my limited knowledge of the language, it was easy to guess that the man had informed her that now she need not worry about the luggage and could make herself comfortable.
It was a 19 hour long journey, too tiring for even a young person like me. The old lady was bound to feel anxious about the trip. She went through the contents of her hand bag, to recheck if everything was in place. She took out her ticket, a wallet, an old mobile handset, and a dirty red pouch bag.
The man glanced at her re-organising the hand bag and asked if she had enough change to buy for herself during the journey. The lady nodded. To recheck, she took out her wallet again, and started counting the notes of lower denomination – 10, 20, 30, 40… the man lost interest and without a word he moved towards the train gates. The old lady remained unfazed and continued her counting, only in a softer voice, which though was still audible to me. After counting the total of 500 rupees in her wallet, she seemed satisfied and finally zipped the handbag seating herself comfortably at the window seat. She looked out of the train, at the busy station, probably searching for her son.
Our eyes met and she smiled at me – a feeble smile, that exposed her missing teeth. I observed her once again, this time, more closely. Her gray long hair were generously oiled and neatly tied in a bun, a sandalwood tilak adorned her broad forehead and the starched maroon cotton sari draped flawlessly spoke of her decent dressing sense. She had a rich personality, and radiated a particular calm.
“kuhē jāta āhēta?” she asked about my destination, in Marathi.
“Delhi. You?”
“New Delhi,” she replied.
“Aakti challis ka?” she asked, trying to initiate a small talk.
This time my limited Marathi knowledge took the better of me.
“Sorry aunty, I don’t know Marathi,” shamelessly, I excused for my ignorance.
In the past 1 year of my stay in this alien city, I had developed enough patience to deal with this language barrier. Most of the times, I got lucky and the people obliged by translating for me in Hindi; but sometimes, I was treated like a traitor and people preferred to end the discussion on finding out that I did not know their native language.
Language unites people, but it also divides them. In India, a land of over 20 different languages, 700 different dialects and varied cultures, each area is like a newer country in itself – people bond on the basis of their mother tongue and gel over their common cultures.
Indian railways – it is the only platform that brings them all together. Despite being seated on a single berth, you can explore the flavors of entire country in a 48 hour journey. The train travels through a gallery of landscapes, each framed by a window. A light in a house. A distant town. Black oily waters of a river. A menacing hill. A curling road. A railway crossing and the rush of people – each one living a different life. Trains were a perfect destination for the observers and the extroverts.
I was neither of them.
This was my first long duration tryst with the railways. I had never climbed into an overnight train, and had rarely travelled alone. I seldom made small talk, and never began conversations with strangers.
“Are you travelling alone?” she repeated her question, this time in English.
“Yes yes!” I answered, hoping this was a dead end for our conversation.
“Subin! Slow down! Slow down! Else, we’ll leave you at the station,” a loud innocent warning took our attention; followed by a young boy, aged around 6 years entering our cabin.
“Aunty, this is my seat! Daddy, see this aunty is sitting here,” he almost dragged me away from the window, confidently holding my hand – demanding to sit near the window.
I was perplexed. Maybe the kid was much younger than me, yet being called an ‘aunty’ was insulting for any girl in her late twenties. I developed an instant feeling of dislike for the kid – not only because he had addressed me as an ‘aunty’, but also because his tiny yet strong clasp was hurting my hand.
His age had saved him from an instant hostility from my end. Before I could come up with a decent reaction to control this kid, a lady entered the cabin, carrying a heavy bag in one hand, and a water container in another.
“Subin, move aside, make space for this luggage. Fast! Else the train will start moving,” the lady held the boy by his hand, and dragged him to sit on the berth – beside the old lady. I assumed, Subin was the name of this young boy, and the lady appeared to be his mother. I shifted a little, making space for her to put the bags. Her husband entered the cabin, dragging two more suitcases clumsily. He was already panting for breath.
For his meek personality, no doubt the weight was too much of a burden.
I folded my legs, and silently waited for the family to settle down. The lady took the bags and suitcases from her husband – trying to adjust the luggage in the already congested place. After handling the bags to his wife, the husband rushed out of the train, apparently to fetch more pieces of luggage. I looked the watch. It was 3.10 already. The train was to depart in another 5 minutes. Most of the passengers had arrived by now, and were busy settling down for the long journey.
The husband returned with their second lot of luggage – a 10 kg plastic bag of rice, and a jute bag, which looked fully loaded with kitchen products.
Looking at his father, Subin got excited and again started cribbing for the window seat.
“Daddy, I want to sit there,” he said, pointing at me.
I became a bit conscious of his whining. Even before I could react, he got up from the seat, and once again pulled my hand – signaling me to move aside.
I was never very fond of kids, but this boy was starting to get over my nerves. I expected his father to intervene, but he seemed to busy in adjusting the half dozen pieces of luggage they had brought with them.
The father chose to ignore the boy, and I was left with no option than fancying his demand.
I faked a smile, and moved aside – “You can sit here,” I said, trying to sound like a sacrificing adult. Though, mentally I felt irritated by the nonchalance of his parents.
The father now looked at me, and then talked to his son – “You made didi get up from her seat, without saying thank you. That’s bad!” Subin jeered shamelessly.
“It’s okay,” I said, trying to reduce the awkwardness.
“This boy is a spoilt brat. He always manages to get what he wants – by hook or by crook,” the father boasted about his son – to no one in particular.
I did not fail to notice the proud expressions on Subin’s face. A mysterious naughty smile popped on his innocent face, which made him look so cute that I almost forgot about my irritation. 
“Aayi, paani ghe?” I noticed that the mustached man was back, with a bottle of packaged water in one hand and eyes still glued to his mobile screen.
The old lady silently took the water bottle, and put it inside her hand bag, which was still on her lap. The man then looked at the watch, thought for a moment, and decided to bid good bye to his mother.
“I will call you from time to time. Take care and don’t forget your medicines,” the man reminded his mother, in Marathi. The old lady nodded.
“Call me whenever you feel like returning. Do not hesitate at all. I will inform them about your safe departure,” the man added, while bending down to touch her feet. 
The lady nodded again. I noticed a slight change in her expressions, when her son touched her feet. With moist eyes, she took a deep breath before touching his head to offer a blessing.
Goodbyes are usually difficult. Genuine love is often seen during farewell and not during weddings, they say.
“Dhyaan rakhna sabka,” the lady blessed the man, trying to not give way to tears and disgrace herself.
Just then a young girl entered the cabin. “Mummy, this is seat 38. You were searching for it, right?” a very cute girl, pointed at the seat tag nervously. 
“Yes Jhanvi, stand there. Mummy will join you in a minute after paying the coolie uncle,” an adult voice called from behind.
“Ok Mummy,” the girl stood there, as instructed.
Within a few seconds, another lady in her late twenties entered the cabin, dragging a big black sky bag suitcase.
The lady looked around, under the berths, only to discover that there was no free space left for her suitcase. 
“There’s no space here, you can keep your suitcase that side,” Subin’s father directed the lady.
“Yeah, but where will the people of that berth keep their luggage then?” The lady looked confused.
“First come, first serve. Let’s hope they don’t have any luggage,” the guy smirked.
Though the lady did not seem convinced, but she had no other option. Her heavy suitcase was blocking the narrow passage, since the train was about to depart in a few minutes, the rush of passengers had suddenly increased. A small queue of other passengers had formed because of her. She lifted the side lower berth up, and put all her efforts to stow the heavy suitcase under it.