Updated: Jul 18, 2020
The low orange orb cast a knowing glow as I clung to the carriage roof vent with the fourth class flotsam.
Hummm, dum-dum-dum, hummm, dum-dum-dum the train rumbled forward and my thoughts drifted to the path of my life.
She was down there. I could see her silhouette, cast by the low winter sun, rippling over the buildings and banks as our metal steed galloped South across the miles. My own private cinema with a cast of two perfectly framed in the carriage window. I could see her shadow, head resting on forearms as she gazed out at the landscape before her; new husband sitting back, distant.
My rooftop companions noticed my fascination with the scene before me and one asked.
‘Brother, you gaze so intently what do you see?’
‘Do you see the girl leaning on her forearms? She is my master’s only daughter. A daughter he doted on and whom he was forced to marry off too early to satisfy a terrible debt. The man sitting back from her is her new husband, he is older and I fear there is no love between them and only a life of service ahead for her.’
‘But why do you care brother?’
‘Ahh... it is a matter of honour. Her father was very kind to me. He took me in, a poor Kashmiri boy, when no one else would. He clothed and fed me and even gave me a little education. Perhaps he had a premonition of our future paths. I will never know. I swore that day that I would repay the debt someday. The family has been brought low and now I am the only guardian she has.’
‘So you perch up here, just watching and waiting? I think the sun has got to you my friend.’
‘I sit up here because she has no one else and because as her father watched over me, I must now watch over her.’
It was then that I caught the wisp of conversation from the vent I clung to and I listened intently, matching the voices to the silhouettes rippling past.
“I mean about Maths and Physics.”
“You will learn how much flour to use for the perfect jupatis and how hot the stove must be, this will be your Maths and Physics.”
“My father wanted more for me, he wanted me to learn from books.”
My heart wept for her. This fine, elegant creature destined for a life of service. I could tell by her voice her heart was broken.
Nimbly I rose, made my excuses and slid down the gap between the carriages and before any conductor could stop me, hid in the toilet and waited. In just a few minutes my vigil was rewarded and she slipped past. I followed. Bowing low before her, my hand held in devotion against my heart.
If she was surprised to see her childhood playmate before her, she did not show it. I simply said.
“It will all be all right in the end. And, if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”
I silently praised The Prophet for allowing my path to finally place me in position to begin repaying my debt. I asked just one question.
“Sister… with me?”
Maths and Physics.
Beauty and Grace.
Honour and Service.
As the train slowed for the river bridge, she released the door handle and we were gone.