The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway. ~Henry Boye
This is a true story and happened about a decade ago.
It was at the Old Delhi Railway Station that Chander had found me. I was returning to Ranchi from Delhi. I had reached the crowded old Delhi railway station at about 6.30 in the evening to catch the Jharkhand Express to Ranchi scheduled to depart at 7:30 pm. I was almost penniless and had bought an unreserved second class ticket in 210 Rupees. It was announced that the train would be departing really late and I was sitting at the platform and killing my time.
At about 11 pm, a child who looked about 8 to 10 years old, hesitatingly approached me. He looked every bit a street urchin — gaunt, worn out, shabbily dressed with swollen lips on an unhappy face.
“Bhaiya, where can I catch the train to Bihar…?” he spoke to me with some difficulty. He looked at me pleadingly and told me in the same breath that he was kidnapped from his village, and had spent many months in Delhi running from pillar to post. He was struggling in speaking and could not coherently communicate details of his ordeal to me but I had got the message. He told me his name—Chander.
I had no concrete plan of action as I had then just crossed my teenage and was not very worldly-wise. I bought him some food and promised to help him in every possible way. We went to platform no. 1 of the station where I reckoned was a police post. I talked to the only constable there and asked him if he could take him and do the needful. He was not moved and asked me to take him with myself. I told him I had no money even for his ticket and he retorted that the TT will understand the situation as I was not the only kind person on earth! I had no further interest in seeking external redressal for Chander.
So by a strange twist of fate it was decided that Chander would be travelling with me in the general bogie of Jharkhand Express. The train departed at about 2 am and fortunately for both of us the general bogie was almost empty and no scrum greeted us as we boarded the train. We spread ourselves majestically on the seats and I thanked my stars for this comfort in the unreserved compartment. We didn’t talk much during the journey and no TT came looking for our tickets. I spent most of my small sum on buying Chander’s food who happily enjoyed the journey in the hope of reuniting with his family somewhere in Bihar.
On reaching the Ranchi railway station I found a police personnel and I explained him the issue. He exhibited mocking disinterest and suggested that I leave the child with him to become his domestic servant or else take him to my home for the same purpose. I didn’t argue with him in anger and hired a rickshaw to my home.
My family welcomed Chander in home. He became one of us in no time. His looks and speech improved with time and he stayed in our home for about three days. With nourishment, Chander was more eloquent and had talked more of his story to my family. He said he belonged to a village named ‘Beldari’ near Gaya in Bihar. My father talked to some neighbours and colleagues about it and various types of suggestions poured in. Most of them said it was praiseworthy and his son deserved a mention in the press and an award by the police. While a few suggested keeping it discreet and adopting a cautious approach as it is a kidnapped child and it may result in investigation and questioning by the police—who, how, where etc. There was some tension in my home as a result of these suggestions.
Finally it was decided that Chander would be taken to his village by my father. My father took him to his village by public bus. We were worried while he was away for a day.
My father narrated the story upon his return. He had first contacted the local police station before entering Chander’s village so that there was no confusion or any issue of mistaken identity. The whole school – swarm of children – where Chander studied had come to see Chander and my father as the news of his return had spread like wildfire in the village. My father was treated like a demigod in the village. The villagers and the poor parents of the child who had spent about 5000 Rupees searching for their child expressed their gratitude for the rescue as they offered him special lunch with puris and home grown parwal ki sabzi. Chander’s parents profusely thanked my father and gave him homegrown parwal as farewell gift.
It had so happened that Chander was kidnapped by some local enemy of his father and forcibly sent away in a passing train. He somehow reached Delhi and fell in bad hands. He did some menial jobs serving under dhabas and hawkers and once heard himself being sold by his hawker to some child trafficking gang. He ran away, caught some train randomly and landed in the old Delhi railway station and ran into yours truly to travel WT (without ticket) safely to his home!
Note: This post has been written in response to Indiblogger’s ‘Around the World with Expedia’ contest.