I was one of the Calcutta-bound passengers in the two-tier sleeper coach of the Madras-Howrah Mail. Soon after the TTE checked my ticket I slept on the lower berth. When the train screeched to a halt around 6.30 next morning I got up, opened the glass pane of the window and looked at the platform.It was Vijayawada Junction. The platform was bustling with hectic activity and hawkers were selling a variety of items to cater to the needs of those in the train. I received a cup of steaming hot coffee from a member of the Railway catering services and was sipping it by degrees when the sight of a handcart carrying books, magazines and newspapers coming towards our compartment caught my eye. Quickly I pulled out my favourite daily from the cart and paid its paltry price to the vendor.
After a cursory glance at the topical news items in the front page, I began leafing through the rest. With a sensational news item in one of the middle pages drawing my quick attention I began poring over it. Soon the train started chugging out of the platform. A few minutes after I began reading the paper I observed the guy on the opposite berth sneaking a glance at the pages exposed to his view by tilting his neck from side to side, probably straining his jugular veins. Moved with pity I detached the first three sheets and handed them to him knitting my eyebrows in a frown. Exhibiting a smirk on his mug, he received them and started reading the papers. Within a short while I observed another passenger seated next to him borrowing some of the sheets from him, the gesture getting up my nose.
A little after my lunch I asked the chap to return to me the sheets of the paper I had given him for reading. Looking around the berth he gathered the sheets lying strewn with the pages cramped and the edges crispate and soiled. As he was holding it out to me without even a word or expression of thanks slipping out of his lips, I was loath to receive it back from him. When I told him to have it for himself he readily accepted it with a sheepish simper flickering in his mush. The experience taught me never to lend newspapers to my co-passengers before reading them completely.
H NARAYANAN Email: email@example.com