The olive green military train carrying the men and material of 5/11 Gurkha Regiment of Indian Army slowly stopped at a railway platform. It’s mid-January and the entire British era railway platform was blanketed in a thick layer of fog. The station surrounded by fields of sugarcane looked mystifying due to reduced visibility up to 4-5 metres. On top of that, the freezing wind! Cold, harsh and dry winter winds with the potential power to slash the hardest human skin and stiffen the strongest bone.
It’s 1:15 PM at my clock as I woke up with a jolt during the sudden halt of my train. I was sleeping on the upper berth of my air-conditioned compartment on my way to Batalik sector in the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir.
The sight of the desolate station prompted me to venture out in the cold, freezing night. A gust of chilled air hit me with ferocity on my face and made my entire body twitched in discomfort. I was standing at the platform number 3 of a station whose name is now, unfortunately, lost my memory.
The platform had an old British-era clocked and a few benches. A 40-watt bulb lit the station in a yellowish tinge, casting ghastly shadows on the platform with no roof shed. I wondered, why my train halted at this barren platform when it’s a straight run from Delhi to Jammu Tawi with few technical stops.
As I was wondering the nature of the sudden halt at an unknown railway platform, I saw a human figure slowly appearing from the thick layer of fog. It’s a woman, she slowly appeared from the mist like a ghost. Clad in a dark red saree with long flowing hair.
At first, I was taken aback. A scantily clad woman standing on the bare platform and that too at such late night hour! Is she a ghost, spirit of some woman with unfulfilled desires or some cursed soul in search of salvation?
The dim glow of the light bulb cast shadows on her face and highlighted the prominent features like her sharp nose, jaw line and her forehead adorned with a bindi. She seemed beautiful, slender and very desirable in a very mysterious manner. I was transfixed by her, wanted to know more about her and could have had a conversation as well, if not for the blowing whistle of my train.
Back in Jammu Tawi next morning, I got involved with my unit and ended up erasing her from my mind, only till the next time…
Ten months later, I was returning to my unit after being decorated with a gallantry award for showing exemplary leadership and courage in a counter-insurgency operation. I embarked on my journey to join my brave comrades in Kashmir. This time, in the month of October with much clear visibility and pleasant weather.
I deliberately decided to travel by a sleeper coach of an express train just enjoy the changing landscape and passing sight of villages, towns, and cities. My train got late and coincidently, stopped at the same railway platform around 2 PM.
Suddenly from my window, I spotted her. The same woman with same red saree, standing at the same location. I jumped on the platform and approach her with full confidence. I saw her face, she was even more beautiful than my imagination. Fair complexion, dark eyelashes, hazel pupils, pink lips, red vermilion, red glass bangles and a beautiful gold necklace dangling from her neck.
I approached her and asked, “Hi! Are you waiting for someone”? She replied in a soft tone, “Yes I am, waiting for my husband”. I was taken aback.
This beautiful lady has a husband. Lucky Chap! I asked her again, “does your husband generally comes at this odd hour”?
She replied promptly, “yes, he left me at this very platform”. Shocked by her cryptic statement, I further prodded, “so, where is he? When will be here and why do you wait for her at such odd time of the night”?
I was greeted by a steely silence followed by tears in her eyes. Her face twitched and revealed a pained emotion which drained the life out of me. She began a steady whimper and looked far-off. Realising my mistake and the awkwardness of the situation.
She composed herself and narrated her story. The woman fell in love with a boy of her village. The families of the couple were against their union, so the duo eloped and married in a temple. Soon, the boy, in search of livelihood, joined the army as a Non-Commissioned Officer. Despite her protest, the lad joined his unit and promised her at the same platform, that he will return soon and meet her at the same spot.
Since then, the woman has received no calls or letters or any information about his husband. She kept coming to Platform 3 every day in hope to find his husband standing and smiling at her. Unfortunately, days passed, weeks passed, months flew by and years moved, but her husband failed to turn up at the platform.
I was shocked and felt deeply sympatric to her. I made a mental note to track her husband back in Kashmir. I climbed my moving train and continued to look at her from the doorway of my compartment. Slowly and steadily, she got engulfed in darkness and engraved herself on my memory.
After returning to Jammu, I initiated an informal query to track the lost guy. I found it out after few weeks of efforts. The lad, part of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, fought bravely in the forest of Doda district and made the supreme sacrifice during a firefight with infiltrators.
His body was never recovered and the Army cremated him in an incognito manner. No medals, no arrears, no compensation came forth for the lad’s wife. The news of his demise never reached the ears of his beloved lover.
I decided to initiate the closure for her and made my arrangements to reach the same railway station. I reached in the morning and asked the station master, a 60-year-old fragile man with a withered look. The man heard my story and said, “My dear friend, you are late by few days. The lady has joined her lover in the other world.” Shocked and confused, I further learned that the woman had colon cancer and she died without any medical attention and in hope of seeing her beloved husband.
My eyes got moistened and I began to choke with emotions. Can someone love so deeply, that they can spend their entire days and nights in wait for their lover! Goodbye, my dear mysterious woman! May you reunite with you love on the other side!