It was a chilly winter and I was preparing for the next day. I was supposed to board the express train which was to reach Darjeeling, but luck wasn’t on my side as I was late waking up that day. So, I decided to take a different route. I just had to take a few local trains and hopefully, I would catch the express train. At least that’s what I believed.
So I hastened to the local train station with my luggage, which consisted of a briefcase and a shoulder bag. After getting my ticket I waited for the train to arrive. It was delayed by a few minutes, without wasting any more time I boarded the train and sat on an empty seat by the window. It was foggy and was hard to see anything outside the glass windows, other than the red and orange lights.
The train engine started and I dozed off slowly. I wasn’t much worried about missing the express train since I was pretty confident that I would be able to catch it in time. But things didn’t look too good when I woke up. By the time I was awake, there was hardly any people on board, and the fog outside had grown way thicker than before. I was not sure where I was, and I was uncertain if I had missed the stop that I was about to get.
Without wasting any more time I got off at the next stop and tried to locate where I was. It was a tiny platform and there were only two tea stalls. By then I had realized that it was too late and that, I missed the stop which I needed to take in order to catch the express train.
It was freezing and I needed something hot. I looked over at the tea stall near me and without giving it a second thought I asked for a cup of hot tea. A local girl with shabby torn clothes handed me a warm cup. After taking a sip, I was amazed at how good that tasted. With every sip, I began to think. I wondered how that girl can stand such cold in that outfit she was wearing. I looked at her, her face was dry and her lips were cracked and she was handing out little teacups.
I asked for another cup and asked her if she knew the name of the train station I was in. After knowing the name I was surprised that I never heard the name before. Even though I travel so much, that train station was unknown to me. I asked her again if she owns the tea stall, to which she denied. According to her, that stall belonged to her mother who was sick and was not able to come, so she was filling in for her. Her voice was dried and her cheeks were red. It was easy to assume that she was cold herself, which was no surprise since she had nothing on her but a plain old dress.
She broke the silence asking if I had gotten off on the wrong stoppage, to which I agreed. Suddenly she started coughing and I suggested her to drink some tea. She looked too feeble to even stand and I saw her taking a seat. There was no other customer so I thought that it would be alright if she goes back home and takes the day off. Before pouring a fresh cup for her, I hung my overcoat on her shoulders. She needed it more than I did.
I asked her where her home was and I asked her to let me walk her there. After walking for about half an hour I saw an old crooked house covered in weed and grass. I took her through the main door which didn’t even had a lock. After she went in, she asked me if I’d like some water. Even after denying she brought me a glass of water and some cookies which according to her were baked by her mother. I was astonished by her kindness, it was obvious that the family wasn’t doing very well and on top of that, I was sure that she had a fever. Her hospitality to a stranger like me was unexpected.
She even introduced me to her sickly mother who couldn’t get out of her bed but asked me to feel at home as if I was some guest. I was overpowered by their kindness. Later, I helped the girl with cooking and after everyone was done with the food and the dishes it was time for me to leave. Both the daughter and her mother were sick and I asked them to take care of themselves. It was a day which was hard to forget and that platform became my weekend spot. Every weekend I went to visit them, it was like a family. It was a kind of happiness that I cannot explain.
Later I found out that her father died in an accident and her mother had to take on all the responsibilities. With time, that local girl and I became close and today, I’m glad that I missed the platform which let me to her. I still have trouble waking up in time, and the tea from her stall is something unforgettable. I’m glad that I got off on the wrong train station.