The Flying Queen

Posted on February 3, 2010

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The Flying Queen

It was the month of May in India. The temperature dropped from 95 to 8o degree Fahrenheit at 6pm. The Flying Queen fast train was due to depart from Bombay Central station for the final destination, Surat city, in Gujarat State. The guard blew the whistle and waved the green flag. The engine driver responded by blowing sharp and short whistles twice. Some passengers were hurrying to board the train. There was pushing and swearing amongst the people who tried to enter the compartments not allocated to them. The children were crying. The red turbanwala, porters, carrying trunks and other goods on their heads, were negotiating to seek a room inside a compartment for their clients.

There was nothing new about this sort of mayhem. Then, an inspector grabbed a young person trying to board the train with stolen goods. There was a momentary tussle and suddenly the inspector’s officers pounced on the person. He was asked to produce the ticket and he admitted that he had none. By this time his face had received a few harsh slaps from the officers. The person was escorted towards a room adjoining the main ticket office.

The wheels started their lumbering movements. There was a last minute rush of the water bottle sellers to walk with the moving train. Several hands stuck outside the windows to grab the bottles. Once more the whistle blew hard as the train gathered the speed. The noise of the electrical fans was noticeable. Mothers quietened their children and the passengers settled down to sleep or read papers.

In one compartment the majority of the passengers were students, returning to their towns and villages for the summer vacation. People, who could not find space on the benches, sat on the floor. There was hardly any room for walk in the compartment. Soon the passengers were lulled to sleep by the hot humid air and the rhythmic sways of the train’s movement. Some students began to talk rather loudly about their annual examination papers. One old man who wore the national costume consisting of cotton top, ‘Dhoti’ and a white cap on his head shouted at the students to shut up. They smiled and told the old man not to loose his cool and to go to sleep. The old man called one of the students to go near him. One got up and came and stood in front of the man. The old man said,
“Look, there are people here who seem to be tired and they could do with some rest. It is very hot and the children are unsettled and you people are talking very loudly. Can you not speak with less noise? You boys should learn to respect others. You are from universities aren’t you? Don’t you know what respect is? The boy just stood there for a moment and then joined the others. After a while they spoke quietly.

A seller of spicy ‘Dal’ and onions with lemon juice came inside the compartment from the adjoining carriage. The train was doing some ninety miles per hour speed. As soon as the seller appeared some people began to shout at him saying that he had nerve to enter and sell his stuff when there was no room to manoeuvre. The seller remained cool and smiled at the travellers and said,
“This is my living, please don’t get upset. It is because of you kind people that I am alive today. Please have a pity on me. I promise I will not kick any one as I walk towards the other end of the compartment.”
There was a gentle grumble from some. The seller made a slow but sure move towards the opposite side of the compartment. Then the lights went off. There was a deep moan from all the passengers. The seller stopped near the old man; He was told to stop until the lights came on by the old man. The seller said,
“Uncle, I know what has happened and I could get it working again.”
The old man said,
“Can you really? How you going to fix it? Do you know anything about electricity? All you know is to sell your stuff. You could get killed playing around with the electricity. Just stand here until the lights come on.”
The seller said,
“Uncle, I tell you I can do it. I do it everyday.” The others started laughing. The seller said,
“Uncle, let me try to prove please. Yes, but there will be a condition you have to accept.”

The old man said,
“Go away, you and your condition. You people are nothing but liars and cheats.”

The students requested the old man to allow the seller to do it. They then asked the seller to state his condition. The seller bent down near the old man and said that if he fulfilled his promise all the students would be required to purchase his speciality ‘Dal’. The student and the old man agreed.

The seller left his large basket containing the foodstuff next to the old man. He then went towards the end of the compartment and wriggled out of the window to disappear towards the adjoining compartment. Seconds later the lights came on. There were loud cheers inside the compartment. Soon one saw the re-entry of the seller through the window he used before. Some passengers said loudly,
“Well done brother. How on earth you did that?” The seller said that the student had to purchase the food from him first and then he would disclose his secret. Almost all the travellers in the compartment began to buy the food. With the fans running the hot humid air was circulating now to provide some comfort. Soon the basket was empty and some people asked the seller what he was going to sell next.

Presently, a young boy entered the compartment in the same manner as the seller did. He had a large paper bag which contained the ‘Dal’. The seller smiled and pointing at the boy said that a further supply had arrived. The old man was relishing the ‘Dal’. The students demanded the vendor’s secret.
The seller said,
“It was a simple trick. I just removed the fuse from the next compartment and plugged it into this compartment. Bye for now, and thanks for buying from me. You are so kind.” He quickly got out with his basket and the boy. There was a very loud whistle noise from the engine of the Flying Queen.

O3/02/2010. Ramanlal Morarjee. © Words:-1093.

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