Oh Dada

“Oh Dada! Where are you headed? This is a one-way only corridor”

“I am headed to my native place. I believe the train is discharging from that platform?”

“No, no! Where have you been living Dada? That platform has been a ghost platform for two years now! No train has left or entered this place since Babu Ram cursed that track while he bled to death.”

“But I have ticket! Look, here, it reads: ’20:00 Platform 9’. I am looking for The Mail Express. Surprised, no? How can man with bag travel with letters? I have contact. Very good friend. He makes phone call, and bus! Done.”

“Dada-wait, what is your name?”

“Babu Ram”

“Babu Ram!”

“Yes. My grandmother gave. She said I was her little babu and that I will have virtue of Ram.”

“Okay, Babu (you don’t mind if I call you just Babu, right?) somebody has led you a dance. NO train comes here, not even the Mail Express, and even if it did, how would you have got a ticket for an illegal ride?”

“Eh? But look! I have-“

“Yes Babu, I see that piece of paper, but you must understand that in today’s day and age, anybody can make any sort of paper! My own brother showed the lawyer a Will that my father had actually not made, and took away my share of the land.”

“I am beginning to get irritated with you. You are not telling me helpful things.”

“Haha, Babu! Truth is seldom helpful, it seems!”

“Are you going to be telling me Philosophy now? Because let me tell you, I have BA in Philosophy, second class. My friends and relatives come to me when they have problem of existence.”

“No, no, Babu; I don’t give anything but occasional love to the occasional urchin.”

“I have no meaning with your love! I have meaning only with my train! It leaves in one hour! I have to be on it!!”

“Babu, do you know anything about why this track is closed?”

“No, because this track is never closed to me!”

“And why is that?”

“Oh dear. What will I do now? You are beginning debate with me. You say you will not let me through-“

“Because, Babu, there is nothing there!”

“-and if I don’t go through, my train will depart without me.”

“Come, Babu. Sit down. I have some nuts.”

“What will I do with your nuts, eh? I have my own.”

“Without a doubt, but sit down anyway.”

“I am sitting. But only because my shoe is hurting.”

“You should do what I do. I wear my skin. Shoes never were my thing.”

“I am sure that is because your mother did not put good habit in you.”

“My mother did not put anything in me. She died at childbirth. But yes, they never felt that people like me needed shoes. I grew up envying covered feet, but now I’m glad my feet never stink.”

“Are you saying I have smelly feet?”

“No, Babu, why should I pass judgment on your feet? I am just talking. It is not everyday that I get to talk to someone, so when I do, I prolong the conversation as much as I can.”

“Uff, this is too much. I refuse to be your prolonging object. I am getting up, and I am going. I have worked hard all my life, and I have promised to go home with earnings, and now I am.”

“Okay, Babuji, go ahead. I have been guarding this place for two years now, and you are the first man I’ve seen in as much time. So go ahead, if you disbelieve me-OH!”

“There. What did I tell you? Train has come, and now I board it for Native place. Grandmother is waiting.”

“Are you wanting water? You are looking quite ill. Goodbye, I go now. And I like you to call my full name next time. Grandmother called me Babu Ram.”

* * *

This was supposed to be a dialogue-only story, with no narration whatsoever. I debated using a different style, but finally went with this one.

The use of Pidgin English is deliberate; in my own head, I have two parallel speaking systems, both equally dominant. I think I compromise and speak a bit of both.

Koyel Lahiri