[Short Story] “A Train of Inspiration”

Phoolguri was drenched in monsoon rains. The furious wet winds had hit this lost corner that hid under a veil of invisibility. Struggling through the windy rain and darkness of the late evening, Jadhav was inspecting the railway line bisecting the road at Phoolguri railway crossing. Walking through muddy puddles of rain in his rubber boots, he flashed the torch at the far end of the railway line. Once left and once towards right. On the left, the rails ran between a hilly gorge and towards right it pierced through a jungle of tall parallel trees. Jadhav assured himself that the lines were clear and no animals from the forest reserve were strolling around.

Despite  his zeal for duty, he knew  that rarely would a train pass this crossing. The railway line went tangentially across the Phoolguri reserve forest, and hence the government decided to divert traffic from this line. Mostly freight trains that are rerouted pass by. At the middle of nowhere was Jadhav’s cabin guarding the railway crossing. The nearest hamlet was atleast six miles away. The road cutting across the rails was a detour from the main highway. Even the forest officials had abandoned the road for all practical purposes. The road was mostly used by campers and trekkers to reach the Boropukhuri lake at the heart of the forest. Thus the route was infamous for timber smugglers. Despite the low relative significance of both the road and the railway line, the crossing was alive on government documents. It was soulfully alive before the highway was built; when it was used by British officials to transport timber and military equipment. It was this heritage that Jadhav was guarding or perhaps preserving.

Jadhav was all alone, at Phoolguri and in life, but he was fearless. He had fought greater horrors in life, the horror of poverty. He was twenty one years old and a new recruit in railway gateman staff. Phoolguri was his first appointment, which explained his enthusiasm for work. He entered his cabin, opened his raincoat and boots doused in mud. He had arranged a charcoal heater to warm himself inside the cabin. His lone companion in this wilderness was his transistor radio, that he had bought with his first salary. The music on the radio was dueling with the sounds of thunder. Yet the song playing on the transistor was successful in setting a mood of calm within this storm; both internal and the external . Wet and cold, he sat near the heater to warm himself up. Besides his official register, Jadhav kept his red notebook and an inexpensive blue ball point pen . A notebook to fulfill his thirst for poetry. He was an avid poet during his early years of college , an unusual habit to expect from a college dropout. His dropping out of college was not a result of poverty of intelligence but lack of money and a conspiracy of misfortune. Nevertheless he tried to keep his hobby alive but in this race for a job and livelihood, his notebook was left empty. He had lost his touch with creative romance. To rejuvenate his dormant poet, he had brought the red notebook with him. But he was struggling to write, he was waiting for his train of inspiration to arrive.


The weight of his thoughts was heavy on his eyelids, which were about to close into the depths of sleep. But the thunder ensured that he jumped up to his senses once in a while. “Hello? Is there anyone?” This time his sleep broke with a knock on his cabin door and a soft feminine voice. It was unusual and unexpected for Jadhav. Cautiously with precautionary footsteps he opened the door. Infront of him stood a young women wrapped in a wet raincoat, holding a blue umbrella. Her hair was soaked in rain and drops of water flowing through her forehead reaching the tip of her nose. In a blink of an eye, a droplet jumped from the cliff of her nose and landed on the lips.

” I am a trekker, lost my way, my friends are searching for me, no network, please help!” Before he could ask, she vomited a string of words, hoping Jadhav would understand. Unlike expected, confused Jadhav replied with a rhetorical ” What? Who are you?”

“I am a trekker!”

“Then why are you here?” Jadhav still suspicious and struggling to articulate a logical question.

” I got lost on our way back and can’t find my friends now. Its raining, can you please help?”

Jadhav seemed convinced by her explanation or perhaps her beauty. ” Come in!”

She stepped inside leaving distinct muddy footsteps with her boots . ” Please remove your shoes outside! ” The words came out harsher than he intended inside his mind. More than scared, she was embarrassed . ” I am so sorry! “. ” Leave the umbrella and raincoat in the porch” he added.


The warmth of the charcoal heater had grown into warmth of amiability between Jadhav and his unexpected guest. Yet his lips shying away from starting a conversation.

“Ma’am do you feel better now? I hope your friends will find you here.”

She smiled and said ” That’s the third time you have addressed me as ma’am. It makes me feel old, like almost hundred years”

“Ma’am, it is out of hundred years worth of respect and not your age. You are young as the first blossom of spring orchid, I won’t commit the sin of calling you old.” Jadhav’s witty reply was unexpected both for him and the lady.

“You sure know how to juggle with words”

“Sure, I do !” Jadhav replied. “Since I trek mountains of thought, alone all night”. He joked expecting laughter. Instead she replied with a mischievous grin and pointed at the notebook.

” Is that red notebook a memoir of your thought voyages? “

“A poetic aspirant but haven’t written anything yet. It is blank like my motivation” he replied

She had touched a sour spot. ” You seem to be rough on yourself”

“Life has been harsher”

“Explain?” She took a pause and added “If you want to”

” I feel I am over ambitious compared to the life I am born into”

“What makes you feel so?”

He replied “Poets may become poor, but a poor never becomes a poet”

“That’s absurd ! ” She burst into laughter. Jadhav felt embarrassed and perhaps a whistle of anger at her rude laugh.

” I am so sorry! I shouldn’t …”

“It’s ok”

” So you want to be a poet”

“Um mm maybe. But I definitely wish to study and complete my graduation.”

“What is stopping you then?” She asked.

“Circumstances! ” Jadhav’s reply had a grey of grief , a sigh of dejection. “I was already in final year of college but my father’s illness, my mother’s death and sister’s education ; I feel trapped within the responsibilities I never volunteered for.”

” I won’t pretend that I understand you but I will hope that you are able to sort your issues.” She was a pragmatic lady, disassociated from misleading with the falsehood of hope. “But distance education is an option. Enroll yourself in an open university course.”

“Easier said than done”

“Well, that’s up to you” She stood up and stretched her hand to reach out for the notebook.”Let me solve your poetic motivation problem first”. She took the ball point pen and neatly opened the first page to write. Meanwhile Jadhav kept silently admiring her beautiful handwriting and his heart beating to the rhythm of her words. The wide loop of her ‘y’, the perfect symmetry of ‘o’ and the dreamy dot over her ‘i’. She was all over his mind, body and soul.

“I took a peek inside your mind,
I saw a paradise
a floral bed of thoughts
upon which, oozing nectar of artistry.
Yet it is shadowed under a rainy cloud
I wish to poke it.
Let it burst, rain over your abstractions;
make them rejuvenate into fresh life.
There is a melody,
blowing down from the hills
like a cold winter breeze.
But it is deflected back,
by the rigidity of your heart.
Let it sway your soul, your reason and you.


“If suddenly one day, you are visited by your future self, what do you expect him to tell you? The successes or the failures? The good moments or the tragedies of your future? “

Jadhav was taken aback by the question. “What? Umm I don’t know”

“I just wanted to know, what do you feel about it?”

” I would definitely want him to tell me the good parts of my life” Jadhav replied.

“But he would probably travel back in time because he would want to warn you about the misfortunes of future.” Her words had a faint gloomy pessimism.

“I would probably never want to know my future. “

“Your curiosity will drag you to it anyway”

He thought for a moment and then replied with a pause. “I believe it is better to not know about somethings. We are all in a mad rush to know and understand everything, predict the future, analyze our present and dig out our pasts. Science and all ! “

“Each one of us are born into a metaphorical dark room and we are trying to find our way out. As we live in the darkness we look around for light and the instinct to survive leads us to search and explore. To find our answers” She had the look of wisdom on her face. Jadhav was the seeker searching for his answers in it.

Beep ! Beep!

“Must be them! ” She stood up in haste and rushed towards the door.

A honking blue Omni van stood waiting on the wet road. Dispersed raindrops visible through the beam of its headlights. Inside sat two men, one perhaps bleeding.

“Where were you ? Get in the van!” yelled the driver. And within minutes, before Jadhav could understand and react she was on the van, diminishing into the dark road. He wished that she would turn back and bid goodbye; she didn’t. He wished to capture the image of her face onto his mind; he couldn’t. She was lost as a mystery.


“Jadhav! O Jadhav! ” A loud voice and a gentle shake on the back woke Jadhav from his sleep. His eyes opened to a huge round belly standing infront of him. It was forester Pegu in his shabby khaki uniform.

“Do you have a cigarette?”

“No, I don’t smoke” Jadhav replied rubbing his eyes.

“Sseh! ” Pegu exclaimed in disappointment.

“What brings you here Pegu da?”

“I was passing by; so just stopped to ask you for a cigarette. ” Pegu replied.


“Don’t sleep too much on duty. Aren’t you supposed to guard the crossing?”

“Yes Sir!” Jadhav replied with a bit of embarrassment on his face.

“Timber smugglers were seen inside the forest yesterday night. You better stay awake boy! ” Pegu gave a sarcastic grin. “By the way, did you notice anyone pass by this road yesterday ?”

“No” Jadhav’s reply was quick and out of reflex, without his conscious thought but self aware that he was lying. He just didn’t know why. “Any suspects? Have you found them?”

“So far none but we are investigating. Can’t tell you more. ” With these words Pegu left but leaving Jadhav alone to fight a battle of denial. “She can’t be a smuggler! She was too pretty for that.” Jadhav tried to convince himself as he watched Pegu’s jeep drive into the wild. He stood by the cabin door for a while, recollecting the events and playing the detective inside his mind. Now in retrospective the lady and the two other guys didn’t seem like trekkers to Jadhav anymore. “She didn’t have any trekking gear. She had no backpack, neither her shoes were meant for hiking or trekking.” He was getting assured with every little detail. “Moreover I didn’t see the blue van go inside the forest through this road or did they enter through the highway entrance?”

Jadhav was stuck inside a whirlwind of emotional conflict. He wished that his inferences were wrong. “She didn’t seem like a smuggler” He kept telling himself. His battle was against the mighty truth. But truth always triumphs even at the cost of emotional bloodshed.


It was noon. The sun was shining bright, but the trees were still wet after the night’s rain. Just like Jadhav, who wasn’t able to forget her after last night. But more than anything it was a sense of betrayal that seemed to occupy his mind. Pegu was returning from the forest. Jadhav waved at him and asked to stop. Pegu yelled from behind the steering wheel ” Yes? Anything important?”

“I had to tell you something. It’s about the timber smugglers”

“Ok wait” Pegu parked his jeep on the other side of the road , switched off the engine and carrying the weight of his huge belly got down from the jeep. He looked towards his left and right before crossing the road; a road where rarely a vehicle seem to pass by. He had a noisy breathe , giving the impression that he was exhausted.

“You said earlier that you saw noone”

“But I did. I forgot to tell you ” Jadhav replied.


“A lady and two other men”

“Can you identify them?”

“I don’t remember clearly their faces. I seem to have forgotten” Jadhav was finding it difficult to explain.

“Anything else you noticed?” Pegu enquired.

“She was beautiful! ”

“Haha! Then how did you forget such a pretty face my boy?” Pegu laughed.

“I don’t know, it was so unexpected that it seems like a dream now”

“Ok noted, anything else? We came to know that they were probably chased by some elephants” Pegu added.

“Yes! One of the men, he was probably bleeding. But since they were inside the van, I couldn’t see” Jadhav replied.

“Van? What kind of van?”

“A blue Omni van” Jadhav replied. “Wait! I think the lady left her raincoat and umbrella. ”

“Where? Here at the cabin?” Pegu jumped up in excitement.

“Yes on the porch!”

Both quickly ran outside to look for the raincoat and umbrella but found nothing.

“There is nothing here”

“But she left it here. I clearly remember.” Jadhav replied as he kept looking all around outside the cabin.

“She must have taken it with her” Pegu suggested.

“No she got into the van without her raincoat. I remember” Suddenly Jadhav remembered his red notebook.”She has left a note on my notebook too”

“Note?” Pegu seemed confused now.

“Come inside, Let me show you” Jadhav went to grab his red notebook, still neatly kept next to his office register. “Here, have a look!” He gave it to Pegu.

Pegu turned the pages; twice to assure himself.

“But it’s blank Jadhav!”

It was empty, just like Jadhav’s claims of meeting the lady. Pegu was left puzzled but Jadhav had found his truth. For him life has never been this clear. All his answers , he had found them within himself. They were with him all the time, it was all in his mind. The whistle of his train of inspiration broke the silence in the cabin.

There is a melody,
blowing down from the hills
like a cold winter breeze.
But it is deflected back,
by the rigidity of your heart.
Let it sway your soul, your reason and you.


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