Rohit was tired after the long journey from the Kashmir border to Srinagar and then to Delhi. He was still in his informal fatigue and wished to catch some sleep before the train reached Gwalior. Luckily he had the window seat to recline. There were still five minutes for the train to start. He stretched his legs and closed his eyes.
“Excuse me. Let me keep my luggage on the loft. These two seats next to you belong to us," an elderly but short man said. His wife who was taller than him was standing beside him with two heavy bags in her hand.
“Let me help you. Give me the boxes and bags,” Rohit said
“Thanks a lot. It would have been anyway difficult for me to reach the loft," he said with a giggle.”We are going up to Bhopal. Are you also travelling to the same place?”
“No, I am travelling up to Gwalior.”
“You seem to be an army man from your dress. My son is also in army in artillery somewhere in Kashmir. He should have been here with us .We have finalized the marriage of his sister. We are going there for that purpose. Other family members and relatives along with my daughter have left by train earlier. My son had sent a message through someone that he cannot come due to exigencies of work and asked us to go ahead with the wedding." the old man spoke nonstop.
"I am sorry to hear that he could not come. What is his name? Any idea where he is presently?"
"Sohan. Unlike me he is a tall chap six foot with curly hair and sharp nose. I don't know the exact place. Some place called Uri or some such name. Would you know him by any chance?"
"Did you say Sohan...Sohan Gupta? Does he have a black mole below his lip on the chin?"
"Yes, right you are..He has the mole and a deep scar on his temple he sustained from injury while playing as a young boy. Do you know him?"
Instead of replying Rohit turned his head towards the window to see the station passing by as the train slowly started moving. The elderly man was waiting eagerly for Rohit to turn back. When he continued to look outside even after the station was left behind, the man coughed gently to draw his attention.
As Rohit paid no heed, the man asked him "You haven't replied whether you know my son. But you were right about the mole on his chin. How is it he could not get leave when you have been given?"
“I don't know him personally. I have seen him in the mess a few times. That was a few months back. I got leave only for a week as my dad is having heart surgery. Sorry, I am very sleepy as I have been traveling," Rohit said and stretched himself on his seat
The man mumbled something to his wife.
Rohit with his eyes closed was recollecting his close friend Sohan telling him about two weeks back how eagerly he was looking forward to attend his sister's marriage as his leave was sanctioned. Thoughts about him and their friendship slowly waned as he dozed off to sleep.
He woke up with a jerk when the man next to him nudged him to inform that the train was entering Gwalior station
“Thanks uncle for waking me up. I was very tired and fell asleep”
“I have one request. When you meet Sohan next, please ask him to write to us. It is nearly a fortnight since we got to hear from him. We are worried at his unusual silence. I am happy to have met you. I shall pray for your dad’s well being,” the man said as he shook his hands.
After getting down, Rohit lingered by the door, where the elderly man stood, till the train slowly departed. Waving his hand at the receding figure, Rohit stood still unable to control the tears from his eyes. He had not the heart to tell Sohan’s parents, especially on the eve of their daughter’s barat, that he was the one who had sent the message about Sohan’s inability to come. How could he tell them that their son was critically injured from a terrorist attack two weeks back and that he is battling for his life? He could only pray for a divine miracle.