The Nameless Hero

My sister and I always take the train from Bombay to Pune. Most of the time we board the general compartment because it’s extremely difficult to get reservations last minute. We always reach an hour early so that we get a seat. Last Sunday like always we took the Pragati Express which leaves at 4.30pm from Bombay. We reached there early enough to get place to sit.

The general compartment of any of the Bombay- Pune trains is an extremely crowded place. The compartment in it’s real capacity can accommodate only 200 people, but that’s never the case. There are at least 400 people on board. Half of them doing the 3 hour journey ,standing all the way. There are men,women and children of all ages. There is hardly any place to move. In such a crowded bogie there is a constant flow of men selling toys,food,drinks,accessories,etc. There are beggars, blind men singing, cleaners and so on. I am always amazed by the Indians way of accommodating and adjusting. A general compartment is a great demonstration of both these qualities.

Though there are people from all classes both of us have never felt unsafe or in danger of any kind. Though there are 400 people, it is quite peaceful always. Though in this particular journey we had a little different experience.  Fifteen minutes into the journey and the compartment was already full. We didn’t even realise how and when a 60 year old guy wearing a black coat with Shivaji’s photo on it pushed through people to come and stand right in front of my seat. I sat at the window, my sister next to me and a guy may be in his 30s besides her.

” I’m keeping my bags here madam, don’t mind.” the old man said keeping his bags besides my  legs. The moment he spoke I could smell alcohol and I knew that things could get a little difficult. I whispered to my sister to be careful. He was constantly talking to himself and peeking into my sisters mobile screen. After half an hour or so the guy next to my sister got up for a minute to fetch a bottle of water. The drunk old man tried to push himself through the guy , to get to sit next to my sister. My sister and I shouted at him, and the guy sitting next to us pushed him aside. ” kya kar rahe ho uncle? Mien sirf pani leneke liye utha tha. Aapko dikh raha nahi hai  yahan pe ladkiyan baithi hain! ” I personally wanted to kick him right in the middle of his legs, My sister told me to keep calm. I did. We couldn’t push him aside, there wasn’t any place.  It was so crowded that all we could do was to face the drunk man the best way possible.

After this both of us were tense. The drunk man was constantly chattering in English with his wobbly tongue. ” One has to adjust. I’m senior citizen. I’m proud to be Maharashtrian. Jai shivaji! Why she keeping her purse on seat? She should keep me. Seat is for people not purse.”  At this the man sitting opposite to us started laughing. ” What you laughing like foolish? Shivaji is watching, he is watching.” he said pointing at the Shivaji photo on his coat. The old man was constantly swaying , almost falling over us. The guy next to us sensed that there was no point shouting at him. He looked at my really worried sister and said, ” Don’t worry I’m here. He won’t do anything.” My sister nodded. While the rest of the men in the bogie were busy laughing and drinking their chai this guy did something that took me by surprise.

He looked at the drunk man, and said, ” Uncle, aap ek kaam karo aap idhar aake khade raho.” The guy spread his legs a little, pulled the old man and made him stand sideways between them. Then he tightened his grip with his legs and put a hand around his waist to stop him from swaying forward.  I looked at the guy and he smiled at me. I smiled back.

The guy held this man the same way throughout the journey. The drunk man kept blabbering and talking nonsense. But he soon realised that he had to shut up and this guy would not let him move. I could see the guy getting tired or trying very hard to fight his sleep. But he just did not let go of him, not till the end. We had to get down at Shivaji Nagar. We prepared to get up. As soon as we got up the guy pushed the old drunk man on the seat. I did hear a ” hush” from the guy. It must have been an effort to hold a smelly, constantly talking , weighing over a 60 kg man in a firm grip for 2 and a half hours.

We looked at the guy and said thank you almost simultaneously. ” For what?” he asked. ” For holding a man by his waist, for 2 and half hours. You must be tired. I heard a sigh of relief the moment you pushed him on the seat. “
“Oh! That. That was because I just really wanted to pee!” He laughed and rushed to the toilet. Both me and my sister laughed.

In all the rush of getting down I forgot to ask him his name. Being a hero is not about looking good, or wearing a spiderman suit or killing 20 people at once. It is about doing the right thing. To have the courage, the presence of mind to think wisely in a tense situation. It is also about holding a 60 year old drunk man by his waist for two and a half hours so that the two women sitting next to you can feel safe. Finally it is about doing all this not because Shivaji is watching but because you feel a moral obligation to protect women from irresponsible men.

I might not know his name but for both my sister and me the nameless guy is, a hero. I will never forget him.

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