It had been more than an hour since the train had screeched to a halt at the small station. Running out of patience, Aditya got up from his seat to find out the cause for the delay. As he approached the doorway, he noticed it was raining outside.
He went back to his seat and lay down with his bag under his head. Before long, he had drifted off. Suddenly, he was jolted out of sleep by a woman tugging at his sleeve. He sat up and saw a middle-aged woman with a dishevelled appearance and dirty clothes, clutching his handbag in her hand. The train had pulled out of the station and was speeding by then. Aditya, in his sleep, didn’t realise when his handbag had slipped from under his head and fallen to the floor.
He hurriedly took the bag from her to check if his wallet and belongings were in place. As soon as he opened the bag, he was surprised to see his mother’s shawl inside. Everything else in the bag was in order. He took out the shawl and his thoughts drifted to the night before, when he was packing his bags before going to bed. His mother had brought her shawl and had insisted on putting it in his bag. She had said, “If it rains, it may get cold.”
He remembered feeling a bit annoyed and had taken the shawl out of the bag. But it was still with him. “Maa must have kept it back after I had slept off,” he thought to himself.
After a while, when Aditya got up to get some water, he realised his body was burning with fever. Feeling helpless, he called up his mother, “Mom, last night you wanted to give me a pack of medicines…”
Before he could finish, his mother cut in, “Do you have a headache?”
Aditya didn’t want her to worry about his fever, so he said yes.
His mother said, “Take a pill for your headache. I have put it in the front pocket of your handbag. I have also put in medicine for fever, just in case. And eat something. I have packed a sandwich and kept it in your bag.”
He was in awe of his mother’s care and concern. He ate the sandwich, took the medicine and fell asleep in the warmth of his mother’s shawl.
Aditya woke up a few hours later feeling better than before. As he got up to stretch his legs, he noticed a woman sitting near the gangway, cradling a child in her arms. Their worn-out clothes did little to shield them against the cold gusts of wind sweeping in from the open windows. He realised she was the same woman who had woken him earlier to give him back his bag.
Without thinking twice, Aditya took his mother’s shawl and wrapped it around the shivering baby.
He noticed how comfortably the child now slept, wrapped in the love and affection of not one, but two mothers.