Thursday, July 03, 2008

Was I Duped ?

1980--Old Delhi Railway Station-- As I got down from the train and started walking towards the exit, i saw this man peeping into different compartments, as if looking for someone. That is the most common sight at any railway station and i did not pay much heed to him until he crossed me once again and passed a smile. At the exit gate of the station i again noticed him, who was looking at the passengers eagerly as if trying to locate some one in the crowd. He once again gave me a longer than required glance and smiled. I felt a little uncomfortable because he was a total stranger to me. I attributed his smile to the fact we both were wearing turbans in that crowd of unfamiliar faces. (I used to support a turban those days, until i got a haircut). It is human nature to cosy up to even a stranger in case there is something common between the two. Dressed in a khadi kurta paiyjama with a sleeveless short jacket, he was wearing an off white turban which went with his salt and pepper, free flowing beard. He must have been in his early fifties. If i was to guess his profession, i would have straight away put him as a school teacher or a caretaker of a religious place, owing to his gentle and matured looks. Now he was looking a bit worried and murmured as if complaining about something. I walked out and looked for some mode of transport which would take me to New Delhi railway station from where i was to catch my next train for Jalandhar. There were a number of trains which plied on New Delhi -- Jalandhar rout during day time and it was only seven in the morning. I did not have any reservation and would just hop on any of the trains. During my Army tenure i rarely got a chance to book my train journey in advance, whenever i proceeded on leave because leaves used to be sanctioned on very short notice. But more often than not, i used to manage to get seat/birth and being single those days i enjoyed that.

I always traveled light and that day too i was carrying a small suitcase holding enough clothes for spending a few days at home. The gentleman described above came and stood near me and now he said in a loud voice in Punjabi that his daughter-in law was to arrive by that train but was not traceable in the crowd. Since there was no one else around i looked at him and acknowledged his remark. He said with a frown on his brow that she had changed her programme without informing him. As i waited for some taxi or an auto rickshaw to fetch up, he asked me as to where was i going. I disclosed my destination. He told me that he was a truck owner and had come to Delhi with some consignment and was returning to Jalandhar the same day. He offered me to travel with him in his truck. I had traveled in almost all modes of transport but not in the front seat of a civilian truck till then. I felt the offer exciting and agreed promptly. He told me that his truck was parked at the truck terminal within walking distance and that we could walk down till that place. As we walked out of the railway station premises, we entered into a conversation, further introducing our selves to each other. He gave me his name as Harpal Singh and said that he belonged to a village in Jalandhar district. On the way he told me that he had to pay the adda (terminal) fee and wanted me to wait there because he was running short of some money and would go and fetch it from his co-driver. By that time he had impressed me so much with his gentle looks and sweet talk that I told him to take money from me to pay the fee, instead of going all the way to his truck which would waste time. I took out my wallet and asked him the amount he needed. He required Rs 300/- I handed him the same in the hope that he was going to return me the money once we would reached his truck. He told me to wait for ten minutes there and rushed towards some building located nearby. I kept my suitcase on one side of the footpath and watched the school kids heading towards their schools with bags on their backs, hopping and jumping, at times teasing each other. A sweeper was sweeping the road and the surrounding area.

The ten minutes wait turned into fifteen , twenty and then half an hour. I thought that he might have to queue up for paying the terminal fee. When my wrist watch showed eight and the radio at a nearby chhole bhaturey stall started blaring the morning news, i felt restless. It was forty five minutes since the man had left me. I enquired from the chholey bhaturey stall owner about the office where the truck owners paid terminal fee. He expressed his total ignorance about any such office nearby. I asked whether there was a truck terminal nearby, he told me that it was at a short distance from there. He asked me the reason of my queries. I told him the whole story.

Though it had dawned on me that i had been duped of Rs 300/- which was certainly not a mean sum in 1980, but still i wanted to give it a try to go to the truck stand and look for the man. The stall owner sent a small boy with me to show me the truck stand. We looked there where a number of trucks were parked. There was a lot of hustle and bustle in the area but no trace of the man whom i was looking for.

I came back to the shop, disappointed and ordered for a plate of chholey bhatoorey as i was feeling terribly hungry by then. The shopkeeper was extremely sympathetic towards me. He suggested that i should lodge a police complaint but as i was eager to proceed to New Delhi railway station to catch my next train in time, i decided against that.

I wanted to forget the incident like a bad dream but could not and whenever i look back i find it very hard to believe that the man who looked so gentle and fatherly was actually a cheat. I wish he was not.

The incident has been hanging so heavy on my mind, which is evident from the fact that i have written about it alomst after 28 years, not because i was duped of some money but because it betrayed my dictum :-
"जो भी प्यार से मिला, हम उसी के हो लिए"

This post is part of the series on my life journey. To read all the psots in this series, please click here.

4 comments:

Renu said...

appearences are very deceptive, and it was 1980 and that time people still had some faith, but today nobody believes even a genuine person in need.

PARRY said...

Its really sad when one has to go through such experience. But I bet you must have made friends too due to your easy go nature. We can only hope that the man in the incident was in a dire need of money.

Mampi said...

Parry Bhai Saab, tussi koi sant ho kee?
I wouldnt really forgive the man thinking that he was in dire need of the money. That he targeted a fellow Sikh meant he knew the latter was a soft target. It is the betrayal of the highest order. Though my trust has also been betrayed time and again, and though I also have gathered it in bits and pieces to trust such people again and again, yet I would just say that such people do awake the cynics inside many people.
Fer wi,
Trust Zindabaad !

Balvinder Singh said...

Thanks Parry, nice knowing you. Yes i have a lovely circle of friends, and you are right, i always wished that the man who took money from me must have been in dire need. That feeling sets two of my mental conflicts at rest. Firstly the fact that i was duped and secondly that by a fellow sikh gentleman.