“The train is late again,” I said to no one in particular.
“This happens quite often,” a man standing next to me said.
“But it’s been two hours already,” I kept the conversation going. I rubbed my hands because the cold temperature of Agra made my impatience worse. The man shrugged his shoulders and sat on his bag.
“At least the Taj Mahal was worth the trouble. It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
“It’s the first time I’ve seen it as well. I grew up in Bangalore but decided to try my luck in the big city of Delhi to find work. Agra was only a few hours away so I decided to be a tourist in my own country.”
“By-the-way I’m from the Philippines. I’ve been traveling around India for two weeks now. Started in Varanasi then traveled by train until I found my way here.”
“That’s quite nice. I haven’t done much traveling around my own country. I’ve been busy with work and all.”
“I quit my job and decided to go freelance. I couldn’t stay in a 9-5 job any longer. I felt restless, I wanted to do something different. As the cliché goes, get out of my comfort zone,” I said. “I think the Taj is beautiful, all that trouble to build a monument for a loved one. I don’t think I’m that romantic at all.” The man smiled when I made that remark. His eyes turned reminiscent, maybe his mind drifted to a faraway place, a fond memory perhaps.
More and more people arrived. The queues got longer. The delay of the train I was supposed to be on led to more delays of other trains. There were no announcements of a reason for a delay.
“To tell you the truth, work wasn’t the only reason I left my hometown,” the man said. “I went to look for my brother. He left Bangalore ten years ago. He kept us updated about what he was doing and where he was. He messaged regularly. Then he just stopped around five years ago. I left for Delhi two years ago. I went to his last address, his workplace, the police, talked with his colleagues and met his ex-girlfriend. But all of them didn’t know where he was. They haven’t seen or heard from him for four years now.”
I wanted to tell him everything will turn out fine. They will see each other again eventually. They will shake hands and hug each other or whatever. I didn’t say these, it didn’t feel right. Maybe he was just unloading a weight that has been on his chest for the longest time. He didn’t need advice. He might’ve gotten a lot of it since his brother’s disappearance.
“I haven’t been honest about the reason I left home to go on this trip either,” I said. “I wasn’t so sure about where my life would take me recently. I’ve been so sure before. Get a job. Get a promotion and a raise. Buy a house, get married and have a child or two. A straight line from start to finish. Maybe I’d forget about all these things by simply avoiding them. Maybe by looking for something profound, by going to a faraway place life’s details would fall into place. Now, I’m not so sure either.”
The sound of an arriving train broke my trail of thought. It stopped slowly and opened its doors.
“Well, this is my train my friend. It was nice meeting you,” we shook hands. He took his bag and boarded the train.
I looked at my watch. It was already 7:45pm. The scheduled departure was 2:00pm, it’s six hours late. I put my hands in my jacket pockets to keep them warm. It’ll be 2:00am by the time I get to Delhi I thought to myself. After ten minutes I heard the sound of a train arriving. It has finally arrived, I felt relieved. It stopped in front of us, eager passengers wanting to leave hours ago.
I sat on my seat and showed the conductor my ticket. I looked out the door one last time and remembered the stranger I had a conversation with. I wondered if he would ever find his lost brother. I forgot to ask his name before he left.
I felt the train move gingerly and then picked up its pace.
I’m Joshua Berida from Quezon City, Philippines. I have been a writer for almost a decade and have written poems, short stories and feature articles about travel.