“Rishi, you are falling ill quite often now a days.” Dharmendra Sir quoted after noticing my red eyes and coughing for a while.
Since I started commuting, there was a huge fall in my immunity. Dharmendra Sir was right. I was falling ill quite often. There were quite a few reasons for it. I was sharing the seat with all kinds of people, people were spitting in open in the train and I was eating all kinds of food in the train without considering the hygiene factor. While sharing the seat, I never asked people about their disease. The person who was spitting in open, I had no idea about his or her wellness. And spit is going to be a spit. There is nothing hygienic or healthy about it. Lastly, I had no idea about the material used in the food which I was eating in trains. I knew only one thing, that I was falling ill quite often.
It was the month of March. The process of closing the accounts was in full flow. Thus, I was facing difficulty in getting leaves even for my illness. And without proper rest, it was getting difficult to get rid of my disease. In second week of March, I took a three days leave. I was allowed to take leave last time before closing the financial year. When I joined my duty after three days leave, my cold and cough was not 100% cured. And there were chances of it getting worse due to commuting.
“How dare you sit on the seat? You have no right to sit on the seat. Go, sit on the floor.” A man was yelling on a poor guy when I entered in the train after three days leave.
Man was head of cleaning staff at Ahmedabad railway station and that poor guy was just a poor guy. Mahesh Kaka was already in the train. He was quietly watching the scene.
“What happened?” I asked Mahesh Kaka.
“Nothing. This poor guy might belong to schedule caste that’s why this head of cleaning staff is shouting on him.” Mahesh Kaka replied as if it was a normal incident.
“What? How can this man stop him from sitting just because he is poor or belongs to schedule caste,” there was grudge on my face after hearing that.
“Hey, what’s your name?” I called him.
“Suresh,” his head was down and his voice was low.
“Come, sit here and no matter what people say, don’t get up from here.” I gave him the window seat opposite me.
“So what if he is poor or belongs to schedule caste. He has equal rights to sit with us.” Mahesh Kaka scolded that railway cleaning staff head.
This incident gave me an idea to avoid the direct physical contact with the people till I fully recover from cold and cough.
From the third week of March, I started sitting on the window seat with my face covered with handkerchief. One side of mine, there was window while on the other I started keeping my bag to avoid direct physical contact. Along with that, I instructed Dwarkesh Kaka to tell everyone that I am untouchable. From third week of March, I started reaching station as early as possible. I started finding the window seat in the seating coach. After getting the window seat, I used to set up the whole scene. Dwarkesh Kaka started coming in the seating coach after me. Then whoever tried to sit next to me or asked me to pick up the bag with the intention of sitting, Dwarkesh Kaka told him/her, “Don’t sit next to him. He is untouchable.”
People believed him and they literally avoided sitting next to me. Some of the people even told Dwarkesh Kaka that if he is untouchable then why he is sitting on the seat. His place is on the floor. In such cases, Mahesh Kaka came to my rescue. He taught such people the lessons of humanity and didn’t allow them to force me to sit on the floor. Those who didn’t believe in untouchability, they avoided sitting next to me after seeing Dwarkesh Kaka and Mahesh Kaka avoiding it. Only two kinds of people sat next to me. Group members and firm believers of humanity who had no problem in sitting next to me with the bag in between.
Unfortunately, people still believe in untouchability and fortunately, it worked for me. By the end of March, I fully recovered from my cough and cold. Then I discontinued that drama and was back to normal sitting.
Like fatigue, health issues are also part and parcel of commuting via train.