I was looking at her with admiration. She was a typical south Indian dusky village beauty in her early twenties, clad in a saree, wearing a head full of jasmine. She had an army of relatives boarding a reserved compartment of the train in which I was sitting in the side lower berth. I had a confirmed side upper. 

Her gang consisted of members from all age group and gender, few boys and girls below 10 years of age, mid-age aunties and old men and women. She was probably married but her husband had not come. As soon as she entered, she commanded her gang members to occupy whatever seat they could find in that reserved compartment which was yet to be filled with occupants. They all scrambled to the empty seats like a desperate crowd getting into a town bus. She then came to my berth and ordered the little kids to occupy my side upper berth.

“Hey .. hey.. hold on.. that is my seat. You can’t take that”, I objected to which she was visibly irritated.

“Then in whose seat are you sitting?”, she retorted.

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I was taken aback a little but said, “This is also my seat!” Wow how dumb, Karthik!

Now she was furious. “What the hell? For one person two seats? Is this your father’s train?”

It then struck to me that this might be her first time on a train. I was about to explain how the seat reservation system works but she was in no mood to listen. She had already started helping the kids climb the side upper berth even as her, innocent question made me wonder how right she was!

Why two seats for one person?! Okay, Karl Marx, you win! 

“Alright, I will better go to the upper berth, to my seat and you let your kids sit where ever you wish!” Wait for the TTE uncle to kick you out. 

A little smile escaped her lips telling me how triumphant she felt on winning over me. She seated the kids in the side lower. They all settled down comfortably as I laid down in my berth and watched their antics. Meanwhile, the TTE entered the compartment from the far side door, shouting at the passengers who had boarded the compartment with an unreserved ticket.

“Why do these idiots board the train if they can’t afford a ticket”, she whined, giving me a side eye. 

“Who said they didn’t buy tickets?”, I sounded smug to her surprise.

“Then why is the conductor scolding them?” she tried to put me on the spot.

“Because they bought an unreserved ticket and boarded reserved compartment”, I enlightened her.

“What is that?”, she was perplexed.

“How much is your ticket?” I asked.

“Rs 60”, she said

“My ticket costs Rs180. That’s why I can take two seats”, I chuckled.

“Oh..” her face slightly twitched with embarrassment in a very cute way. 

I was looking at her with admiration.

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Photo By: Mathew Henry

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This is an entry for Five00-7, a writing event hosted by ArtoonsInn. Check out the event prompt and guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/five00-7/

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