One of them shouted, “Neha, did u pack the eggs?”
A young married woman (must be Neha) replied, “Oh Shit ! I kept it on the table, but forgot to put it in. Now?”
The one who had initiated, replied, “I knew you would do it. You always miss on something every time.”
Neha smiled sweetly full of guilt and said, “I am so sorry Gauri didi. What will happen now?”
Gauri shouted at the top of her voice, “Did u hear Ma? Neha left the eggs at home.”
People around turned to look.
An old woman a little father away replied back louder than Gauri, “Again? What will happen now? How many eggs were there?”
Gauri said, still maintaining the volume “Twelve! All Boiled! I don’t think it would last two weeks.”
Anindita smiled. Forget about two weeks. Wouldn’t last two days. People around smiled.
The old woman looked worried. “Now what?”
Gauri said, volume still maintained at maximum, “What ! Nothing ! They will rot and when we come back, I wonder how we would step into that smelling house.”
The old woman got a bit irritated, and muttered, loud enough to be heard by every soul who were around, “Three daughter-in-laws and still you forget to pack the eggs. You are so lucky to have me. If it had been my mother-in-law, you would have been dead by now. Twelve eggs ! It is so costly.” Then she raised her volume to maximum again and asked, “ Haan Neha?? What will you feed Ketan now? That gentleman son of yours doesn’t take in a grain of rice without non-veg.”
Neha smiled guiltily and replied, “Don’t worry Ma, I will arrange something for him.”
Neha called, “Ketan come here.”
A little boy of about three years was squatting at the edge of the platform. He the upper half of his torso, still in the same position and looked at Neha. “Ma, come here. See here is a snake. It is dead.”
“No, you come here. Come fast.”
Ketan did not budge. Neha got up, walked upto him and pulled him to the bench where Anindita was sitting and sat down.
Quietly she said, “Ketan, I forgot to pack the eggs. You wouldn’t make a fuss while eating tonight, right?”
Ketan made a face. Neha explained, “If you make such a face, grandmother will get angry with me. She loves you so much, she will scold me that I did not bring the eggs for you. And if she becomes very angry, she might leave me in some unknown station and then what will happen to me?”
Ketan thought for a moment and then smiled, “No, she won’t do that.”
Neha said, “What if she does?”
Ketan replied, “She won’t. I know. But okay, if you are afraid, I will eat without the eggs. But get me some fish tomorrow. Now come and see the snake.”
Neha and Ketan got up. Neha glanced at Anindita as Ketan tugged at her arm. Anindita and Neha smiled at each other.
And with that, the egg-fuss was over. The old woman kept muttering. Gauri and Neha and others talked and Anindita was the silent unnoticed audience.
The woman (who traveled on board Balia Express with Anindita, the one Anindita did not like much) and her husband arrived and walked to the seat where Anindita sat. That was their usual seat. They sat down. Anindita saw the woman after a long time. More than a week. The husband was traveling alone all those days.
The man asked extra softly making it almost a whisper, “Now tell me where you were these days? Something wrong at home?”
Anindita heard it though she wasn’t meant to hear it. Anindita realized she was wrong all these days. He wasn’t the husband. He must be just a colleague.
The woman said, “They want me to quit working. I told you about this earlier. Did I not? How long do we have to wait?”
“It is getting tougher for you. Isn’t it? Let me check when I can get tickets. Anybody suspicious at home?”
Right that moment, Anindita was. She was a normal human being. Normal people are allowed to be suspicious about things going on around them. She adjusted her hearing system to filter every other sound except the two beside her.