Madam, need a porter? Asked the middle-aged person.
It was 4 am and we had just reached Bankura Railway Station. Initially, we were a bit hesitant. But from platform number 2 to the taxi stand is almost 150 stairs. Two suitcases and a bag full of clothes. My husband simply raised his hands.
‘Yes’, I said, ‘How much’?
‘Only Rs.100/-.’ He started picking up the luggage.
‘What? Rs.100/-! For this distance? Please make it Rs.75/-.’
‘Please Madam. It is 150 stairs.’
‘Ok. But be careful and walk slowly. Don’t run.’ I said
‘Madam. Walking slowly with these heavy luggage is difficult. You people follow and trust me, I shall be waiting for you at the bottom of the staircase.’ He stated and rushed off.
We lost steam after following him for some distance. He was not to be seen.
Nowadays, we are most accustomed to use lifts or elevators. Manoeuvring 150 stairs took us fifteen minutes of huffing and puffing.
Where is the porter? He said he will wait here. How do we find him now?
I, my husband and the driver all started looking for him. My husband went back to the platform and returned with no result. Same with us. The porter simply seemed to have vanished. Oh my God! All the new clothes, my valuables to wear during the Durga Pujas were packed inside! Gone! My daughter will now blame me and my husband will have enough material for the next one year, to pull my leg.
I recollected that the porter was not wearing the usual red dress. Since he did not have a badge as well, I forgot to ask for his ‘billa’ number. I started cursing my foolishness. In an effort to search for him again, I started looking for him inside the buses, in rickshaws and on the roof tops of the jeeps. But in vain.
My husband being a typical husband, started his advisory session. ‘One of us should have followed him. We should not have trusted him. We don’t even know if he was a registered porter or a fake. Who do we contact now? We have heard so many fraud cases. We could have been a little cautious.’
And suddenly, oh that’s our luggage. The porter was waving his hand with a big smile.
‘Madam, I have been calling you but you did not notice me. Since leaving the luggage would have been risky, I decided to stick by it hoping that you will notice me after some time. It would have been difficult to put down the luggage and then carry it again to the taxi stand. So, I decided to wait for you at the stand. Please excuse me.’
I was relieved and paid an additional Rs.50/- as Puja tips.
Was that Rs.50/- for his work or for my guilt? No one asked, but it lingered in my mind.