On a Thursday afternoon, it was a sweltering sticky 38’C when I boarded the crowded Habra-local train at West Bengal. I was on the verge of fainting when I finally decided to sit down on the floor of the train compartment.
“Here, drink some water?” I heard someone speak.
I stared blankly without any reaction. I hesitated.
“The water is chilled.” This time a smile accompanied the statement and the bottle that was thrust in my direction.
I politely declined. She shrugged and began drinking from the bottle, the sight of which made me even more thirsty. I decided to change my mind.
“Can I have some too?” I asked tad sheepishly.
I was given the chilled water bottle. We both laughed. We were the only ones sitting on the local train floor along with another lady who sat opposite to us. She continued talking to the other lady.
Meanwhile people sitting on the benches and those standing around stared at us. Some looked confused, while others wore a big question mark on their faces.
After few minutes, she turned towards me.
“When did Indira Gandhi die? 30 or 35 years ago?” She asked.
“Hmm approximately, yes.” I replied.
She went on to tell me that her parents had passed away around that time. “My brothers and sisters are there to support me.” She added.
Few steps away a vendor was selling goods. A quarrel broke out between the vendor and customer regarding payment.
She didn’t hesitate raising her voice to speak for what she believed. She supported the customer. After all the debates and arguments among the people in the compartment, vendor and the customer, she said, “Okay I will pay you Rs.100. Let’s stop fighting.”
She was a stranger to me when I met and became a friend when I left. She offered me chilled drinking water on a hot summer afternoon as we sat together sharing a smile! She fought for what she thought was right. When things were getting out of hand, she didn’t hesitate to pay the said amount as a “settlement fee”.
The person was a transgender.
Does this change anything? Does it change what you feel for her? Should I feel any differently?
I don’t think so. I had a rare encounter with an amazing human being. A stranger, who I remember now as a friend.