TRAIN STORIES-Part I. ‘Goosebumps’

The time was 7 pm ish
I was on a local train travelling towards VT. This was a long time ago when Mumbai was still Bombay and CST was Victoria Terminus.
Now, I am a veteran Bombay-Pune train traveller, having sat on many an upper luggage berth in 2 feet of cramped space, right next to the blades of a ceiling fan.
But there is something about local trains that is eerily different from the long distance ones.
Anyway, here I was on my own, in the ladies compartment which was steadily getting empty. As it emptied of women, some unsavoury looking male characters jumped in at various stations.I looked at them , pulling my handbag closer, contemplating getting off at a station and boarding the general compartment.
But I stayed put because there were a couple of other women in the compartment.
Masjid station was approaching and by then, the only women left in the compartment were another young woman and me. The ‘chokra’ boys were getting a little too animated for my nerves and I desperately hoped the other woman was travelling all the way to VT.
The rough looking boys in rags hummed film songs and I was inwardly freaking out praying that I reached VT in one piece.
The smell of masalas filled the air and to my despair the other lone woman got up and started to get off at Masjid. I looked at her in panic as she alighted, still wondering if I should get off and go to the ‘general’.
And then……. I saw her turning towards me, staring at me, smiling a smile that will haunt me my entire life. As the train pulled out of Masjid platform, through the bars of the wretched windows ……… the smile remained fixed, unwavering.
The next five minutes from Masjid to VT were the longest five minutes of my life. Who cared about those boys anymore.
That smile had unsettled me forever!