It was a Friday evening. People floated in and out of the station with incoming trains and trains which were ready to go to its destinations. In second platform, there stood the train Chennai - Nagercoil weekly express. People started to get into the train. Different characters, different reasons - Students who were about to go home for long weekend. Corporate employees who were about to go to their native for holidays with their family, regular travelers and many more.
A lady got into the train. S7 Coach. A man came with him. He should be her husband. Bald head with gray hair here and there. The lady was pregnant then. Seemed like six to seven months. Her husband sat opposite to her.
"God grace Nandini. God grace. In next four months I will be a father. The 14 years wait. I am feeling young again. Young and energetic. You can take the child to school. We can go to any function.
We need not answer to anyone that we don't have child. Take care. I will call you daily. Will be there in Sucheendram every weekend. Text me once you had your dinner. Ask for lower berth. Don't risk by climbing up. Lemme see the passenger chart.", said Nandini's husband and went down to see passenger chart.
"Hey Nandini. Old persons. Male of 60 and female of 58. They are boarding at Katpadi. Ask then for lower berth. Let see and call me to update."
"Don't worry Vishnu. I will ask them. See announcement has come about the departure. I will manage even if is middle berth. Get down now or else you have to come with me till Arakkonam."
Vishnu started from there and came near the window where Nandini was seated. The train started to move from the station. Nandini settled down in her seat. 14 years since her marriage. Number of treatments. People considered her unlucky. Some even directly conveyed it to her. Whenever she went to functions, people threw her questions and suggestions. "I know a nice doctor near my place.", "Are you undergoing regular periods?", "Visit this astrologer.", "Visit this temple in Kerala.", "Do this pooja for fourteen months." Lots of suggestions. People poured in suggestions. All the humiliating talks came through her mind.
Nandini went to restroom and saw her gray hair in the mirror. Her age came to her mind. 36. If she had her child right after her marriage, she would have been a mother of 10 year or 11 year old by now. She came back to her seat. She faced similar problems in her teenage. Nandini's parents got married during their mid thirties and she felt generation gaps in many instances. She went into a trans-world where she ran through her past days.
The train reached Katpadi station. The 60 year male and 58 year female boarded in the train. Ten to fifteen people came to send off the old couple. They came and seated in their respective seats. Both of them looked very tired. The old lady said something to her husband.
"Child. You are pregnant. Isn't it?"
"Yes, uncle. Can..", replied Nandini and started to ask question.
"You sleep in the lower berth. My wife will sleep in middle berth."
"Thank you uncle."
"6 to 7 months. Right?", asked the old lady.
"Yes aunty. Six months."
"Good. Have you come alone?"
"Yes aunty. My husband has to go to office this weekend. Half yearly closing. My mom wants me to come there since there is no elder one to take care in Chennai."
"Where are you going? Nagercoil?"
"Yes to Suchindram."
They arranged the berth. The old lady gave tablets to the old man and took hers too. She moved to the middle berth.
Nandini laid down and the memories started to flow. The humiliations, her days with aged parents, happiness of going to be a mother, sadness of being aged mother everything in glimpses. After couple of hours, she slept.
It was Saturday 6:30 AM when the train reached Madurai. Nandini woke up and saw the old couple sitting in the opposite seat. The old couple were having coffee. Nandini brushed and came back to her seat. Still 5 hours to travel. Something in her wanted to know more about the couple.
"Aunty, sorry I made you to climb to middle berth." , said Nandini.
"No problem. Did you sleep well?'
"I slept well, what about you aunty? "
The old couple started to discuss about something and Nandini started to read the novel with her.
"Uncle, lot of people came to send off you people. Any special occassion.", asked Nandini out of curiosity.
"Yes, those were my colleagues and friends. I'm moving to my native after retirement."
"Oh good uncle. You are going alone. What about your children, uncle? "
"We have a son. He is in USA."
"USA. Where does he work?"
"Work. No. He is doing his first year Masters in Florida."
"Late marriage", smiled the old lady.
Nandini became curious to know more about them and wanted to know the disadvantages of being an aged mom.
"Aunty, I am 36. I was childless for 14 years since my marriage. Now I am pregnant. Even my mom was 37 when I was born. In many instances, I had disadvantages of being a child of aged parents. Don't feel bad since I am asking this. You should be a successful mother. Your son is studying in USA. I am more concerned of being an aged mother."
"Why should you have concerns? It is always a nice feeling of being a mother."
"My parents were also aged. I felt many times that my parents were old."
"You felt. Our son directly asked us once why did we marry very late and torturing him not understanding his feelings. That is due to his age. Even if I was 40 at that time, I would have questioned for some things. He got our age as reason. She cried the entire day feeling for that", said the old man.
The old lady stared at her husband for showing off her son in a bad note.
"But he sent us a letter on his 60th birthday. He wrote that he felt sorry everyday for saying that. He also wrote that he got best parents one can ever get. See, those words have wounded him this long. He very well knows that we married late because of our family situation. But he said those words. He was preparing for his exams late night that day. I said to sleep every five minutes or so. He went out of control. He might have had difficult paper next day.", stopped the old lady.
"When he was 21, last year he did heart surgery for his father. All the money, he paid with the help of insurance he got from his company. He did not ask for single paisa to go to US. I said about that letter right. The last lines of that letter is 'I scolded you that day, I forgot to thank you. I feel more responsible, I saw you were old but not your living experience in the earth. You were very careful in shaping me. If some one says I am a good guy, credit is yours.' I am a proud aged mother."
"She cried that day as well", said the old man.
Nandini went to the restroom. She saw her face in the mirror. She touched her stomach and felt the breathe of her foetus. She had a sense of relief. The old lady was like a moral boosting medicine to her. The train was nearing Nagercoil station. She came back to her seat. The old couple were taking the luggages.
"Don't ever feel worried.", said the old man.
"I won't uncle."
"May I know your name?"
"Nandini. Your name, uncle?"
"Aunty, your name?"
"Rajeswari.", replied the old lady.
"May I know your son's name, aunty?'
The train reached the station. Nandini hugged the old lady. She wanted to see her mom, desperately.
Nandini's mother was waiting outside her home to welcome her.
The first word came out of her mouth - "Sorry".