It was raining outside with crackling thunder when the train gradually entered the railway station. Divyendu, woke up from his afternoon nap as the brakes screeched. Somehow, he opened up his eyes and looked out from his window seat. He saw that Vijayawada Junction had arrived. Despite the rain, there was a decent rush of people in the platform with announcement roaring loudly that the train was running late by an hour. Some people were walking in, some were walking out of the platform. Some were reading newspaper. Some were looking for the books of their own choice at the railway book stall. Vendors were crying to sell their wares. Some were selling books and magazines. Many of them were selling tea and snacks of various types. Coolies carried luggages from one place to another and hawkers shouted at the top of their voices selling household items.
But for Divyendu the station felt a bit different now than in previous times whenever he passed by. Earlier he used to go out with friends to have snacks, medu vada with coconut chutney being one of his favourite. But now he didn’t feel like it. He got up, saw his wristwatch and then looked outside the window. He realized Chennai was still at least 10 hours from there. The next day onwards he had some 4-5 interviews in 3 days, and he had to crack at least one since it took months of effort on LinkedIn to get those offers.
A year back, Divyendu had been working in a Software-based Company and life was going well with plans to get married soon with his lovely college girlfriend. He had even launched his own startup during Jan 2020 but God and planned something else for him. Things were finally getting settled when Covid and lockdown happened. During the initial months, he somehow managed his expenses with 50% salary cuts but it couldn’t stand for long. Finally, he was laid off from his company due to branch closure. Now his startup was the only source of income left to pay his bills. Things went worse during the 2nd wave and ultimately his startup went into bankruptcy with a huge debt from bank loans. Work from home didn’t really suit him for side hustle so as the nation unlocked, interviews were the only way out for him.
Meanwhile at Vijayawada Junction, Divyendu noticed a boy running up & down trying to sell hot tea during the rainy season but no one seemed interested. The guy then felt a bit dejected, hence came and sat down near one of the platform pillars. He looked down at one of the potholes on the platform where water was pouring from above, drop by drop, due to a leaking roof shed. Seeing this, Divyendu called him for a cup of tea. His eyes glittered for a while as he came running to his window. At that very moment, the train blew its loud horn.
God, Divyendu had to pay him, right? Where is the wallet? Wait, he doesn’t have change. Now, what will he do? Where the hell are the coins? Why are only 100 & 200 rupee notes visible? Where is that 5-rupee coin?
The boy smiled and just said “Sir fikar not. Baad me de dena kabhi. (Don’t worry Sir. Pay me next time then.)”
Before he realized what just happened and finally got the 5 rupee coin, the train had started to move and picked up its speed. The boy just said to pay him next time whenever he visits Vijayawada with a smile, seriously. How least probable that would be? How can he ever find him again? What about his payment for the day?
This reminded Divyendu of an incident while travelling to Howrah (Kolkata) some years back. He looked outside the window and that story flashed in front of his eyes as the train passed through the beautiful landscapes of Andhra Pradesh.
He was a Bihari Chocolate seller whom he met on an Express train in Bengal. By age, he was just 24 but still he liked to travel, meet new people etc. Divyendu who was in college then had clear plans to get a job and settle but this Chocolate seller was not bound to anything. He had dreams higher than Divyendu could even imagine. He wanted to become a pilot one day and explore the world. Come on, he sold Chocolates. Kids loved him and he loved them too. He got to know a lot about their dreams, aspirations and stories from these kids. Sometimes his chocolates would get sold in good numbers, sometimes none; even after up down the entire day in local or express trains. But still, he felt Express trains were more preferable for him.
But that day was different. He had his targets to meet or else his master wouldn’t pay him for the day at all. Keeping that in my mind he got up on the train starting from the Non AC coaches going towards AC coaches. But It was already a hot summer afternoon and till then not a single Chocolate bar got sold since morning. But still, his smile and kindness remained the same and he kept moving from one coach to another with his chocolate basket.
Then in an AC chair car, a lady engaged and sarcastically charged upon him that, why his chocolates were soft. He explained about the situation and condition as well as temp in the NonAC coaches. She then asked “Don’t you try to keep them properly? More people would buy since they would want the better ones.” Hesitantly yet honestly he replied with a kind smile, “Mam, Currently I don’t have money to buy a cool box but I am trying my best to get one soon, God willing. She said “Yeah, that would be quite helpful for your business. And how is your business going overall? Going well? ” He simply nodded his head. After some negotiations she finally bought it.
In that same coach half of his basket got over. Feeling a bit delighted he tried to sell more but then he heard sounds of the train approaching a station. It was a Junction and the final halt, Howrah Junction was arriving soon. He again tried his best but people around were more interested in taking down their luggage from upper cabins. In front of his eyes, he saw children getting refused their favourite candy by parents despite they were ready to get down. Those kids couldn’t do much other than making faces nor the Chocolate seller. They could only exchange expressions through their eyes that conveyed a thousand words.
During that rush, only a few of his chocolates got sold and the train reached. No one even looked back at him, not even that lady. He just seemed to have got lost in the crowd of Howrah Station. Who cared for him? Except for those kids who couldn’t get their favourite candy? Maybe, maybe not.
But Divyendu chose to go and have a word with him. It was then when he came to know several things about him. He asked him why he kept smiling despite his chocolates didn’t get sold. He replied smiling “Dada, I sell chocolates. These make me and my customers happy and smile. I love to spread joy and happiness. Their happiness is more satisfying than anything else in this world.”
“But if you don’t get money, how will you support your family then?” asked Divyendu.
“Dada, actually thing is 2 years back I got married but my wife died due to miscarriage along with the child a few months back. Maybe I couldn’t save them. Now at home, I live only with my mother. I need to take care of her and buy medicines as well.”
That was for the first time his voice trembled and lacked the usual excitement with eyes getting moist but he instantly rubbed them and smiled back again, “When I see those people, those kids spread happiness while having chocolates, nothing is more satisfying, not even money.”
With a bit of silence, he continued “Dada, you are young and educated. You have dreams and the privilege to fulfil them. But you know I feel that life is always like a train journey. One station after another passes by, passengers come and go but the journey never stops. Destination hardly matters but it’s those cherishable moments that stay be it for less or more. So yes, money is important but that customer satisfaction is more priceless for me, regardless of what I earn.”
Divyendu was listening to him patiently without saying a word.
Those were the chocolate seller’s last words
“Okay, dada need to catch the local train heading towards my village, my home.
Now Divyendu spoke up,” Dada, give me 2 Dairy milk bars please” He replied “Yeah sure.”
Divyendu took that, paid him and then watched him swiftly jump onto an already overcrowded local train.
Divyendu waved his hand and shouted “Thank you and take care dada.” But maybe due to the noise & rush, he couldn’t hear anything back. He never came to know his name nor his identity but yeah those moments stayed with him, giving him a purpose in life. He discussed this story with his girlfriend in Kolkata that evening. Feeling inspired by his words he decided to work on a startup idea; something he really wanted to do, something that would spread happiness and hope among people
As the Flashback ended Divyendu desperately checked his baggage to see whether all his documents related to his startup along with the business model were present or not. Thankfully yes and he felt a sigh of relief.
He uttered in his mind “Someone has rightly said that when you are going through a rough phase then just try to remind yourself why you actually started in the first place. If that is figured out then things will definitely start falling in place.”
When he reached Chennai, a trustworthy friend offered him the hospitality to stay at his place for time being. What followed up was that Divyendu cleared all the interviews, but he also got a call from one of his LinkedIn connections. He had been following his work for months and wanted to discuss sponsorships on serious terms. Within a few days, several other emails came from genuine investors who wanted to fund the project. Honestly, he couldn’t believe himself.
He just said only one thing in his mind “I will locate that boy at Vijayawada station and yes that Chocolate Seller at Howrah Junction, and say thank you. Because I am just no one without them.”