Series 5 Finding salvation Part 1 ‘Love allergy’

The sound was becoming more deafening by the minute, but he couldn’t see any train arriving.

Fatima Raza July 24, 2016
The old rickshaw came to a skidding halt in front of the station. He poked his head out and looked at the busy station in distress. Saleem hated noisy places. Paying the driver in change, he got off. He threw his backpack on his shoulder and hesitantly waded through the crowd squinting for the ticket booth.
“This has to be oldest train station in this province!”

He thought irritably wrinkling his nose at the touch and smell of other human beings. The stench was unbearably strong. What to say of the germs this crowd must be carrying around. After struggling for several minutes, he finally got to the ticket booth. The shutters of the booth hung off their hinges. The counter was slimy with grease and buzzed with insects. Resisting the urge to vomit, Saleem called out to the person behind the shutters and asked him for a ticket to Sukkur. The man looked up from his register. Sneering at Saleem, he told him there was no train departing for Sukkur till the next morning. Saleem tried reasoning with him but before he could, he was pushed away from the booth by the crowd.

Cursing under his breath, he tried to find a spot to sit and wait. The waiting rooms were already brimming with people.
“This is a rundown hellhole! Why do I live in this country?” he mused in dismay.

He found a corner at the far side of the station. He sat gingerly on an ancient baggy-legged bench. Setting up camp there, he took out his pen and paper. His life and soul, his bread and butter, his unfinished novel, he skimmed through the pages, lovingly. He was looking into the future. When he looked at those pages, he saw fame and glory. He saw… His reverie was broken by the sudden silence.

He looked up, expecting to see the unruly crowd and chugging trains, instead before him was an almost empty station. The tracks were empty and only a few people wandered about. Puzzled, Saleem stood up from his nested seat and walked a few paces around the station. The gigantic clock was still stuck at 2pm while the sky around him had turned darker.
“I can’t believe I have been here for five hours!” he thought, amazed.

A coolie walked past him. Saleem stopped him.
“Excuse me! Why is the station so empty all of a sudden?”

The man looked at him and smirked,
“Sahab! It’s getting dark. People prefer to reach somewhere before nightfall. It is not wise to stay here. It looks like your first time here. This station is not safe after dark. I suggest you go stay somewhere else for the night.”

Saleem looked at him inquisitively,
“Are you trying something funny with me? Why is it not wise to stay here? I have no place else to stay anyway.”

Coolie sighed and said,
“It is up to you, Sahab! I warned you!”

Then picking up his things, he rushed off in the opposite direction.

Saleem giggled mockingly,
“What a bonehead!”

He decided to stretch his legs and look around a bit. There were hardly any people left at the station now. The only guard on duty at the far end was also wrapping his stuff up now. Saleem’s first instinct was to ask him if there was someone on night duty too, then he brushed aside that thought.
“I can live without his dire warnings too!”

He walked around for some time, munching on his self-prepared sandwich. He loved his life the way it was. His family and friend, (singular because he hated most people), had urged him repeatedly to settle down and start a family. He had obviously refused. Anything that could interfere with his work was something he could live without. He had seen other men fall prey to this ‘love allergy’, marry, have lots of kids and lose their sanity and talents in the process. He was not weak enough to give into that urge. He had learnt to prepare his meals and do his laundry when he was seven and he really couldn’t think of any other reason to get married.

He just invested all his time and energy into writing, which was the love of his life. Although he did receive an awful lot of fan mail questions about how he could write such romantic stories, without having been in love himself. He shrugged them off. He liked to think that it was his epic creative talent. To be able to put into words, stories that made hearts beat around the world, was a rare skill that was nothing short of miraculous. Although deep down, he had never felt this emotion; “well that is ‘cause it doesn’t exist in real life!”, he had reflected many times in his head.

A sudden gush of air shook him out of his stance. He looked around to see a storm building up.
“Perfect setting for a romantic scene!”

He scurried back to get his notebook. He was about to jot down a few excellent scene depictions when he heard the distant sound of a train siren. It kept getting louder and louder.
“There was not going to be a train tonight!” he wondered walking up to the tracks to have a better look.

The sound was becoming more deafening by the minute, but he couldn’t see any train arriving. Before he could read any further into the situation, the sounds starting receding. Saleem had started to worry now. The station in the dark seemed a little spooky.
“So as of right this moment, I am alone in this train station. It is 11pm and I am alone here. I could easily get so freaked out! Hahahaha!” He laughed at himself.

Thud!!! Saleem yelped in fright, looking around for the source of the sound. The sound was getting louder…

Stay tuned for the second part of the series Find Salvation.
Fatima Raza

The writer is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, and holds an MPhil in International Relations 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ali | 6 years ago | Reply Nicely written!
Farwa Akbar | 6 years ago | Reply a beautiful piece of writing!
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