"I have been all over the world, and I have never been to Chitrakoot," says the elderly man in the three piece suit. He is dropping his daughter-in-law and her brother off at train and is sitting in the berth across from me until the train pulls away.
"My daughter-in-law is going to Banda, one and a half hours before Chitrakoot. You can talk to each other."
Anshul is her name. It means sunshine. She is doing her PHD in Hinudstani musicology. There are an inordinate amount of ppl doing their doctorates in India. I have before never felt so uneducated.
She and her brother sing beautifully on the train ride. Sometimes they harmonize, and other times her 14-year-old brother, who has just had a growth spurt, does the beat box while she chirps away. They are adorable together. There is such love and cameraderie between them, it infects the whole campartment, and soon everyone is talking, reading aloud newspaper stories about cricket, etc. Eventually everyone has either gotten off or gone to sleep. Anshul and I stay up and talk.
I have a raging headache and she fetches me an Anacin. Here is what she tells me: She has been married for 2 months and she is already pregnant. Her husband is tall, dark, and handsome. He was already married once in a love marriage. He is now 39, 11 years her senior. She is very unhappy in her marriage. "You were daddy's choice" says her husband, as he leaves to spend time with his friends.
A former drug addict, the only, spoiled son of a famous scientist, her husband has been "clean" from drugs for one year, and seems to regard "taking a wife" as a lifestyle choice rather than a bond to another person. He is not ready to accept that she is an individual and not just a "good wife - good for cooking and bed" she says. "I am not a prostitute" she whispers, as she massages my head. "I am a budding artist."
[I have not figured out whether statements like that are just bad translations or if they are intended to sound so full of pride. One man at the Delhi airport once told me that he was of a much "higher class" than the neighbourhood I worked in.]
She puts my head in her lap and applies gentle pressure to points on my forehead and temples. We talk about her choices. About her desire to abort the child after her husband seemed so nonplussed at the positive result. She complains about the hypocricy of women who are unhappy in marriages but never disclose it. About her mother telling her to study music when she wanted to be a doctor.
I fall asleep with my head in her lap and wake up with her sharing my berth,lying down beside me, arm around my waist. I jolt a little with the odd intimacy of the moment. Who is this person beside me after all? But I force myself to relax and when I wake again, someone is calling her name. We have arrived in Banda. My stop is 1.5 hours later.
"Come to my home," she says, pointing to the book where she has written her contact information. Then she and her brother are gone. Inside my notebook is her address and numbers at her mother's home and her husband's. "Here is my number. Now just use it!"