“The Lower Berth” !


While everyone was busy dressing-up their berths for the night’s sleep, I hesitantly requested them, “Can any of you please swap your lower berth with us? My mother wouldn’t be able climb to middle or upper berths.” And I heard a deafening silence! Many of you may have experienced the similar silence, while traveling through Indian Railways. I have had many, and it was one of those nights.

Before reaching to those “Herds of Men”, I have had made several attempts, reaching out to individuals asking for their treasured lower berth, but in vain. That uncle in blue-shirt said no, “I need to go to toilet several times, thus I can’t”! Considering his age, he sounded genuine. While the young hunks stared, I asked a young girl, “Can you”? She had a slip-disk problem, and thus she couldn’t too. I dared not asking that old women. She was lucky to get a reserved lower berth through the hara-kiri of online reservations. After several failed attempts and variety of excuses, this group of mid-aged men was my last resort in our compartment. I was expecting atleast one of those blank faces to break the silence.

Meanwhile, I was reading exasperation in my mother’s drooling eyes. My mother was sheepishly hiding herself, behind that young girl with slip-disk issue. She atleast cared enough to offer her a seat on her cherished lower berth. Today, my mother’s old-age has made her dependent on fellow travelers’ mercy. In her prime, she was a fit, active, hard-working and an empathetic woman, who lived her life with utmost dignity. But now, in her last couple of miles, she was witnessing lowered sense of core values, empathy, respect and chivalry. To her, it looked like a race to the “Lowest Berth”!

The train was about to leave its platform, and my eyes were still stuck on those men. Especially towards the man who was having his late dinner. Unlike others, he looked mighty strong and well-built to showcase his chivalry. And yes he responded before anyone did, “If no one turns up, I will”! He looked condescendingly to all men around him, and repeated the golden words, “If no one around here swaps your seat, then I will. Your mother is like my mother”! His impactful last dialogue, though filmy, reignited my faith in humanity, which was lost minutes ago. He said, “Give me 5mins, let me finish my dinner, and then let’s swap”! I thanked him, and was thankful to almighty, as I finally discovered someone (with 56-inch chest), chivalrous enough to honor my mother’s problem.

With the newly find hope, 5mins later, I went to see that man. He was done with his dinner and was casually lying on his berth. I asked, “Can we swap our berths now”? He lazily responded, “But now, I have already lied down on my berth”. I reaffirmed, “So now you can’t swap”? I felt robbed when he uttered, “No”! Though I have always been appreciated for my composure and patience, I must admit, I was about to lose it this time. His kind words spoken minutes ago now seemed a sham.

Suddenly to my surprise, the man next to his berth stood up, and said, “I will swap. What are your seat numbers”? This heavy bellied man went straight away, with me, to my seat with his baggage and stuff. Meanwhile, I prepared bed for my mother on her newly discovered lower berth, and allowed her rest her tired body. In the heat of things, I couldn’t thank that man instantaneously. I did show my gratitude later, and he chose to respond through his benevolent smile and with a “Silence”.

Action speaks louder than words! And sometimes, silence is more meaningful than rosy words! Next time, if you see someone, especially elders, in need or despair, help them. It may rejuvenate and re-assure them, that human values are still not swirling down to the “Lowest Berth”!

P.S. On my return trip, voluntarily swapped my Lower Berth with an old lady. Hope our good deeds get accumulated, to contribute in providing a better life to our loved ones!

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