A long whistleâ€¦ and the passenger train was on the move. Jayaram boarded the train at the eleventh hour but, to his relief, the compartment was not crowded. He occupied a window seat so that the one-hour journey wonâ€™t be monotonous. Anyway, the rural areas would come into view only after twenty minutes or so. Meanwhile, he decided to go through the dayâ€™s newspaper. Just the headlinesâ€¦ Nationwide strike in protest against price hike. Allegations against a central minister and so on. Enough is enough, he thought and opened page 4 where regional news items appear. Again just headlines but when he was about to close the daily, his eyes rested on a particular news and there was a broad smile on his face and some excitement. He put the paper in his hand bag and looked around, as if he was looking for somebody.
Last week when he travelled by the same passenger train, he carried a book with him and repeatedly read certain passages underlined by him. He was unable to concentrate because a talkative old man was chatting with some youngsters who looked like some budding politicians, â€œyou people have no principle. Most of you are blissfully ignorant of the principles of your own party. Do you know how communism took roots in your state?â€ Without waiting for an answer, he continued: â€œwhen the landlords were behaving like dictators, some youngsters who had some basic knowledge of French revolution or Russian revolution, rose in revolt andâ€¦â€ the old man was waxing eloquent. Jayaram who saw him as a nuisance, listened to him and noted certain points. He was, in fact, on his way to participate in a prestigious essay competition. An annual affair, this competition was for the senior students of the state. To his disappointment, none of the topics mentioned in the competition paper was his favorites. He read it once again and heaved a sigh of reliefâ€¦ One of the topics was about the birth of political parties in India in the first decade after independence. He did have some starting problems but once he got over it, his fingers were struggling to keep pace with the flow of ideas.
Time seemed to be galloping, when Jayaramâ€™s mind was preoccupied with his previous journey. The train would reach the station in a few minutes. He took out the dayâ€™s newspaper and read the regional news item once again to make sure that the winner is none other than himself. â€œThe yearâ€™s prize for essay writing goes to Jayaram.â€ When he got down there was none in the compartment but he said loudly â€œThank you old manâ€!