She sat in the train, lucky to find a window seat. She would now not have to talk to her co-passengers as she pretended to read her “English, August” and stare out of the window periodically. She moved her Rail Neer closer to where she was sitting to make herself more confortable. Just a couple more stations and she would reach Tatanagar, her home for the next two years.
She wasn’t scared, but she was still surprised. At her good luck in converting the call for XLRI, at her friends, who were so supportive, at the air around her which was becoming less foggy with every passing day. Was it a fluke? Maybe there was a calculation error. Was the quality of students so bad that they had to take someone like her in?? At least I gave one correct answer in the interview, AITUC was a trade union. And did the IT industry have any labor laws applicable to them? Her interview wasn’t her finest moment. She had read about the menace of relative grading and her friends had tried to update her about the boys from Delhi. She wondered if she’ll ever make good friends like before. Everyone had some word of advice for her and she had never had so much information crammed into her head.
As she stared out of the window, reminiscing about her past, a scene popped into her head. A little girl of 7 was playing with a crocodile made of paper with a string tied around its neck. She took the string and was walking, with the paper crocodile following her around, meekly. Her mother hadn’t objected to her buying it the last night at the fair, after all, it was only 5 rupees worth, and they could afford it.
The little girl was now running round and round with the string in her hand laughing. She suddenly looked back at the crocodile and saw the crocodile following her. Fear coursed through her as she started screaming to her mother about her fear, the crocodile which now looked fierce. The same fear caused her to keep running as she kept looking back and saw the beast following her. The faster she ran, the faster it came at her.
Her mother had by now heard her. She kept shouting at her daughter to stop running , it was something she had bought herself and that if she only stopped the crocodile would stop too. She did not intervene physically though, wanting her daughter to learn the lesson herself.
Finally, the little girl stopped running. She either heard what her mother said, or might’ve thought of it herself, but she threw away the crocodile and stood at a distance watching it, and then slowly approached it, as if it could spring to life any moment. She had played with it for many more days after that.
“Kharab se kharab chai le lo… Kharab chai”
She turned from the window to the marketing gimmick for tea and then smiled at her 7 year self. All fears were like that paper crocodile. Something that was made of paper, something that was scary only because she blew them up in her head, something which she could always take care of herself.
She got up, took her suitcase and got down at the platform called Tatanagar, knowing, this was just another paper crocodile.