Short story : In the lap of death | Sunday Observer

Short story : In the lap of death

It was a great day for Saman, he was selected as a top five of great inventors in the software industry, by the Organizers of the Young Computer Scientist, a few years back.

As Saman’s mom had to attend some urgent work in office, she left early morning, kissing and wishing her only son to perform well, and be the winner of the competition held at the BMICH.

To catch the train, Saman’s dad helped the boy get ready, with the laptop and a bottle of water, both walked to the nearby railway station. While walking, dad taught the 16 year boy how to greet the panel and the etiquettes he had to perform.

They bought two tickets from Moratuwa to Bambalapitiya and sat on a bench. The platform was packed with office crowds to catch the 7.25 a.m. train. Within a few minutes, they heard the arrival of the train and the excited crowd aimed to get into a compartment to get a seat, though it was a packed train which started from Galle. Saman and his dad ran to the edge of the platform as as it was an express train; the next stop was Bambalapitiya.

With great difficulty dad got into the train expecting his son to follow. Presuming the boy to be in the crowd, he quickly found a seat and searched for the boy.

In the meantime Manila, Saman’s mother was travelling in the bus. Though the train tracks and the main road were parallel she could not see the train due to the lines of buildings, but said a prayer for the little boy to perform well.

The green flag was waved and with a noisy jerk the large wheels started rolling towards Colombo. Just passing the station, the train bolted and ground to a halt. Dad peeped out of the window and heard people saying “a boy had fallen from the train – poor thing, he has come alone”. As the train stopped, Sam intending to know where his son was, stepped out of the train, but did not see his son. He called his mobile which did not respond. Doubtfully, he walked back towards the station.

Then he saw a group of people holding a young boy and laying him on the bench, the boy was unconscious. After sprinkling some water on his face, he got up and searched for his dad. Seeing him in the distance he began to run with trembling legs. But the Station Master and a Police Constable held the boy to make him steady. Unaware, Dad shouted at the boy “why have you dishevelled your hair and look at your trouser, stains all over – what were you up to and where were you?”

The Police Constable frowned at Sam “what do you think, where were you, are you the father of the boy, he was lying under the train – With luck he had a narrow escape – take your child and come to the Police Station in the evening – I want to talk to you.”

Sam froze, he could not speak, he felt the world rotating, the ground was not steady, and he guessed what had happened. The kind hearted office crowd carried the child to the train, Sam trailed behind, listening to nasty remarks by the crowd “Funny father! – Mad father! – We are late to office because of this stupid man!” etc.

When the train started the boy kept his head on dad’s lap and whispered, “Thaththi, we will move soon, we are already late”.

Sam did not ask anything, until the competition was over and his demonstration was selected the best in the Island.

When they came home, the boy after a cool drink and a snack, said I will relate everything at the dinner table when ‘ammi’ comes.

As usual by 5 pm Manila came home to congratulate the little boy unaware of the tragedy the son and dad had faced.

Dinner was sumptuous, as the two decided before the fateful day that the child would win. There was a baked pie, potato chips with cheese sauce which was a favourite of Saman. Then, Saman started to narrate “ammi, the train came, all ran towards it, I did not see dad, anyway I tried to get into a compartment, no-one allowed me to. I was pushed backwards, then I heard the tooting of the horn of the train, and knew I had to get into the slowly moving train.

Manila choked, and drank a full glass of water. She lost her appetite.

The son continued, “I held on to the moving train, and tried to keep my foot on the steps, there was no room all were hanging on the steps, I felt my hand droop down, gradually along with my body to the space between the platform and the train. Yes, I fell. I opened my eyes an inch, saw the rolling iron wheel, the compartments and the heels of the people. My arms and legs were stretched straight. I felt I must not move an inch. I was fully conscious, and remained still. Then I knew the rear compartment has a cow-catcher – I knew if it was a low level thing it would be my end. I waited for death. Behold, the train passed me. I felt some sort of cloud covering me, then it vanished, and I managed to get up. I was lifeless, and fell unconscious. After some time I felt the cool water on my face, and realised that I had to go for the competition”.

None of the family members enjoyed the meal. Manila cuddled her son. Sam said,” if something happened, there was the sea waving at me I would have jumped in”. Manila frowned. Sam reminded, in 1952 his dad, a railway foreman, died in a railway accident. That was the headlines in the Daily News, of the day.

(This is based on a true story)