Friday, 25 May 2007


I was on a train from Moscow to Dzherzhinsk, a small town in the Nizhninovogorod region (earlier known as Gorky, named after the famous writer Maxim Gorky). It was train number 22 as everything in this country must have a number. Schools, hospitals, metro lines etc. they all have numbers. In case of the trains it is a rule that the lesser the number of the train, the faster it travels. And train numbers can range from 5 to 500. That does not mean that the speed of the train number 500 is 100 times slower than the speed of the train number 5. But let’s move away from this digression and go directly to the wagon number 3 inside the train.
The wagon number 3 was a general class wagon and every compartment had 4 seats on one side and 2 seats on the other side of the aisle. That night when the train number 22 was ready to leave the Kurski Vakzal(Railway Station) at midnight, that compartment had six passengers who were traveling from Moscow to Nizhni. Babushka(grandma) Vera and her grandson Sasha, Teotya(aunt) Ludmila and I sat on one side of the aisle while two men, one fat and one slim, sat on the other side of the aisle. On the small table lied a small but beautiful cage and within that cage was a very small white Egyptian mouse. Babushka had bought that mouse in 40 roubles in the Kursk city, a city located a few hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow, while she visited her daughter in that city. The cage had cost her 200 roubles, much costlier than the white Egyptian mouse himself nevertheless the cage was a fancy home for the mouse. It was large and had a roller that went round and round when the mouse ran on that. There was a small bowl in the corner inside the cage where the mouse ran to drink whenever he felt thirsty. There was food scattered all over the cushioned floor of the cage and he could eat anytime he felt hungry. Overall it was a comfortable and cozy home that was equipped with all the state of the art comforts for a mouse.

Babushka was very proud of her white Egyptian mouse. She was showing it to Teotya Ludmila and describing how did she manage to get a good bargain for such a cute mouse. Sasha was frequently troubling babushka with his excited words and worries about the mouse. They had decided to call the mouse “Mishka” and Sasha was very protective about his new mouse. He could not be kept out of any talk about Mishka. He wanted to be heard what he thought about his newly acquired pet.

The fat man on the other side of the aisle, who also happened to be very talkative, was mildly teasing Babushka. He said- “Babushka, are you going to order the bed sheet, pillow and quilt for Mishka too?” And everybody else in that compartment smiled. The talkative man continued with his jeers- “I have never seen a Babushka in jeans! Babushka you look just sixty.”
Babushka was flattered. She said- “do you know how old I am? I am seventy six.” She looked much active and younger than her age. The fat talkative man was very proud of being fat and he continued- “Do you know what I eat for such a great body?”
He continued as everybody kept silent- “I eat a lot of bamboo and rice…hahaha.”
Babushka could not keep mum and said- “are you really proud of being what you are?” She diplomatically avoided the word “being fat” there.

The fat man was getting even more talkative. Suddenly the ticket collector entered. She was dressed in a knee length blue skirt and a navy blue shirt. Her name-card was pinned right above her left shirt-pocket. Her name was Marina Vladimirovna. She was a well bult lady of medium height.

She asked for tickets one by one from everybody. Babushka showed her ticket as well as the ticket of her grandson. Once Maria Vladimirovna checked their tickets; her eyes fell on the cute white Egyptian mouse on the table. She asked babushka without wasting any time for the papers of Mishka and the permission to caary him by that train. Babushka was shocked. She said- “what stupidity is it? I have never heard in my life that one needs papers for this. Mishka is just four centimeters long. What papers? What stupidity? I do not have any papers for him and I am not going to get any papers , let me say it loud, let me say it clear, what stupidity?”
Maria Vladimirovna was outraged hearing such impudent remarks. She said emphatically- “one must pay to carry every pet, animal or bird. Babushka,Come with me and I’ll show you the different tariffs for different animals and birds.” Babushka again said- “What stupidity! Mishka is just 4 centimeters long.” Others also joined in Babushka and a chorus came out from the compartment-“Maria Vladimirovna, Mishka is so small, please leave him.”

But Maria Vladimirovna had made up her mind to issue the bill for Mishka and she warned Babushka that-" if you do not pay immediately then I shall have to report this incident to the Chief." Then she checked the tickets of Teotya Ludmila and the others in the compartment and moved to the next compartment.

After she left Babushka slowly removed Mishka from the table and put him along with the cage down under the table. Only a few moments ago she was showing her white mouse to all. The fat talkative man was assuring Babushka that he would do something about it. He would talk to Maria Vladimirovna and sort out this issue.

After Maria Vladimirovna checked all the tickets in the wagon number 3 she came back to Babushka to issue the bill for Mishka. Babushka was again cursing- “What stupidity? What stupidity?” Then the fat talkative man rose from his seat and took Babushka by one hand and Maria Vladimirovna by the other and he led them both to towards the end of the wagon.
I was preparing myself to go off to sleep when Babushka and fat talkative man returned to the compartment. I could not help myself asking babushka what happened at the end of the wagon. She told me that the issue has been settled between her and the ticket collector. The fat- talkative man was smiling and Mishka was sleeping below the table in his fancy home.



Blogger lindsaylobe said...

A fascinating tale about a tiny white mouse and fare evasion !! As Maxim Gory remarked -
The most beautiful words in the English language are 'not guilty' !!.

Best wishes

27/5/07 5:44 pm  
Blogger Bhaswati said...

Such a cute mouse! Your story is equally heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

I am so sorry about not making it at your release. Blame it on heat-related ailments. :(

27/5/07 7:45 pm  
Blogger abhay k said...

Hi Lindsay,
Thank you so much for your fascinating comment. I am haapy that you liked this short story.Please send me your address so that I can ask my publisher to send you a copy of my book.

Hi Bhaswati,
Thank you so much for visiting I&U and liking the story.
Nevermind, Delhi was too hot that time. Please send me your address so that I can ask my publisher to send you a copy of my book.


30/5/07 1:45 pm  
Blogger Gary said...

This is a wonderful story my brother! And you continue to be one fine writer. Thank you.

31/5/07 8:48 am  
Blogger abhay k said...

Dear Gary,
Thank you so much for taking out some time out of your busy schedule and writing these fine words for this short story.

31/5/07 11:22 am  

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