"Jhinuk, eki? Tui ki announcement shunte parish ni? Rush up now. Tor ma toh regey agun."
"Oops, I am sorry bapi. Accha dekho toh, eta kemon lagche?" Srobona extends her hands for her dad to take a look at the nail art.
"Akhon ei shob dekhar kono shomoy nei. Come on Jhinuk, grow up." Mr. Chatterjee started to move towards the escalator tugging Srobona's cabin trolley. Srobona follows at her own pace.
By the time Srobona's dad had reached the lower level, the airport transfer train had already come. Mr. Chatterjee got in the rake along with Riashree, just to realise Srobona on the upper flight of the escalator stairs.
"Jhinuk, ai dikey. Taratari," Riashree called out from the train gates.
Srobona realised that she was late; seeing her parents already in the train, she darted down, jumping steps on her way. As she was just about to reach the landing, she lost her balance and fell face down on the turf, unable to control her speed, which was compounded by the escalator's own pace.
"Jhinuk!" exclaimed her father. Just as he was about to step out, the train door collapsed, forcing him to withdraw himself into the rake.
"Ebar ki hobey?" Riashree questioned. "Train-ta ke arektu dar korano jabey na?"
The train has started moving out of the platform by now, gradually picking up speed.
"O choley ashbey porer train-e. Noy toh ami gate-e pouchey, assistance chaibo. Don't worry. She will be safe."
Srobona looked up to see the train slowly moving out of the platform. She was not perturbed. She was quite mature to handle the situation, but still she could not stop blaming herself for missing the train. "How stupid of me," she thought. She looked around for some help desk. By now a couple of people had come forward to help her up and find out her well-being. "There's no time for seeking unnecessary sympathy," she murmured to herself.
And that's when she heard it. It sounded like a big blast coming through the tunnel. In no time, she heard sirens all around with security personnels dashing down towards the platform level, where she was standing, still trying to understand what just happened. The platform was quickly cordoned off as a team of uniformed personnels descended on the track and swiftly moved inside the tunnel. Something was being announced on the PA system. She cocked her ears to listen carefully.
"Passengers are being requested to move out from the platform area and move up to the ground level. There has been a small mishap in the airport rail transit network for which the system is being closed down immediately. All boarding will happen through the pre-announced gates, so there is nothing to panic. Passengers are requested to visit the Terminal Assistance Desk next to the lift lobby B2 for transfer assistance. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused."
There was a sudden rush all around. Some of the passengers who were waiting for the next train, to move on to the different boarding gates up front, were seen clamouring around some of the security personnels demanding an explanation, while the rest took the escalators to move up to the ground level.
Srobona, till this point was completely flummoxed, knowing not what to do next, while still wondering what made that noise in the tunnel. "Hope, nothing happened to the train that left with ma and bapi on board," deep inside she prayed. She got herself together and moved up the escalator. Sensing that there would be a wild rush at the Terminal Assistance Desk next to the lift lobby B2, she approached a security personnel in uniform, standing close to the coffee shop.
"Excuse me. Can you please tell me why is there such a rush around? Is everything fine?"
"Yes, everything's fine. There's been a small mishap in the tunnel, a freak accident. Our team has gone in to check," came a very cold response.
"Sir, if you don't mind, may I request you to let me know whether things are surely fine in there? My parents had boarded the last train, which I missed by a few seconds."
This time the look on the face of the man has changed. His cold looks have softened. He asked Srobona to follow and took her to a Customer Help Desk in one corner of the terminal building. There he asked Srobona to wait outside and went in to speak with someone. He came out in sometime and asked Srobona to go in and meet the Customer Help Assistant inside.
"Hi," the 20 something lady sitting behind a 17 inch HP desktop spoke up, seeing Srobona come in. "Can I get to check your boarding pass, maam?"
Srobona handed her over her boarding pass.
"Well, you see maam," started the lady. "There has been a small mishap in the tunnel. Boarding for your flight AI 231 is currently on hold."
"Maam, my parents had boarded a train and was in that tunnel, when I heard this blast. I hope there is nothing serious?" questioned Srobona quite anxiously.
"Ah...," the lady cleared her throat a little before proceeding, "there seems to be an accident in the tunnel and the last train which left for the boarding gates, have been severely damaged. We are awaiting further reports and I can't confirm anything more than this right now."
"Severely damaged!" exclaimed Srobona. "But what about the passengers? Are they all safe?"
"Maam, I am sorry. We don't have any further information on this. I request you to be a bit patient as we are trying to retrieve more information."
"How can I be patient? My parents were on that train! I need to know," Srobona could feel herself almost choking.
That's when the radio crackled and a message was relayed in French. Srobona looked upto the lady anxiously, expecting a speedy translation.
"Um, maam..., it seems there has been a major accident. Most people on board are reported dead, while some are in critical condition. The paramedics are trying to get the injured to the hospitals." She paused a little and continued, "there has not been any further communication, I am sorry."
Srobona later got to know that both her parents had died in the accident. Her father collapsed on the spot, while her mother was taken to the ICU with 75% burnt and severe injury on her head. She collapsed in another 2 hours. Srobona's world changed in just a couple of hours. She was now orphaned. Arrangements were made to fly her back to India.
Srobona jumped onto her feet, completely drenched in sweat. She had lied on the couch, infront of the aquarium and had fallen asleep. It was her grandmother, who had woken her up, not finding her in her room.
"Koi na toh.. kichu na."
"Tobey tui ekhaney? Shara raat tui pakha chara ai bhabey?"
Srobona smiled meekly, hugged her grandmom tightly and keeping her chin on her grandmother's shoulders, wiped off her moist eyes dry.
It was yet another new day for Srobona. A new beginning. Usual metro ride, client meetings and media briefings.
Strangely, she remembered nothing from the last morning - the closing door of the metro, the invisible grip, the way she was pulled in and the invisible 'friend' who ensured she was safely inside the train, only to disappear in the crowd.