Ananya – I met this little girl of about 7-8 years on a train journey in the summers of 2016. I was travelling with my elder cousin to Igatpuri (Maharashtra) for taking up a Meditation Course there. Ananya was travelling with her mom, grandma and brother Vaishnav (Kicchu), who was about the same age. They were Keralites living somewhere in Faridabad and travelling to their hometown in Kerala as I was informed by her grandma during one of our brief interactions during the journey. She was a retired Railway employee; had a very soft demeanor and appeared familiar to me.

Ananya was very talkative; a real chatterbox unlike her brother who spoke very less. Her mother too was quiet and mostly kept herself buried in the book she was reading. I too had taken two small books authored by Khushwant Singh Ji with me but never really felt like reading one. My entire attention was on the activities of this little girl. May be I was missing my daughter. This was for the first time that I would be away from her for this long, with no connection at all, as the disciples of the meditation course I was going to undertake were not allowed to have any communication with the outer world during the entire course period.

Back to Ananya – she was full of energy and constantly hopping around the compartment from one window side to another as both the side berths were unoccupied. Incessantly chirping, she would just look outside; observe things; cook up some stories using her imagination and tell her grandma about it. I was amused at the ease with which she was able to cook up stories. Also she had a bag-full of ideas when it came to ‘pen and paper’ games. While playing one of such games, the siblings needed another partner and her Mom, as usual, stayed aloof and grandma too seemed to have gotten tired by then. I offered my ‘candidature’ and soon the three of us were playing together. It was a great fun which helped me a great deal in alleviating the boredom of the train journey. In fact, I dislike train journeys due to the sheer boredom they induce; but, frankly it is more because of the fact that I’m not very social and never at ease with strangers around, even for a short duration.

I remember my first train journey. It was about nine hour journey from Delhi to Lucknow – my elder sister’s place. I, along with my brother-in-law, was travelling in a second class compartment and I remember I was feeling so uncomfortable in front of the fellow passengers that I just couldn’t eat anything my mother had packed for us for the journey. Things have, of course, changed a lot with the passage of time, but my ‘disliking’ for the train journeys remained constant for whatever reasons.

Back to the instant trip, as I said, I was watching the activities of this little girl with great amusement. After we had crossed three to four stations, I observed that Ananya would seem a bit distracted every time the train pulled up at a station and then got back to her normal-self once the train had left the platform. Finally, while leaving a station, I heard Ananya muttering something like “चलो अच्छा हुआ यहाँ से भी कोई नहीं चढ़ा” (“Good that nobody boarded from here too”) with a sigh of relief. It was then I realized why she used to get tensed when the train arrived at a station and then felt relieved when it left the platform. It was the fear that somebody would board the train and occupy those two side-berths which were still lying vacant. So, like me, she too was not at ease with strangers around. But then I too was a stranger for her and she was comfortable with me; similarly, they were all strangers to me yet I was very much comfortable in their company. The problem, therefore, lied not with knowing or not knowing a person, but with the vibes we receive from a person.

We were slated to reach Igatpuri next morning and I remember that about half an hour prior to our arrival at Igatpuri (of which we ourselves didn’t have any clue, thanks to the faulty schedule chart we had), Ananya suddenly went quiet, which was very atypical of her. Maybe she had a hunch feeling about our imminent parting, which might have made her worry about the future co-passengers who were going to share the compartment with them.

Soon our station arrived rather unexpectedly and we had to rush out of the train. I hurriedly said goodbye to Ananya and the members of her family. She barely looked at me. I saw a strange sadness in the eyes of Ananya. I wondered was it my sadness which was reflected in her eyes. I felt as if I was being separated from my own daughter.

As soon as the meditation course was over and we were handed back our mobiles, I searched for Ananya’s grandma over facebook as I remembered her name from the reservation chart. It didn’t take long and with a little effort, I found her account on facebook and sent her a “friend’s request” along with a small message on ‘Messenger’; but the account seemed inactive and I never got a response.

I believe, every person we meet by chance in life, who seems familiar and who we feel comfortable with for no cogent reason, have some past life connection with us and I value every such chance meetings for I believe “our souls recognize each other much before our eyes meet”. I would quote a popular Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s words here – “Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence”.