Even the reserved bogies were crowded. As the train chugged into Kozhikode station, there was a family of five, including a breast-feeding baby and a child of three or four years, with no reserved space in the cubicle meant for eight others who were already there with reserved berths.
There was hush-hush talk among the reserved passengers how the Raiways could like this permit unreserverved passengers into reserved bogeys. If it were to be like this, why should there be a system at all for booking berths?
Around 8 p.m., after having an early supper opening a packet he had brought in his bag, the pastor climbed up the side-upper berth saying since the train would reach Kottayam just after 1 a.m., he should try to catch some sleep.
Six other reserved passengers too put their berths into position and folded up for the night, leaving the remaining one reserved passenger to allow the unreserved family to sit on the lower-side berth that was his.
What the heck, he was thinking. Staying awake one night would not shatter you. He went to the side where the latrines were and inspected the narrow space by the wash basin. The floor was fairly neat. Even if he were to become too tired standing, there was this option.
The ticket officer made his appearance for a second time around 9 p.m. and was speaking to the unreserved family about his helplessness. He said all he could do was to give his sleeping spot for the children and their mother. "Tell me what else I can do. When you travel with a sick child to the RCC, don't you know you should reserve? You would have even got priority in booking."
It transpired that they were taking the elder of the two children to the Regional Cancer Centre for treatment. Those lying in their berths were immediately alert. Three of them, including the pastor, were soon on their feet persuading the young mother of the two children, her father and brother to take their berths.
The pastor and the three other reserved passengers sat packed on the side lower berth. They did not talk about the sick child now sleeping on the side-upper berth with his uncle. As the train rocked and swung on its wheels, the pastor kept those seated by his side awake speaking about Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The moon shone on the rushing night landscape outside.