The Night Train at Deoli by Ruskin Bond

The Night Train at Deoli by Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond is an Indian author of British descent. He is considered to be an icon among Indian writers and children’s authors and a top novelist.

He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, when he was seventeen which won John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written several novellas, over 500 short stories, as well as various essays and poems, all of which have established him as one of the best-loved and most admired chroniclers of contemporary India.

In 1992 he received the Sahitya Akademi award for English writing, for his short stories collection, “Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra”, by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters in India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 for contributions to children’s literature.

He now lives with his adopted family in Landour near Mussoorie.

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The Night Train at Deoli by Ruskin Bond

There are some moments in life that are never forgotten. It can be anything – a favourite toy from childhood, a time of shared laughter, the pain of lost love, the scent of a flower, sunlight on a distant mountain top, the platform of a small railway station in northern India, in the soft quiet light of early morning…

When I was at college, I used to spend my summer holidays at Dehra, at my grandmother’s place. I stayed there in the hills from early May until late in July. Deoli was a small station about thirty miles from Dehra; it marked the beginning of the heavy jungles of the Indian Terai area.

The Night Train at Deoli by Ruskin Bond

The train used to reach Deoli at about five in the morning, when the station was poorly lit with oil lamps, and the jungle across the railway line was just visible in the early light of day. Deoli only had one platform, a waiting room, and an office for the stationmaster. On the platform there was a tea stall, a fruit seller, and a few thin, hungry dogs; not much else, because the train stopped there for only ten minutes before rushing on into the forests.

Why it stopped at Deoli, I don’t know. Nothing ever happened there. Nobody got off the train and nobody got on. But the train always stopped there a full ten minutes, and then a bell sounded, the guard blew his whistle, and soon Deoli was left behind and forgotten.

I used to wonder what happened in Deoli, behind the station walls. I always felt sorry for that lonely little platform, and for the place that nobody wanted to visit. I decided that one day I would get off the train at Deoli, and spend the day there, just to please the town.

I was eighteen, visiting my grandmother, and the night train stopped at Deoli. A girl came down the platform, selling baskets.

It was a cold morning and the girl had a shawl thrown across her shoulders. Her feet were bare and her clothes were old, but she was a young girl, walking like a queen.

When she came to my window, she stopped. She saw that I was staring at her, but at first she pretended not to notice. She had a pale skin, shiny black hair, and dark, troubled eyes. And then those eyes, searching and expressive, met mine.

She stood by my window for some time and neither of us said anything. But when she moved on, I found myself leaving my seat and going to the door. I stepped out and stood waiting on the platform, looking the other way, away from her. I walked across to the tea stall. Water was boiling over a small fire, but the owner of the stall was busy serving tea somewhere on the train. The girl followed me to the stall…

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