The Night Train at Deoli
‘The Night Train at Deoli’ by Ruskin Bond is a beautiful story of love, heart-ache and yearning. It is a story of adolescent infatuation presented with great sensitivity. It is based on a chance encounter of two people at a station.
The entire action in the story occurred at the train station at Deoli about 30 miles away from Dehra. The station was a gloomy and lonely place at 5 in the morning when the train stopped there. It was dimly lit with oil lamps and electric bulbs. It had just one platform with a tea stall and a fruit vendor, an office for the station master and a waiting room. Its only occupants were stray dogs.
When the narrator was in college, he used to spend his summer vacations at his grandmother’s home at Dehra. Every time he took the train there it used to stop at Deoli. When he was eighteen, he went on his annual trip to Dehra. This time when the train stopped at Deoli, there was a girl selling baskets. She came down the platform wearing old clothes and a shawl thrown over her shoulders. Her feet were bare. However, there was nothing broken or old about her dignified and graceful gait. The girl’s pale skin was set off by her shiny black hair and dark, troubled eyes. The narrator was struck by the girl’s ‘searching and eloquent’ eyes. She stopped by his window for a while and then moved on. He got off the train and went to the tea stall; she followed him there. However, their conversation was limited to a business transaction. At this meeting the narrator was too apprehensive to make a move.
Just as the girl was about to speak, reality intruded in the form of the guard’s whistle and her words were lost in the din that followed. The narrator ran back to his compartment and watched her as she grew smaller and smaller in the background until the train turned a corner and she was lost from his view. The image of her standing on the platform at Deoli, smiling and watching him with her dark, burning eyes as he rode away...