The sound of the train fades away. I marvel at the little station. There isn’t a soul in sight. Not even a stationmaster. A solitary mud road leads into the woods. I pick up my luggage and start walking.
The sun has disappeared behind the western hills. An unnerving chill accompanies the twilight. I take half an hour to reach the cabin. It looks ancient. Parts of wood have turned black with rot and creepers nest in the cracks. Only a gentle smoke rising from the chimney betrays human presence. I knock.
Chandan opens the door and greets me with a toothless grin. I look exactly like my father, he says. He quickly explains where various supplies are kept. He has cooked khichuri in case I am hungry and has prepared the bed in case I’m tired. He would love to talk, he says, but he needs to reach home before nightfall. I thank him and try to hand him some money. He refuses and leaves hurriedly, promising to drop by again tomorrow.
The surrounding trees are alive with the chirping of birds settling down for the night. The noise is deafening. I decide to look around. The bathhouse and the toilet are out on the backyard — or what is supposed to be the backyard. Nature has taken over parts of it. The broken remains of a fence can be made out on closer inspection. The mud road continues past the cabin. It disappears at the bend some distance away and is supposed to end at the village. Chandan lives there. I plan to pay him a visit tomorrow.
Darkness falls rapidly and I go back inside. The interior is now visible only through the flicker of a burning candle on the table. The cabin has a bed, a table and chair, a bookshelf, and a firewood stove. The bookshelf contains few dusty volumes. I carry them over to the table for inspection. Some medical books and some novels. Dad’s name is inscribed on all of them. I picture him — young and with a head full of hair — sitting at this very table, under the candlelight, and studying through sleepless nights. Somehow, the image seems very fitting.
I change out of my travelling clothes after singling out The Grapes of Wrath. I will be spending this month well.