Aslam is in his early 40s, a chubby man with a beard and a big smile.
He reminded me of Santa Claus but in a white kurta pajama.
He was a co-passenger on the train to Mumbai.

I am not sure if he was fasting during Ramzan.
His lips were dry, and in a monotonous tone, he greeted me.
He asked my whereabouts and then started sharing his life journey.

Me: Hum mumbai ja rahe hai.(am headed to mumbai)
Aslam: Hum to Goa za rahe hai. ( I am going to Goa)

He introduced himself as Aslam and into the fish business.
It got me excited as the sea is my interest.
I like swimming in it apart from consuming fresh catch.

Aslam: Aap kahan se, yahan ke nahi lagte (Where are you from, you don’t look or sound like a local?)
Me: Bihar se. ( I am from Bihar, I said.)

I have always been an impatient listener but not in this case.
What wooed me in listening to Aslam, I don’t know.

I left my home when I was 15 years old.
I could not handle my father and six other siblings.
Studying was not my piece of cake, and neither were daily scoldings.

My father started small and made a fortune as a car mechanic.
We have half a dozen shops in Bangalore.
I wanted a life for myself, and that’s when I ran away to Mangalore.
I think it’s the best decision of my life.
It was my mother who gave me some money to me and agreed to my decision.

The true meaning of life is freedom, living life on my own terms. I patiently listened to Aslam with no words to utter.

Aslam: Atul bhai, zindgi me tabhi aapko seekne ko milta hai zab aap khud se galti karte ho aur usko samaj ke, usse bahar nikal zate ho. (when you commit mistakes, you learn from them.)

I liked Aslam’s commitment to living an independent life and being the master of his destiny.
He asked if am married, and I said no.
And like others, he too advised me to get married asap.
I think our conversation took a pause afterward.

I had my book to finish, and Ashlam looked tired.
He snored for a while, and I had my headphone to rescue.
We spoke after a few hours when the ticket checker arrived.
I saw him offering Namaz on his seat.
He looked more joyful after breaking his fast., He offered me some dry fruits and dates. I gladly munched them.

That was the end of Ashlam. It was Madgaon station. He promised to take me to his fishing industry if I happened to visit Kundapura.