“On the night of Christmas Eve, a boy is skeptical of the existence of Santa Claus. Struggling to fall asleep, he witnesses a steam locomotive arrive on the street, and goes outside to examine it. The conductor introduces the train as the Polar Express, bound for the North Pole. Initially reluctant, the boy jumps aboard as the train departs. The train arrives at the North Pole, where the conductor announces that one of the passengers will be chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas from Santa himself. Will the boy meet Santa Claus?”
This is the gist of the movie THE POLAR EXPRESS. This movie was played over and again by Danny. Whenever Mr. Danny saw this movie, he could only silently wipe a tear off his face and thank Mr. Jason whom he still regarded as his guardian angel. He recollected the life changing incident that happened around 10 years ago….
When Danny was between jobs, he was ridiculed by his friends and family. He was actually a very cheerful, active and determinant man till he broke his right leg femur bone and was unable to continue his profession as a sports instructor. He had not trained himself in any other domain and felt good-for- nothing. He tried his hand at various odd jobs but nothing turned satisfactory. He grew depressed and feared to live in a world of accusations and mockery.
On December 31st he had come to the platform of the nearest and the most remote railway station, carrying a very heavy luggage. It wasn’t any suitcase or a trolley bag. It was the heavy, grief-filled heart. Grief stayed on in his heart after kicking away hope and faith. He had decided to end everything.
As the train whistled, Danny moved near the edge of the platform. The roaring sound of the multitude wheels gave him a chill in the spine. He hesitated to move front, when suddenly, the train screeched to an unexpected halt. Danny didn’t expect the train to stop. He had checked the timings and the train was scheduled to stop only in its last station which was much farther.
A man got off the train. He had shinning grey hair that matched his well-trimmed beard. He had the stature and appearance of a retired Colonel who had never forgotten the discipline, that was injected in his veins to last for a lifetime. His dark blue tuxedo was creaseless and the gold buttons reflected the torch light and pierced Danny’s eyes. ‘I am Jason. I am the conductor of this train. Well you may understand better if I use the word ‘guard’. This is not the place where the train is scheduled to stop. Yet I have found it very necessary to give you a ride on this train. Let me help you Sir. Please take my hand.’
‘Hello.. I am Danny. Wh.. Why do you want to help me? I did not book my tickets. I don’t want your mercy. I don’t want to travel. Let me go. Why did you have to stop? I didn’t wave my hand. I don’t intend to travel any further. Please sir. Leave me alone’, cried Danny anguishly. Jason looked straight into Danny’s eyes and said, ‘Dear son, won’t you let an old man take you for a short ride. I am travelling alone and I have found it very difficult to travel in silence especially on New year’s Eve. I shall be grateful if you could keep me company till we reach our destination which is just a few more miles ahead.’
Danny could not refuse. He could sense truth in the guard’s words. He struggled to board the train. His leg refused to bend. Though Jason supported him, he had to strain his left leg and get onto the train.
Jason followed him and bolted the door of the carriage with a lock and slipped the key into his tuxedo. He did not want to blindly trust Danny and let him risk his life again. When Danny entered, he was shocked. Jason had lied. The train was half full with people of all age groups from all walks of life. There were old folks and young kids. There were middle aged people and new-born babies.
In an intimidated tone Danny shouted, ‘Who are these people? Why did you deceive me? Who are you? Do you want to rob me? Are you a thief? Did you waylay me? I have nothing with me. I am a pauper. The only set of clothes I own, is what I am covered with. My pockets are empty. Let me down old man.’
Jason smiled and replied with patience, ‘Danny please take a seat. I shall get you something to drink. You look exhausted. Why don’t you take the seat near the baby? I shall be back in a jiffy.’ Saying so, Jason disappeared behind the glass door.
Danny walked nervously. He expected the passengers to give him weird glances and pass comments. But they were in their own world. The kids came running to Danny with their toys and a tiny girl with a pink frock generously offered him a portion from her bar of chocolate. Danny couldn’t refuse the kid’s offer. When he accepted and ate the chocolate, the girl gave him the sweetest smile and asked him to come closer. When he almost reached up to her face the girl pecked on his cheek, blushed and ran away. He could not help smiling as he wiped the chocolate stain from his face.
This mesmerizing moment was interrupted by Jason who stood near him with a cup of hot coffee and cookies to nibble. Jason pointed out at the remaining chocolate stain on Danny’s face, chuckled and asked, ‘Did Zariah do that?’ Danny only nodded and drank his coffee. Jason took Danny around and introduced him to almost everyone. There were about 20 people in the carriage. As Jason went around, the people waved their hands and Danny kept acknowledging them with a courteous nod. There were around 6 men who were differently abled. A few women were visually impaired and infants were squealing with pain. One of the women rose and nursed the infants with medicine.
After reaching his seat, Jason spoke, ‘Danny I am sorry for spoiling your plan. I am sorry for extending your stay on this planet.’ Danny gazed at Jason with wide open eyes and tightly closed lips. ‘I knew your intentions, when I saw you from a distance. You were going to throw yourself beneath these ungrateful carriage wheels. Why do you want to waste your life? You are pretty young. You seem energetic.’
Danny got flustered. Instead of being grateful, he retorted. ‘What do you know about my life? I am not fit for anything. I am useless and not worth a penny. I am only fit to be buried or even crushed under these wheels.’
Jason looked at him and said, ‘Okay, so be it. As you are so insistent I would not like to spoil your plans any further. But before you feed the wheels of this railway carriage, let us fix a deal.’ Danny looked perplexed. Jason continued, ‘I would like to buy a few things that you own. Tell me a rate and I will pay you the exact amount; not a penny more, not a penny less.’ Danny screamed, ‘ARE YOU SHORT OF HEARING OLD MAN? I OWN NOTHING. I AM A PAUPER’
Jason stopped him with a mild gesture of his hand, ‘I want to know the cost of your eyes, your heart, your limbs and of course that beautiful brain which is so well preserved. I am sure you haven’t used it much. Don’t worry Danny I will pay you. Com’ on let us fix a rate. Don’t ruin them beneath the carriage wheels. Sell it to us and we shall make the best use of it.
You did see all these people. All of us are on a vacation. We work together in a resort with the help of the remaining part of our bodies. Give your eyes to the visually impaired, give your heart to Zariah. I shall give it to these people who will make better use of them. Nobody in this train is perfect, Zariah is a heart patient and her mother is a cancer survivor. We have our own disabilities. Just because we wear a smile on our face, it doesn’t mean we have no sorrow. We have learnt to smile with tears in our eyes.’ Saying so, Jason lifted the left side of his pant and revealed the prosthetic leg. He had lost his leg in a war.
Danny wasn’t ready for this shock. He got up without realising about his broken femur. He couldn’t balance himself. He lost balance, but little Zariah was near him and tried to support his leg with her tiny palm. She stained Danny’s pant with her chocolate filled hands. Seeing her concern and her selflessness, Danny couldn’t find words. He realised how selfish and self centered he had been. Even the baby girl tried to be helpful. He hugged the tiny tot and wept. He asked Jason, ‘What do you mean, sir? What is this deal? What should I do? Is this a trick or a riddle?’
Jason smiled and said, ‘Danny every person’s life is a riddle. All of us search for the answer around us but we fail to look into us. The solution for every problem and the answer for every question is embedded in us. You are not useless. You are not a pauper. Don’t you realize how precious you are, when you couldn’t fix a price for your invaluable organs? No one is poor, Danny. God has created all of us like a never ending and ever flowing Swiss Bank. You have to deposit hope and determination and enjoy the interest in the form of happiness.
The men you met have stories more miserable than yours. Help them. Make yourself useful for those who need you. Don’t put an end to yourself so soon.’ He said,
Danny broke down on Jason’s broad shoulders and apologized for being such a selfish person. He realized that “It is a sin to want to die.” (a line from the story, ‘The Last Leaf’ by O Henry) He had lost confidence in himself. He said, ‘Please help me sir. I will live. I am sorry for my irrational behavior.’ Jason thumped his back and said, ‘Now that is what I call being manly. Now go wash the chocolate off your face and your pant. You don’t need chocolates any more. Life is going to get sweeter with every NEW YEAR.’
Today Danny is the manager of the resort where his main work was to make people realize the truth that
Many times we get so scared of the darkness in our lives. We feel we are buried and good-for-nothing. We should realize that we have not been buried, we have just been sown and the glorious harvest is yet to come.
For every one of us, God sends a beautiful railway carriage with a genuine guard who extends a helping hand. Don’t hesitate to board the train. The destination is not what is important, it is the invaluable and the unforgettable journey that counts.