Ruskin Bond's short story “The Night Train at Deoli” describes the unfulfilled potential of a lost romance. The narrator is a young college man who takes a train to Dehra to visit his grandmother. Along the way, the train stops briefly at a little station in Deoli. One day, the narrator sees a girl selling baskets. She is beautiful, and the narrator cannot help but look at her. She looks back at him, and they stare at each other for some time. Finally, the narrator gets off the train and meets the girl at the tea stall. He buys a basket from her, and they stand and look at each other until the narrator must run to get back on the train.
The narrator is enchanted by this young woman, and she is apparently attracted to him as well. But of course, the narrator cannot stay even though he continues to think about the girl for a long time. The next time his train stops in Deoli, the narrator sees the girl again. They are both pleased that the other has remembered, but still they do not talk much. The narrator holds the girl's hand and promises her that he will come again. He never forgets the girl, but the next time the train pulls into Deoli, the girl is not there. No one knows who she is or where she has gone.
The narrator regrets the loss of this girl, but he does not go looking for her. He realizes that his romantic feelings are being sustained by the idea of what might have been. If he really were to find out what has happened to the girl, whether she may have married or fallen ill or moved away, he would not, as he says, be able to continue his game. The girl becomes a symbol of unfulfilled potential, of a lost romance that one day just might appear again, and the narrator is content to leave it at that.