I’m on a train. A normal Indian train with normal people doing normal things on a normal night while on a normal journey. That’s what I keep telling myself. And well, I just have to. You see, patience is one gift that Freak high upstairs didn’t feel necessary to bless me with. He’ll get an earful for that from me someday, but that’s not today and today, I’ve got a situation. So even though the train was normal (as normal as Indian trains go by), the people too (I always respect my countrymen, usually), the day was great and so was the destination, the things, somehow, were getting out of hand. The day, from normal to bad to worse. All in 15 minutes. So the time of the last sane and sensible tweet of mine verifies. This has nothing to do with my ability to adjust or as they say “deal with it”, as believe me, I can adjust, very much. I’m pretty accommodating you see, like the two kids who needed accommodation in my berth as their mother requested or the new vacuum-cleaner of that even newer couple which needed accommodation in front of my feet and sometimes, over them. But that’s fine, its temporary they assure, it’ll be all be nice and cosy when that universally disliked passenger (which is always there, sleeping, in every journey, usually) takes his and his belongings’ leave. And I love my countrymen. So it’s cool. Next halt, say hello to another family. Great. With them, another family of belongings. Lovely. And of course, I’m very accommodating The compartment is a mini store-house now and in my book, everything’s been normal so far.
But this is India, the land of movies with textbook twists. From some corner of this endless compartment, the most disgusting, heart-wrenching and downright life-threatening noises arise. But I didn’t recognise the coming disaster as soon as it started. One of the kids did though. The kids clap, mesmerised. And sing along – “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday, Today i-is Friday, Friday..” My heart sank. I’ve heard these things before. The girl sitting in front of me (I managed to see her face from whatever opening the luggages around me presented, and she was quite pretty), was troubled by this song, apparently, and I was glad. She takes out her iPhone and this time, the voice and the words are different, understandably. “And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh. Like baby, baby, baby, no.” The Earth is swept away from my feet. I had my facepalm moment even before the other kid could recognise, cry in elation, and start singing along. My little troubles were invisible to such heartless folk. My mobile was out of battery. No counter-attack. I’d forgotten to bring my iPod. No defence. I felt desperate. But I saw a saviour soon, as a typical Indian movie would have at this moment, I thought. That “desi” Uncle up above was getting steadily disturbed with these “phoren” blabber from this “baccha” folk and I hoped he’d put an end to it. I’ll breathe again. Little did I know, he was getting up only to get his own mobile out. The light at the end of the tunnel was that of an incoming train, as a certain Sardar would say at this moment (and start laughing, of course). And he wouldn’t be wrong. “…white skin-u girl-u girl-u, girl-u heart-u black-u…“. This uncle’s phone was the loudest of all, and he looked satisfied. I felt somewhat sick. I come from a land (read: hostel) where it’s a ritual, a sacred one, to hear this verse every day, every night, in full volume, even if its 3 am, even if that’s the only thing you’ve been hearing all day, or all week, for that matter. So its safe to say I was more than saturated. Actually this stuff was beyond breaking point. Interestingly, that ugly girl in front of me and these two kids and the creator of this mess from some far away corner, gave a huge round of appreciation at this latest addition to the Storehouse Shock (the resemblance with Jailhouse Rock is not at all coincidental). What was more interesting, they all had this song in their respective gadgets and in perfect agreement with the turn of events (and my luck) so far, they all started to play it in sync and sang along. And a certain quote from a certain show sprang in my mind -“Its funny how the Earth never opens up and swallows you when you want it to.” Clearly these people hadn’t heard this sacred verse enough. So they feel it necessary to go with it for many more minutes. And back again to those songs that started it all, in a loop.
The dramatic would’ve sat there describing those minutes as one where everything looked in slow motion and him, a desperate soul – helpless, clueless – clutching to dear life while the evil world around was baying for his blood. The pathetic would’ve just sat and done an impeccable impersonation of a homeless hungry beggar. Since you happen to read this cruel saga of untold misery, I happened to be both. Hell of a night, hell of a ride. This was my own little Green Mile (but Tom Hanks can’t relate, so won’t sympathise with me, I’m told). A night for the deprived, the disabled, the stupid. The Cyruses, the Blacks, the Biebers and to boss-them-all, the you-know-what song (No Gaga, so there is God still, somewhere). That we-all-hate passenger leaves. The things around me (and some on me) get placed in their respective, normal abodes. Store-room becomes a compartment again. The blanket of sleep covers the night and this train and peace, though unable to meet my eye, descends. A normal Indian train with normal people doing normal things on a normal night while on a normal journey? Maybe not but that line got me through it. Its like a one-in-a-million shot that everything you run away from, both inside your dreams and outside, would all come to haunt you at the same time. Everything isn’t a Bollywood movie after all. It appeared I was robbed of a happy ending. Or maybe everything is? While the people around me slept, the newborn devil in me got the mobile fully charged, made a never-ending black metal playlist and crept back to bed, with a villainous smile on the lips and that menacing glitter in the eyes. There was still a long morning left, in my journey and theirs, after all.
PS: This maybe a true incident, or maybe not. But for your sake, you better hope it never is.
Wrote it in December, last year.