...a long, long day.
Various people in the audience then proceeded to assume their most sanctimonious horrified-productive-morally-upstanding-member-of -the-community faces, with the collective intention of making me incontinent. I did a lot of things in those few moments, like quailing and playing cymbals with my knees. But then I realised that paralysis is never really a solution to anything, and that everybody in the compartment was actually expecting me to do something about the man who was threatening to sweep us all to the sea in the tidal wave of his very loud sorrow. Some wise person had once told me (okay, okay, I heard it on TV) that when everything starts happening to you all at once, all you need to do is to take a deep breath, and Time itself will slow down for you and let you deal with it bit by bit. At this point my memory decided to turn sardonic and remind me of how deprived I had felt when I'd first heard this, figuring it was a solution to a problem that I'd probably have to be reborn to face. Ah, the innocent ignorance of the non-happening.
Anyway, I figured that maybe now would be a good time to breathe and let the rest of the world slow down as I figured out how to wipe the mud off my face. Unfortunately, breathing, as it is, is not really always as simple as it is made out to be. Sure, we breathe. All the time. Maybe you'd snicker less if you tried breathing deeply and then, midway through the inhalation, you discovered that your throat had clogged up with the biological byproduct of fear. Now obviously, your brain would be screaming 'ABORT! ABORT!' but your nose would have gone mysteriously deaf. Eh. Noses are routinely deaf, I just remembered. To sum it up, your deep breath would end up as another near death experience of the slow-choke-to-death variety. To add insult to injury, your wheezing grimace would be misconstrued by the breathless audience as a cheeky grin, and disapproval would freeze over into disgust.
Enough. I'd had enough of feeling like a criminal. I mean, HE STARTED IT! But overwrought as I was, I was still wise enough to know that now was not a time to stress on a technicality. So, with a certain amount of difficulty, I brought myself to stop wheezing and sat down next to Cry-Me-A-River to assuage his grief. His eyes were screwed tightly shut, so I had to tap him on his shoulder a couple of times before he let up and looked at me. I blinked, mostly because upto this moment I had omitted to realise that I would actually have to say something.
"Don't cry please!", said my rapid brain.
"Guhh....nghhh", said I.
*Splutter, splutter* went Cry-Me-A-River.
Thankfully, I'd recovered enough of my faculties by this time to actually string a sentence together, no kidding.
"Rona mat, don't cry. It's not so bad, aisa kya ho gaya ki aap itna ro rahe hai?"
"AMMAAAA!!!! Kya batoon aapko!", said he, before dissolving into tears and clutching my hand in a death grip.
Great, I thought. Of all the people in the world that I could have slapped, my hand had chosen to land on the cheek of the living, breathing Spirit of Nautanki.