Beleaguered. Bewildered. And a little thirsty. That was my state as I watched the little man sob his lungs out while clutching my arm in such a manner as to make me deeply aware of the blood attempting to circulate in my body. I'd given up asking him to stop crying; apparently it only opened up more gates of grief. I'd also given up all hopes of getting to work on time, but by this time that was an insignificant detail.
I decided to get the man off the train and then figure out what to do with him. This decision was also prompted by the forty odd pairs of eyes that were still glaring balefully at me. I began with a tentative opening move.
'What's your name?'
'Sob. Sob. It's Rakesh, amma...sob, glug, sob, weep.'
'Alright, Rakesh, I'm going to help you. First get off the train with me and then we'll talk.'
At this his body was convulsed with sobs. I was beyond caring by now, so I hauled him to his feet (no mean task, I tell you. That little fellow was no lightweight). I also had to help him off the train, since he seemed to think that independent locomotion was too much to ask of him.
As I half walked, half dragged him off the platform, we were stopped by a railway official who wanted to check our tickets. I showed him my ticket and looked hopefully at Rakesh, who looked hopefully at me.
'Rakesh, show the man your ticket.'
'I don't have one.'
*Stomach sinking to as yet undiscovered depths of the nether world*
'WHAT? Why on earth do you not have a ticket?'
'I didn't think it was necessary.'
'And why is it not necessary to buy a ticket before getting on a train?'
'Because I was going to the beach to kill myself. Buying a ticket seemed a little stupid.'
I mean, what else could I say? But the official did have a lot to say. Having heard 'No ticket' and 'Kill myself', he cleverly deduced that we were a either a bunch of suicidal varmints out to kill ourselves or sinister bombers out to kill others. In either case, the prudent thing to do was to dump us in a jail cell. Okay, I'm dressing it up. Technically we never really saw the inside of a jail cell, but we were taken to a very smelly police station. By this point I was no longer surprised that this was happening to me. I was just grateful that Rakesh had stopped crying and was deeply occupied with combing his hair and cleaning his nails. He explained that ever since he'd decided to kill himself three days ago, these things had just not seemed worth the effort. On my part, I called in at work to tell them that I was unavoidably detained, after which I called my mother to tell her that I would see her as soon as I got out of jail. She didn't seem too amused.
At this point of time, Rakesh decided to go loquacious on me, mostly because I'd been shooting him murderous looks and muttering darkly to myself in a corner. At first he blanched and blushed a becoming shade of purple, after which he slowly made his way to where I was sitting, and started his tale of woe.
'Amma, don't be so angry. I know it was my fault, but I really didn't mean for things to turn out this way.'
'Don't call me amma.'
'Arre, amma, bura mat maniye.'
*Baleful glare # 27*
'Acha koi baat nahi. Once I tell you the desperate tragedy of my life, you will stop feeling angry. My sorrows started as soon as I was born. I was abandoned..'
'I don't want to know.'
Rakesh looked at me petulantly. I glared right back, determined not to give in. It was at this point that he deployed his most effective weapon. His lips quivered and his eyes started brimming over with tears.
'Oh alright. Fine. I'm all ears. Talk away.'
That was enough for the quiver to be replaced by the toothiest grin I'd ever seen, and he began to tell me his woes with such relish that I couldn't help getting sucked into it, much like hapless housewives get sucked into daytime soaps.
'So, as I was saying, I was abandoned...'
P.S.: - to the readers who still visit this page (That's right. Both of you). Many thanks, and today is technically a Monday.
And I'm in deep awe of Cyrus Broacha. No one else can enthrall an audience of over 300 people (and bawling kids) for over three hours by spewing unadulterated nonsense. I have a new idol.