I looked at the watch, it was already one, my train was at one thirty. I rushed downstairs with my luggage and got into a taxi. The station was only fifteen minutes away, I tried to calm myself down by saying I could make it on time.
“Breathe in, breath out” I repeated this mantra out loud as the cab driver looked at me in his rear view mirror as if I was a freak. Missing the train would be no less than a catastrophe, I had a very important interview the next day. I prayed to God as I got down at the station with quick steps, sweat beeds were circling my forehead. To my disappointment the train was already moving! I gathered all the energy I could muster, ran as fast as my feet could and somehow managed to climb into the train. Panting for breath I sat down in the compartment.
The relief had barely sunk in when another horror struck me. The whole compartment was empty except for one other person. Of all the people on earth it was my sworn enemy Rakesh. We have hated each other since we were little boys. In my flustered state I had already sat right in front of him and my pride would not allow me get up from there and move somewhere else. We are grown up men and we need to behave like adults. He had seen me but had chosen to ignore my presence, reading a newspaper in hand. Changing compartments was not possible and I did not hate him enough to jump out of the train. I cursed myself for not having carried my Sony walkman, my most prized possession, not many could boast of owning one in the late eighties.
As the uncomfortable seconds passed by I noticed from the corner of my eye that he was slowly trying to take out something from his bag. As his hand came out I jumped to my feet. He had taken out a knife, he was planning to kill me! How easy it would be to just kill me and then push me off the train. I had just gotten up with panic and let out a small cry when Rakesh picked up an apple from a cover on his lap and started to cut it.
“What is it?” He asked with impudence.
Embarrassed at my reaction I tried to appear calm.
“Nothing, my stomach just jolted in pain, I need to use the bathroom” I tried to look convincing by scrunching my face in pain and got up to go to the loo, while he looked at me with amusement.
That man was just plain evil. One could never guess what he was capable of. Back in school days there were rumours about him practicing black magic, anytime he got into a fight with a classmate, most of the time that boy would fall sick or something bad would happen to him. Not surprisingly I was always hard down on luck whenever he was around me, even today I almost missed this train.
As I went back and sat opposite him I saw he was reading a book on cannibalism. I looked at him with dilated eyes, why would anyone read a subject like that. Noticing me staring at his book he looked at me.
“Ever wondered how human flesh tastes like Mr Sad?” He asked me with a sarcastic smile.
I hated it when he called me that. He found it profoundly funny to call Me Mr Sad, and acronym for my name Surya Anand Desai. I felt like strangling him, but shrugged and looked outside the window.
I know it’s the 20th century but I am highly superstitious and my stomach really was starting to pain a little. I wondered if he was a cannibal and then dismissed the thought. I remembered an old incident when a classmate of ours went missing in the 7th standard and a boy claimed to have seen Rakesh gobble the missing student in one gulp. Rakesh had gotten into an ugly brawl with the boy only two days before he went missing, it was in the year 1973. For a long time I earnestly believed the story but then realised how incredulously silly it was.
“Want to have a biscuit?” He offered me a newly opened packet.
What if he had poisoned it when I went to the bathroom I wondered? Once when we had gotten into a terrible fight he had promised he would kill me someday. Any movement he made would scare me into attention. A few minutes passed when a Lady vendor came into the compartment with hot samosas. She was too beautiful to be a vendor, her voluptuous body was wrapped in a plain tattered saree that revealed skin at strategic places. I noticed Rakesh looking at her lecherously.
“Saheb would you like to have samosas?”
“No “ I told her sternly and looked out of the window.
“How about you saheb, please have some samosas”
“Arre I will have you if you like” I heard him say and shook my head in disgust at his remark. He started to flirt and talk with the vendor saying sleazy things like he would rather eat her than the samosas, running a finger across her hand. Feeling sick at his vulgar display of lust, I went to the bathroom again. My stomach really was upset this time and I vomited. The train was moving at a very high speed and made me feel worse. As I washed my hands I decided I would at least sit somewhere else in the compartment, instead of sitting right in front of him.
As I made my way back to my seat I saw that the vendor’s basket filled with samosas was lying on the floor but she was nowhere to be seen. Rakesh was patting his stomach and then stretching himself in satisfaction. He went off to sleep as I stared at him and the basket for the rest of journey.
I had written this short story some five years back and was glad to find it while sifting through old documents.
– Blogging Bee