Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Charade

“Why the hell is he not shutting his mouth? God! I’m so tired and this boy is continuously squabbling with everybody!” Mr Kumar murmured with an annoyed look on his face. He was trying to sleep but the noise from his surroundings weren’t permitting him. He looked down. The boy looked so happy. He looked free from all the worries and tensions. People sitting around him were eagerly listening and arguing with him over what he was saying. A smile appeared on Mr Kumar’s face. The boy seemed breaking ice with everyone who tried to focus on him. But then, Mr Kumar had his ego. He couldn’t go down and talk to the boy even he felt it would be good. He again lied down and tried to sleep. He failed.

The train stopped at a small station. People came in, people went out. Hawkers flooded the whole compartment, from chai wallas, poori sabzi wallas, and a few chana wallas. The noise increased. Mr Kumar couldn’t sleep. He again looked down at the boy. He seemed to be in form. Mr. Kumar assumed he’ll be his stress buster as he appeared to be acting like one with others. He got down. There was no place to sit. The area around the boy was crowded. He tried to ask a fellow passenger politely, “Err… Excuse me sir, actually mine is upper birth and I wasn’t comfortable up there so can I just…” Before he could complete the gentleman whom he was talking with gave his reply, “Shut up! Let me listen to him. He is great.” Not getting any seat chafed Mr Kumar’s nerves. He gave everyone As-soon-as-I-find-a-seat-I-shall-teach-this-boy-a-good-lesson look. But to do that he needed to sit near him. The boy seemed to have God’s stamina. He had not stopped speaking since the moment he had boarded the train. He looked around. Everybody was giving notice to that boy. No one really cared to give him a seat to sit.

First he couldn’t sleep due to lots of loud voices, second he too, like others wanted that boy to talk to him as he was entertaining everyone, third he was denied of any seat by others. Now, getting a place to sit was a bitter pill to swallow, but he needed to take it. “Err, Sir I guess that bag lying there is yours. Isn’t it?” “Oh really? Thanks, I should get it before anybody else does.” The gentleman rushed to that place Mr Kumar was pointing out. Plan succeeded. Mr Kumar, for the first time had played a prank. He finally got a seat near that boy.

“Oh Namastey Uncle! How are you?” “Namastey beta. I’m good. You say.” “I’m good too.” He turned to the others and started talking again. Mr. Kumar too tried to understand to what he was saying. He failed. He, then took the initiative. “Beta, what do you do?” “What do you mean?” “I mean studies or something else?” “Why? So you can pretend you’re interested?” Mr Kumar passed a troubled chuckle. “Okay, you have a kind of sick desperation in your laugh!” “You know son, that’s an impertinent thing to say?” “Yeah, but you needed exactly this. Ain’t you?” “What do you mean?” Mr. Kumar was confused. The boy winked.

“You were lying on the upper berth trying to sleep while here I was, blabbering and squabbling in loud voice. I woke you up. You came down to enlighten your mood and thought I would do it for you. You for the first time played a prank to get a seat and tried to communicate me but I didn’t respond.” The boy smirked. Mr Kumar’s heart rate increased. A few drops of sweat appeared on his forehead. He slightly shivered, got up and ran towards the wash basin. He tried to remember the boy’s words. How could he guess everything! His heart was pumping fast. He slapped lightly to himself to confirm it wasn’t a dream. He returned. To his astonishment, everyone in that compartment was staring him.

“Oh Uncle please come and have a seat.” The boy said. Mr Kumar was not in a state to speak anything. He just looked at the boy with an innocent face. The boy chuckled. “Don’t worry Uncle, neither it’s a dream nor do I know black magic.” The last words of the boy shook Mr. Kumar completely.  “Uncle don’t worry. Make yourself comfortable. I was just playing. See I was observing you from the beginning and I know how to read faces.” He winked again. It took minutes for Mr Kumar to calm down. “ I used to study. My inter grades didn’t pass muster and I didn’t have courage to face my relatives.” “You mean to say you are running away? That’s certainly not ethical” “No No, I’m just going at my sister’s home in Delhi. I’m not running away.”

“So tell me uncle, how would you like to get entertained?” “That weren’t my intentions.” “Okay so you just wanted to come down and get frightened?” “Err, ok, I thought people were comfortable sitting next to you and I was exhausted so came down.” Mr Kumar hated this. He didn’t want to give up but the boy forced him to. He tried to hide his hatred. “Okay, why don’t you tell me your most fascinating story? But it should be worth my time.” This time Mr Kumar winked.

“Do you see that Chinese sitting on that side berth?” “I do.” “Okay then watch out.” The boy stood up and asked for a seat near Chinese. “Hello! Which country are you?” “미안 해요, 한국어 해요” “Done! He doesn’t speak or understand English.” The boy then began in a louder voice, facing towards the other passengers and Mr Kumar. “Hey you foreigner! You know you’ve nice legs.” “Mr Kumar raised his eyebrows. Being a senior person he suddenly felt a responsibility of stopping by the boy at that instant, but the boy seemed unstoppable. People had started passing a smile to one another. The Chinese looked confused. “You know had you been a girl, I would have proposed you at this very moment. You’ve nice legs, you’re cute, you’ve toned body, the only problem is you’re a guy. Go for a gender change operation and I shall marry you.” There were a few chuckles and giggles among the passengers. Mr. Kumar had started feeling quite uncomfortable about this whole thing.

 The boy then got up and came back to his old seat. He passed a smile to all the passengers and winked at Mr. Kumar. “Which city are you headed to?” asked one of the passengers looking at the boy. “The train’s last destination is New Delhi. Isn’t it? So I’ll get down at New Delhi. I hope I’m not bothering you.” The boy replied innocently. “No no! You’re not bothering. We all were getting bored until you stepped into our compartment.” The passenger said. The boy smiled with gratitude.

 One passenger was looking quite suspiciously at the boy from a very long time. Somehow, he didn’t feel good with the boy around him. He could sense that the boy was upto something. He went near Mr. Kumar and whispered in his ears,“Sir, I don’t know what do you think, but I feel this boy is not the person he seems to be. Can you please try to find out?” Mr. Kumar, after hearing all this, suddenly felt uneasy. He looked at the boy, the boy was busy talking with others. That passenger who was unsure about the intentions of the boy asked, “You’ve been with us for quite a while but we still don’t know your name. What is it?” Before the boy could say anything there, the passenger whom Mr. Kumar had tricked to get a place to sit came with the ticket conductor. “T.T. saab, this is the man I was talking about. He pointed me to a suitcase and referred as mine, I was shocked and ran towards without thinking anything and opened the suitcase and realized it wasn’t mine. The gentleman whom that suitcase belonged saw me opening it and called me a thief and brought me to you. He is the culprit not me.” “Is it true?” The TT asked Mr. Kumar. “Show me your ticket, I shall have to report it and you will have to get down at the very next station.” The TT said. Mr. Kumar looked at every face of the people sitting near him. Everyone was giving him an uneasy look. The boy was in shock.

The Chinese then got up and said, “Excuse me Mr. Ticket conductor, that boy sitting near the window came towards me and harassed me in front of everyone by passing bad comments.” Everyone froze at that very moment. No one knew that Chinese could speak and understand English. The boy stood up unsteadily and said to TT, “He is lying, I didn’t even touch him.” “Shut up! First of all I’m not Chinese. I’m Korean. Secondly, you were teasing with remarks as if I were a girl.” The passengers burst out laughing. The boy said to TT, “Sir, believe me, he really is a girl. He couldn’t speak all of this when I was talking to him. He was so scared of me. And yeah, he has sexy legs.” The boy laughed. “Quiet! Show me your ticket! You too are getting down at the next station.” The TT said. The boy froze.

At that very moment, Mr. Kumar stood up, looked at the boy and shouted, “Nirmal! RUN!!” Nirmal saw Mr Kumar and shouted, “Abe Rajesh, why did you speak up? Now run where?” People were dumbstruck. They tried to understand what was happening. Before they could grasp everything, Rajesh pulled the chain, and they both ran past everyone. The TT caught Nirmal, but Nirmal pushed him away and they both got down and ran away.

“I must say Rajesh, despite you being old enough for this; you carried out your job well.” Nirmal said smiling. “Yeah, yeah, now where’s the money?” asked Rajesh. “In the bag. Open it up.” They both opened the bag and took out the wallets of everyone sitting around him. “See, that Korean guy was rich enough, but still he was travelling by train. He’ll bear the repercussions of his foolish decision for a longer period of time.” “Yeah, and he was being smart enough not to speak when you were making fun of him. You served him well. I’m proud of you.” Rajesh winked. “Yeah Yeah. I get it. Now let’s spilt the money and rush to our homes.” Nirmal chuckled and they left.

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