Friday, January 28, 2011

THE TRAIN : A SHORT STORY


Ravi woke up at 4:30 in the morning. As usual, he jogged around the silent neighborhood, in the faint red glare of the morning sun. He returned to his apartment at 5:15. He brushed his teeth, showered in cold water, as on any other working day. But surprisingly enough, he picked a traveling bag from the attic, and filled it with waste papers neatly stacked on one corner. He performed this task, so mechanically and assiduously as though it were his daily routine. He put his revolver in it's usual place on his body. Carrying the 'heavy' traveling bag with him, he took the bus to the railway station.

He reached the railway station, at 6:00 just 10 minutes before his train's departure. Instead of hurrying to the platform, he stood at the entrance of the railway station, looking at the platform.

.... 5 minutes to departure. He saw a bearded man, who was vigilantly looking around, board the same couch as his, and smiled with satisfaction.

.....1 minute to departure. Still he stood there, like a rock.

.... The engines of the train gushed. Quickly he climbed the stairs up and down again, and reached the platform. As the train was accelerating, he was running alongside, at his usual jogging pace, without any tension of missing the train, in his face. When he finally caught up with his coach, he looked through the window, at the aforementioned person and smiled. The person looked back at Ravi, and his time-hardened face, gave way to some desperation. Ravi boarded the train with his dummy luggage, and sat opposite to the person.

But there was another person, right opposite to Ravi, and beside the bearded man, in the coach. Strange, as it was, that the whole coach contained only 3 persons, but stranger was the incredulous expression on Ravi's face when he saw a 3rd person in the coach.

This 3rd person, was of peculiar appearance. He was plump, fat, and eyeglasses more fat than him, seemed to rest on his nose more than on his ears. And he had a shiny bald patch on his head, as an ice topping on a cake.

For half an hour or so, Ravi did not let his prey escape his view, till the train was running so fast, that the only places he could escape to were heaven and hell. All the while, Ravi was looking at the 3rd person, with suspicious and disapproving eyes, as if he wasn't supposed to be there. While the 3rd person, was observing Ravi and the bearded man, with that penetrative deep look, that most people wearing glasses have, and was constantly scribbling something on his notebook with his pen.

After a while, the 3rd person sighed, turned some pages back, stroke back some lines, and started writing new ones. Then Ravi suddenly said to the 3rd person,
"You are a writer, huh!".
The writer looked over at Ravi, from his notebook and replied, "Oh! Yes, I am", and pursued his work. He scribbled some lines, and looked at Ravi, expectantly.
Ravi said, "So, where are you off to?"
"Darjeeling!". Again he scribbled some lines, and looked at Ravi. His deep stares were making Ravi so uneasy, that he felt compelled to say something, everytime.
"To get some ideas for your book, of course! You.. going to Darjeeling", said Ravi with a tensed smile.

The writer replied with a simple "Yes" and continued his work. An awkward silence ensued, made more so awkward, by the sound of the pen on the notebook, scribbling and scratching.

Once in a while, the writer would look at Ravi, with the same eager stare, at which time, Ravi would open his mouth to say something, but the writer would again nod his head disapprovingly and strike back ,what he wrote on the notebook, and Ravi would leave him at that, without mouthing any words.

The valley that the train was going to pass through, was getting closer and closer. It was where Ravi had decided to hunt his prey, the bearded man. The compartment was supposed to be isolated except him and the bearded man, but the appearance of the writer, complicated the matter. Ravi got more and more tensed, in fact more tensed than his prey, as the valley was coming closer. A person, with no knowledge except of the current situation, would have deduced that Ravi was the prey, and the prey was the hunter. All the while, the writer was deeply involved in scribbling and scratching, his notebook in various manners, and occasionally he would look at the other two persons, as if they were objects of experiment, and he was drawing story from them.

The train had approached the valley. It was time. The writer, finished his writing with a big crash of pen on his notebook, and looked at the other two persons, as if proving a point and saying, " I am done. What are you guys upto? eh..". Ravi ended his speculations about various plans of execution, and seemed to come to a conclusion, sighing approvingly.

 He said to the writer, "That's a nice watch, you've got there"
"Ah! It's my great grandfathers. It was given to him, by Queen Elizabeth herself. It would be worth millions, now".
"Hi, I am Ravi", said Ravi moving forward, his hand to shake.
The writer said, shaking hands, "I am Gunther. So, what do you do, Ravi?"
"I am a school teacher. I have been transferred to Darjeeling public school yesterday, and here I am." The writer nodded.
"It's quite a view, from here , of the valley. Do you want to come to the door with me?" said Ravi.
"Ya, sure. why not!"

They both went to the compartment door, to look at the valley, leaving the prey alone, to make it's move. The writer was admiring the breathtaking view, and Ravi was admiring it's depth.

Ravi could here footsteps starting from where he sat down, previously. He said to the writer, "Where is your watch?", which Ravi had taken in his possession, while he shook hands with the writer. Without giving the writer time to even search for it on his body, Ravi pointed the bearded man to the writer, who was running now, in opposite direction of them,
"Thief! He took your watch! Scoundrel!"

They both ran at him, Ravi more concerned about the watch than it's owner himself.

Ravi caught him at the other door of the compartment, before his prey could open the compartment door. A violent struggle ensued between Ravi and his prey, in which Ravi's shouts of "Thief!" , "Give me the watch!" and "How dare you!" were more audible than, the prey's muffled shouts  of "Scoundrel" , "You assassin" , "You will go to hell for your sins" . Finally, with one last kick Ravi saw the last of him, falling into the endless valley.

As soon as the assassination was over, his face transformed from a violent animal's cruel expression to a horror and guilt stricken one, in an instant. He handed over the gold watch to the writer, with trembling hands. He constantly gasped ,
"Oh, god! What have I done. I am a murderer"
"Forgive me god, please forgive me."
"They will catch me. They will put me in jail. They will hang me to the rope."
"My wife.. My son.. "

The writer seemed dumbfounded, by the turn of events, but curiously, his expression seemed feigned and not genuine, even in this trying circumstances. He consoled Ravi saying,
"My son, my son. It is not your fault. It was an accident."
"He was a thief. You are not a sinner."
"No one except us knows what happened. It happened because of my watch. It is all my fault. I will stand witness. He committed suicide. Yes. I will stand witness."

Ravi clasped the writer's hands. He kissed them. He wept on them, till his eyes were dry.

It was time. Ravi saw with curious eyes, the glaring white light coming from the other compartment. It seemed to grow bigger and bigger, consuming everything in it's way. Till it consumed the whole compartment. Till it consumed the writer. Till it consumed him.
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A plump, fat man with eyeglasses more fat than him, resting more on his nose than on his ears, and a shiny bald patch, opened his eyes. There was the notebook in his hands, with writings like
 "You are a writer, huh!"
"That's a nice watch, you've got there"
 discernible on it.

"It is perfect. It is flawless" he thought. He rose from his chair, with self satisfaction,  and went out of his house, fancying how his assassin Ravi, would be the next Tom Cruise character, to hand over the script to his director.


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Explanation:
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The writer was actually writing the play in his imagination, and letting the characters play, what he wrote, simultaneously
"He scribbled something, and looked at him expectantly. Then Ravi said ... " . There are many miniscule points in the story, that elaborate this. I leave them to find out for yourself, for your delight.







1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I appreciate the concept and execution, though the writing itself could have been a little better. I could elaborate if you'd like sometime.

    ReplyDelete