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Insanely Inane Thoughts

If fate doesn't make you laugh, you just don't get the joke.

She

I saw her for the first time on this train. She was by the gangway, looking as cute as she was apprehensive. Her dainty feet took tentative steps, which brought her closer to where I was while her eyes sought out for familiarity. I could sense that this was her first time so I beckoned her over. Her lips, which had been twitching with nervousness a second back, burst into a radiant smile that enveloped her face.

The train was chugging along slowly trying to fight off the weariness that was inherent for a late night run. The air was still and the city even stiller. The few people that were in the train lay sprawled across the wooden seats, enjoying few moments of relative calm that was so hard to come by during the day.

You got lucky, I told her as she scurried towards me. If you had been thinking of taking this train at the next stop, it would have next to impossible.

Why is that, she asked as she plopped herself next to me. A drunkard, who still had some of his poison on his lips and dimmed dreams in his eyes, was staring at us malevolently. He stomped his foot in disgust and let out a stream of uninhibited chatter. I looked him in the eye, unimpressed and unafraid.

Don’t worry, I told her as she shifted nervously. This happens often in the train but it only gets worse when we let things get out of hand. If we stay nice and quiet without bothering these barbarians too much, they do nothing more than stomp around the train in animated babble.

You still haven’t told me why I got lucky, she said.

Wait and watch, I told her as the train screeched at the grating brakes.

The iron behemoth grumbled to a halt at the station. A war cry filled the air and broke the orchestra of silence. People, who had been sprawling all over the seats like kings at their harem, straightened up and sat as they were meant to.

The mob of weary commuters invaded the small compartment and hurled themselves at the empty seats. They chatted energetically amongst themselves even as their body cried out painfully against the hard seats. A few who weren’t fortunate enough to cherish the seats, shuffled along the aisle vying for a spot under the creaking fan.

The sight of so many people had frightened her slightly. It still felt a bit unnerving for me and it was safe to say that I was a regular.

The drunkard, who had been looking at us with dangerous intent in his eyes, was squashed into a corner. This was the seat that ran along width of the compartment. It was made with the intent of seating eight or so people on it but almost eleven managed to squeeze in. Many rested themselves squarely on the strength of their buttocks while others were forced to sit erect, which can get very painful if you aren’t used to it.

It so happened that he was pushed in further to accommodate a friend of one of the buttock grabbers. Being in the state that he was in, he started protesting. Voices were raised and everybody swore at each other with linguistic expertise. Soon, the battle of words almost denigrated into a battle of blows. The drunkard came to his senses when he realized that they were eleven while he was all by himself. He softened his tone and smiled weakly at the others. He tried to placate them by offering to vacate his seat so that they could sit comfortably. They scoffed at his suggestion and told him to keep quiet and sit tight. He whimpered into submission as the breeze through the window slapped against his face.

That wasn’t very nice, she told me. It gets worse on some nights, I told her. I had seen many a scuffle and not all of them ended amicably. I nibbled at the biscuit and looked at her. You can have some, I told her indicating towards the biscuit. She looked at me long and hard, as if trying to make up her mind about me.

Meanwhile, the train stumbled along through the city as the men inside her broke out into a song. Many of them came prepared for this; some took out their musical instruments while others doled out cotton buds to those who were interested. Most of the songs that were sung were devotional in nature but they lacked a certain something that could have made it a song: music. Nonetheless, after spending a day doing thankless jobs that paid very little, these men seemed to enjoy wallowing in their noise.

Their revelry hid our chatter as we continued to nibble on the biscuit. Her ears had perked up when she heard them sing for the first time while her eyes cringed with pain.

You will get used to it, I told her as the train made another halt. More men got into the train while a few got off it. The new entrants called out to their friends and exchanged pleasantries. Others joined in and started straining their voice till it became hoarse with disgruntlement.

A passing shower had managed to catch us unawares and it had soaked most of the people who had been sitting by the window or standing by the door. Many stopped singing to latch the window shut while others wondered if this is what people referred to as divine intervention.

We managed to evade the rain but we got wet nonetheless. Water droplets launched themselves from the corrugated ceiling and hit us with the precision of a bunker buster. The droplets fell all around us and soon there was a big puddle of water by our feet. The rain continued to splatter benignly against the train as she rode into the night washed with the colors of the hidden moon.

The smell of fresh earth played with our senses and filled the people with renewed hope. The singing continued and the rain danced against the windows.

The train continued to make her stops and people made their way home. They would have a few hours of sleep before they got back into the train and headed off to work. The train began to wear a deserted look and a shrill silence descended upon us. She slackened her pace as she rolled into the station; her last one for the night.

The drunkard was still there when we peered out at the remaining people. They had returned to their sprawling position and they wouldn’t be disturbed for the night, unless my friends had other ideas. They enjoyed tormenting these people in the shadow of darkness; some got yelled at while other unfortunate ones were kicked at.

The drunkard caught us peering at him and he cursed at us one last time before sleep got the better of him. For him, the day began in the train and ended in the train.

I know some very nice places where we can find food, I told her as we sneaked past the drunkard and hit the drenched platform.

I am quite new to this place, she told me. Well, I guess that put the onus on me to show her a good time in my backyard.

Her hair was still wet from the rain and she looked as pretty as a rose basking in the tenderness of the morning dew. I wasn’t so bad looking myself. I was relatively handsome and had a very proud moustache that added to the oomph appeal. I was quite strong and had a sense of adventure about myself; I was a runner and running was my life.

Everybody runs from something and I ran to stay alive.

My friends were a queer bunch. They took pleasure in tormenting people and picking up fights with each other. Many wore bruises like a trophy and it showed to the girls that they were survivors. In the rat race of survival, we had done very well.

She still wasn’t very comfortable with me; I could say so by the way she moved around me. There was a guarded intensity about her that told me that she was a no-nonsense kind-of a gal. She knew how to look after herself and I liked her for that.

We have to be a bit careful, I told her.

Of what, she asked me.

Dogs.

Dogs?

Yeah, there are some crazy ones here. They look harmless by the day but as night falls, they get real vicious. Just the other day, a pack of dogs nearly mauled my friend dead. He managed to escape but he hasn’t been the same after that.

You sure know how to make a girl feel comfortable, she said with a playful tone.
Where do you want to go first, I asked her as we exited the station. The air was chill but pleasant. The night was quite here save for the occasional barking and the chirping crickets.

What options do I have, she asked.

We could meet my friends first and then head out to eat, I said.

Would I like you friends?

Sure, if you like guys who are willing to bite each other’s head off. The girls are more docile; they only scratch at each other.

I think the dogs would make for better friends, she said with a smile.

And also, my friends will try to impress you a lot. And by impress, I mean nudging at you and making snide comments. Play along with them and you will live to see another day.

I really think I’d prefer the dogs now, she said with comedic solemnity.

Shhh, I said with my ears perked up. I thought I could hear some dogs coming; I wasn’t sure if they were headed our way or not. Not willing to take any chances with her with me, I told her to follow me as we scurried across to a incongruous bylane.

Sure enough, a pack of hungry dogs passed by the road we had been in. Their paws sloshed in the muddy water and they growled at each other with timorous ferocity. They sniffed their way out of our sight, probably looking for some food.

It had been a tense minute because one can never be sure of dogs. I was more worried for her than I was for me; I had been evading these dogs for sometime now but she looked as out of place as vegan in a butcher’s shop.

It’s alright, I told her as we made our way towards my place. We waded in as quietly as the street would permit.

I think I’d like to have a bite first, she told me earnestly. The incident had shaken her up and besides, I was hungry too.

Okay, I know just the right place.

We walked side-by-side in a desolate street. It seemed as if the world were abandoned and we were the only ones alive. The streetlights adorned the road with amorous intensity and the path seemed to be laid in gold. The rain had only made it more beautiful and I was quite happy that I was spending this moment with her.

Where is that place, she asked me after a few minutes.

Just round the bend, I told her. If there had bee a slight breeze, the perfumed air from the ambrosial kiosk would have made its presence felt.

Although it was quite late in the night, it was still early for the kiosk. It was patronized by people who liked to indulge themselves with a late night snack after a bustling night at the local pub.

As we neared the kiosk, I noticed that a few of my friends were already munching on their food. It surprised me because they usually waited for me before making their move to the kiosk. But I was a little conscious because I had made it to the kiosk without letting them know.

Brutus spotted me first and he alerted the others. They chattered noisily amongst themselves as we made our way towards them.

Howdy, Brutus said with a mouthful of chicken. The others were busy gorging themselves silly to say anything of note to me.

I nodded at him as she huddled closer towards me.

Who is she, he asked after he caught sight of her.

Someone I met at the train, I told him.

She’s new here?; he asked.

Yep, and she doesn’t have many friends here either. So you boys better behave yourselves with her. And where are the girls? She might feel more comfortable around them.

Well, the girls are out scouting for guys; he said wryly.

Including Nina?; I asked incredulously.

Including Nina, he said wistfully. He sighed and then explained to me that the boys had had a little tiff with the girls and they decided to get back at the guys by going out with others.

By now, others had gathered around us. Everybody wanted to know who she was.

Her name is Rita and I met her on the train. You guys will like her; she is very much like the rest of the girls and she has a super sense of humor, I told them.

She seemed unaffected by the praise I was showering at her and took matters into her own hands. She introduced herself to the others and spoke to each one of them at length. Brutus offered her a share of his food and she had a little of it. I stood by the side and observed her talk in her lilting voice, the way she carried herself with the others and the ease at which she put the others.

So, what do you guys do; she asked them later as we ploughed through our morsels of food.

We are more of the party animals, Brutus said. The others burst into laughter as Brutus started gyrating to an imaginary song.

She looked at me with an expression that seemed to say; some weird friends you have. I shrugged at her and continued to eat.

Nina and the others had made their entry by now and they took an immediate liking to Rita. Rita scurried over towards them as Brutus joined me.

He caught me looking at her and nudged at me; you really like her, don’t you.

Don’t be silly, man. I have just met her.

Then you wouldn’t mind me taking a chance with her, would you; he asked friskily.

I laughed at him though it had a tinge of anxiety to it.

She does have a nice behind, you know; he said suggestively. I laughed again; although it was more of a squeak than a laugh.

You know how much of a sucker I am when it comes to long tails, right?

I swished my tail at Brutus as he scurried away towards Rita with a bounce in his steps. I followed him with a laugh in my voice.

Brutus knew that I was far more of a sucker when it came to the behinds. After all, a rat can only resist so much when it comes to the tails.
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