I opened a curious eye from under my blanket and looked below. A group of boys, all in the age bracket of 20 to 22 sat hunched in a circle on the lower berths. In perfect synchronization, the train sounded its siren in the background, to give this all important piece of information, the aura and atmosphere it so richly deserved.
“Dude, how does one impress a girl?”
I was fully awake now. It wouldn’t be right to lie down when such worldly noble matters were being discussed. And it really was a question of the ages, one that had troubled most of mankind throughout evolution.
“Dude, you need to be different. She should think you are cool. For eg. Tell her you are a dirt biker or a salsa dancer, she’ll fall head over heels for you”, said one of the species.
I wanted to tell him that all he looked like was a dirty broker but stopped short when the yokel began to gyrate his hips in a supposed seductive fashion. I do not want to be harsh to a young man but I could testify in a court of law that the copulation process between two giant pandas in full heat would be comparatively more graceful than what we were now being witness to.
“No man, who is interested in a biker? One has to be an achiever in college, like a sportsman or an accomplished musician.” I liked this second fellow, he seemed to be talking about people like me. Immediately, I was transported back to my engineering days, aaah the days when I lead my branch team to victories galore. Strangely none of those sequences had any women trying to molest me, nor even tear off their clothes and scream my name in joyful ecstasy, not even give me as much as a platonic hug. Pushing cricket behind, I moved my reverie to the college stage, the platform where I had moved my body just like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy insisted we all should. But then again. Of course, there was the occasional girl who smiled at me in the corridor, but mostly I was only waltzing with Bashir, or Rohan or Sanjay or Muthuswamy. I was positively glum now.
“It is all in the mind, brothers”, a third hero declared, raising one eyebrow condescendingly. With one eyebrow raised high up on the forehead, he looked like a cross between the Rock and a cock. The poultry variety, not talking of err weapons here. “One should plays the game ofs the minds with the womans.” With that kind of grammar, he was playing good games with my mind too.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with all you guys. Can’t you ever stop talking about women?” the fourth guy denounced. There is always one fellow in every group who believes that by rebelling against popular culture, he can appear cooler. He was nodding his head in a knowing way, agreeing with whatever he had just said himself. Usually, such men take no more than thirty three seconds to keep their hearts on the platform whenever anything remotely close to the xx chromosome walks by. Che Guevera looked on grimly from the tee. The others kept quiet desperately trying to come up with some other topic.
“Anjali Bhatia”, said the one who had masterfully scanned the charts, in a sad voice. “Bhatia? Same surname as mine!” exclaimed the rebel. He was already seeing himself get wedded to her, I just knew it. Che Guevera cannot ever win over Shahrukh in India.
At that moment, she walked into the compartment and so pretty was she it seemed as if time had stilled forever. It was actually the train that had stopped but such occasions demand better metaphors. The rebel had completely given up his stance, and had closed his eyes in blissful submission to the fragrance that had suddenly overwhelmed the surroundings. A gentle breeze started from somewhere under our feet and swirled gently around our cheeks. Outside, a man was screaming at another, but it sounded like twenty one year old Lata Mangeshkar was singing at an opera.
And that’s when a man walked into the compartment, and held her hand. “Brother .. must be brother” each one of us were screaming inside our heads. The ‘brother’ now put his bag next to hers and they sat in a small space that rightfully should have been hers alone. They were not paying any attention to us. Instead, it seemed as if they were oblivious of the entire world, and only had eyes for each other. Must be long separated brothers and sisters. Strangely, the breeze and the fragrance had disappeared too.
I lay back on my berth, and the world was a monstrous place again.