Today’s short story by Jithin CH reminded me of the stories by R.K. Narayan (in writing style rather than plot) that brightened up my school years. Enjoy this short.
By Jithin CH
You see, things can get quite interesting in the general compartment; we tend to be more observant. I had to travel in one, once from Chennai to Coimbatore. It was a 10-hour journey. Sleeper coach tickets were not available and I missed the early morning train… obviously. (I always miss my train!) The station was crowded. But my train starts from Chennai so most of the seats were ready to be occupied as I ran for a seat beside the window.
Two guys sat next to me and gradually the compartment was getting crowded. I heard the train moving.
By then, one of them started talking and he seemed non-stop. He was shooting blanks, blah blah. He needed an audience, didn’t even leave the poor vendors alone.
He stopped the vendors, asked them the price, made some lame jokes, tasted a few of the roasted peanuts (to check if they are of good quality) and finally made a fool of them as he never bought any of it, which made them irate. But they had no choice.
Time went by. Finally, our protagonist proclaimed he is, in fact, a film director and the guy next to him, his assistant and an actor. Has acted in Nan Kadavul and Pashanga (Tamil movies) the other guy said meekly.
The director continued, “I made Subramanyapuram.” (Another hit Tamil movie). I gave him a curious look, since I know who’d actually directed the movie. He noticed, and corrected that he was the assistant director.
“But now I am directing a movie with Vishal and Amala paul (sexy Tamil actors) as leads,” he said with grandiosity. Suddenly everyone was interested. Many started chatting with him.
One lady in her mid-thirties—who had been sitting idle—suddenly stood up, reached for the director’s hands and gave him a shake, said she is an actor and acted in a couple of serials. She gave her number and then took his.
Then she started blabbering about her career as an actor-cum-housewife. This took away our director’s time to brag. He seemed unhappy.
Meanwhile his assistant took the lead hitting on a Tamil ponnu (cute Tamil girl) sitting nearby. After all, these unexpected goings-on, she seemed thrilled to the core. It brought out a childish vibe in her.
She was dark and pretty. Had a beautiful smile.
Then they started touching each other playfully, the director, his assistant and the Tamil ponnu.
I will call her Kuyil (cuckoo) for the sake of storytelling.
I never got to know her name. She looked 17 and did sound sweet too.
She had two kids with her. Her chinna thambis (little brothers), who kicked each other, ate whatever they got and spat the same out. Our pretentious director got hold of them and befriended them, drooling over their sis, who is now completely mesmerized by his facade. Arya was his name, the so-called director, I recollect him saying. He joked and spoke without interruption. He was in his late forties I reckon.
Now he declared himself single, unmarried!
Awhile they grabbed and held each other. She asked me to change seats so she could sit beside the window. I moved unwillingly, being the polite guy. The director shifted his seat accordingly; all this in a jam-packed train.
All seemed happy. Kuyil was ecstatic. She held her hands out of the window and played with the water.
Then the director did the same. She was sitting on his lap by then.
Both started playing around touching each others hands, splashing water on me and some other passengers. I noticed the assistant got jealous and the others irate but they hid it and laughed meekly.
Then came a hijra. I was sleeping while she hit me on my head, slapped another guy and then pulled her sari up on that guy’s face.
I saw a blackish butt, nothing more or less. No, I made out it was more of a him than a her!
I gave him 10 bucks. The director wasn’t even looking. As I gave the money, the hijra left the others alone. I had to shell out 30 bucks in all on the whole trip to three such hijras.
Now where were we?
All the while, a woman sitting at the end [of the compartment] who was hearing all his crap opined: “I hate movies, I think it’s a waste of time. Those 3 hours, it’s a waste of life.”
The director did shut up for a while after that. I never thought someone in Tamil Nadu will say this to him, after all the frenzy he cooked up.
Now that her statement made him look stupid, for the next 15 minutes, there was quiet.
Then the assistant and the director started chatting about their future projects.
It was getting dark. The train was nearing a station.
The director asked Kuyil to get down with him there, but she was going somewhere else, she said.
He whispered, “We’ll get a taxi and we may go together. My car, ‘the SUV’ is in repair.”
She accepted with a smile. The train halted at the station and they got out.
I saw her eyes, wary, looking out for something or someone as she walked ahead. Her little brothers holding each other’s hands, playing while those two men never looked back…