Saturday, 12 October 2013

Paranormal Activity 5: The Final Déjà Vu

As a blogger, one of the most chagrining of things is the absence of a stable Internet connection. Some vague idea strikes your conscience and the next moment, you’re looking for your blogger dashboard to allow you to turn that wry visage into a new post. You simply loathe those moments when you’re not allowed to do so. Anyways, here I am, once again, in a place and a time that are not the most conducive and favorable of parameters at this point in time for blogging, but I simply had to blog it out, so what if the post shall ostensibly see daylight at some later stage. I’m travelling in a train and I've witnessed a Déjà Vu by not getting access to the Internet for a prolonged period of time, especially in a place that was so trite and subdued that you desperately wanted it. This is not an exact replica of the situation described in A day without the Internet, but this one has some indelible reminiscent of it. So, while I witness this Déjà Vu, let me tell you the story of a man who witnessed a Déjà Vu in a train like me. His had to do with an entirely different set of considerations but he too witnessed it in a train, nonetheless. The biggest difference though is the fact that it was the last one he was going to witness in his life.

Here was this guy, whose story is somewhat unfathomable and yet so revealing. His name cannot be found in any books or records because he was another one of those multitudes of Indian guys born in indigent families with the minimal of resources. He was born in one such family which found it hard even to attain the desiderata. Just like the other majority of Indian youth born in such families, he thrived through the odds and became another part of that cohort which has shaped itself through constant struggle and a living marked by sheer niggardliness and parsimoniousness. From that juncture, people of his group choose different courses. Some take up petty jobs, some continue to be jaywalkers for the rest of their lives, and some, who have gathered erudition at being a cozen or a top notch thief, choose the easier yet risky way of getting their pecuniary needs met. This guy we’re talking about, chose the latter. He became an exorbitantly erudite thief. His skills of deception were impeccable and immaculate. He was also very good at cajoling prospective targets at falling in his trap and conniving prospective partners whom he often ditched after he was done. He used his skills almost everywhere - markets, cinema halls, public transport, but his magnum opus, shall we say, was his stint of burglaries in palatial luxury trains. This was where he found his biggest targets and this is where he worked at his optimum.

His strengths were his looks that never seemed specious and his veracious joviality that never seemed suspicious. His overall attitude never seemed murky and even though his persona emanated brawniness, he still appeared as a palpably nice gentleman. He had the clothes of a common Indian man of those times and he was quick to learn some of the most characteristic inveterate habits of these men as well. No one could have guessed that this man sitting right beside them is not another passenger but an extremely adroit thief who was either commuting without a ticket, or was travelling with an untraceable identity. He was an expert. He was quick to sight his prey. Normally he targeted a passenger who was travelling alone but appeared to be travelling with some hefty luggage. He usually targeted the first class to get the maximum out of his efforts. He also preferred families who appeared to be carrying some jewellery and cash with them. For someone who was an expert at their job and someone who knew the nerve of the common Indian, he could spot such prey easily. The anxiety and trepidation on the very faces of such people was what made it outright palpable to this meticulous burglar. He had a variegated set of burglaries to his kitty, having robbed people of watches, spangles, cash, expensive clothes and what not. And then that one day, here he was, on that train.

It was no different from the other trains that seemed so lucrative to him. It contained the same class of people, travelling in same numbers with the same prospective stuff. He once again found his target with ease. A group of 2 businessmen who were going to alight the train at the final stop. His talk never seemed gibberish; rather it exuded the confidence of a well aware man. That’s precisely what made people divulge essential details to him. Within an hour of sitting beside them, he found out what they did, where they did it and their purpose of visiting the place which the train was bound for. He immediately figured out that they would be carrying some cash and then silently waited for the people in that bogie to go to sleep. When it did happen, he punctiliously searched the accessible pockets of the bags of these businessmen and after finding nothing, he searched for money in their not so impressive carry bag. He found some cash in there. It wasn’t worth the effort he had put in. So he patiently waited for the men to change positions so that he could dip his fingers into their pockets. He had to wait for 20 minutes and he finally found a note bundle in the chest pocket of one man. It had enough currency to keep him going for a month, at least. He took all the available cash and after collecting his stuff, he moved towards the train’s nearest gate. His planning was so superb that he precisely knew when the train was going to slow down. Within minutes of him approaching near the gates, the train lost speed and he gained it as he jumped out of it. The mission was accomplished!

He never had any avidity of staying abreast with the latest news but here was a piece of news he simply couldn't have ignored. It sent shocks all across his body but he was quick to recover. He knew the repercussions which expression of his awe and intrigue could have had. He had a secret identity to maintain and he couldn't have let the fact that he too was present in that train, come out. In fact he always pretended never to have traveled in any train to simply stay out of circle of suspicion. But after stepping away and going to a secluded place, he contemplated what had happened. He simply couldn't help but feel restless. He soliloquized for the next few moments but then set off. For the next few days, there was no need to jeopardize anything.

The money lasted longer than he had anticipated. He did not have to go out hunting for 50 days. But now, the pockets were shrinking and the urge to get the next buck was building up. He got his tickets booked. This time, the destination was different, but the train was the same royal train, just plying to a different destination. He was there, waiting at the station, standing near people who apparently were going to sit in his bogie. It was imperative that he took less time to set his eyes on the prey so that things never look fishy. He was analyzing people and their demographics just when the announcer announced that the train is running late by 3 hours. This rarely happened for such trains but due to some stoppage at a construction site on intermediate section, it inadvertently got delayed. He thought about ways of spending time. He couldn't have done a lot with magazines and books whose letters wouldn't have even seemed legible to him. So he finally decided to sleep on a bench. The platform was sparsely crowded and hence no one would have bothered to displace him from there. He set an alarm on his wristwatch due to ring in 2 hours and 45 minutes, just in case, you know. The climate was good and it proved to be extremely soporific that day. He fell asleep in no time. 

The honking was not only cacophonous, it was nerve jabbing. The guy jumped from his seat when he heard it. He knew that the next train due on the platform was his. The train seemed to be picking up speed so he simply gathered his belongings and ran towards the nearest bogie. He was fortunate enough not to get hurt while displaying his celerity. But he just had to, he had no option. He obviously climbed on the wrong bogie and he knew how much distance he had to traverse to get to his. He looked out to see a few people on the platform yelling at him, including a railway constable. “Cretins!” he thought, and started moving towards his bogie.10 minutes and he was at the door of his bogie. When he opened the door, he felt something eccentric and peculiar.

He, for a moment, thought if he was back in time to a place where he once belonged. He had done a plethora of train robberies so it actually obviated any consideration, but this was somewhat different. The overall setup somehow seemed resembling to some setup in the past. He tried to recall but he couldn’t. He kept moving forward. Suddenly, he felt an unusual warmth. All the people he was striding across were smiling at him. He felt an anxiety building within him. He simply kept moving towards his seat. As he inched closer, he noticed that people from the seats he passed started to accumulate behind him, with their crochet smiles. Droplets of sweat tickled across his forehead, partly because of the effort he had put in of late and partly because of the situation he was in. He knew he was in some trouble but he had too many things running in his mind. That Déjà Vu seemed fallacious and truthful at the same time. He tried hard to recall where he had seen such people before but he failed. Then he gathered the courage to move towards his seat. At the same time, he had a grip on his knife to take care of some people who were now moving towards him. Grotesquely, the people didn't seem to attack him. They simply kept smiling and they also stopped when he stopped moving, as if waiting for him to make the next move. As he finally moved to his seat, before he could pull off the curtains, his wristwatch rung an alarm which he had literally forgotten about. Now he was in the train for 15 minutes and he had set an alarm for 15 minutes before train’s revised due time. That means he boarded a train that came 30 minutes before the train he was supposed to board! But how was that possible? In India, 3 hours late can become 4 hours late but never does the delay go down by 30 minutes. And there wasn't any other train due on that platform. He now recalled that those people yelling at him on the platform were doing so because he caught the wrong train. But what train it could be?

 As he stood there, thinking what to do next, the train’s lights started going on and off again, and the whole train started trembling. This was something he surely didn't expect but things were becoming somewhat clear now. He somehow knew what resided behind the curtains and yet he slid them to welcome it - his own fate. He also smiled back at the people near him and they smiled even more. He finally pulled off the curtains to see devastatingly distorted bodies of the same two gentlemen whom he had met just 52 days ago, and robbed 52 days ago, and then he looked back at all those people who were now standing behind him, all of them in their distorted crumbled avatars, marred by the odious train accident that claimed the life of every single one of them in the derail which saw just one survivor - the robber! The train, which he alighted after getting his job done, had derailed moments after he came out of it. Each and everybody present on the train died a gruesome death. The robber was lucky to leave the ill-fated train on time. This was the news which had shocked him early on. He now knew what was coming his way. As he moved ahead to witness his final moment, one of the businessmen uttered, “We missed you! We’re here to take you back”. The other one said with a smile, “Our fates were sealed my friend, you somehow escaped it. But fate finally finds a way”. The robber smiled at all of them. A small girl, who probably had the worst of blemishes over her face, offered her hand, and so did another guy from the other side. He smiled and joined hands with them as the train started careening even more wildly. He shut his eyes and kept his ears open to hear that rattle and that long overhaul which eventually tore apart all the bogies and claimed the final survivor.

The railways authorities as well as the police authorities were all surprised to find the severely damaged body of a man whom some people at a nearby station witnessed boarding an unknown inexplicable train, at the precise spot where that first train got derailed and the place which saw such a massive mishap. They also did some investigation to find out that he was the thief they had been looking for. They decided not to file any papers recording these events because they would have got a hard time explaining the case of the mysterious train which no one else claimed to have seen at the previous or next stations. A train that started between two stations and disappeared midway! They thought it would be better to leave it unexplained and they discreetly set the thief’s body to pyre, which smoldered away the final reminisce of that trail of events- something which only I and you know now. 

Date - 12-10-13
Place - In Transit, somewhere in MP
Time - 00:42 AM IST

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