It’s a two-and-a-half day journey. The train just started six hours back and Sarkar was cursing himself for choosing this mode of transport. He started counting the hours left. Thirty six minus six is thirty hours! He turned pessimistic.
But his crack management training had taught him to be strong and not to resign even at the face of hardest adversity. He had to find out a ray of hope anyhow. he calculated the time he would spend sleeping. At home he sleeps for eight hours a day. So for two days it would be sixteen hours. Voila! fourteen hours left. Now, if he stretches himself a bit more, he would sleep for four more hours. ten hours left.
Ten bloody HOURS!!! And does he really expect to sleep in this non-AC sleeper class compartment? With all kinds of sounds spilling from all over the place?? He hardly can put his eyelids together and forget his misery. The train sounds so much.
He again turned gloomy.
He didn’t want to come by train. He never boarded a train in his last ten years of life. Earlier, when he was a junior level executive, and the company used to give him tickets for train, he always used to come in the AC compartment. Where the sound is less and the pople carry the halmark of a certain standard.
But thanks to this nation-wide airport stir for three days and the eleventh-hour news that he had to attend an important hearing at Calcutta three days from now, he had to take the train. Sadly, all the AC compartments were booked. If he had to come, he had to take this sleeper class. Damn!
But this can be tolerated to some extent if he had a ‘standard’ person here with him. No, none are worth having a quick intelligent chat. These are mostly clerks or small time traders who travel by this sleeper compartments. Since the train is from Bangalore, half of the travellers are students from West Bengal or Orissa, returning home.
Being the CEO of “hi-tech” he cannot afford to chat with them. He hates Indians. If by any chance they get to know his identity, the first thing they will do will be to ask for a job for their sons, cousins or nephews. Give them an inch and they will … Bloody damn race of a bloody damn country.
He likes to spend his summer vacations in Europe. Such a beautiful country. Such beautiful people. Shit! His bloody damn skin. It’s a bit on the darker side. Bloody damn Indian blood.
Why? Why on earth he had to take birth to bloody damn Indian parents? Sometimes he ask this question to God. Of course He doesn’t exist, or if he really existed, must be envious of His creation. He still has to float in His ancient chariot and is bound by the earth’s atmosphere. Man travels by rocket and lands in moon.
He got a few brownie points with his European potential clients when he cracked this joke at a party.
Of course, that was a business requirement. To secure a business, anything is fair. He apologised for this joke going at a temple. He told his mother at Calcutta to arrange for a special puja. His sins, if at all, were cleared within a day.
Mr Sarkar was thanking the Gods now for finally listening to his unuttered plea. The man in the font seat, with a blazer and a beige tie looks like a top executive. Of course, it might not be possible for this man to be a CEO like him. But a man doesn’t wear a tie if nothing is in his head.
Looking at the ways of the man, Mr Sarkar rightly presumed he was also facing similar dilemma as him. For the man was looking impatiently at the windows and was sighing. Mr Sarkar waited for half an hour. He rightly guessed that both were thinking who will start the conversation. As both were exchanging a thousand words by their actions and were not hiding their mutual impatience as to get caught in this jam.
Being a free and frank man, Mr Sarkar decided to start the conversation.
“Airport stir eh?”
“Yes, yes. Indeed. It’s such a pain.”
“I am Abhishek Sarkar, CEO of a small software development company. Although our Bangalore office is the headquarter, our R&D is in the Silicon Valley. London is our marketing hub. Our Germany and Paris offices are not big though. But yaa, Mexico is picking up. We plan to list our company on the NYSE and LSE next month, what about you?” Mr Sarkar brought out a card from the pocket of his rucksack that he bought in Austria last summer.
“I am a farmer by profession. I have five tea gardens in Assam. I had a small refinery too, before it got bought over by Shell some five years ago. Hard business, they gave me a handsome amount, smartly exited. Dibyangshu Roy here.” Mr. Roy also gave him his card from his coat pocket.
As is the custom, you should not inspect the card in the presence of the person concerned, unless of course, you want to know the name. Mr. Sarkar kept the card in his wallet.
“What’s the name of the company you said Mr Roy?”
“It’s ConAgra Tea Estate,”
“I know one ConAgra … it’s a food giant in US.”
“Yes, we are their India distributor, we handle the tea-side. My own tea garden … the brand is theirs. You know how things work in these big companies,” Mr Roy said rubbing the dial of his watch. A Pierre Cardin masterpiece.
Yes, YES!!! This is the kind of man he likes to interact with. God! May be whatever happens, happens for a reason. He was really thankful now to the angels for forcing him come on this sleeper compartment.
They had a wonderful time after that till the time for lunch came. Mr Sarkar is sure that however his skin may be coloured by the nature the wrong way, but he is a true European by nature. He has taken every step to ensure he remains as European as his friend Martin Smith is in England. The hardest part was to keep a stiff upper lip and say words in a hush hush manner. He really likes how Smith argues in a perfectly normal tone. Europeans never raise their voice and he has finally mastered that. He was proud of his English bed-time and table manners.
But two things of the Europeans he never could approve was their using toilet papers and eating breads for lunch.
He needs at least five litres of water to wash himself properly and he needs rice for lunch and dinner. Without having rice, he could never imagine he had eaten anything at all.
But of course, some things are climate specific. When the British conquered India, they couldn’t retain their English signature as it was. They were hooked to afternoon siesta. So it’s no issue if he is exception to these two rules.
So when the lunch time came, he had to, had to order rice for himself. But he was hesitant of what his co-passenger might think. Mr Roy turned out to be a bird of the same feather.
Without even Mr Sarkar could say anything, Mr Roy brought out a Tiffin box from his suitcase.
Not to worry, he also couldn’t do without rice.
Angels can’t be better than this.
Mr Roy neatly divided the food in two different plates. Apparently, it is a custom in his family to carry some extra food and an extra plate, in case he had to entertain a guest like what he was doing now.
Both had a bellyfull. The food was out of this world. The biriyani was just as he had that day at a five star hotel.
He was content. He was happy. The food was so good that after a long long time he wanted to sleep in the afternoon. He was very happy. His eyelids were getting heavier. Ah! This is paradise on earth. He thought of cracking a joke.
“You know what Mr Roy? This is paradise on wheels.”
And both were laughing heartily. For a moment he let his English sensibilities go and was laughing like all the bloody Indians do.
Soon he was dreaming about his girlfriend whom he is going to marry once he gets rid of his menacing wife.
When he woke up it was six in the morning. Wow! He slept for bloody SIXTEEN HOURS!!! If he can continue this performance, he don’t need to worry about when he reaches home! he will just open his eyes after a round and lo! Howrah station!
He stopped a tea-wallah passing through the alleyway.
He took the chai, it feels so nice to sip something hot after a good night’s sleep!
While reaching for his wallet in the back pocket, he realised he must have kept that in his bag. Keeping the tea at the berth, he came down to get his bag.
It was nowhere to be found.
When he enquired about it, he got to know that the bag was taken by its owner who got down at a station last night itself.
“What do you mean the owner? It was my bag. Who was the owner otherwise?”
The man in the next seat looked at him, astonished! If Mr Sarkar remembers properly he wanted to lock his bag because this man was sharing the same cubicle with him.
He would have done that at night, but before that he went to sleep.
“Why, your friend. With whom you had lunch yesterday. I was thinking whether to wake you up when this gentleman was leaving with the bag. I sort of challenged him, he said that the bag was his. he said his name was Abhishek Sarkar, he also gave me his card. See,” the man forwarded a card to Mr Sarkar.
That’s his own card. His last possession left.
“Bloody that’s my card!!! That was my bag. I am Abhishek Sarkar”
Then a light bulb flashed in his head. That man has given him his card.
Chairman and Managing Director
Agra, Uttar Pradesh
At the back of the card, it was written in bold letters, “SLEEPWELL”
Mr Sarkar rightly presumed he was cheated by this con man.
May be because he just had woken up, or may be because a long sleep had made his brain dizzy, he was in no position in remembering his English sensibilities and forgetting that in the same compartment, there were a lot of girls and elderly people, he started shouting rather in a typical bloody Indian manner.
“Madarchod, Motherfucker, Venchod, Suoerer Baccha, Khankir Chele, Son of a bitch, brother of a whore, fuck you bastard, up on your ass you asshole,” he was reported to have shouted for at least half an hour.
A witness was later found to have told the police that those were the choicest slangs that a man, even from a slum, could ever hear of.
But then, this was a sleeper class full of bloody Indians.
Dedicated to Kaushik Som who, after his long six months of stay in US, is finding bloody India a bloody shitty place with bloody people all around.