Crossing the Mirage:Passing Through Youth (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 3

Aboard the Bombay Express, Chandra was impatient for the train to move out of Nampally Station. Sitting by the window, he downed the shutter to escape attention of the passers-by. Doubling his precaution to avoid detection, he covered his flanks as well with the centre spread of the day’s Deccan Chronicle. Thus, in his quarantine, he failed to notice the arrival into the compartment of a bulky youth with a big suitcase.

Panting for a while, the stranger surveyed the scene within, as one would, to gain a vantage seat. Zeroing on the space aside Chandra's, he began pushing his baggage beneath the seat during which he had inadvertently hurt Chandra’s feet. When Chandra reflexively lowered the newspaper, it got punctured as the newcomer got up to apologize. Having sat in embarrassment, yet feeling suffocated, the lad reached for the latch of the shutter over Chandra’s head. Lifting the same without bringing to bear his weight on Chandra, the fellow settled in his seat to the latter’s chagrin.

Though Chandra stared at him in irritation, the fellow who had by then regained his lost ground ignored him altogether. Experiencing a peculiar sense of satisfaction at the chap’s recuperation, Chandra, as though to buttress his own self-worth, patted him heartily. When the driver, as a prelude to the guard’s green signal, tooted the horn, Chandra’s spirits soared sky-high.

Soon, the Bombay Express set on its routine course that charted Chandra’s un-chartered sojourn in the metropolis. When the express train left the platform behind and went into the open, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply as if to signify his own break with the past. As the train picked up speed, even as the gushing winds dispelled his anxieties, the rollicking motion massaged his exhaustion. In time, resting his head on the window frame, Chandra sank into a deep sleep that even the chaai garam din of the tea vendors failed to impact him.

By then, everyone in the compartment had settled down as well. While the woman by the window side opposite to Chandra was knitting a sweater for the baby girl in her lap, her husband amused himself with the playful child. While the burly youth was leafing through the Film Fare, the lad seated next seemed to savor the pictures of the fair sex therein. Making the quorum, three middle-aged men, all uniformly bald, were mimicking their boss without any fear of being eavesdropped.

Right across the aisle, an eager couple joined their split seats in a bid to come closer to each other. The tentativeness of the man’s advances and the coyness of the woman’s responses indicated that they were just married. It seemed the radiance on his face stemmed from a sense of possessing her and the aura she developed was owing to the consciousness of his attentions.

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