The genuine fake

I have never been a train person. I always catch the bus or the kombis. My taking a regular job does not mean I am like-minded with the rest of the seemingly struggling working class. No. I am simply an artist caught up somewhere trying to earn enough to tie the loose ends. On top of that I am young smart, swift and live for here and now. Meaning you will not find me dead, queuing for a ticket and seat at the train station. But patiently and by some miracle here is my proud-self queuing with the masses, musing on the weird way I found myself here. Now I believe that fate and incident work hand in glove. An earlier ‘miracle’ led me to losing my money at work in a stupid gambling exercise ‘ ‘miracle’ because gambling is a thing I never do, and have never done. I am just not the type. The guys must have tricked me because I won a couple of the opening games. “You have the instincts of a pro” remarked Jojo whom I previously called the clown but had every reason and conviction to call a ‘no good for nothing trickster’ now. “Just keep the concentration level focused” urged Jekisen when I began to lose. “You can make it if you have the will power”, he continued. Bloody hell! What will power? The guys ripped me. And to think that these are my colleagues . . . work mates ‘ mates ‘ to mean my mates at work! I felt quite disgusted. And the stupid queue didn’t move an inch. Then I am sure the guys engineered that I ‘win something’ because my situation had deteriorated to critical levels. I had managed to lose everything I has won. Well at least I won something. Not too much. Enough to get me home ‘ by train that is. If I tried the more luxurious and expensive bus, my whole earnings would be eroded in the single trip. So indeed it is firmly embedded in my mind ‘ fate and incident do work hand in glove. For me the train itself, the train station and its environs represent everything miserable about traveling. Of all its disadvantages, it has only one advantage; that it is painfully cheap you would think the price of a ticket is negotiated. Then everything else is a combination of odds against you ‘ or rather me. It gets overcrowded, leading to an assortment of sweaty odours rising heavily to fill the air, and then people have to literally ‘stick’ onto each other to fit properly. That generates the sort of harsh heat that seems to stick on you even when you have disembarked the train. But before you even jump into the frying pan, you have to endure the queue. It is classic. Doesn’t move an inch although the ticket seller is busy counting money and slapping tickets into sweaty palms. So here I am, looking stranded at the train station. The woman in front of me has a baby strapped onto her back. The little infant keeps straining its neck to look at me as if I am some monument. I begin to feel out of place. And to think that I am being made uncomfortable by some unassuming and probably unthinking 8 or so month old soul dutifully strapped onto its mother’s back for its safety and convenience. I feel like a pumpkin and a watermelon or one of them at a time. And this particular individual keeps on smiling at me, cringing its neck to look at me even with the corner of the eye, wanting to be friendly. I am in no mood. The mother probably notices my lack of ‘child entertaining skills’ because she turns to face the other direction such that it is now impossible for the little guy, no matter how hard he tries, to see me. Does the little maniac fight? He or she tosses and tries to twist and turn ‘ kicking and screaming all the time. The mother gets impatient and ‘pats’ which looks and sounds more like ‘slaps’ the baby’s sides with her outer palm. The little freak lets loose a stinging shriek of a wail that gets a good number of onlookers glaring at me. Why me? At this point I feel like the mother of all rotting pumpkins and watermelons or each of those at any given one time. My situation is made a little easier by a wristwatch vendor who comes by touting for buyers for his assortment of watches. Why the dude is shouting when he has all of us practically at earshot baffles me. But at least that makes sure my temporary audience looks elsewhere. Then the guy stops right at me – a thing he has not done at any point in the queue. Once again, the spotlight is on me. Now if this guy thinks I have any interest in his watches, let alone money to buy, he has another thing coming. l To be continued next week

April 2006
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