A sense of panic


The Homecoming

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And, at night, the rice gruel and tapioca curry – what served as a spoon, was a jackfruit leaf, shaped into a cone, and tucked in with a bit of broomstick. He laughed at the idea of a jackfruit leaf spoon lying juxtaposed to the cutlery on the dining table of a star hotel. Ingenious, a novelty which perhaps would find takers.

There were just two more stations to go. He pulled out his bag from the rack. One of his co-passengers commented, “Ten years is a long time. There is bound to be a lot of changes.”

He nodded in agreement. Would there still be a pumpkin creeper snaking up the wall? Would the green wicket gate have given place to a sturdier one. Or just another painted colour. One thing he was sure about. His mother, albeit older and more grey, would still be in her spotters white, and she would have cooked the heavenly fish curry. As the train started slowing down, he saw under a banyan tree, a palmist foretelling the future to a youth squatting before him with  outstretched palm. From the nebulous region of a long past, a vignette of memory flashed in his mind. On a rainy day, with nothing else to do, he too had held out his hand to a mendicant, who read his palm.

Now, he couldn’t remember much of what had been said. Anyway he hadn’t believed in any of it. He had just been amused, and relegated it all to the back of his mind as mere gibberish which only fools took as gospel truth. But now suddenly one sentence reverberated in his mind – “You will die in your own hometown.” Not when, or how, but where. And that was here, in his hometown.

Sweat broke out on his brow, the train had reached the station. But he stood rooted near the exit, clutching his bag. A sense of panic was overwhelming him, even as he told himself that he was being silly. If he did not get down now, he would laugh at himself for being a coward. For believing some palmist’s words. He told himself he was made of sterner stuff. But… but… and then, taking hold of his bag, he braced himself to jump out, even as the train was gathering speed and some passengers screamed.

And he was caught under the wheels of a train, coming from the opposite direction.

A mangled body on the track. Bones crushed. Blood spurting.



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