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   Chapter 3 Running into a friend

Episodes That Pervade My Heart By Sundaram Characters: 7871

Updated: 2021-01-09 05:16

The train arrives at the platform several minutes past the announcement. It's well around eleven in the morning. People fidget about to settle in their places on the train. It is quite apparent that their concern is not about the train being late but about getting seated in their places. It's like magic that the train has moved out of Salem on its trip to Coimbatore with all passengers in different classes and luggage intact in the next few minutes. With e-ticketing, the already ever-packed train journey has further gone beyond easy booking and accommodation. Despite my attempt or more appropriately that of my staff, as early as a month ahead, it has borne no fruit and I'm here sitting in the Second class compartment. Not that I prefer regular II AC coach or First class nor do I make it a point not to travel in Second class, but it is at times like this occasion when I go to Coimbatore for quarterly review of my subordinate office that I very much choose to travel by higher class as it affords the conducive atmosphere going to prevail in the meeting hall. Now that it is not there, it may be a different experience. I decide to live up to it. "Sir, you know you're stamping my foot?" my neighbour scornfully looks at me. "Ah, I'm sorry" and I suddenly shift my feet, well-clad in shoes. Not even a grin in his face could be seen through the train has been running for half an hour then! Well, the rest of the people engage themselves in talk and chat. Guilty of an inadvertent fault, the stamping incident, I do not find it any good to turn the attention of my victim. Probably he feels the same as he keeps his own air. The train pulls to a halt at Erode. I never imagined my irate co-passenger would have a further testing time. Before anyone could realize, there jumps a man into our coach with a basket of a variety of fruits and casts his searching vision. Spotting me, he cries in joy, "Sir, how come you're here? I am dashing from AC coach to First class to Second class and to find you here! Sir, the signal is on; please take along this basket from Erode division for you in good understanding and expression of hospitality." Dropping the basket near my foot, he jumps out and is gone! I feel guilty on two counts: first being, not knowing the stranger by name or by identity who has brought the fruits and secondlynot thanking his gesture. "People of the same race", commented my neighbour harshly, while adjusting his feet and pushing away the basket, supposedly hurting his feet! I look straight into his face in humility which he brushes aside and continues the comment. "Ah, that's bureaucracy, one man enjoying the fruits of another, the aggrieved!" The spectators around snugly exchange a look as if there is a reality in my neighbour's comment. Quite helpless, I bear the brunt! The meeting scheduled for the forenoon is sure not to take off and realizing the grim reality, I press the buttons and send the message in my mobile for the office at Coimbatore to hold the session in the afternoon around four pm. This done, I then shuffle through the agenda which I've carried in my briefcase. Thanks to the rattling of the train and non-stop gossip inside the compartment, I'm already bundling up the papers back in the briefcase. The story now going around is that a saintly looking benevolent woman last week, on the same route, distributed spurious sweets in the name of 'Prasad' and there was quite a hubbub! One passenger says: "It's quite possible that such an episode may take place in case of free gifts such as this one we've seen here"Another responds, "…especially in officialdom where supremacy rules the roost and the bitter low grade employee may take revenge!"I'm all shut up in a fix and I recall that none in the Erode division called me to say of the gift nor did the man who delivered the basket at my foot reveal his identity. The basket at my feet, I almost feel li

ke a bomb and I turn restlessly in my seat. The vendors now stop carrying edibles, prelude to arrival at Coimbatore, may be a few kilometers away. At this moment suddenly a contingent of Railway police enters our compartment! Word is getting around that there is a bomb threat in the train! People are panic-stricken and someone suggests that the train could be stopped by chain-pulling! The police head pacifies everyone and presently there zoom a couple of metal detectors and sniffer dogs. The situation turns bad to worse as the team round up the basket and one of the dogs barkingly tears open the basket. Among the spillage, the dog pulls at one apple in his teeth and it is declared that this is the bomb-ridden apple! I silently pray to God for help and believe at least one among the forty plus passengers of that reserved compartment will come to my rescue. But the fate would have it-my neighbor gesticulates to the police head to pull the alarm chain even as the team has already diffused the bomb to safety!

I think my fate is bad enough to drag me this long. I hear the police officer say, "Well, all of you calm down; the bomb has been identified and the culprit has also been nabbed".

Even as the officer is gesticulating not to stop the train, one of the cops, binds me with fetters, very much against my protest and production of my official identity card. It's really a hell of a day and at last the train arrives at Coimbatore junction! The division head at Coimbatore is all confused when I alight the train bound by hand-cuffs and followed by the police! Brushing the mounting mob away, the police conduct me to their premises in the platform. I cannot believe my eyes as my neighbour in the train who has had a bad ride because of me, is there quite beaming!

He says with a raised voice: "Gentlemen, I'm with CID and this is my identity. I, for sure, know this officer", pointing to me, "and he's innocent!"

Only then could I breathe a sigh of relief! It all turned out that the miscreant, who planted the bomb, had gathered the required site and person from staff who came to see me off at Salem junction and who were detailing the program to me. It is how the dacoits plotted the otherwise plunder with perfect timing and gained entry into the train at Erode with an alibi to take fruit basket to an official in the train. When the scenario has cooled down, I board our department vehicle with the CID official promising him a drop en route.

I said: "I'm all at a loss to know as to what're has taken place on the train today. It's still strange you got the tip and tracked the criminal. I thought you're meddling with your mobile and only now I see that you sent special messages". "Well, that's that; it all happened when I was loitering in the platform awaiting the train. By accident, I saw the notice stuck on the platform walls with images of criminals and a warning by police that the passengers are to inform the police in case they encounter the criminals. But I never imagined that I'd confront that Jacob so soon in the form of your subordinate staff!"

"But then how'd you guess he was the culprit? Why didn't you stop the police from fettering me?"He coolly said, "Well, to make some fun out of you, angry with me?" And it's again by chance that I learnt of the bomb threat from my top Brass at Chennai who kept me completely posted with the danger and simultaneously he'd arranged for the arrest of Jacob. The police team making a storming entry into our compartment was made happen by the Brass only; he's quite a talented guy!"

"Good God! Your shrewdness saved us all from a great disaster and a criminal atrocity but with a high dose of bewilderment."

He said: "Shall I say I ran into a friend? For now, lemme get down here in Gandhipuram and see you again."

"Indeed officer", I thanked and dropped him and drove off. After all I'm just in time for the four pm review!

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