THE OFFICE DUDE:
The office train to Kandy was pulling in at the platform. Hundreds of steel wheels rattled against the steel tracks with slowing tempo. The milling crowds on the platform edged towards the slowing train. Some were already hanging on to the handrails, their feet trying to find foothold on the foot board or at least some horizontal surface.
I clutched my bag and ran alongside the train, dodging commuters in the hope of grabbing the handrail to get into the train. This is the worst part of the day for most of us office workers.
We office workers had what the other people called cliques on the train. Generally, we occupy the same place in the same compartment every day. As we have to travel a reasonably long distance, this was a tonic for our hectic day. We used to chat, joke, bully, play cards and an endless list of other fun things on the train. Some days there were some outsiders trying to grab our places and we had to declare war till the outside threat is withdrawn. This could be verbal abuse or just confrontation. Most of the time, the invaders pulled out without a fight, muttering curses under their breath.
As I was running I noticed this dude I had seen several days a week for the last few months looming out of the milling crowds and join the running mob. This dude was in a sour mood the other day when he had to give up the seat I secured for my partner. I didn’t like his face ever since.
I came alongside with the handrail and grabbed it. Seconds later, I got a foothold too, and was riding the train. The dude with a bitter face who had joined the race later than I had, was also making similar progress. He grabbed the rail and was running alongside desperately looking for a foothold. I dug my elbow into his exposed rib under the raised arm. Dude cringed and let go of the handrail. And he disappeared in the milling crowd with a grunt. I pushed in with the crowd that emerged victoriously in the compartment and dumped my office bag on my seat. By the time the train ground to a halt I had completely forgotten about the dude.
I saw the train before I heard it. Its face growing larger at the end of the tracks every second. The PA system rambled away an unintelligible announcement in one of the three languages. I asked my daughter to stay put. She sat on the bench, smiled at me with rounded eyes, and nodded. I ran towards the oncoming train in the hope of grabbing a seat for my daughter and calling her putting my head out of the window, when it came to a standstill by the bench she sat. For the past few weeks I had done the calculations and knew which compartment stopped where. The milling crowds on the platform edged towards the slowing train. Some were already hanging on to the handrails, their feet trying to find access on the footboard or some horizontal surface. I was almost face to face with the train, me on the platform, train on the tracks.
Hundreds of steel wheels rattled against the steel tracks with slowing tempo, but not slow enough. I swung around and started running back alongside the rushing train. The compartment I aimed for was the fifth one. I adjusted my speed to suit the decelerating train. Mmm.. there it comes. I grabbed the handrail with one hand and was running with along the platform. I tried to get a foothold desperately, and finally I thought I succeeded and heaved myself off the platform hanging onto the rail with all my might.
Then it happened.
I felt an elbow digging into my ribs like a sledgehammer. I doubled up impulsively, letting go of the handrail and the foothold and thudded against the platform. As the train overshot, I was still rolling and rolling towards the edge of the platform closer to the rattling steel wheels rumbling by echoing through the station… My daughters innocent face flashed before my eyes. If I die here under this train now, what’s going to happen to my innocent helpless kid?
HENRYBLOGWALKER THE DUDE:
Some in the he crowds shrieked. Women’s hands shot up to grab their cheeks. Eyes rounded. Some screams froze in the throats. Time seemed to stand still.
Then the rolling body stopped just short of the rumbling wheels. Someone grabbed him and pulled him to safety. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
I was visibly shaking like a leaf. I had just escaped the jaws of death. I felt my knees had turned to jelly and my throat like parchment. An unquenchable thirst! I felt feverish and heard my heart pounding away in my head. I collapsed on the bench next to my daughter and grabbed her never to let go… She clung to me. I heard her say, “Appachchi..” (Dad!)
FROM HENRYBLOGWALKER THE DUDE TO THE OFFICE DUDE:
Dude, even though I hate to call you dude, I’d still call you like that. First words that came into my mind were all four lettered, but definitely not dude. I’m supposed to be a cool dude, so I have to live up to my reputation. I don’t know if you would ever set your eyes on this blog post, anyways what has to be said has to be said.
First let me introduce Senaka, whose ribs you dug your elbow into.
Senaka is a father of two kids, both daughters. First one is a perfectly normal and a bright kid.
Second one wasn’t that lucky. When she was born 14 years ago, in private nursing home in Kandy, she didn’t breathe for some time. By the time the staff managed to get her to breath normally the deprivation of oxygen to her brain had caused enough damage to put her and her family into a lifelong suffering.
Even today, she is about 7 years behind than her peers. In a world full of perverts, I don’t have to tell you what the two of them underwent to protect her. Senaka couldn’t hold on to one job for too long, both local and foreign, as he had dedicated his whole life for this child. They couldn’t achieve many things in life they would have done if it wasn’t for this few minutes without oxygen. This incident certainly turned their lives upside down.
Even that day, when you nearly took his life, he had gone to Colombo with the second kid for a special therapy class, which she attended several days a week. He knew by experience that nobody offered the child a seat on that crowded train, all the way to Kandy. As a father he couldn’t bear up to see the child suffer in the crowded train for 114km.
The dude whose ribs you dug your elbow into, had spent the last 14 years constantly tending to his daughter, being a shadow to her in a world where there are mothers who dumped their newly born babies in trashcans and fathers who raped their own daughters.
Moments before you knocked him off the train with your elbow, this dude had left his disabled daughter on a bench on the platform and risked his life by hanging on to the moving train to get themselves a seat so that she could sleep on his lap after a hectic day for them both.
While you were digging your elbow into her father, that child whose life wouldn’t have had a meaning without a father like him, was waiting with wide eyes, sitting on that bench for him to call her through a window of the train.
I can visualize this because one day I stopped the van on a narrow hilly road in Kandy for Senaka to go a wayside grocery store. This girl was sitting at the back with my family. Then because another vehicle appeared, I had to take the van a few meters ahead to allow it to pass. When the vehicle started to move without Senaka, “This girl started screaming, “ Uncle, Don’t leave my dad. He’ll be all alone…” This brought tears to our eyes. Imagine how she would have wailed if he rolled a few more inches and ended up under the train that day…!
You nearly ended the life of a dude who missed many good things in life, because of the fate dished out to him.
And most of all, the dude whose life you nearly ended that day, happens to be henryblogwalker the Dude’s brother in law. He married my wife’s sister who is a lecturer of English in a College of Education, making it impossible for her to attend to this kid all the time like her father does. I can go on like this, making you feel more and more miserable for what you have done, but there’s no point… and I’m no sadist.
So I ask you of one thing before I end this post…
THE NEXT TIME YOU ELBOW YOUR WAY THROUGH YOUR LIFE,
PLEASE STOP TO CONSIDER WHOSE RIBS YOU DIG INTO.