The train compartment was crowded as usual. Mr. Clement climbed on to the train bearing his huge suitcase and his not so huge frame. He had missed his Eighty-Thirty local like a lot of other people, and was running late for work. A stable family life meant helping out your spouse in the kitchen, whether you liked it or not. Punctuality at work naturally suffers when you don’t have the determination to push through your morning chores at break neck speed. Mr. Clement was a calm and composed man. He was old as he was wise. He was of the opinion that a lovely night in bed was worth more than a professional advancement. Even if you lick all those asses that sat on top of you, and wiped them clean later; there was no surety that they would notice. The late Clement Sr had a few things to say about work-“Turning up on time, doing good work, getting people to like you — if you can do at least two of the above three gracefully you are a sure shot success”. Wise words from a wise man.
Mr. Clement tried to adjust his suitcase so as to hurt as few people as possible. No mean feat this, in a train that crowded. You barely had to hold onto any straps to support yourself. Simple physics principles were at work here. Every action had an opposite and (nearly) equal reaction. All internal forces in a free body cancels out. You lean against a fat man, the fat man leans against a fatter man. The chain continues until you reach the gate, which probably supported the fattest of them all. All one had to do was to make sure that he or she doesn’t get crushed under too much weight. And the door — you can’t be too careful while being near the door. At times you wouldn’t even know where the train had reached, and presto manifesto— the door would slide open. A bunch of people who suddenly realised that their station had arrived would jump out in a jiffy, and another unruly bunch would jump right in. You had to have a lot of physical dexterity to survive all this.
Slowly and steadily the people in the train started thinning out. To the extent that Mr. Clement could turn around and observe his fellow travellers. There was a slight commotion at the other end. He tried ignoring it initially. But the sound levels grew too loud and started breaking into his thoughts before he decided to pay some attention-
“My Julie needs her space, don’t you point your finger at her that way. Uncouth philistines. What do you think of yourselves?”
A lady dressed in brilliant red was throwing words at random individuals around her as loud as she could. The clothes showed that she had copious amount of money but the choice phrases and that grimace meant she had recently acquired wealth. Married rich probably. She was accompanied by a poor excuse for a dog — a strange poodle with all its fur plucked out and a sad look on its face. The animal was the reason behind the arguments flaring inside.
“Why do you have to keep the dog on the seat? Can’t you see? This tired old woman has been standing for so long. It’s illegal to carry pets”, a gentleman, middle aged; was trying to put across his point rather timidly.
“Shut up! Don’t teach me the law. I know how the law works here. Why don’t you get up if you are so very concerned?” She just spat him off like gum.
“But can’t you keep it down. It’s just a do-”, another petite woman was giving her best try.
“How dare you? Filthy bitch. Seat my poor child on the floor? Unclean rags!”
“Keep it on your lap then?”,an intelligent looking teen gave words to what Mr. Clement thought was the easiest solution to the whole problem.
“What did you say? Do you even have any idea how much this costs? It is worth more than your house, for all you know.” The lady had gone too far.
Mr. Clement, the devout Catholic that he was; drew a cross across his chest, prayed to the Lord and stepped forward. Four long strides and he reached the scene of action. Picking up the dog in one hand, he smoothly opened the window with the other. With the use of little force he threw the dog out and calmly closed the window.
The tired old woman who had wanted to sit for so long, stared at him for a while, and then said, “You threw the wrong bitch out.”
With a cheerful smile Mr. Clement replied, “I have done what I could.”
Sketch By: Savni Panandiker