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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Short Story - Aftermath

(Another short story...)

It was a late night at the railway station. The usual suspects were present in full force – the pack of drowsy shoeshine boys/men, the beggars (who never got asked for tickets by the TT), the dingy food stalls manned by dirty, oily attendants with lots of eager flies and moths going ballistic on the garish white lights, a couple of sweepers kicking up as much dust as they were willing to, and a couple of very agile strays.

The unwashed pickpocket hovered around the ticket counter, biding his time. He looked like any other weary Second Class type passenger, just waiting to get home. Clothes that looked literally lived in, droopy eyelids, and an inch’s worth of grime covering every area visible to the naked eye, including the hair. Getting his next fix was top priority. Had been almost 24 hours since the last one.

He eyed his prey – a meek looking lone traveler at the end of the longish line, bearded, medium height and build, who kept fingering the back pocket of his pants.

The line was long even at this time of the night, thanks to a lone ticket counter with a supremely bored ticket clerk as the master of all he could see. He was taking his own sweet time to punch the tickets, dispelling his monotony with some banter with the neighbouring clerks, and by getting up every now and then to stretch his legs – ostensibly to get some more tickets or change from the other counters. People who told him exactly what they thought of his trips were shoved aside regally along with a request for the exact change. Served them right.

The pickpocket saw his chance, and got in behind his target. Three persons away from the ticket window, he made his move. One smooth dive in and out, and his fingers were clutching a 500-rupee note. He couldn’t believe his luck, as his fingers shook while pocketing the money. To his misfortune, the bearded man turned around and saw him put away the note. He angrily confronted him

“I saw you put away that note. That’s mine!”

“What?”, the pickpocket mumbled. “It’s not…”

Before he could complete his sentence, the bearded man grabbed him by the wrist and addressed the world at large.

“He’s stolen my money! I saw him do it!!”

The line behind slowly disintegrated, with some people trickling up front. Curious just about began to describe their demeanor.

“What? Did you see him do it?”

“Positive. Swear on my kids.”

Out of nowhere apparent, a palm landed on the pickpocket’s cheek, causing him to stumble. And then another. And another. Till the only sound one could hear was the sickening non-movie like sound of somebody being thrashed. A dull thwacking, with no report, no echo, no melodrama and no exaggerated movements. Cold, clinical and calculated. Not at all like in the movies. One by one, all the travelers started to let him have it. The commute, the sadistic ticket clerk, the filth, the dust, the noise, the fecal, urea-tinged stench…they were suddenly oblivious to it all.

All that mattered was in front of them now, ready to take everything they were ready to dish out. They evidently thought about the comfortable journey home, nostrils jostling against an ocean of stinky armpits, bones forcibly made elastic, all muscles numb, hanging on to life by just their fingertips and nothing else. And then saw him crouched, shitting his pants. Fists rained jarring blows all over the thief, which made him try to crawl on all fours, desperately trying to get away. Then a whole lot of feet took over. Rubber, PVC and leather soles rained on whatever areas of his body that they could find. A bunch of hands hoisted him up by his shirt collar, and started parading him up and down the ticket counter area, with the bearded man leading the way, crowing all the time.

“You brazen son of a bitch!”

“We’ll teach you how to pick pockets…”

The traffic cop was watching all this with great interest from the street corner outside. It had been a real slow day. In spite of every motorable inch being dug up, everybody had driven perfectly, even the taxi drivers. Just one of those days - not good at all and he was feeling the pressure of the bottom line. He marched in self-importantly and went up to the melee. The crowd parted semi-respectfully, as he caught the thief by his right ear, and slapped him as hard as he could, screaming

“How dare you?!! What were you thinking?!

He then proceeded to kick him in the shins. After a couple of more blows, he was fully satisfied, and he turned to the crowd and proclaimed
“Take him to the police booth on the station. I cannot arrest him since I’m a traffic cop…”
and then melted away into the night, a song and a smile on his lips.

The crowd then went on to the railway station, parading the by now delirious thief. A stray dog and a couple of beggar kids also joined in, howling loudly together whenever there was a lull in the thrashing. The cops on the station were nowhere to be found.

They marched all along the platform, till gradually, as was bound to happen, the crowd started to lose interest. Some remembered they had a train to catch, some remembered that they had a home and family to go back to, while some were just plain bored with the situation now and had had enough. They would have loved to lynch the thief, but everybody was waiting for someone else to launch the first really vicious blow. A very lucky deadlock for him. The procession gradually thinned, as people dropped out discreetly from the back of the line. A couple of trains went by and swallowed almost everybody in the procession, till only the victim and the perpetrator were left alone for all purposes (since the remaining passersby were very detached now – who wants to get onto the red taped side of things anyways?), in a corner of the platform.

The pickpocket saw his chance, and shoved the bearded guy hard, getting his shirt ripped off his back, as he broke into a manic run down the tracks and disappeared into the darkness. He ran till he felt like his lungs had burst, and collapsed by the side of the tracks, his breath coming in painful ragged gasps. Every fibre of his being was screaming out in agony, blood streaming down his face, ears flaming.

His ears picked up the familiar tread of boots on the gravel. He spun around and cowered as a flashlight shone upon his face. A savage kick across his face made him spit out blood and a tooth.

“Stupid fucking son of a bitch. Did it like it was your first time ever! Am taking you in, I have to now. Too many people have seen you… the media is there…whoring the incident and questioning us about our whereabouts. You have left me no choice…”
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2:16 AM, February 01, 2006
Anonymous AJ said...

Nice!    



7:26 PM, February 02, 2006
Anonymous raghu said...

nice one pal...keep the short stories comin...jerked me back to reality after staring at obscure 'c' code written by a hapless moron.....    



10:29 AM, February 05, 2006
Blogger Hiren said...

"Haath ki Safai" in full swing.    



3:40 PM, October 15, 2007
Anonymous Manpreet said...

that was an awesome story..    



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