My Terror phobia
Day today news about serial bomb blasts, terrorist attacks has created a mass phobia which everyone experiences the moment they step out of their secure nests for a living. Especially those travelling in the public transports like in bus, metro, trains and in public places where there is a lot of crowd. Amidst the noise, honking horn, vehicles sneaking through traffic while one stands in the cozy bus stops there is not a day which passes without people mulling over the idea of impending terrorist attack or a bomb blast.
For one instance, I was returning to Bangalore having visited my relatives by Intercity express. I got into the ever crowded general coach and managed to get a place to sit but it was notmy favourite window seat. In the hot summer it had heated up so much that it felt as if I was in an oven. I hated the typical smell of general coach, with everyone drenched in sweat it was unbearable.
Trying to avoid the unpleasant stench and being squeezed from either side, I started a conversation with the fat lady beside me which lasted for few minutes and then I was back to being myself. Trying to look out through the window, playing games on my cell phone, reading a borrowed local news paper to pass time. I was done with them all, yet only the second station had passed. I groaned this was getting too hard and I could not sleep either, being squeezed between the fat lady and elderly woman made it impossible. Checked my bag for earphones to listen songs in my phone, to my utter dismay I had forgotten to fetch them ended up cursed myself. Now, all I could do is stare at people and barred windows for eight long hours.
A gentleman in front of me was playing an old Hindi song on his ‘China Set’ mobile loud enough to be heard by the whole coach. Normally, I would be annoyed by such a thing but now it was actually the lone source of entertainment and felt good. Soon the train arrived at third station, more people got down and few got in. A tall dark bearded man in his mid-thirties, carrying too many luggage came and sat on the side berth besides us. He wore a green Afghani kurti, a black vest, leather shoes and a white topi. He slid his suitcase below the seat and kept on heavy black bag up on the luggage rack. He sat down and checked the time, took out his cell and spoke in Urdu which I barely understood. Then he sat quietly looking out of the window and never made eye contact with anyone.
I had stopped being aware of the unpleasant smell, the uncomfortable position I was sitting or the song that played loudly. This man had caught my attention I couldn’t help from checking out this man (let me remind that he was not that good looking enough to think I am stalking him). Probably its his demeanor that put him out of place or there was something more to it? He took out a beaded mala and started chanting in Arabic for some time. My eye moved to the black bag on the rack. It was a rectangular small bag, I wondered what could be there in that it is so heavy. Tiny droplets of sweat started to appear on my forehead thinking what if there was a deadly explosive in it, I wiped it off with back of my hand. Looked at my other co-passengers if any of them were noticing what I did. But they were in there own world; the man in front me playing music had dozed off, two women besides him were busy discussing about the TV serial they regularly watched while their kids played, fat lady beside me was snoring while the elderly woman was reading Geeta.
It was only me with all paranoid thoughts running in my mind. I tried to shrug off the wild ideas and to shift my attention to something else. So, I took out my daily account diary started to enter details of how much I spent which I hadn’t past two days. As I was writing I dozed off, thanks to mental exhaustion my mind was going through and it had shut down. After a while I woke up, I rubbed my eyes to clear my vision and the man with beard was not there. I checked his baggage and they were still there!! I recollected if any station had passed while I had dozed and check my watch, it was an hour since I slept off, given that definitely train must have stopped at one or two station. My hands were wet, I could hear my heart beat and I swept through the train of thoughts again. What if that suspicious man is from a terrorist organisation? And had got down the train? Are there really explosives in the bag up there and explode anytime? Should I alert other co-passengers? Then I tried to calm myself by saying I am just overtly paranoid. Yet, neither was I able to get out of this nagging feeling of something bad is going happen nor sit quietly at one place. So, I got up to check out this man. I excused myself and asked that elderly lady to look after my bag.
The detective me
I walked to the one end of the coach and waited near the door as the both toilets for occupied. I just stood there to see if that man was in a toilet and would come out but in vain. Then I just washed my face and went to the other end of the coach telling the lady I will return buying some chips packet. I got a chips packet from a vendor near the door and searched for the suspicious looking man, but was unable to find him. I walked back to my seat mulling over if any untoward incident occurred my family won’t be able to find me, all there would be me in ashes. Man!! I don’t want to die so early, I have been preparing for my final exam coming month all the year that would go in vain. Yes, I sacrificed most of tours, parties and comforts for this exam and it does matter anymore if I am blown up right? I am just in my early twenties I have got so much to do with my life. Sheesh! What about so many people in the coach. Shall I pull the safety chain, intimate the police, get all passengers out before it’s too late and be a savior? or make fool out of myself. Even the ticket collector hadn’t come to check tickets; there was a good chance that anybody could sneak in with explosives with meager security and board a train, leaving them there without getting noticed in the crowd. A shudder passed through my body. In such an insecure world I am living, holding my life at stake at the every step of my life.
I was still in my thoughts oblivious to the surroundings then suddenly I noticed the man back on to his seat but this time he was speaking to the gentleman sitting in front of me. I let a big sigh of relief and walked swiftly to my seat. I could hear everyone laughing loudly and eating cucumber with salt-pepper. I found out that the elderly lady had asked the man to get her some cucumber and he had to go all the way from one coach to another coach, as he missed the vendor, to buy cucumber. Insane!! Me or the man? I wonder as I stuff handful chips into my mouth!! I agree one shouldn’t judge anybody on their appearances but the thoughts are confounded by what we hear, read and the information we get from the media. In spite of all the odds and uncertainties life of a common man goes on. It’s the blind trust and belief that keeps us going. Finally I got to Bangalore safely and there were no bad news the coming day in the media. Still I felt like I had escaped from the hands of death.
Check the article on Bangalore Mirror blogs 🙂 http://bangaloremirror.com/index.aspx?page=others&do=/blogs/default.aspx