He sat there at the entrance to the waiting room every day, noon and night. The railway station was always busy and the waiting room was always full. He didn't really have anything of importance to do there but a then minister of the state government had winged this job for him. He was greatly thankful to the minister for this, although he was the reason Deena limped around on a single leg.
Day in and day out he checked people's tickets and decided who would be allowed in and who wouldn't. He was the master of the doorway and quite protective about it. If someone ignored his request to examine the ticket, he ensured that the evader got an ear full of his opinion on how civilization was going to the dogs.
Looking at the nose-cringed affluent in the waiting room, he often wondered how his own life would've been if not for that fateful year. He had been a better than average student made it to one of the better known "arts" colleges in his town. Deena emerged one of the finest students in his class during the first year of his bachelor's degree. He had taken up Commerce and aimed to get certified as a CA . The dream of one too many teenager in every town but even his teachers believed that he had the drive to succeed.
One fine rainy evening, on his way back home, he saw this girl at the bus stop. She had a worried look on her face and stood there alone. He stopped to ask her if she needed some help. As she explained that she had missed the last bus home and it was quite a long way off to home, he noticed the way her long braided hair reached her waist and how the droplets shone under the lamp. Prying his eyes away, he offered to wait with her until the rain stopped and take her home on his moped.
Deena had fallen for Priya that first day but he didn't tell her that until after many many chance encounters with her. All his friends in college knew, of course and they him on with their unsolicited advice and their random bantering. When he did decide to tell her, she simply said that she was already engaged to another guy. He was devastated. Now, when he thought back, he saw clearly how he wasn't even that much in love with her but it was a big blow then to his adolescent ego. If he had been that clear-headed then!!
Someone tapped on his shoulder. It was the station master. He was a kind man and brought sweets to him whenever his wife packed them in for his lunch. "Too old for sweets but can't have the missus think that, can I?", he said. Deena and the station master chatted for a while running their eyes over the people huddled inside and sighing at the monotony of it all. As he was leaving, the station master mentioned that "his" minister was scheduled to take a train that evening.
Deena saw Ravi walk down the platform with what seemed like fifty men following him. Every single one of them was dressed in the trade mark white that politicians seemed to favour. That was just to project an image of honesty, Deena thought to himself. Ravi had risen from the same background as Deena but his life had been set on a completely diferent course. He had been a shy kid in school. Deena had been a year older than him and naturally Ravi was not even a speck on his horizon. Even otherwise, Ravi was not on anyone's horizon. He was very frail and was lousy at sports. He was neither a geek nor a cool kid and he was left to his own most of the time.
After school, Ravi had managed to enrol in a college in the nearby city. He was only an average student but his father's network had ensured him a seat in the course of his choice - Literature. Less than a year into his collegiate studies, Ravi had transformed into a very popular student. He was devoted to Tamil literature and could quote from poets known and unknown. His own compositions were well regarded by his peers and his diction showed the makings of a great politician. It was a remarkable thing how Ravi discovered his abilities. He had risen like an eagle and soared through everyone's ken. He became a member of the circle of intellectuals and politics was a natural progression for him.
After being rejected by Priya, Deena had pursued her in vain. He felt humiliated and didn't want his friends to think low of him. He was miffed at Priya's rebuttal of his advances and hounded her like a maniac. Like many a spurned suitor, he tried all the classic formulas he had learnt from watching the movies. He threatened to kill himself and have her blamed her for his suicide. He wrote to her that he would kill her and for good measure, her parents too. He hunkered around her home and at night threw flowers through her window. He wrote letters after letters and got them delivered through his friends and her friends. Nothing convinced Priya. She told him to get lost.
Then one day he followed her on her way back home from the bus stop. He kept begging her to love him back and when she didn't even pretend to have heard his rage knew no bounds. He caught her by her arms and pulled her towards him.
Priya was made of stronger stuff than that. She had been a fiercely independent girl. Her father had died young and she had seen and learnt from the struggles that her mother faced. A lone woman needed grit to survive the world - a world bent on taking advantage of the unfortunate. She had been grateful to Deena for helping her that long past evening and that was the only reason she had tolerated him until then. She would've been good friends with him if he hadn't gotten smitten with her.
She pushed him way and planted a slap on his cheeks. She could see the blood rushing to Deena's face. She saw how anger soared through Deena and his entire body tightened. Deena raised his hand to strike her and that's when both of them heard and noticed Ravi running towards them. Ravi came in between them and pushed Deena away. Deena silently withdrew. As he turned away he noticed Ravi put a protective arm around Priya and they turned and left the place.
That night as he lay in his cot, a group of men had dragged him out of the house. He remembered how the sky had been bright with moonlight and the stars had seemed outshone by the moon. He remembered how he had withdrawn into himself and did not seem to feel the thuds the logs made on his body. Not a sound escaped his mouth until he saw the glint of steel slice through the air. The next moment his heart seemed to explode and his eyes bulged. He could feel a warmth in his left leg and then every nerve in his body screamed in agony. He heard himself shout out a long wail and wondered if blood spurted out of a severed leg or if it flowed like from a normal wound.
He felt a hand settle on his shoulder and he awoke from his revery. He looked up and saw Ravi's smile. They exchanged a few words and Ravi left after putting an envelope into Deena's pocket. Deena knew that it was Ravi's way of penance.
A group of us ran a sandwich stall at work. It was a for-charity event. Our sandwiches, especially the Corn-N-Mayo, were a big hit. Sadly, the Employee Club imposed price controls after the fiasco by another team yesterday. A lot of folks were unhappy about that event. Two (yes two) potato wedges for 20 bucks was not their greatest idea. Our collections weren't anywhere near what we could've done, because of the price controls but it was totally worth it. We spent almost two non-stop hours in the kitchen, catering to the demand. Totally washed out now but Yay!!
So this friend says something to the effect - "UP was fun" and I go "UP what?" (That's a prelude of things to come).