Move Over, Chennai

Years ago, my uncle had moved from Kolkatta to Chennai, giving up a good job in an MNC to be with his ageing mother.

He had set up a factory in one of those outlying areas (may not be so, now) – Velachery – to make plastic components for the industry. Daily he drove by himself all the way to and fro his residence in Triplicane, a city suburb. Every so often, in his commute, at some point enroute he was involved in one incident or the other. One day it would be an old man or a middle-aged lady (the most aggressive lot), and on another day, it would be a chicken that would meet with his car. Immediately a neighborhood crowd would collect around the vehicle and one among them would take the lead in the cry for justice for the ‘poor victim’.  It took a while for my uncle to realize the victim was, in fact, no victim having flung himself deliberately against the car, ending up no worse than lightly soiling his clothes, so managed by clever choice of the moment and the spot at a braking distance in front of the car. Of course with a chicken thrown expertly, this was not possible – it would end up dead or near dead. But there was no way he could prove it wasn’t his doing to the small mob that would appear instantly out of thin air. It meant buying his way out by parting with a wad of rupee notes, feeling lucky to get away at that price. That done the mob would disappear faster than a magician’s now-here-now-where act. 

We learnt of these incidents only when he let it out much later in some context. And when he did, we would feel sorry for him and at the same time angry at the way of life in this city to earn a quick buck.

Another senior executive from the corporate sector who had similar experiences did a little differently under the circumstances, we learnt: to the dismay/shock of the mob, he always concluded the transaction, by carrying away the chicken with him as-was!

View of Chennai held fast over the years bolstered by other stories one heard or read as a second-to-none petty-scamming place underwent a sea-change when a few days ago on seeing this article/clip dated 2012!

Excerpts from the article translated and edited:


The feigned casualties, a whole business.

These ‘artists of deception’ practicing all the tricks and deceptions to avoid going to work or collect subsidies fall into two profiles: one, “innocent or common picaresque” that seeks to escape one or two days of work to extend a weekend and the other that feigns pathologies that are not demonstrable as a headache or a backache, or something else fraudulent that goes further in the deception and simulates a serious illness even going to medical courts to achieve a low or disability in order to defraud the social security to collect the corresponding subsidies…

In the last years, forums, blogs or websites have proliferated in which Internet users exchange tricks and advice on how to self-harm or invent a credible excuse. There are even tutorials that detail the steps to follow to train you and become a “professional deception,”…

Among the practices carried out by some workers to simulate or contract a disease are some very ingenious, at the same time curious, such as placing a slice of onion under the armpit to suffer an allergy or hives, place for half an hour half orange on the bottom of the feet to suffer fever, heat in the microwave a few varied fruits and eat them hot causing severe stomach pains or even someone who snorts chalk, something really dangerous because among its consequences is pneumonia!!

Browsing the web can ‘help’ discover pages specialized in providing alibis or excuses to workers.Among the products that are offered on these pages are fake medical receipts and false obituaries, infallible proofs to be presented to the boss.

These fraudulent practices have caused companies to seek professional help and put themselves in the hands of specialized private detectives in order to demonstrate the scam they are being subjected to by workers and clients.


Now watch the clip here:

(some parts of it may have been staged)

Chennai, now you lose your spot to be second-only-to-Spain in petty-scamming if things haven’t changed over there in the last seven years!


PS: To be fair, maybe there are other cities besides Chennai no different or even worse in this regard. It’s another matter Chennai was/is never in the running for bigger scams, monumental corruption by shamelessly self-aggrandizing politicians and others in authority excepted.  


Do Surprises Ever Cease?

Some people surprise you at every turn.

We came and stayed together and then went our different ways years ago. Nevertheless, kept in touch from time to time.

His career progression took him through (some of it when we were together): Implementing retail banking solutions beginning with mechanical ledger posting machines with some 150+ column printers followed by 8-bit microprocessor-based systems and later with 16-bit systems; supplying and supporting DTP systems with HP laser printers and software like PageMaker that made a publisher out of anyone; offering high-end CRM solutions for enterprises


I often wondered what am I doing with myself whenever I saw him, from his snaps in FB, taking off to places not on tourist maps

Staying in the same concrete jungle not far from him, while all I get is an occasional pigeon who eyes me with feelings I have not been able to quite decipher or a crow that caws its heart out for some unknown reason, I see him tease all kinds of feathered friends to readily pose for him cutely on the window-ledges at his flat

While at these and a lot more I know not, he also married an accomplished globe-trotting bharathanatyam/carnatic dancer cum musician of renown who, along the way, picked up a PhD in French, now regarded as a cultural ambassador.

Today I learnt – had I known, would have insinuated myself to go with him on his binges:-)  – he is a highly rated reviewer of eating joints all over India with a substantial following on TripAdvisor.

And now this: In a competition announced by Lufthansa, he bungs in a recipe for his new gastronomic fling and walks away from the crowd with rare recognition from the airlines – it’s now likely to be featured in their in-flight meals!

This news comes in just after I wrote here:

Not very hungry, we pulled our folding-tables down ready to receive our Asian-Veg meal (acronym’ed AVEG, could be taken for average!), planning to take not more than a bite. When we did get our trays, to our dismay, it was not very diff from what was served earlier in the Cairo – Bahrain sectorpeas-rice-dhalpaneer as the main course, a bowl of semi-cooked chana, a sweet dish and the ubiquitous bun. Led me to think: ‘Bring out a recipe book for AVEG meals, these chef’s, their wits strained, will grab them like hot gulab jamuns.’

A generous guy that he is, he readily gave away the winner recipe, reproduced here below:

Guava (Peru) Curry By R. Badrinathan

It is unusual to find Guava Curry in many restaurants or homes. Delicious as any other curry, it could add taste to your fresh roti’s making a full meal. Fiber-rich guavas come loaded with vitamin A. With tomatoes and capsicum thrown in, your taste buds are in some pampering and your eyes, for a visual treat! Here you go:


Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes      Cooking Time: 10 minutes       Servings: 4 – 6 portions

Ingredients • Well-ripped peru’s (Guavas) – 4 nos (red peru’s add color to the dish) • capsicum red and green  – 1 cup (cut into small pieces) • Well-ripped tomatoes – 1 cup (cut into small pieces) • 2 teaspoons cooking oil • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (Rai) • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (Dhania) • 1 teaspoon cumin powder (Jeera) • 1/4th teaspoon asafetida (Hing) • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (Haldi) • 2 teaspoon chili powder • 1 teaspoon dried mango powder (Amchur) • Salt to taste  • 3 teaspoons sugar or good quality jaggery powder

For Garnishing • 2 teaspoons finely chopped coriander

Preparation: 1. Take well-ripped guava and cut them into pieces making them into small cubes.  2. Remove the middle portion of the fruit which may have lots of seeds. Blend the middle portion by adding a small portion of water in a mixer and make a smooth paste 3. Heat the cooking oil in a non-stick pan. 4. Add the mustard seeds and sauté on a medium flame for a few seconds 5. Add asafetida, turmeric power, guava cubes, capsicum and tomatoes and sauté on a medium flame for about 4-5 minutes, mix them well while stirring occasionally 6. Add the guava paste and mix it well 7. Add the following – coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder, dried mango powder, jaggery powder and salt to taste 8. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well (add less/more water to improve the consistency) 9. Cook on a medium flame for about 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally 10. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately with Roti’s.

Guava Curry can be easily served on flights along with roti’s/paratha’s and naan’s or with pulav along with chill mint raitha.

Do surprises ever cease? All my bets are off with him around.



It Happens…

First of a series of short vignettes on life around as seen, heard, felt or even read about:

I was on my morning ritual – walking around the outer periphery of Diamond Garden near where I live, with an enthusiasm that wasn’t exactly gushing, taking in the usual sights: other walkers speeding past me with an ease that at first annoyed me to no end, now at peace with it; straight-from-Nashik farm vegetables sold in a brisk but unlicensed trade under the fear of sudden raids and confiscation by allegedly-bribe-taking authorities; a motley bunch of young and old of both sexes collecting inside the Garden, flinging their limbs about as directed by a trainer and emitting noises from the deep-end of their voice boxes like they do in a movie on martial arts; an enterprising middle-aged lady serving, in small plastic cups designed to hold only a little more than a spoon-full, a chlorophyll-rich herbal concoction of ingredients pulled from half-a-dozen polished containers, perhaps to make up for an husband idling or lying senselessly drunk at home; another bunch, mostly in their sixties and above, in casual postures, letting out bursts of loud mirthless laughs – do these qualify for health benefits? – sure to  startle the unwary; a homeless guy looking like a runaway from coal mines, sitting feet up on one of those shiny steel benches reading a newspaper in English; …

I’m digressing.

Into what was my third round I think, this man crossed my path heading somewhere beyond the Garden, clad in a black dhoti usually worn by Ayappa devout’s, unshaven, with a small sandal-paste-kumkum tilak on his forehead.  As he pulled ahead of me, as they all do…ugh…, I read ‘TATAVAMSI’ printed at the back of a sleeve-less jacket he wore over his shirt. I was intrigued. One has heard of many vamsam’s (lineages) named after illustrious guru’s, acharya’s and even venerable rishi’s from mythology. But a vamsam by this name TATA – this was a new one for me. Who was this TATA his grandchildren so proudly and publicly announce to the world? Why not take his name? The word means grandfather in Thamizh.

Well, the question remained in my head for a few moments, going out of my mind no sooner he went out of my sight.

Then, it was not to be. In my penultimate round executed more in joy than in breath – the end was in sight, you know – this guy was walking right back along the same way he had gone, crossing me again. Curiosity could not be contained. I stopped him in his stride to ask him politely who was this TATA and what was grand about his grandfather that he went about carrying the old man on his back instead of in his heart as the usual practice was. He was startled out of his wits to be suddenly accosted by a perfect stranger and hit straight out of the blue with a query that made no sense to him even after he recovered his wits about him. Helpfully I drew his attention to the words he carried on his back.

‘Oh,’ he burst out laughing, ‘Sir, it’s nothing about my poor diseased TATA who would have given his life to belong to a worthy vamsam, it’s TATVAMASI.’

No elaboration was needed for the profound advaidhik pronouncement from the scriptures.

‘Oh,’ I said.

Moving on, mercifully and gracefully he didn’t make it worse for me. Having said that, I must also tell you this – at my age, it takes lot more than this for me to be shamed, a limit not challenged yet.

At the same time, inescapable’s cannot be ducked for long, Regrettably it looks like the long delayed visit to my doctor would be sooner than I had planned for my cataract. Though it would still leave me with the flawed ‘auto-suggest/correct’ feature embedded in my grey cells unfixed.


A Tale Of Two Airports

Part 1

We are all set for the journey back home. Our bags are neatly wrapped up not exceeding the permissible 15 Kilograms per head. Of course it means we leave a few clothes and books behind. The e-tickets are printed out to gain admission at the airport as we are not yet confident of retrieving the same on our smart-phone. I double check the tickets for baggage rules. That’s when a wisp of a cloud appears in the blue sky: 15 Kgs per head alright, but how many pieces? I scour their website high and low. On one of those pages it mentions at one place one piece per head. FAQ has no queries at all on baggage. Obviously mine is a unique problem. I try calling the support numbers. I give up on not finding an option for queries on their voice activated telephony organized into nested levels deeper than those Matryoshka dolls. In parallel my energetic young nephew sets aside his academics for a while, pulls all strings, spends over an hour, stops just short of reaching the Prime Minister’s Office and at the end of it confirms it’s one piece per head. Panic ensues. More stuff gets off-loaded. Finally somehow four bags full get crunched into two bags hoping the seams and zippers don’t give up the fight.

The lady at the airport check-in counter clarifies on domestic travel there’s no limit of number of pieces subject to the limit of 15 Kgs per head. It’s all stated very clearly on their websitem if only we looked at it. Our mistake we didn’t find it. Also she tells me to sign at some place to release them of any responsibility for a handle that’s already broken on one of the bags. Sounds fair – I do so without reading the 8-point print.

Nothing much to report until we arrive at Mumbai ten minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is like cutting thru breeze, absolutely smooth without a bump. While landing I could have had coffee without spilling a drop. During the flight there is even a simple dhal-chawal meal served! Disregard the sniggers – it is quite comestible and good for immediate sustenance. Though the oft-quoted anecdote does come to my mind about some airlines saving by the sack full over time by cutting back on a few olives they customarily served. The coffee is the standard-issue tasting like run-off rain water, an amazing hard-to-beat consistency achieved by airlines across the world.

Part 2

My good friend, TRS, insisting on meeting us at the airport despite his busy schedule – he manages a large medical diagnostics chain – calls me.

‘R, have you folks landed in Mumbai?’

‘Yes, TRS, just now. We’re exiting the aircraft and proceeding to collect our baggage.’

‘How many pieces?’

‘Two checked in and two in the hand.’

‘Ok, I’m nearby. As soon as you’re out, call me.’


My wife and I trudge along what seems to be an interminable stretch of travelators, so many of them laid out end to end, carrying hand bags making us puff and pant. I don’t recall doing this before nor seeing those huge art canvases filling up the wall on one side of the walkway.  But then it is quite some time since I travelled by air last. Perhaps this is all part of sprucing up that one often hears about? It all looks good.

Even as I struggle with the effort, I recall the gag:

‘Why do they make you walk so long at these airports?’

‘So your baggage may reach ahead of you for collection.’

Presently my wife does not have it in her to smile or frown at the jest.

My friend calls: ‘R. where are you?’

‘We’re waiting for our baggage to be disgorged.’

‘After you collect your baggage come straight out to where private cars come into the terminal for pick-up.’


I stand resignedly as for me this baggage business has always been first-in-last-out as also last-in-last-out. Fortunately this time the wait isn’t too long. I snatch the suitcases off the belt, pile them on to a trolley that stood there forlornly not catching anyone’s eyes and we make for the exit. We don’t. The trolley has other ideas – it simply turns on its wheels to the left in a circle.  Now I know why it was readily available on hand while everyone fetched his from a distance. I go and get another one and subject it to tests along all degrees of freedom. Finding its performance acceptable, I transfer the baggage and we finally exit without further hitches. Not before leaving the deviant specimen in a far corner not anymore in a position to lure the unwary.

The board outside the exit helpfully points us to the auto-stand/bus-stop.  But where do the private cars come in? Without further help from the official signage’s, I check and double check with a few visitors milling around. In one voice they tell us to head for the auto-stand/bus-stop. So when TRS calls me next to find out our whereabouts, I tell him to come in on the auto/bus lane to find us and not take the lane for private cars because there isn‘t one. TRS doesn’t sound too happy about it. What does one do but grin and bear things far beyond one’s control! If the blessed airport doesn’t want private cars whooshing in, well, that’s it. Who am I to bitch about it? I do not let these thoughts distract/disturb me from the main task on hand – connect up with TRS and as quickly as possible get away from this sticky heat into the comfortably air-conditioned insides of his car.

Shortly after TRS calls: ‘Have you come out?’

‘Yes, we’re at the pick-up point on the auto/bus lane. Incidentally I do see a car lane too, just beyond and running parallel to the auto lane. So it’s okay to take whichever lane.’ Here I correct myself for unfairly attributing to the authorities earlier a certain dislike for private cars – surely nothing more than a trifling omission of the signage on part of their contractor. Of course I keep the thought to myself for, I suspect, TRS would not be favorably disposed presently to hear about my sense of fairness.

A little later, ‘Look, why don’t you come to the end of the auto lane? That’s where I’m. These guys won’t let me stop anywhere in that lane.’

They won’t let him stop for picking up passengers? Surely they don’t expect senior citizens to jump right into a moving car? Sounds weird. May be they shooed him away as he intruded into the auto lane? The end of the lane he refers to is at least 100-150 yards away on the way out under the hot sun.  I leave my wife behind with the trolley and plod my way to the end of the lane. No sign of him.

He calls: ‘Where are you now?’

‘At the end of the auto lane just under the huge Samsung bill-board.’

‘I see Samsung, Samsung is not you.’


‘Can you see those gorgeous traveler’s palm trees, two of them?  If you find them you’ve found me.’

A travellers palm (Ravenala Madagascariensis-Botanical name) tyy

‘Traveler if anyone is me. Palm trees? Yes, not your kind.’

‘Ok, let me go around and make another pass.’

‘Wait. Rather, let me go over to the point where you enter the lane. I’ll stand out on the road. You can’t miss me.’

We agree. I go over to the beginning of the lane 100-150 yards on the other side of the pick-up point.

I stand there on the road deftly evading the occasional vehicle coming in and considering if I should wave both hands to help my friend locate me. What would people think? Well, I’m at an age when I freely scratch my arms in public or let out a loud belch without a thought.

TRS calls: ‘Where are you now?’

‘I’m at the point of entry to the auto and car lanes, standing on the road. This is near and away from the toll to the right running along the front of the terminal.’

‘I’m here in front of the toll with a dozen guys honking away behind me and I don’t see you. Tell me you look your usual massive self as I’ve known or you’re masquerading to evade your pursuers?’

‘Come on…listen, don’t enter the toll. You’ll end up in the multi-level parking lot with a hefty toll to boot.’

‘What are you talking? There’s no multi-level parking lot in this airport.’

Now I begin to see: one of us is surely not seeing things right.

And, here, it is – I mean the parking lot – right before my eyes. I’ve even used them years ago.

I pinch myself just to be sure. Oh, my, it hurts!

That’s when the penny longtime coming finally drops.

I’m absolutely mortified at my rank goofiness. How could I?

‘Oh, TRS, we’re at Sahar. I didn’t realize…don’t know why we’re not at Santa Cruz…I’m so sorry.’

‘What? Oh, sh.., I’m here at Santa Cruz…No wonder…I should have checked…’

For those not familiar, domestic flights land in Mumbai at Santa Cruz airport while the international flights at Sahar with some exceptions. Looks like our flight was exceptional, confirmed by a subsequent examination of our tickets.

‘I’m so sorry, TRS…Please don’t trouble yourself anymore…we’ll take a cab…’

My good friend would not hear of it. He drives down kilometers from Santa Cruz to Sahar and takes us home. This time there is no trouble in spotting us – my directions, flawless as always, airport specified.

On the way home and thereafter, not a word or gesture from him betraying irritation or impatience. And we know him to be a man who doesn’t gladly suffer goofiness at all.

Guys, you too have friends like I’ve?


PS:  Well, the story doesn’t end here. Later at home on unpacking I find I’ve left a trail of things behind me, notably: my pouch containing debit card and other cards of commerce and memberships at the house where we stayed, my new laptop at the security station at Chennai airport, a few usb storage devices god knows where…

My nephew, deep into academics, swings into action right away and locates the concerned official at IAAI, Chennai. I speak to him. He confirms his office receiving an unclaimed laptop. He tells me about the documents I must produce to claim the laptop. Fearing my goofy spell may not have ended yet, TRS troubles himself to arrange for all the documents to be sent to my nephew. Following day, the young man goes to the airport, meets the officer and presents the documents. When they call me for verification, I tell them what and where they’ll find in my laptop. The officer hands over the laptop.  My nephew carefully packs it along with my pouch of cards retrieved from the house we stayed and couriers it. Mercifully normalcy largely returns on the third day after the string of goofs.

Do they still make nephews like mine?

Really, the end

From My Dairy

29th Nov 14

Today was one of the two mandatory days in a week for me to a session at the gym, part of a regimen prescribed by the docs in cardiac rehab. Going to the dentist to pull out a rotten tooth is any day a far pleasanter prospect, I thought.

As I was retrieving my track-suit from the cupboard, on a chance, I looked out of the window and spotted the old man settling down on the pavement just outside our gate. From the folds of his clothes he pulled out a small cloth pouch. I couldn’t see what he was doing with it.

Just then the watchman of the building across the street about fifteen feet away shouted:

‘What are you eating?’

The old man waved a sache at him.

‘Tambakoo? Who gave it to you?’

‘No one. I bought it from my own money. Five rupees it cost me.’

As I moved away from the window, I heard the watchman call him ‘bewda’ (a drunkard) – didn’t know what was the provocation – and receive a mouthful from the old man. Whatever else he might be, he is certainly not a ‘bewda’ as far as I could see.

Not an infrequent scene – these days I find youngsters passing by, tradesmen, courier boys, all taunting him for no apparent reason and the old man responding vigorously.

Meanwhile, my wife from the other room wanted to know why it was taking so long for me to get ready for the gym. Was I planning to skip the work–out?

I assured her the thought had not entered my mind and proceeded to share with her what I saw and heard from up here.

She already had it mapped out: ‘I told you time and again never to give money to these folks. You give him money and see what he does with it. If you feel like giving, give him something to eat.’

I know from first hand they prefer to receive cash that lets them buy food of their choice.’

art-the-farmers-wifes-hand (1)

For some months now, the old man, is a regular, squatting at a spot near the head of the street for a good part of the day. It is one of those places in his daily rounds he is likely to receive food.

Must be well into seventies, short and lightly built, dark complexioned, skin in wrinkles all over like a shrunken fruit, a face permanently set in a grouch, very live eyes narrowed by thick folds of skin, straight-backed though his neck bending forward a bit, clothed in traditional dhoti and shirt crumpled and a little untidy but without tear , trudging along with his thick stick, his chappals scuffing the tar underneath – this’s him. And top it with a booming voice that lied about his age.

Early on, he appeared to be a little more cheerful than what he is now. That’s when I ventured to ask him some personal questions without the fear of disagreeably receiving his stick. He told me he has a wife and a daughter living in the same area. They don’t take care of him, so he is on his own. I tried to counsel him softly it is unwise of him at his age to stay away from his blood relations. Of course I didn’t seriously expect him to change on my say-so and he didn’t. I left it at that.

Whenever I see him on my way to the market – that would be twice or thrice in a week – I give him ten rupees. Eases my guilt a wee bit. It started out as twenty rupees but cut back to ten once I added a few more guys to the list. Clutching the ten-rupee note, for a moment his sunken cheeks puff out in a hint of a child-like happy expression, closest to a smile – a sight firmly etched in my mind.

Resuming the narrative: As I hit the street heading for the gym, I saw him ahead of me plodding along tapping his heavy stick. In minutes I surprised him from behind and thrust his due that he has come to expect. This time, I broke my stride and asked him:

‘So you take tambakoo from the money you collect, eh?’

Tambakoo (raw tobacco leaves supplemented with god–knows–what is leisurely chewed especially among the poor) is identified as the chief cause for contracting oral cancer.

‘No sahib, with the money you give, I buy myself vada–pav (an inexpensive local burger–like snack) at the stall near the post-office. He gives me an extra pav (bread loaf), you know.’

He saw me waiting still for an explanation for chewing tambakoo.

‘Sahib, I know what you’re getting at. But that’s the only way to control my hunger for a few hours till I get something to eat.’

I moved on.

I wish I had not spoken to him.



Odd’s On A Sunday Morning…A Vignette

[Vignettes are short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give one impression about a character, an idea or a setting]

Retirement is a miracle that packs more than sixty minutes to an hour! That’s not all. The vision gets more sharp unaffected by the cataract of professional preoccupations. Small things catch the eyes. Here’s the catch of odd scenes – nothing to grab headlines – brought back from a short walk on a Sunday morning.

Part 1: Where the bus stops…

This was on a Sunday two weeks ago. It was usual for Chemburkars to laze in the bed until late. The chill in December ensured folks stayed in bed longer than customary. I was out on my morning walk and also to the neighborhood saloon for a hair-cut that was overdue by at least a couple of weeks, the hirsute growth framing me with a distinctly simian aspect.

There was occasional car swishing by noiselessly. A few pedestrian forms – no features could be made out – swathed in bundles of drab colored woolens could be seen briskly rolling towards the Diamond Garden. Half-way to the market was the bus-stop. This was one bus-stop that, curiously, as far as I could remember, never collected a crowd – yes, these days it is an amorphous crowd and never an orderly queue – even during peak hours. May be that the buses from that stop went straight to the nearby abattoir, no one’s destination. On this day, in its place stood the newly-erected all-metal bus-stop that I couldn’t have missed – the paneled front, the support poles and the hand-rails, all in metal; and as a concession to its hassled customers, some ten-inch wide sheet-metal seat running along its length, hinting strongly to a longer wait henceforth? Right off the bat I could see the designers had committed a boo-boo – the six inches were hardly adequate to support in full the substantial posteriors of the Mumbaikars whose only claim to physical exertion is their daily commute to and fro work-place. Perhaps the designers ran out of their budget and/or metal. Or, intelligently, they did not want the homeless that drift towards these shelters to get comfortable at night?

As one thing leads to another, next my gaze went to the closer of the two occupants of the bus-stop and did a quick double-take: Quite unlike someone waiting impatiently for his bus, he looked more like one peaceably lost in a book while waiting out in an airport for a flight delayed by hours. Engrossed in reading some English newspaper folded thick to a column width, oblivious to the surroundings, and there was another bunch shoved into his trouser pocket yet to be perused. Perhaps another unhurried guy in retirement. Nothing odd there, eh? Only, it was a much younger man, his face gaunt with sunken cheeks and unshaven, clumps of unkempt hair on the crown and his shirt in tatters on the far side and unwashed.

I didn’t think he was looking at the column on job openings. Was he a white-collar – never mind in actual it were not white and in tatters – roughened up in a scuffle with a rival (workers’) union? Or worse, a school teacher taught a lesson and more for failing the politician’s son? What was his story?

I didn’t ask.

(To be contd.)