a writing by Manoharan Thomas

Boarding Sethu Express at Tambaram Railway Station I browsed for my berth. An old lady, somewhat bulky had already occupied my seat, the lower berth. When I demanded my seat, she politely requested me to spare the lower berth. Because of obesity she might not be able to use her middle berth. Taking pity on her I did accept in exchange of her middle berth. Profusely she thanked me. There were other passengers of different ages, all belonging to one group. Including me there were eight passengers in the cabin. For the sake of convenience, I sat in the side lower berth while the group was relishing dinner, sitting vis-a-vis in two lower berths
A strong discussion on various subjects from politics to religion was going on, touching domestic issues at random. I kept myself silent as my mind was racing with pleasant memories of the successive events took place that morning. By this time a mouse, might have entrained at the yard, intruded in to the cabin and whisked under the seat. I did not bother about it because I have traveled far and wide in train. it is a common phenomenon in Indian Railways. Many a time my bags with eatables had been drilled and destroyed by mice. But other passengers were bewildered for they might have boarded a reservation compartment for the first time. One of the co-passengers screamed and other passengers in the adjacent cabins sustained the chorus in succession. Distressed passengers were keenly looking for the mouse. Nobody dared to rest one’s feet on the floor. Upper berth passengers jumped in Olympian style to reach their respective berths and sighed with relief. Few heroes, in superman style, tried to kill the mouse. The mouse was playing hide and seek passing through the luggage underneath. Mouse killing mission started with high valour ended up in anti-climax. Exhausted heroes withdrew themselves from the task. One of them expressed that manju virattu would be easier than chasing a mouse.
Passengers belonged to two factions had occupied the adjacent cabin. One of the passengers in the adjacent cabin started relishing dinner, but cautiously holding the dinner pack. The items were Iddlies, sambar and chatney. A girl in the upper berth opened the water bottle and drank. Carelessly she slipped the bottle cap 2” diameter in size. It landed on the passenger relishing dinner. Mistaking it for the mouse, he jumped out of fear throwing the dinner pack on the senior citizen passenger who was napping opposite, mouth wide open. One of the iddlies arced across and plugged the opened mouth. Sambar and Chatney splashed all over him. He was an object of ridicule. Passengers from his side picked up quarrel with the girl. Passengers from the girl’s side joined her in support. Verbal fight commenced between passengers of two factions. Their comrades sitting elsewhere also rushed to the spot. Not caring about the other decent passengers, with competitive spirit they exchanged filthy words, adding pornographic phrases to enhance the gravity of the argument. Some passengers from other compartments videoed the full performance in mobiles. In a few minutes I received the footage in my Whats-app from my friend afar. See how fast the message traveled!
Co passengers tried to reconcile them but in vain. Even though men stopped, women continued threatening with dire consequences. Then and there both parties referred to their close familiarity with leading political big shots associated with their faction.
Finally, the police officer on duty and his team arrived there. After consulting the train conductor, members of two factions were accommodated elsewhere separately. The hullabaloo was over leaving the whole compartment in silence. Using coach mitra service, passengers can alert the pest control wing, by sending an SMS. However, nobody turned up when messaged so.
Lights were turned off and night lamps were glowing faintly. While all the passengers fell asleep, a boy in the upper berth was watching a film in his laptop. To mess up the situation eluded mouse climbed up the berth where the boy was watching picture. Erroneously the mouse entered into the tight fit T-shirt of the boy. Disturbed by the unexpected tickling, in a reflex action, he wriggled on the berth, tossing the laptop. Violently hitting the ceiling fan, the laptop crashed down and broke to pieces. Playing descending musical notes the fan stopped. Astonished passengers woke up, not knowing what had happened. Some suspected a bomb blast. The boy too was in a bewilderment. A cop, the night security passing by that way stopped. After learning what has happened, he gestured and whispered everybody to resume to the respective berth. The boy gathered the broken pieces and particles of the crumbled laptop and threw away. He least bothered about it. The laptop was a freebie from the Government. Thereafter nobody got a wink of sleep till dawn anticipating any untoward incident.
Early morning also the mouse was plying in lightning speed from cabin to cabin. A boy was having a working model toy gun, resembling miniature size AK 47, loaded with dummy bullets. Bullets fired at point blank range from this type of gun, though not a threat to life, could cause acute pain or able to paralyze tiny animals. The boy was shooting dummy bullets at used tea cups lying on the floor. By that time a tea vendor passed by knocked the boy by chance with the tea can. The resultant force was that the boy accidentally pressed the trigger and a shot flew from the barrel. Coincidentally it targeted the mouse trying to cross from one side to the other. The blow was strong enough that the mouse was disabled. One of the passengers killed the mouse with his slipper. Employees of the pest control wing arrived just to conduct requiem mass.

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