The bombs were supposed to go off at 7.00 pm; I had a train to catch at 7.05. I reached Ernakulam North by 6 and at the entrance I saw a group of cops talking to a man carrying something that looked like a bazooka-in-a-bag. Wow! the cops have caught a bomber…wowowow, gotta get out before he turns into a suicide-bomber. Outside the station, there were many Odiyas waiting for the Howdah Mail, mounts of unattended luggage and the typical railway station low-life – perhaps the platforms would be safer.

 

By the time I got back to the station, the bazooka had morphed into a metal detector, the cops were standing around admiring their handwork, and mallus were streaming into the platform, sniggering at the metal detector and anybody who walked through it.

 

The platform was crowded – the usual mix of IT kids, grand parents, vadakkans-on-honeymoon, commuters and the ubiquitous Odiyans – and the crowd looked strangely unaffected by the seven o’clock shadow. I walked to where S5 would stop, facing the unsecured car park, decided it is not safe, and started walking up and down the platform… it should be more difficult to hit a moving target. After the third lap, I suddenly remembered  ‘An Appointment in Samara’ and plonked down on a bench.

 

A certain merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market to buy some provisions. A little while later, the servant returned looking white in the face. In a trembling voice he said, “Just now in the market place I was jostled by a man in the crowd, and when I turned I saw it was Mr. Death. He looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Please lend me your horse, because I want to go to Samara where Mr. Death will not be able to find me.”

 

The merchant agreed and lent the scared man his horse. The servant mounted the horse and rode away as fast as the animal could gallop. Later that day, the merchant went down to the market place and saw Mr. Death standing in the crowd. He approached him and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?”

 

“That was not a threatening gesture,” said Mr. Death. “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

 

The journey was fun. Our coupe was a PC version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Ms.White went off to sleep after Palghat and the jawan (Grumpy) ordered lights out. I was Happy, the buzz from the afternoon beers had returned with the adrenalin draining, and slept like a baby till Basin Bridge. By the time I stepped out of the coach at Central, the crowd was already marching towards the exit, I also fell in, humming M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E…

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