The moment I entered the compartment, it felt like I had been found out. That was my only thought. The crowd seemed to swell behind me. My body was twisted beyond calculation. A random elbow was nudging the back of my head. The youngster beside was drenched in sweat and reeked of weed. There would have been at least a fifty people in there and yet I stood pondering over that one idea. They knew.
The guy with a French beard seemed to be staring. He seems to be confident of his discovery. Judging by his appearance, he seemed to be a South Indian. Maybe I could convince him, being a Malayali myself or maybe he would be the harshest critic if I’m found out.
Thank God for smartphones. Bewitched by the tiny blue Facebook app, the crowd does not even bother to look away from their screens. I make a mental note to thank Zuckerberg and his revolutionary contemporaries. Maybe I could also spend those few tense moments feigning to be engrossed in my phone. That would camouflage me with them.
I look around and shockingly I think I have got some company; a frail grey haired man wearing a really torn red shirt. Like a secret agent, I continue profiling him only to discover he has a railways workers card in his pocket. Now I think I’m truly alone.
All the while, I keep eyeing my watch and the station. I think that is the only time I felt I could slow things down; or at least the watch. It seemed to move at a really generous pace, ensuring each tick increases my trepidation. The number of stations seemed to have increased in a day’s time. I thought we had reached Thane, but it was still Bhandup. It all seems like a plan, a trap to malign me.
As the train reaches Thane, my senses are heightened thinking someone may board the train looking for me.
The man in the yellow shirt seems to notice my discomfort. Although he is busy rubbing his prosperous paunch or displaying his efficiency in gold digging, his eyes seem to be locked on me. Is he reading my thoughts or is he just lusting on my Arrow shirt? Wish I could tell him it is a fake.
By then one of those daily brawls has started out in the back; the usual land annexation wars fought over one foot space each day in the Mumbai local. I almost smile with relief; now that the attention is away from me.
Finally my station arrives. I mingle into the crowd, my head down. I scurry quickly to the bridge lest someone stops me on the platform. I heave a sigh of relief.
I walk back home thinking of this great story to be told;
The day I traveled first class with a second class ticket.
PS: A very old article. Can afford to travel First class now, you see!