Life takes us to different places, introduces new people. I had gone on a trek a week ago, in the western ghats with my friends. It was a 2-day long trek to scale a mountain 1700m high. It was more daunting than I hoped but I managed to reach the peak. The mountain showcased both the faces of nature, with picturesque waterfalls and valleys on one hand and furious winds rivaling the speeds of a cyclone pushing you to an endless abyss on the other. This is not a trip review however, it is actually about a person I met on the way to the trek.
I was on a train from Chennai to Bangalore. Pretty routine journey or so I thought. A family boarded the coach with scattered seats. They asked me if I would move to one of theirs so they could be together. I agreed. I was now seated next to a peculiar man. As for appearance, he was about 6’5 and well built, probably in his early 30s, wearing a floral shirt and jeans, and had a dark complexion. He was the type of man that would make you hold your belongings tighter. He had a scar across the face running from his upper lip to his left temple grazing his eye. Not my first pick to sit next to for 6 hours. I sat down next to him after the customary greetings and tried not to be judgemental. I noticed another scar running down the back of his neck. His bald head and thick beard didn’t help me paint a better picture about him either. The lack of violence of any kind in my life didn’t help me with any sort of analysis about the scars. I couldn’t read his character, but I knew he was no Tom, Dick, or Harry.
About 20 minutes had passed and he broke the silence. Whatever
conclusions I made about him, I had to discard for I have never heard a goon speak English so fluently .” Hey Sarvesh, if you don’t mind, could I use the armrest for a few minutes?” I was stunned and meekly removed my arm without conversing. I felt bad for reducing him to a goon because of his appearance. It took me a while to realize he called me by my name. Did he see my ticket, my phone? I shrugged and asked him about it. He took his hand off his mouth revealing a menacing grin and said,” I memorized the passenger’s names and seats in this coach”. It was almost as if I was living a scene from a thriller movie. Nothing about him was right. I asked him why he did that. He said it was a habit and was doing it for 4 years. I asked him what happened 4 years ago? His answer was something I didn’t expect.
“March 2017”, he said in a retrospective tone.” I was traveling by train. The coach was empty but me and 4 other guys. The train had just stopped at a remote station. I was on my phone when one of them snatched it. I went after him but was mugged by the 4 men near the door of the car. They struck my face (pointing to the scar) when I didn’t cooperate, took my wallet, and threw me out when the train started to move.”
Yeah. This had to be the weakest made-up story I’ve heard in a while. It sounded like a cover-up for something more embarrassing. After expressing my sadness about the ordeal he had undergone, we spoke some more. He turned out to be a rather pleasant guy and even had a similar taste in music. I shared my plans for the trek. An eerie coincidence, but he had climbed the same peak a few months ago. He proceeded to give tips on setting up tents and tales from his experience.
After getting more familiar, I gathered enough courage to ask if the earlier story was true. We were 5 minutes away from our stop. He sighed and shook his head. A veil of sorrow shrouded him. He opened his eyes towards the city lights, clenched his molars, looked me in my eyes, and said.” No, it wasn’t”. I was expecting him to elaborate.
” Fate is a fickle thing”, he said in Tamil.” One day you’re living a normal life, the next day you’re running for your life”. He thanked me for the company, took his bags, and left.
What is that supposed to mean? What did he do? Was he a criminal? Did I befriend a criminal? Why did he lie? Why was he so dramatic? Why do I feel like a side character? I was so invested in his twisted tales I forgot about him memorizing the passenger list. I got down with my bags but he was long gone. I was picked up by my friends and tried not to think about the man too much. I wonder what his story is. I wonder about all the peculiar people I’m gonna meet in my life and I don’t think I can get enough of it.