Communal Road to Calicut

Between Scylla and Charybdis
Between Scylla and Charybdis

That Saturday, I left the bank as usual at about two o’clock and went straight down to Safina Restaurant, on the ground floor, where I wolfed down a half-plate of rice and chicken curry. Safina Restaurant was my regular eating place in Chemmad, primarily because it was the only restaurant in the whole town.  Not that I ever had cause to complain about its fare.  The Safina menu was limited but nutritious. Usually, I breakfasted on eggs and Malabar paratha; lunched on chicken biryani; and dined on chicken curry and rice. For variety, I sometimes lunched on chicken curry and rice and dined on chicken biryani.    When in extravagant mood, I sometimes had an omelet with my chicken curry and rice. Safina’s owner and head chef, Haji Mohamed, was a friendly and solicitous host, ever ready to sit with me and chat while I ate, and quite tolerant of my occasional forays into his kitchen to modify or experiment with some dish.  Thanks to Haji Mohamed’s fare, I gained three kilos during my five-month stay in Chemmad.

I was a Probationary Officer assigned to State Bank of Travancore‘s branch in this little town, located in Malappuram district of Kerala.  It took a while for me to adjust to Chemmad. Without doubt, it also took a while for Chemmad to adjust to me; for having lived all my life in Meghalaya and Assam, I knew little of the cultures of southern India.  I didn’t know a word of Malayalam; even my Tamil was awful.  Naturally, then, I dropped bricks of varying size and weight throughout my stay in Chemmad, much to the amusement of the townsfolk…

But all that is for another story, for another time.  This is about a bus journey I took that Saturday in early 1980; a routine weekend bus journey  from Chemmad to Calicut (now Kozhikode) to buy things and do things that I couldn’t buy or do in Chemmad—like pick up newspapers and magazines, medicines, toiletries, biscuits and namkeen, a carton of cigarettes.  Make ‘phone calls to my parents in Guwahati, perhaps to a friend or two in Delhi and Bangalore (Chemmad didn’t have a public telephone booth).  Drink a cup or three of good filter coffee; eat something other than chicken biriyani and chicken curry. As always, I had with me a large bag filled with linen to give for wash at a laundry on Beach Road in Calicut, and in which to bring back the earlier week’s consignment:  Chemmad didn’t have a dhobi, and its perennial water shortage made it difficult to wash anything larger than a shirt.   I looked forward to strolling along the Calicut beach, having a coffee somewhere, wandering aimlessly through the centuries-old lanes near the old harbor, the air redolent with spices and flowers and dried fish, the narrow pavements lit by oblong orange-yellow glows from a thousand shops selling a thousand different things as they probably had for a thousand years. I thought of the huge, smoke-filled tavern near the mofussil bus stand where, as always, I’d quaff a quarter bottle of rum, dine on rice and fish, and then board a bus back to Chemmad…

Presently, a Calicut-bound bus came rattling down the highway—like most of its kin, a private bus operated by ‘Vengara Roadways’ . I boarded the bus and found a seat.  Seated next to me, at the window, was an ageing maulvi with a deeply lined face and long, lustrous white beard. He had his eyes closed; his lips moved slightly in silent prayer. Most of the score or so other passengers were easily identifiable as Mohammedan by their kufi caps; hardly surprising, considering that Malappuram district’s population was predominantly Muslim.

We rattled along a two-lane winding road through low, thickly forested hills and valleys carpeted with green paddy and yellow mustard.  To the west, beyond and above the fronds of coconut palm and betel, banana and jackfruit, the glittering Arabian Sea stretched to an indistinct horizon, blue-green water merging and dissolving in blurry blue sky.  It was hot; the sun beat down from a shimmering cloudless sky; the maulvi dozed off, his wizened cheek resting against the edge of the window.

Calicut was only 30 kilometres away from Chemmad, but the journey usually took an hour or more. The driver slowed down the bus upon sighting any pedestrian or human habitation on or near the road, whereupon his assistant—a wiry, curly-haired youth wearing a red T-shirt and a lungi of incredibly bright pattern and hue—leaned out at a dangerous angle from the front door, banged the sheet-metal side of the bus and entreated prospective travellers, visible or otherwise, to board the bus with musical chanting of the names of all the villages and towns that lay en route.  “Aiieeee, Kozikode! Kozhikode! Tenhipalam! Feroke! Beypore! Kozhikode! Aiieeee, Kozikode!” The driver also obligingly stopped the bus wherever and whenever a passenger wanted— to disembark, to exchange pleasantries with passers-by, to buy fruit, or simply to relieve himself.

And so, in this wonderfully relaxed and friendly way, we trundled along. We stopped for over fifteen minutes at Tenhipalam, where the Calicut University is located. Many passengers disembarked here; a few boarded, and we moved on.  As we drew nearer to Calicut, the traffic on the road perceptibly increased, as did the noise levels.  We passed the industrial town of Feroke, crossed the long bridge across the Chaliyar river, and turned left to drive past the ancient port of Beypore with its thousand-year-old boat-building yards.

It must have been around 4 p.m when, with Calicut barely 10 kilometres away, the bus suddenly lurched to a halt. The maulvi started and opened his eyes.  I peered down the aisle and saw, through the windshield, a row of buses, trucks and other vehicles standing on the road ahead of us, extending as far as the eye could see.  The driver muttered imprecations and switched off the engine; the assistant hopped off the bus and walked off to converse with a small group of people standing next to the bus in front of us. He returned and exchanged a few quiet words with the driver, who stiffened visibly and then turned and announced something in Malayalam to all of us.  At once, all conversation ceased, and an electric tension filled the atmosphere inside the bus.

I didn’t understand much Malayalam then, but could gather the gist of what the driver had said.

There was trouble ahead.  And the trouble was drawing near, in the shape of an RSS procession.

It seemed that the RSS—Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, self-proclaimed defenders of the Hindu community—were angry because earlier that day, an RSS activist had been hacked to death in a village up north, not far from Calicut. The assailants were Muslim men.  The assailants had been arrested—but the RSS was still in a rage over the incident.  And they were marching down this highway, in a ‘show of strength’.

I sat, silent as the other passengers were.  Next to me, the maulvi had again closed his eyes in silent prayer. The afternoon sun poured in through the windows on the left.  One by one, on both sides of the road, shopkeepers were pulling down their shutters. Only a few pedestrians hurried past on the pavement, heads down, urgency in their steps.  The wail of a distant police siren wafted through the oppressive quiet, grew fainter and then vanished.

After an interminable moment, the driver turned on his radio and fiddled with the knobs till he found a local Malayalam news channel. A woman newsreader mentioned communal tension in the Calicut area sparked off by the killing of an RSS man near Tellicherry, cheerfully adding that according to police, the situation was “tense but under control.” The news summary ended; abruptly Malayalam pop music blared forth from the speakers, shockingly loud.  A voice from across the aisle roared something, and the startled driver switched off the radio.

Silence returned. The pavements were now deserted. A few people leaned on the balconies overlooking the road.  Black ravens sat on the telephone wires high above the road, still and watchful.  And then I heard the drums, throbbing in the silent, still, humid air; soft at first, but growing louder and louder.

Ta-da-da-DUM. Dum. DUM-dum-dum. 

Ta-da-da-Dum. Dum. DUM-dum-dum.

Over and over again, on and on, the pulsating beat grew louder and louder till it was the only sound that filled the ears, the only thing that stirred the air, the only energy that filled the world.  Automatically, the Timekeeper in my mind took up the beat: Ta-da-da-DUM. Dum. DUM-dum-dum. Ta-da-da-DUM. Dum. DUM-dum-dum. It was a driving, maddening beat, a funeral beat; a beat I had learned to play from King Crimson’s ‘Devil’s Triangle’; a beat that resonated with grief and desolation, with Fear and her demented  brother, Rage.

Abruptly, the ravens took flight with a rush of wings and raucous cries. And presently, around the edge of the bus in front, the marchers appeared and streamed past along the road. Almost all of them were young men, some barely in their teens: black caps on their closely cropped heads, mostly clean-shaven, clad in starched white shirts and outsized khaki shorts over white socks and black shoes. At regular intervals along the fluid column were rows of drummers. They were clad like the others, but had drums slung about their waists: huge bass drums, beaten with ferocity to set the pace of the marchers, and smaller kettle drums on which slender sticks played the off-beat funeral march.  Ta-da-da-DUM. Dum. DUM-dum-dum.  Ta-da-da-DUM. Dum. DUM-dum-dum.

The marching column flowed past, seemingly endless; the marchers were silent, their muscles rippled as they swung their arms to the beat of the drums.  Their faces were expressionless but their eyes flickered now and again towards the bus windows as they moved past us. I caught the glance of one marcher as he moved past: his eyes bored into mine, hard as stone, blazing like a lizard’s eyes blaze in the instant before its tongue lashes out to capture and gobble up a frail-winged insect.  With an effort I looked away and stared at the back of the seat in front, frozen in body and mind.

The marcher’s eyes were filled with hate.

Hatred, for me. For us.

For the marchers, we were all Muslims— I, we, all of us in the bus.  We were identified as Muslims, if not by caps and beards, then by the name painted on the side of the bus.  We were Muslims…like the men who had murdered their RSS colleague in Tellicherry. We were Muslims, and therefore regarded as culpable in that murder.

Frantically, my mind wrestled with the sheer absurdity of the logic…even as icy fear grew like a wave and swamped the carefully constructed scaffolding of rational thought, self-control.   Conscious of the moving column just outside the window, at the corner of vision, I stared blankly at the seat in front, fists clenched in my lap, neck stiff, legs feeling like water.  Some of the passengers across the aisle had half-risen from their seats and were peering out the windows on our side, eyes wide, eager to catch a glimpse of the marchers yet anxious not to be seen.  The tension and fear in the bus was now palpable, a smothering blanket.


The sharp sound cut through the silent, fevered air like a knife. It was the sound of metal sliding on metal; it had come from across the aisle. I turned and saw a young man half-risen from his aisle seat, about three rows ahead.  His eyes were on the marchers. His left hand gripped the top of the seat in front; in his right hand was a straight-bladed sword, about two feet long. Where he had pulled the sword from, I had no idea. To his left, at the window on the far side, crouched another young man; even as I stared at them both young men turned and looked at me. And their eyes were as hard, as blazing and pitiless, as reptilian as the eyes of that RSS marcher outside.

I tore my gaze away and looked out the window on my right, and then at the seat in front.

They are Muslims, a voice in my mind shrieked. They know I am not a Muslim. They see me as a Hindu; as one with the RSS marchers out there, whom they hate. To them, I am a Hindu…and therefore, equally to be hated.

Reason grappled with panic as I stared at the seat in front of me.  Incongruously, I felt laughter well up in my throat. I closed my eyes and swallowed, fought for breath as I felt myself caught, squeezed between two walls of hatred; walls that were closing in on me, closing in…

Chinta mat karo…”

The heavily accented Hindi words were soft, almost a whisper. The maulvi’s eyes were calm.

Chinta mat karo,” he murmured again.  “Hum sab ek hain. Hum sab Khuda ke saamne ek hain.”

Do not be afraid. We are all One. We are all One before the One.

Like mist before blazing sunshine, my fear vanished.  I drew a deep breath and looked out the window, where the last of the marchers were striding past.  I looked across the aisle; the young men were seated now, chuckling over something.  As the driver started the bus and turned on the music, I looked up at the maulvi. He nodded and smiled, and then closed his eyes, lips moving in silent prayer.

Beastly encounters, Potshots

Cow’s laughter

Cow's laughter 001

Ah! Recycling is such a joy, for the environmentally aware citizen as well as the struggling writer. Buoyed by this ignoble sentiment and by the nationwide brouhaha over divine bovinity (bovine divinity?) and whether it is right to hog beef, I dust off and present an ancient piece carried by The Times of India on 15 April 1999 under the title ‘Cow’s laughter’.

“What do you feel about cow slaughter?” asked the chairman of the interview board.

“Well,” I began confidently, “the issue’s unfortunately been clouded by religious sentiment…”

“Indeed, we know cows have religious feelings,” interrupted the chairman, “but what do you feel about the issue?”

Mercifully, the interview was terminated soon thereafter. Yet the true significance of the chairman’s remarks struck me – literally and rather forcefully – only many years later. I was in an auto-rickshaw, and my driver, like so many of his tribe in the Great City, was knowledgeable and voluble. Having discoursed at length on rising prices, falling morals and the urgent need for a Truck Driver Eradication Programme, he turned to the subject of cows.

“Ah! What a creature!” he breathed reverentially, swerving us towards a passing dog and missing narrowly. “She gives us milk, from which we make butter, cheese, curds, ghee…her strength pulls the cart and the plough, her very dung fertilises the soil…”

“And her meat is rich and nutritious!” I cried, caught up in his enthusiasm. “Her hide makes footwear, and her…” but I stopped short at his cry of horror. Indeed, so agitated was he at my remarks that he accelerated and braked at the same time, and our chariot executed a series of skips and jumps before shuddering to a halt. He turned to me.

“Sacrilege!” he whispered hoarsely. “To speak of eating cow’s flesh. But then you, sir, are undoubtedly a product of inadequate spiritual education, and therefore ignorant of the divine attributes of the cow. Let me tell you…”

At that moment, disaster struck. A dappled cow had been grazing contentedly on the grassy divider nearby. A passing truck sounded its horn; the cow jumped out of her skin; and the next instant she was charging straight towards us, mooing plaintively. I yelled in alarm; the driver twisted around, but too late. The cow lowered her horns instinctively before hitting the windshield, which disintegrated with a splintering crash. Stunned by the impact, I watched as the cow – not a bit put out by the incident – poked her head through the gaping hole where the windshield had been.

“Moo?” she inquired softly. But the driver, who had assumed a foetal position on his seat, did not reply; and so, with an apologetic nod at me, the beast withdrew her head and trotted off briskly down the road.

I disembarked and joined the interested crowd of sidewalk ghouls which had gathered. At length, the driver uncurled himself, a limb at a time, and lurched to his feet. And then, he began to curse.

We were awestruck by the flow and fluency of his expression. He began with a general character assassination of the impugned cow, went on to cast ghastly aspersions on its antecedents and parentage, and finally dismembered it with ritualistic slowness. “It should have been strangled at birth!” he cried, and demanded to know what the government was doing in the matter.

At this, a bystander chided him gently for speaking ill of divine bovinity.

“Rubbish!” the driver yelled. “That was no Bharatiya cow! I saw the spots on it: it had foreign blood in it. It was a foreigner, I tell you, a foreigner…”

General ravings, Musings

Personal Space dynamics in a Bombay suburban train

From recent illuminating conversations with a few young sociologist friends, I’ve learned a new word; rather, a new meaning for an old and familiar word. The word is ‘space’. Hitherto, I’ve understood and used ‘space’ to mean ‘room’ (living space; space for one more; spacing between letters or tiles) or at times ‘realm’ (like in ‘outer space’), or even a state of mind (‘spaced out’ as in cannabis-induced euphoria).

Now, thanks to my sociologist gurus, I perceive that each one of us has a ‘personal space’ (p-space), and that we all live our lives in a complex, dynamic grid of p-spaces that overlap and interact with one another to form ‘public spaces’ and ‘social spaces’. Armed with my new-found understanding, I see all people – indeed, all creatures, from Brahminy ducks to Brahmins, cows to Congressmen, mosquitoes to musk deer, terrapins to terrorists – enveloped by pale, shimmering, p-spaces; surely these must be the ‘auras’ described and discerned by psychics. And even as our bodies corporeal inhabit and move and interact in the mundane material world, our individual p-spaces move with us and encounter and tryst with one another: whirling and swirling, coiling and recoiling, merging and submerging in larger spaces, often disappearing entirely only to emerge in different forms and dimensions…
Behold! A universe of Personal Spaces
Contemplating itself with a trillion ephemeral faces
Creation itself an interplay of Spaces unseen
From whose shadows Life springs into being

Eager to explore manifestations of p-space in the diverse and perverse environs of India that is Bharat, I trawl the foggy swamps of memory…and remember an incident in Bombay, where I spent a decade of decadence. Bombay! For that was the Great City’s name in the halcyon days before the Tides of Chauvinism rose and pounded its shores, leaving in their foul-smelling wake a battered and bent signpost bearing the name ‘Mumbai’ lying on the garbage-strewn sands of Chowpatty.

It was in Bombay that I first discerned the presence and value, if not the sociological meaning, of p-space. For the gentle reader unfamiliar with this greatest of cities, Bombay comprises a ragged row of rather narrow islands, joined to one another by causeways consisting primarily of the trash and rubble cast out by the City’s 20 million inhabitants and trampled down into concrete-like texture and strength over the centuries. Unlike the City’s cockroaches which are large and agile, a vast majority of the City’s dwellings are small and cramped. However, the lack of sufficient physical space at home has only strengthened the Bombay citizen’s awareness of her/his own p-space, and evolved over the decades into a remarkable ability to extend individual p-space into the public domain. Nowhere is this ability more vividly manifest than in the suburban trains, in which millions of Bombay citizens spend a substantial portion of their daily lives.

Like Death, Income Tax and Arnab Goswami, the Bombay suburban trains are great levelers. Within their hot and densely packed coaches all overt and covert symbols of social division – race, ethnicity, class, caste, language, religion, wealth, education – are melted down and compressed into a kind of thermonuclear plasma held together by the glue of sweat and common suffering. For the most part, the conditions in these trains are what the Western Railways define tersely and vividly as ‘super-dense crush load’; a state of being in which, as one hardened commuter put it, “When you try and scratch your nose you end up scratching someone else’s.” Paradoxically, though, even as this plasma-state twists and squeezes individual physical bodies to fusion point, it creates a strange and wonderful synergy among the various individual p-spaces inside the coach. It is almost as though the traveller attains an elevated plane of space-consciousness during the commute; a dual-consciousness that functions at two simultaneous levels:
(1) the individual p-space level, in which she/he indulges in individualistic or small-group activities ranging from bhajan singing, crossword solving and stitching to political discussions, munching snacks and scratching various parts of the anatomy;
(2) the collective social space level, in which the traveller is acutely conscious of creating and being part of a larger synergetic social space, and remains ever alert and ready to defend this synergetic social space against external disturbances.

Perhaps an anecdote might illustrate this synergetic space environment better. I recall one fine morning on a Churchgate-bound Slow Train; the 06:04 from Borivali, if memory serves right. I boarded at Malad and occupied my favourite position: standing beside the door, strap of shoulder bag firmly held between teeth, clutching on to a strap with a pinky finger and half-a-thumb as were about seven other commuters. Around me was the usual writhing, wriggling, rolling, swaying forest of tangled limbs, torsos and hair, from which rose the strange, feral noise known only to the Bombay commuter: the hoarse collective cry of two hundred and fifty humans squeezed into a space meant for twenty while hurtling through space at 60 kmph.
Superdense crush load 001
As the train sped along, the wriggling mass of humanity presently disaggregated into vaguely human forms: some clutching newspapers with pens poised over crosswords in Marathi, Hindi and English; others playing stand-up rummy, with one player collecting the discards under a rubber band stretched across his raised palm; a few crooners and hummers, a peanut vendor, a dozen peanut munchers, the many loners staring into space, at spots on walls or at one another; and the standard quota of loiterers, conmen and pickpockets scattered among the crowd. With each approaching halt – at Goregaon, Jogeshwari and so on – a score or so travellers would form a lump near the door on the far side and shoot out on to the platform like some giant hairy pea from a pea-shooter. At once, the space vacated by them would be occupied by a larger mass of humanity charging in through the door; the train would move again, things settled down a bit…and so it went.

Everything was normal, then, until we reached Andheri. About fifty people hurtled out of the coach; about eighty took their place; and suddenly, just as the train jerked into motion, a voice rose above the general din: a voice that brought instant silence into the coach, till the only audible sound was of rumbling wheels and the soprano hum of the pantographs gliding along the overhead traction lines.

“Tickets! Let’s see your tickets!”

The words were chanted in Hindi, then Marathi. The voice was not loud; but it cut through the silence like a bhelpuri-wallah’s knife through an onion. An instant later, I saw the Ticket Checker; white-trousered and black-coated, with black bag slung on his shoulders and pen and receipt book in hand, he had pushed his way from the vicinity of the far-side door into the middle of the crowd.

“Quickly now! Tickets…let’s see your tickets!”

The dynamic, invisible, synergetic social space inside the coach suddenly and soundlessly crystallized, revealing its six hundred glowing individual p-space shards. It was a dire socio-anthropological warning; but the TC was oblivious to it.

“Tickets, quickly now…” he chanted.

A young burly man, who might have been a football coach or perhaps a Matunga bar bouncer in his prime, responded. “Am I dreaming or do we have a TC with us?” He was standing right next to the TC; he spoke softly, courteously, a puzzled frown on his face as he scanned the faces all around him, including that of the TC.

The TC stiffened and opened his mouth to reply, but another voice came from his left; from a white-haired bespectacled man with the slightly distracted look and disheveled clothes of a long-retired Science Teacher. “I too heard a TC, son; but surely we are both mistaken. The last time I saw a TC enter a train during rush hour was in 1964…”

The TE found his voice. “What do you mean,” he sputtered. “I’m right here. Now show me your tickets…”

“Ah! There you are!” exclaimed the Bouncer, looking pleased. He patted the TC’s shoulder affectionately. “My ears are deceiving me, I’m afraid; I thought I heard you ask to see our tickets!” He laughed heartily, and was joined in his mirth by about sixty others. The TC did not laugh; instead he looked slightly grim as he rubbed his shoulder.

“Doubtless our TC is off-duty,” murmured a thin young man with frizzly hair. He was clad in kurta-pajamas and had a satchel slung across his scrawny chest; he looked every bit the Social Activist. “Doubtless he is heading home, after weeks of non-stop work in the service of the Railways and the nation.”

Many heads nodded, and all eyes turned to the TC. “Now look here,” the TC protested, “I am on duty, I must see your tickets…”

“You’re on duty!” cried the Social Activist, eyes wide in horror. “Do you realize what you have done? You have committed a grave injustice by boarding this coach…”

“What!” The TC’s eyes were round as saucers. “What injustice? What have I done?”

“You have snatched away food from the hungry when you boarded this coach,” went on the Social Activist, his voice gentle but persuasive. “Do you not see that by your very presence in this coach you have deprived another man, a poor man, from boarding this coach?”

“Because you have occupied a space that could have been better occupied by that poor man,” broke in the Science Teacher.

“That poor man now has to wait for the next train,” growled the Bouncer.

“He will be late for work…perhaps he will lose a day’s salary,” remarked a short, stocky man with a briefcase; doubtless a bank clerk.

A babble of voices broke out.

“Aye, yes, that poor fellow will pay the price for your thoughtlessness…”

“It’s a cruel day…”

“Are we all not honest travellers with tickets?”

“It’s a callous world…”

“Such is the lot of the common man…”

“What kind of government do we have, I ask you…”

The TC, who had been gaping all this while, found his voice. “Now wait a minute,” he protested, his voice thin and feeble.

“A single human adult male typically occupies a volume V in litres given by the equation V = 1.02W- 4.76,” went on the Science Teacher, his face glowing with eagerness, “where W is the weight in kilograms…”

“In fact, I remember seeing a poor man trying to get in at Andheri,” said the Bouncer thoughtfully. He looked at the faces around him. “Do you remember? He was weak and thin, had a faded shirt… torn pajamas…”

Several voices shouted agreement and added supplementary details.

“Of course, he looked starved…”

“He probably has seven children to feed…”

“And an ailing wife…”

“And a worthless good-for-nothing brother to support too…”

“Perhaps the brother too is a TC…”

“By my reckoning you weigh at least 80 kilos, so you occupy no less than 75 litres of space,” remarked the Science Teacher, eyeing the TC critically. “That’s enough to accommodate two normal-sized people…”

“What! So two poor people have been prevented from earning their daily wage!” came the general cry.

The TC now had a slightly hunted look. He began to edge backwards towards the doorway.

“Imagine if this injustice were to happen every day,” went on the Social Activist. “Why, not only would a family starve…

“Two families starve,” corrected the Science Teacher.

“Ah, yes sir, two families starve,” continued the Social Activist, “but over 1400 man-days would be lost because of this TC’s thoughtlessness…”

“Which, if you calculate even at minimum daily wage rate, works out to over 28,000 rupees…”

“And multiply that by the number of trains running each day…”

“Imagine the loss to the economy…”

“The GDP…”

“Little wonder India remains poor…”

“And all because this TC thinks we are so dishonest that we don’t have our passes or tickets!”

The crowd fell silent and two hundred pairs of eyes eyed the TC severely.

A small, meek-looking gentleman, who hadn’t spoken till then, suddenly piped up: “Does this TC himself have a ticket?”

The TC started, even as the cry was taken up. “Oye TC, do you have a ticket?”

“Do you? Do you?”

The TC wiped his brow. “No…I mean, I have a badge…” he mumbled.

“Oye, he doesn’t have a ticket!”

“Ah, the TC himself doesn’t have a ticket!”

“Chuck him out! He doesn’t have a ticket!”

The train slowed down and pulled into Matunga. Eager hands reached for the TC and helped him on his way to the doorway. The TC shot out on to the platform, rear-first, his velocity reduced and landing cushioned to some extent by about a hundred people who were waiting to enter. He was still running towards the exit when the train pulled out of the station. As the train pulled out and gathered speed, the travellers in the coach settled into their individual and small-group activities…and soon, the coach was filled with the dynamic, watchful peace of synergetic p-space again.

[P.S: I submitted this thesis to a sociologist friend, with the suggestion that it might be a useful case study to deepen knowledge and understanding of p-space. She has urged me to forget p-space, and instead take urgent measures to fill the discernibly voluminous space that, according to her, occupies the region between my cranium and mandible.]