I deposited myself fluidly through the doors in the last second before closure. The trains in the USA insist on closing the doors, thereby denying folks like us to use the hang-on-by-a-strand-and-heave self onto train later technique. I can’t say I was in a frightfully enthusiastic mood as I plopped myself onto the only remaining seat. I turned and looked at the person sitting next to me and saw I had drawn the stiff corporate pant.
I had to drop some documents off at a government office and then face a regular day. I sat contemplating the task ahead while opening my book to read. Nothing that a good book can’t fix I told myself sternly and set to reading.
Minutes into the journey, he (the s-c-p, the stiff corporate pant I mean) whipped out his phone. A purposeful gleam emanated from his glassy eyes. I moaned. I think I can figure out when my quiet commute gets thrown out the window. He called his team in India, and far from having a how-are-things conversation, took a piece of mud and flung it with whim across the seven oceans. Ocean beds shuddered as they transmitted the bits from him to the unfortunate team on the other side. He shouted at them, and then looked about impressively. Nobody cared. I scowled. It made not the slightest difference to him. He talked on. He promised to call them all separately and ‘give them nicely’ for not running a report or some such thing.
He sounded like one of those folk who make mental lists of jumping on people, telling them in precise language how they failed as individuals, and how they would improve in life if only they were to listen to him and follow his instructions alone. I heard a goodish deal of his side, which meant that the stuffed mushroom thought nothing of hogging conversations.
She probably said Hello, and that was about all she was allowed to say. If I knew her, I could have messaged her directly and told her to put down the phone and continue doing whatever else she was doing, with no loss. He started with the I’ll-show-you-who-is-in-control early enough. “What did you tell Gopal?” he bellowed.
I rummaged around for some cotton, fake-coughed a bit and stuffed my ears, but it did not help. What was required was one of those vacuum shower stoppers, not cotton. I could still hear every word:
“He said that you said that,” and on and on he went how about she was wasting her time. The passengers near me felt a bit sorry for Kavya, whoever she was. Luckily for her, she had no idea she was being publicly shelled like this. I mean, if you are whipping the air out of someone’s lungs, at least have the civility to do so in private, what? I threw him a dirty look. It simply evaporated like a droplet of water in the Saharan desert.
Soon, the bore lost the fun out of ripping Kavya and I tried to read again. He played on his phone for a few minutes. War horses need rest and restoration between battles. A minute later, he called Gopal and started by telling him what Divya told him and how he ‘gave her nicely’. The train was too full now for me to move away from this spot of misery, even if it meant standing on a one foot.
Say what you will about the steel glinted glass, he kept his promise. He made seven different calls and in between every call, he logged back into his game and riled himself up a bit more and got on with his ticking-off. He told every one of them again that he planned on calling every other member who had not delivered something, to ‘give them nicely’. After throwing his weight about like a dancing hippo in the local discotheque frequented by rhinos, he disconnected the call, looked pleased with himself and treated himself to a long round of playing a game on his smart phone.
I almost cheered when his stop came and he went out with a triumphant stride. Clearly, the hippoceres thought his day started on a productive note.
I ruminated for a bit about the phrase ‘give one nicely’. A very Indian expression is it not, to give one nicely while doing the exact opposite? What a super-fatted-bore!
Maybe like Russell said:
Civilized life has grown altogether too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.
If the s-f-bore had to fight off a few dogs and then run a mile before he leaped onto the train, and then was barely able to hang on, he might not have had the need to ‘give everyone nicely’.
It turned out that the document drop off at the Government office was an egg drop too. I was sitting there an hour after my appointment time, and fiddling my thumbs watching the videos of ‘Incredible India’ play over and over again. The guy at the counter before me was waving his hand impressively and making a lot of noisy gestures. I could not hear him of course(I preferred the music). There is something hypnotizing about those videos like ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’.
My stomach gave a threatening rumble before I finally washed up in front of the clerk (Are they still called that?). She looked peeved. Maybe the guy before me gave her nicely, I thought. She rummaged through my stack of documents for a minute and then said she could not help me because we required another form with notarized signatures of all players in the game. I gurgled and tried asking if my signature alone would do. She shook her head firmly – It was a no-go.
My stomach squeezed itself with hunger, and I thought to myself savagely that now is the time for all loud men and women to come to the party and ‘give everyone nicely’: I wondered if Mr. Hippoceres would lend his services.
“Hello! May I speak to the Hippoceres Giving-It-Nicely Service please?”
“Yes Ma’am. Who would you like to give it nicely to today?”