Days have merged into night. I can’t seem to find a difference between the two. I sleep at 12, wake up at 5 and I wonder how the day transformed into night transformed into day. I am smiling at the day transforming into night transforming into day.
This night was no different. I heard Chris Martin croon in that gravelly voice – “bones sinking like stones…” and I looked out into the Thane creek. I didn't see bones sinking and I thank God for small mercies. I saw mist. Like a white wispy billowing curtain rising from the black water. Edging it were tiny golden orbs in the distance. Here and there were crouched blackening bushes like those hunters who hide from their prey. I wonder why the bushes crouched like this. I looked at them and felt that they might rise any second and that thought chilled me. I looked away. A girl was staring at me. She was on the opposite seat in the train. It was one of the last locals and there were very few of us. Seeking solace from the fact that we were there for each other as the day transformed into night. Why is it that at moments of fear the mind thinks only of ghosts and rapists and accidents? Weak beings. That’s what we are. She smiled at me. I smiled back. Maybe she smiled because as usual I might have been jamming to the track that blasted my ear drums into oblivion. Andheri was round the corner. Literally. Literally because the track curved at one point and then straightened out into the station.
Like the whoosh that happens when a baby swims out of the mother’s womb the entire foetus of the train whooshed out into the platform and swam towards the entrance. Some patiently going with the flow. Others pushing and shoving and groping breasts, hips, thighs whatever they could lay their grimy palms on. Tired faces, thinking thoughts which if voiced might have been eerily same (who knows). Tori Amos was screaming now…"made my own pretty hate machine…” and she was so totally inside my brain that if it was not for that tickling nape I might not have seen him.
He stood there. Arms folded. Grey shirt. Black trousers. And those eyes. It bored into me. Into mine. The red and yellow lights in the weighing machine behind him winked at me. I looked at him and I looked away. Then I turned back. To test if he was still looking at me. He was. And all I wanted to do was to run away from him. More than him it was the stare. The eyes. Then imagine my sheer fright when the next night I saw him again. Same place, same clothes, same eyes, same stance, same stare, eerily same. Eerily same?? I felt a sense of déjà vu. This happened night after night.
What does he want from me? Why is he staring at me? Why can’t he leave me alone? Why am I seeing those eyes in my dreams? Who is he?
Something was terribly wrong here. This was not normal. Should I speak to him? I might have debated this at least a million times before I finally mustered enough courage to speak to him. Yes. I did speak. And this is how it happened.
I decided that I would stare right back at him and only I know how the blood in my veins turned into ice when I did this. Humid, sweltering Andheri station metamorphosed into Arctic Pole. Big mistake I thought when I saw him walk towards me. Very big mistake. Well, it was now or never. I had to get rid of this person from my life and now was the only chance.
“Please help me”…
What??? Did he say, “Please help me…?”
Yes he did, because he repeated it.
“Who are you?” I asked warily. “And what do you want from me?”
“You have to help me get myself cremated? You have to set me free.”
He was obviously on some major acid-induced high.
By now fear had turned into anger and exasperation. I said, “Look. If you want to continue like this I am sorry I can’t help you. Tell me properly what you want and if I can I will help you.”
He came close and said with a desperation that I’d never seen in anyone, “I am dead. I want to go back to where I really belong. But I need to be cremated for that. And they are watching me. They are following me.”
As though by reflex I caught hold of a passing girl. “Can you see him?” I asked. She stared at me. Maybe she thought I was crazy. “Of course I can see him,” she said in a tone that was a mixture of hesitation, mockery and … oh… let’s not get diverted. He could be seen by others. That meant he was not a ghost. That also meant that I was not one of those mediums. High five, God! Satan...up yours!
The realization hit me like a Mack truck. I remembered the Serial Pleaser and smiled. Wrong place, wrong time as always. Why do I space out like this? The realization was – HE IS THE LIVING DEAD. They are called zombies. I’d read about them.
I heard myself saying. “I can’t help you. Because I don’t know how to. And there are processes, special people who save someone like you. I’m sorry.”
The sadness that leaked out of his eyes was something that wrenched my heart. Like a black viscosity. I almost saw the thick path that it made on his face. Was he crying? No. He was not. Then what did I see? Did I imagine it? No I did not imagine it. He turned and walked away. Unlike me he didn’t look back. But like him, I was staring at his receding form. What was he feeling? He was dead and he was living amongst us.
Every night after that as I stepped out of the train and walked towards the entrance my eyes would seek him at that spot. I never saw him again.