The Sweaty Shake

12 01 2007

Raj Singh Rathore sat pondering, scratching his chin lightly.  It was less a scratch and more a graze, a kind that moving one’s fingertips against the grain of a ten-hour-old stubble would feel like. 

His ponderation was no different from those of countless others who have ventured to stop and wonder right in the midst of some series of events certain vested interests call life:  “How did it come to this?  Where is this going?” 

Rathore was the Station Superintendent at the nodal railway station of Bhikshapore Junction.  The constantly yo-yoing and see-sawing turn of events that threatened to create major upheavals in his life and career often found him lost in thoughts so intense they made him sweat.  One thought led to another till he usually found himself questioning the basic tenets of his career, the Indian Railways, religion, life. 

However, this time it was different.  His line of sight happened to be in the general direction of the portion of rail track where Alfa was bent over, banging an obstinate hook into a fishplate.  Even over the thirty yard odd distance Rathore could see that Alfa’s actions were a little unnatural, especially his lower half. 

Alfa was not the gangman’s real name.  His name was Abdul Latif Fateh Ahmed.  Thoroughly fed up of different sets of people hailing him with any of the four constituents in his name he decided to settle matters once and for all, by acronymising it to Alfa.  He was still not satisfied; the tea vendor at the intersection insisted on calling him Halfa, prompting him to almost club his heavy fist into the guy’s face.  He would have done that, except that he was too dependent on the snacks at the stall to antagonise its owner. 

As he worked his big arms on the large hammer, swinging it into the fishplate, Alfa mentally traced a drop of sweat that formed at the core of his chest hair and followed it as it rolled slowly down his torso, miraculously side-stepped the depression of his belly button and dissolved its brief existence in another, denser clutch of curly hair beneath his stomach.  Once upon a time he would have been irritated by such truant beads of sweat, not any more.  Now these things egged him on, titillated his thoughts and basically fuelled his comic reactions.  He shook his hips from left to right rapidly, marvelling at the cool soft touch of the bead of sweat, trying to make the feeling last, even as the drop dissolved in the general sheen of sweat and couldn’t be traced anymore. 

Some twenty yards to the left and behind Alfa, RPF constable Mrunal Mehta peered over as he was crossing the tracks to the town side.  He slowed when he saw what he thought was an obscene jig by Alfa, and stopped, considering if he were to go over to the ruffian and give him a piece of his mind. 

Mehta, whose name had been shortened to MM, and later to M&M (Alfa had mauled attempts by some guy to further corrupt that to Eminem), was a soft sort of chap.  Everything about him lacked machismo as much as everything about Alfa lacked finesse and delicateness.  All the way from his ambivalent name, his stature of five feet two, his floppy baby fat and lack of muscles, his effeminate gait, to his thought process – in no way did he fit the bill as a cop. 

Alfa towered over him at an inch over six feet, was all muscle, sported an angry scar on his face, running from his forehead down to his lips, and even had an acerbic tongue to go with it. 

In short, M&M stood no chance.  But even as he made up his mind and recommenced his shifting gait Alfa noticed the pipsqueak through the corner of his eye, and instantly decided to throw in a performance.  He exaggerated his hip thrusting, gradually gyrating in a circular motion till it became a grind.  He then straightened up, holding the hammer in both hands in front of him, and did his best impersonation of Shakira, doing the hippy shimmy from the waist down.  He accentuated it with a bit of yodelling and tuneless singing till the whole sordid act got to his lone direct audience – exactly what he intended anyway.  M&M turned away firmly, fixed his stare into infinity and strode off, looking much like a new school teacher trying to ignore a whole class of jeering little monster kids as she walked past their classroom. 

A little distance away, Rathore graduated from the smirk he held all along and doubled up laughing.  That was a collector’s piece, he thought as he resumed working on the shunting schedule for the next day. 

To be continued… 

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