Before I begin, I would like to make it very clear that whichever qualities I may possess, imagination is certainly not one of them. Rationalism and practical thinking pervade my life, leaving no space in mind for airy-fairy thoughts, pleasant or otherwise. One of my acquaintances is of the opinion that I could easily fall asleep in a horror movie, though I will not offer my views regarding that particular topic. To my insular outlook, any incident which cannot be explained and/or justified by the general laws of science did not occur at all. Such episodes are merely attention-garnering antics for those poor souls desperate for their five minutes of fame on some equally news starved media channel.
Nonetheless, one particular occurrence considerably rattled me, and forced me to question myself on my adopted stand on what people term as ‘paranormal’ or ‘supernatural’. Once again, I will state before you the bare facts of this singularly outlandish affair, without expressing any of my personal views, since I have none. You are free to judge, form your own theories, even doubt my sanity, and come to the conclusion of your choice. And if there is any feasible interpretation on your part other than branding me a hallucinating lunatic, please do feel free to let me know.
railway station, as usual, played with panache the role of the overcrowded starting point of my annual summer journey to Kolkata. After dismissing the customary bunch of porters vying for my single duffel bag, I proceeded to the platform assigned to my train. It was early in the evening, and the ubiquitous tea sellers were doing brisk business. I sat on an unoccupied bench, a rare commodity at that hour, and dully noted the hubbub around me. After the initial jarring effect, you simply get used to the ruckus. Period. New Delhi
Local trains came and went, ferrying commuters to and from the outskirts of this great metropolis; each one bringing its own share of additional hullabaloo with it. From my bench, I observed the opposite platform through the windows of one such train which had just chugged in. Amidst the usual haste of the people to board it, I saw something which was completely incongruous to the situation. There was a man….and the flash of metal and the telltale shape in his hand as he got shoved by the throng was enough to tell me that it was a gun. I started, got up, and moved closer to the train. I hadn’t imagined it; by now, the gun was in full display, he was pointing it at an unfortunate fellow’s forehead, and yelling. The victim’s face was suitably scared, and he too was babbling something. I stared in morbid fascination at the pair, as though watching a movie. The train, which was the barrier between me and the homicidal maniac, had started moving, and I observed the scene through the windows that now kept flitting past me. He pulled the trigger, and that made me jerk back to reality, as I dashed towards the nearest overhead bridge to take me to the next platform. Maybe that lunatic could still be caught.
It was then that the extraordinary thought struck me (yes, pardon my sluggishness); a man commits murder in front of a thousand other people, and nobody even bats an eyelid. Yes, the others in that selfsame platform did not even seem to notice that someone had just been snuffed out a couple of feet away. It was like…they were invisible to all except for me. I tried to dismiss that farcical notion and reached the ‘murder’ spot.
Nothing out of the ordinary. No blood, no body. Not even an alarmed face. It was just as before. Vendors hawking their stuff, people milling around waiting for the next train, a regular railway platform, unhindered by insalubrious criminal activities. And that perturbed me even more. Like I have mentioned, I do not approve of imagination, at least not as large-scale as this. I certainly had not invented the victim’s hawk like face, the killer’s heavily bearded countenance and his yellow shirt.
For all practical purposes, there was no reason to raise an alarm. When a hundred people, who were closer to the spot than you were couldn’t see what you could, the only logical conclusion is that your mind was playing tricks on you. But this wasn’t the regular kind of chicanery, I had to admit. No sane person visualised a murder of some random unknown individual in a crowded station.
By now, my own train had arrived. This time I was part of the boarding crowd, which was thankfully devoid of gun-toting assassins, imaginary or not. I found my berth, and with some difficulty, fell asleep.
Two weeks later
My dull holiday had done little to dispel the memories of my unsavoury vision. As the train entered
station and crawled to a stop, I was annoyed to note that it was the very same psychopathic platform once more. Alighting, I hadn’t taken even two steps when I saw it. Hawk-face from my ‘vision’ was lying spread-eagled in a pool of blood, in a small space now cordoned off by the police, who were busy controlling the chaos. I caught phrases like ‘morning’, ‘gun’, ‘two bullets’, ‘clean through the head’, ‘got away’, etcetera, etcetera from the mayhem. I had had enough…..as I made my way towards the exit, a hand rested on my shoulder. I turned around to find myself facing a burly cop holding a photocopy of a rough sketch of a heavily bearded man with shrewd eyes, someone who by now was very familiar to me. New Delhi
“Seen him? Wore a yellow shirt, according to witnesses….” He asked.
I stared at the photograph for a while, and finally looked at him.
“No,” I replied shortly, “No, I haven’t”.
The policeman was evidently expecting more curiosity from me. However, I shrugged noncommittally, and hefting my duffel bag, I made my way out of the station just as it started raining heavily.
*This piece of fiction is the result of reading too much of Edgar Allan Poe :)