Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Devil and the Crowd

The crowd punishes the devil. The devil hides in the crowd. The crowd is the devil. Better stay out of it.
Trespassing on rail tracks is an offence. But when your train is about to leave and you are one platform away with no railway officials around, a quick jump down your platform, two long jumps across the tracks and then a climb over the neighboring platform is the shortest path to catch your train. This is exactly what the old man did.
I was going down the stairs of the railway foot over bridge to the platform where my train was waiting. The train was already late by a minute or two and could leave any moment. I was halfway down when it happened.
An old man, who was crossing the railway track, dropped something out his breast pocket as he climbed up to the platform near the foot of the stairs to the over bridge. He was in such a hurry that he did not notice it and ran towards the train that was sounding its horn. From a distance, I could make the green of some Indian currency notes and atleast 3-4 in number.
A fat man, who was at the foot of the stairs at the same time quickened his pace downstairs, reached the spot first before the small, hurrying crowd could even notice, bent and put the bundle in his pocket without any guilt. I stopped involuntarily.
Another witness, a few steps ahead of me, stopped in his tracks to look around and spotted me as the only other person who had an idea of what had taken place in front of us. The others moved ahead oblivious to this event, concerned of their daily worries and deadlines. I guess the fact that I was the only person who had possibly stopped moving and was looking at the scene of crime gave me away. And then, both of us were in the same state of mind - confused by the knowledge that something was wrong and not able to make a decision. Two minds together work better than one. We looked at each other and smiled, telepathically communicating a silence to be maintained on the incident we just witnessed. Matter settled and we started to move ahead along with the crowd.
I had just witnessed how one man’s loss was another’s gain. Literally – by some thousand rupees. The old man, who lost, disappeared in the crowd. The fat man smilingly disappeared in the crowd. The crowd never bothered to notice this small event that did not disturb its balance. As for me and my telepathic friend, we simply went ahead with being a part of the crowd.
I ran and boarded the train which had already started to move. I made my way in through the guards at the door and found myself some space to lean my back against the partition between the seats and the door way. To my surprise, the fat man was right there standing in front of me leaning against the opposite partition.
Pickpocketing is an offence. But that was what supposedly the young fellow standing near the fat man attempted. He was caught red handed by the fat man who had started yelling to attract attention. And then it happened.
The fat man gave one tight slap on the chap’s face. The young fellow tried to escape out his hold. But the fat man held on tightly and gave him another slap. The blood pressure of the nearby crowd was rising exponentially and then it exploded in the form of heavy blows by innumerable limbs on the human body that had fallen and crouched on the floor in an embryonic position. Mob justice was being met out. I stood and watched.
After a minute or two, as the station approached, the fat man pushed back the crowd around the bleeding boy, pulled him up and threw him out of the slowing train into the platform. I watched all this with a kind of mental numbness. I watched the fat man with admiration for his thick skinned, cold blooded attitude. I watched the selfish crowd that ignored or noticed unanimously at will.
The fat man looked at me and smiled. This was the second time a stranger was smiling at me in a span of few minutes. And I smiled back again. But there was no telepathy this time. Guess you all think the same when in a crowd.
The crowd p
unishes the devil. The devil hides in the crowd. The crowd is the devil. Better stay out of it.

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