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The virtuoso who had thrilled audiences in Europe and America with his Karnatic renditions on the saxophone, hummed softly as he settled down in his air-conditioned compartment aboard the Chennai Express bound for Trichy. He had for company a lady accompanist, who Gent later recalled was named after an ancient South Indian principality, the mere ring of which had evoked an instant burst of laughter from him.
The veteran saxophonist was pleased with his present accommodations though he did look suspiciously at anyone who passed his bay. Perhaps it was anxiety about his co-travellers.
Presently a family of three arrived and occupied the seats opposite him. He appraised them quickly and just as quickly sighed in relief. He’d be travelling with a nice family he told himself. “Andava! Dear God! How I am thanking you for all the small ble…” He stopped his silent thanksgiving abruptly.
He’d just caught the innocent looking young man with this nice family, staring at him without blinking an eyelid. There! He’d caught the young man staring again…at his bald pate with the big red vermilion smear, ringed fingers and ringed toes. Why did he get the feeling that this lad was looking him up with wild amusement? And …wait…did he just catch the angel face with this lad, surreptitiously pinching his arm as if to say, “stop staring”?
But before he could decide, his accompanist drew his attention to dinner. The divine aroma of sambar, curds and mango pickle soon filled the air of the small bay as Gent stared on in wide-eyed delight. He’d never seen so many rings on a man. Dude! This one wore them on his filthy toes too! Each one of them! Cool. And look at him slurp his sambar and saadam!
Ashmika now dug her elbow into his ribs. “Stop staring” she mouthed again. Ok, he might as well stop staring…but wow… look at that ring on his pinkie! Man…so many rings, this dude must be from Planet Jupiter. Or maybe he is Planet Jupiter. Ha! Gent bit his lips but not before the virtuoso, who was now wiping his lips and getting ready for bed, caught him doing so.
There! There! The young man was doing it again. Hrump! He had seen many more mischievous people like him, he reflected as he snorted and stretched himself horizontal on the lower berth. In no time he was snoring contentedly. He would have continued so till morning if it had not been for the rude bump on his berth, shortly thereafter. It had taken the saxophonist twenty patient years to conquer the complex wind instrument and this particular manoeuvre at that ungodly hour literally took the wind out of him. And his patience.
Once he’d found his bearings, he looked up dishevelled, and found the lad in pyjamas standing sheepishly next to him. Obviously he’d jumped down from the upper berth and thudded into his lower one. Oh these young men…how irresponsible, jumping about like this at midnight. “You…you” he managed as he heaved himself sidewise on his elbow. “You climb down from steps only…” What!
Sacrilege! The young man wasn’t even giving ear to him and… "Shiva, Shiva!" Wasn’t that his rude co-traveller’s pyjama clad derriere practically in his face now? He had not only woken him rudely but now he was also showing his backside! What was he to do now? Foam? Fume? Be furious? At what? A derriere? The virtuoso resigned perhaps for the first time in his life as Gent disappeared to the bathroom nonchalantly as if nothing had just happened. Poor saxophonist. All that fame and yet…
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