• RAJGOPAL KRISHNAMURTHI

Under siege for an hour

Thoughts on leaving the office early were sitting pretty on my mind right from the moment I

stepped in. Weekends were invariably a fascination for many like me, who travelled to Chennai to be with family and soak in the ambience the beautiful city provided. The small town I lived in was seventy kilometres away from Chennai. The most sought mode of transport was an express train for the simple reason that it would reach Chennai in seventy-five minutes, unlike the local trains that took at least two hours.


Starting at 2 pm from the office would enable me to rest for a while at home before

proceeding to the railway station, which was a few minutes away from where I lived. My target was the Dadar Express that usually arrived between quarter-past three and half-past three.


Missing it would cost me an hour, as the local train would start at four and reach Chennai at

sunset. Everything was as per plan as I strolled towards home. Forty minutes was ample time for a nap, though I never preferred sleeping in the afternoon.


A surprise awaited me as I neared the narrow stairway leading to my small apartment on the

first floor. Two large monkeys were seated on the stairs, blocking my way. Regular visitors to the building, they were often spotted on the walls and the rails in the balcony, never had I seen them on the stairs. Thinking that they would clear the way, seeing me stride forward, I climbed a few steps only to find one of the two showing its teeth and screaming at me. The sound was enough to put me on the back foot. I had to get down immediately to avoid earning its wrath further.


One of the monkeys had a stick in its hand and posed like a tough taskmaster. It even

marched a few steps forward, inviting me for a bout. Both of them meant business, and I had to abide by the rules they had set. With no options to look at with confidence, I could sense my plan deviating to a point of no return. I had to play the waiting game. No distance is safe when you have two aggressive monkeys in front, trying to prove a point. They were loving their stint on the stairs, my fear adding to their excitement.


I decided to walk to the nearby tea stall for some refreshments, thinking that staying away

from their view would encourage them to leave the place. They proved me wrong when I

returned at 3.15 pm. They were a force then, with three more for company, guarding the stairs against trespassing. A board cautioning the intruders was the only missing link in their operation.


If not for the uniform I was in and the bag I had to pick up from my room, I would have left

to the station without further ado. I had to go for a walk again, hoping that the guardians of the stairs would disappear before I returned. I would have walked a few yards when a commotion across the street caught my attention. It was them, the monkeys. They were after each other, proving their might and settling scores in the process. Within no time, they all vanished into the nearby trees. If only they had picked up the fight a bit earlier, my plan would have seen the light of the day.


I was on time to catch the local train. Sitting close to the window, I breathed a sigh of relief

and said, “Better late than never.” It was five when I woke up to the buzz around. As I looked

out of the window, I could see a train stranded on the track with the passengers in it posing

clueless. It was the Dadar Express I failed to catch—courtesy of the monkeys. I closed my eyes in disbelief and thought about the fearsome five that kept me away from the train. They had a message to convey, and they did it in a style uniquely theirs. I thanked them silently and continued to nap; I had another hour to relax.

I was in no hurry. Plan B was well in place.

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