Friday, November 06, 2009


Strange that you should send me this mail, although it appears to be in circulation as a sort of general warning, however, it reminded me of a similar incident that occurred quite recently with me.
As you know, it's so difficult to get an auto from SCOPE without having a fierce debate with the driver regarding the legitimacy of fare being asked for, as few auto-driver in Delhi conscientiously follows rules and agrees to charge by the meter. One evening I was trying my luck in vain to get one to reach Patel Chowk Metro Station wherefrom I take the metro home. It so happened that my luck was out on that day and none of the auto drivers was ready to go in that direction. Therefore, I decided to change my route and take the metro from Rajiv Chowk, hoping that CP being a central location, auto-wallahs would perhaps be more amenable to go that way.

It was a decision taken in duress as I generally do not like the CP Station. If you have ever been to that location, you will appreciate that the station is too big with long, never ending corridors and the crowd too unruly and rowdy. However, my change of destination yielded result and soon I got an auto which took me to the station. But by that time, it was quite late and being autumn, it was darker than the usual dusk, when I alighted at Rajiv Chowk.

The station was crowded as usual with people thronging in from all directions of the city. Incidentally I find Patel Chowk Station more to my liking as it is quiet and peaceful and the crowd, generally the “sarkari babu” type, seemingly docile and belonging to known milieu, hence, homely.

In order to get inside the underground station, one has to ascend a few steps and take the escalator or the staircase down, as per individual choice. As I was climbing up the steps a man suddenly approached me and said in English “excuse me” in a very cultured voice. I looked up to find a bespectacled face smiling at me. The man was tall and lean in built. I think he wore a white lungi and a chaadar over a bottle-green and yellow striped shirt, which somehow reminded me of the mourning attire that the Bengalis usually wear in bereavement. He was carrying a few books which by a cursory glance looked like religious pamphlets. But what attracted my attention the most was the long sandalwood tilak drawn from his forehead till the end of his nose. He looked and sounded educated and spoke English in a well modulated voice. But looks could be deceptive. It took few seconds for me to notice all these things. While entering the station, I had casually glanced around and seen him standing on the right hand side corner of the entrance. He was standing alone and looking at nothing in particular. He had crossed across the throng of boarders to speak to me!!!

If I had to describe my feelings at that particular moment it would be sheer fear. Why I was terrified I would not be able to say. It was an instant reaction. On the face of it, the man looked sophisticated, well mannered, courteous and apparently above board. But at that very moment, when he stood there smiling, my nostrils were being assaulted by this overpowering fragrance of sandalwood, the source of which could not have been just the tilak on the man’s forehead. He continued in English, smiling, “May I please take a few minutes of your time?” It took me a flash of a second to react, “No, thank you.” I turned around and walked past. The man did not follow me. I did not look back to see whether he was still there. But the fragrance of sandalwood continued to haunt me till I reached the platform and boarded the train.

Somewhere I had read that strangers accosting people in the middle of such crowded places use strong fragrances to hypnotize or befuddle them and when they come back to their senses they cannot remember what happened after inhaling the strong aroma. Sooner or later, some valuables are found missing from their persons. I do not know whether this piece of information was at the back of my mind when I vehemently nodded my head and rushed off to the other direction to avoid the man. But the presence of the man could definitely not be considered benign if it was catalytic in evoking a premonition of danger. The conscious as well as the subconscious minds have many a tricks up their sleeves and sometimes it is really difficult to fathom what exactly triggers off reaction to strange stimulii in the instant case my reaction to the stranger.

But I still spend a considerable time in pondering over the fact that the man chose and approached me of all the people in that station with whatever noble or evil intention that he may have had in mind. I really wonder what sort of people they look for such misdeeds. The apparently gullible ones most probably. That makes me wonder whether I look that gullible for a hoodlum to target me as his chosen victim……….I have not found the answer as yet. As a matter of fact, I do not know whether the stranger could be branded as an out and out outlaw.

Incidentally, I have always preferred the fragrance of sandalwood to all other perfumes. I am generally allergic to most. But as I said earlier, the fragrance haunts me now and will always do so reminding me of a strange incident half understood and (God forbid!) half experienced.

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