What would it be like to get into the skin of another person and think and act like he is, for a short period of time. Yes people, I am talking about impersonating, harmless though.
I have once done it. It was something like I have to lie more to sustain the previous lies – like a Fibonacci series.
The plot : circa 2006. I was traveling from Trivandrum Central to Kuzhithurai West on a sleepy Saturday early morning passenger train. The compartment was almost free as always, and I wanted to read for sometime and may be catch up on my lost sleep too. I wish. I started to take out a magazine and a person occupied a seat opposite me. I ignored him, and opened the magazine to read. I obviously didn’t want to be distrurbed, but this fellow wanted to strike a conversation with me. Some small talks – like no rain this year, very hot, trains are full in evenings and free in the mornings - I nodded in agreement and went back to reading after every nod, but the fellow was probably not a good body-language reader, and he came back with his blah blahs.
I understood that my trip was ruined and thought to play along. He wanted to know about me – my name, my job etc. I said my name was ‘Prakash’ and I am a security guard working with an agency at Technopark. He seemed to be more comfortable probably because he felt that I was one like him. He asked more questions about what money I make, if I am married, what other avenues of income I had etc. Now I had to link all the statements I said earlier and then connect it to my next reply. That was fun and a challenge as well. I pulled along and enjoyed this mental exercise.
He then narrated his story – that he was in some section of Indian Army and after voluntary retirement he was a security guard himself and how he earns very little etc. He spoke about how dangerous these jobs were; the rifles the robbers possess, compared to a guard with a lathi or a heavy double barreled shot gun, which is often no more than a show piece. He also explained how his biological clock went haywire, on account of his roster. More importantly he sounded out his mental agony when he has no one to talk to during his duty. He then asked me not to count ‘my’ security guard job as a means of living; he advised me to get a degree, amidst my ‘difficulties’ and try for a government job.
I felt a pang of regret, but I did not want to reveal my actual identity. I felt happy because he could talk to me and atleast for few minutes he could be his true self.
He could be anywhere – the one who guards the entrance, the one at the ATM door or the one at the parking lot.
Alas! I do not remember his face. May be if ever I meet and recognize him, I would tell him that, yes I earned a degree and that now I got a good job. I just want to see him smile when he hears that.