MADRAS: CHAPTER FOUR
It was cold and Chandru was glad for the thin blanket he had over him. He was awakened by a raucous noise of the train screeching on the metal tracks and slowly tried to open his eyes. He missed the scent and thought of the morning coffee. Lazily, he tried to shift around in a more comfortable position and try to get up when his blanket was snatched from him and he woke up to a vigorous shaking of his shoulders and a foreign voice, calling out, “Get up”.
He was instantly alarmed and sat up blinking, bitterly cold and cursing all that he’d cursed the day before with renewed passion. He was dumbstruck at what met his eyes.
An Englishman stood before him with his hands held behind his back in a masterly and stern stance. He had sharp gray eyes and a high forehead and thin, firm lips.
“I don’t want to have anything to do with sluggish buffoons” he said menacingly.
“Are these the ones?” he turned to the Indian officer and asked in a contemptuously cold voice that had absolutely no modulations!
“Yes sir” the fellow replied timidly, staring down at the floor. It made Chandru’s blood boil as well as as heart be gripped with fear. He developed an instant dislike to the Englishman and stared with big, sleepy and anticipating eyes at him.
And after a quick reverie, he seemed to become comically conscious and mischevious and said quietly, “where’s the other one, then?”.
The man pointed to the cuddled up and peaceful posture of Ram, who had a sweet smile on his face with all the ruckus going on! Chandru gulped. The Englishman’s eyebrows went up as he looked jestingly at Ram.
He moved close to the other fellow, being very tall, leaned down to whisper confidentially into his ears. The poor fellow looked befuddled and implicitly complied by nodding with confused eyes!
He went to Ram and spoke gently, “do you want coffee” in tamizh. Ram seemed to wince and turn around. Then he gently touched his shoulders and said sweetly, “the Colonel await, wake up, thambi”.
“More time” replied Ram sleepily on which the Englishman advanced and lifted the water pot on the stand and splashed it over him. Ram scrambled up, breathless and gulping and gasping for air while he merely chuckled.
“Welcome to Madras. I hope you enjoy your stay here" he said somberly with a graceful nod and left as drastically fast as he’d come in.
Both Ram and Chandru were speechless and looked at the remaining officer. He shrugged his shoulder, “Major Sharpe has just been stationed this morning to and transfer replace Colonel Kishore who they find incapable of management. He has been transferred to Kanpur. He seems, ahem... very eccentric and loud. He saw the letter you’d written in reply to the Colonel and asked to know about you and all new arrivals. He could not accept that you got the post merely by being the son of an officer and said he wanted to inspect you. The Colonel was very sad at parting and has left a letter for you, Chandru. You shall have tough times ahead, indeed and you must learn to face them like a man. Kishore had great respect and fondness for your father and wanted to be able to look after you for his sake, they developed quite a good friendhip at their time in Delhi. I suggest you keep out of everyone's bad books and do the best you can for the nation and your family.” The last words were spoken with an air of sly concern and mystery.
“Welcome to Madras, the porter shall take you from here” he said in an authoritative way and left.