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The Discerning Commuter

He was not sure. He could never deny that he never wanted it. He needed it, particularly at times when he was stressed and tired. However, he was not at all sure what way he should act in general.

Yes, Amlan considered himself as a deserving candidate since he was fast approaching the life landmark. He was not there now, but it was not that far off either. And, most of the other candidates often showed a bullish attitude which always made his will stronger.

The evening that day was very warm and humid. And to add to it the rush hour lingered on somewhat late into the night. Amlan couldn’t get a seat and had to retreat to the farthest corner of the metro train coach near the coupling. There he found some standing space with his briefcase tucked in between his legs. As he leaned against the side panel near the coupling opening he watched quietly the movement around those seats that meant so much or so little for him. He was not sure, he made sure.

The occupier at the other end of the four-seat bench got up and that seat fell vacant. The commuter nearest to the seat was a little balding but a young man in his prime. The young man looked greedily at the inviting seat, but decided to check if genuine contenders were there or not. His looks finally settled on Amlan, and it became lingering and also furtive as if he was trying to find out the credentials and at the same time not wanting to let go. Amlan didn’t make any move because he was not sure. Apart from the fact his destination was just two stations away and that he was relatively comfortable in his present position his continuing dilemma of so-near-yet-quite-far-off prevented him from going for the grab. He began to study the young man with interest now.

From his uncertain looks Amlan thought with certainty that the young man in fact found him genuinely deserving, but not wanting to give up. Amlan’s indecisiveness also emboldened him to go for it. Now Amlan felt offended, because he thought the commuter was very close to being a bully. And, finally he almost made for it. But it was too late. Maybe sensing the probability of the near-senior citizen of asserting his right the young man occupied the seat in an instant dash, now not bothering to look up at Amlan.

As always, Amlan couldn’t suppress the grin trying to crack open his lips. The senior citizen seats were on both sides of every coach of the metro railway rakes that also include the differently able, and it was always interesting to observe the mental wars between contenders. In India, one becomes a senior citizen after the age of sixty. However, from sixty to eighty plus years of age one is still a senior citizen only, and so the deserving stamp of the contenders is always relative. Nobody could possibly tell or ask about the age and there was no way to prove anybody’s case, because there is no system of checking identity cards. Therefore, the relative intensity of the grey hair or the frail body or the emaciated features are the only guidelines.

However, Amlan could not prevent himself from giving a rueful look at the young man, still seated securely, as he alighted at his station.