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WHAT A COWARDLY THING

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DAILY DOSE By Bikram Vohra

Train travelSo I am reading this book in which the hero is being given a lie detector test before he joins the FBI or the CIA and the question is: have you ever been a coward?
And I think to myself, hmmm, interesting, have I ever been one? Not in the save everyone on the sinking Titanic or the great inferno, just your standard day to day cowardice. Not so, not really, no way, but wait a moment…
Maybe because I am there in that area or what but it does wriggle its way into my mind quite often these past five years. We had all gone as a family to do white water rafting in the Ganges. On the way back about forty of us in buses had to drive from Rishikesh where the rafting has its high point to Hardwar to catch the train to Delhi.
The hour long ride was tedious at best and about a mile from the railway station our buses were diverted to a fresh stop by a policeman who was clearly in conspiracy with the cycle rickshaw pullers who congregated like migrating birds as our bus came to a halt. Now, my daughter Nandini and I were in one bus and my wife Ambika and Priyanka,the younger one, were in the other.
As we offloaded I took command of the situation in that father has to decide manner that comes naturally to me and ordered a rick to take us to the station since the train was due in ten minutes.
What about Mum and Panks, Nandini said in the logical way daughters have.
They are grown up, I said, they’ll catch up as their bus arrives.
So we flung our suitcases into the rickshaw and pulled out just as the second bus pulled in.
See, I said, they’ll be okay.
After the fates had stopped falling over with laughter they added a little lilt to their evening by giving us the slowest rickshaw puller in the world. If he had gone any slower we would be going backwards. Even pedestrians were sauntering by us. Naturally ,the rest of the people on our bus had passed us long back and Nandini, with her natural inclination to stating the obvious said, do you think we are moving?
At which point Ambika and Piryanka and two or three other rickshaws from Bus 2 sailed passed us with the two of them looking like thunder.
You should have waited, Nandini said, they don’t look too happy.
What’s this you thing, I said, you sat in the rickshaw with me.
Yes, but it was your idea.
You blaming me.
Look, you left your daughter and your wife on a strange road in a strange place with luggage and whizzed off.
We did not whizz off, I said, do you call this whizzing.
Well, it was a pretty rotten thing to do.
We made it as the train pulled in by running the last 100 metres.
To this day I have no idea why I did such a stupid thing. It still haunts me and I cannot explain the desperate desire to catch that train.
Ergo, if I was taking a lie detector test, and I said, no, I would fail.
Would you?
It was a crummy thing to do.

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