Saturday, 20 January 2007

My bald head, a perch

Blowing out my plans

Amidst the misdirected inferences to racism that has consumed the headlines in the UK and India about the reality show Big Brother, I could not have been met with a more interesting situation as I travelled to Antwerp this afternoon.

I had in fact planned to travel to Cologne after booking a hotel and checking the Internet for travel information, I packed an overnight bag and set out.

I should give greater heed to my deepest premonitions because I decided to check the departure boards before buying my ticket from the vending machines, well, no trains were running to Germany, the country is still suffering from the after effects of the severe hurricane that blew through Northern Europe on Thursday.

What hurricane?

On reflection, I should have stayed home on Thursday too, as I stepped out of my apartment block the wind blew at me, I had to hold down my hat as the wind sought ways of undressing me by tugging at my overcoat, blow at my briefcase and wagging at my cane.

I braved it to the comfort of the tram and then the metro which at times strained at moving against the wind, little did I know that we were braving wind speeds of over 100 km/h, Schiphol Airport, just 10 kilometres away from my office recorded 130 km/h.

By the time, I left for home in the evening, I stepped out and almost got blown off my feet, that was really scary apart from the fact that one had to walk by trees that were in danger of shedding branches if not getting uprooted.

I got home safely and did I breathe a sigh a relief.

All change for grafitti

So, on learning that no trains were running, I did not feel like returning home, so I sought an Internet café, cancelled my hotel booking in Cologne and booked another in Antwerp and I was on the train 40 minutes later.

I usually choose a seat in the first class carriage with a power socket just in case I want to do some work, listen to music or watch a DVD.

It so happens that I chose one where the back of the seat in front had some graffiti, I think I have to come to the acceptance that travelling first class no more implies the person is well-mannered, good-natured, considerate and reasonable, apart from understanding that you do not deface or damage communal property.

The writing said F*ck U Africa & Islam, with Islam being scrawled out. I did not know if I should ignore it, be offended, walk away or report it – just then, one of the conductors walked by and I showed him the message. He sighed, said “People, people” and moved on.

I probably expected him to say, “I would arrange to have that cleaned up”, but then we are all probably inured to racist graffiti, to act might be seen as feeble, the episode ended their.

The writer probably knows nothing about the continent with 887 million people in 2005, however, scrawling out Islam might be as instructive as recalled slanted views of Islamic militancy and the probable dangers of crossing that religion.

My bald head, a perch

Just when I thought everything eventful had already happened on that trip, just as we left Rotterdam Central station, I wondered who was so familiar and well known to me that I had been seen and I was being startled by caressing my head.

Just as I turned to look, I realised a winged creature had by happenstance gotten on the train and was looking for ways to get off, perching on my head in the process. At least, it had the courtesy not to deposit anything on the reflector-attractor my head is when exposed after a clean shave.

It was not a pigeon, it looked like a robin but without a red breast, one only hopes it can get back home and for once a visitor in the first class cabin did gain attention and some help in finding directions home.

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