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When I learnt a little bit more about myself February 16, 2016

Posted by globejam in Denmark.


My morning schedule on working days in Denmark was unvarying. I would get up at half-past six, brush my teeth, have a bath, grab a bite for breakfast, walk to the nearest bus stop, and catch the 8:02 AM bus for the first leg of my journey to the office.

Matt’s schedule was a little different. His first goal for the day was to get up as late as possible. Most days I would have to knock on his room door a few times before he would respond. He would then leap out of his room and rush into the bathroom and before I could say “Good Morning”, he would be gulping down a glass of juice for breakfast and leaving the house with me to catch our bus. One day he came out of his room at 7:55 AM and still managed to catch the bus at 8:02. How he managed to brush his teeth, use the toilet, have a bath, get dressed, have breakfast, lock the house and cover the 400 meters to the bus stop in those 7 minutes, I will never know.

In all the time we lived in Denmark, there was only one day when he missed catching the bus. That was the day I learnt something about myself.  Till then I had always thought of myself as “unbiased”, “broad-minded” and “non-judgmental”.

On that day, Matt did not emerge even after I knocked on his door several times. When I could not wait any longer, I screamed, “I am leaving now” through his door and left. I walked slowly to the bus stop, constantly looking over my shoulder expecting Matt to run up and join me at any moment. Logically, there was no way that Matt could have made it that day, but he had defied logic on so many occasions that I was not willing to write him off. I reached the bus stop and still there was no sign of him. Soon the bus came and I got in, still looking in the direction from which I expected Matt to emerge at any moment. Finally, just as the bus doors closed and the bus started, I saw Matt turn the last corner at a fair sprint waving frantically at the receding bus. The last view I had was of him standing with his arms on his hips, gasping for breath.

I made the rest of the trip alone. I caught our regular train for the second leg and reached Lyngby station, changed platforms and reached platform 2 just as my train to Birkerød trundled in. That train was almost always empty at that time of the day and that day was no different. When I got into the compartment I noticed that I had it all to myself.

At the next station, a group of about twelve youngsters got in. Late teens or early twenties by the look of it and extremely noisy. Despite having the entire compartment to choose from, they came and sat in the section I was in. I watched their animated faces and listened in on their excited talk though I could not make out a word of what they were saying. I was happy with the company and the noise actually. Denmark is a very quiet country and I had been missing all the noise and action of chaotic Chennai.

As I continued to surreptitiously watch them, slowly more details registered. Tonsured heads and mohawks, tatooes and earrings, leather jackets and heavy boots. Suddenly realization dawned. They were Skinheads. No doubt about it. A recent news item about a fellow Indian having been beaten to death by a group of Neo-Nazis skinheads in neighbouring Germany flashed through my mind. I feared the worst. I looked around and absorbed the scene. There I was, a single tiny non-European, stuck in a moving train with 12 possible Neo-Nazis!

I kept my head down and made myself smaller that my diminutive 5 ft, 6 inches. Maybe I will escape if I did not make eye contact, I thought. Maybe I could talk my way out of this. Did not Hitler think Indians were part of the Aryan race? Would telling them that I had no plans on settling down in Denmark help? Could promising to leave the country in a week’s time get me off the hook? A million thoughts ran through my head. “Bugger Matt”, I cursed pointlessly, as I broke into a sweat.

A few minutes went by, and they continued their animated discussion. The next station came and I was in two minds whether to try and dash out and possibly draw their attention or remain quiet and hope to go unnoticed. I chose the latter because I would have to go past them in order to reach the door and any one of them, all well built and strong, could have easy held me down with one hand if they wanted. A few more uneventful minutes later, I started to relax a bit. They had not shown any interest in me and seemed totally oblivious to my presence. “Not every Skinhead is a Neo-Nazi, you idiot”, I admonished myself.

Just as I thought I would get away unscathed,  I saw one guy nudge his friend and nod in my direction . The friend who till then had been regaling the crowd with what seemed to be a really funny story stopped in mid-sentence and looked in my direction for a second. Then he leaned forward conspiratorially and spoke in a low voice. The others suddenly quietened down too and cast furtive glances in my direction. More whispered discussions ensued.

A new stream of unbidden and unwarranted thoughts raced through my mind. “They probably think I am some uneducated refugee looking to suck their social security system dry. Just because I am brown in color doesn’t mean I am some homeless asylum seeker. Well I am not. I am here because your country requires my skills. I am adding value to your economy”, I shouted inside my own head. “Don’t forget Tranquebar. You tried colonizing us, remember? I still hold no grudge against you”. And then ” Oh! My God! I am going to die in the hands of these racist bigots”.

The next days headlines flashed in front of my eyes. “Indian software engineer beaten to death!”, screamed one. “Racism raises its ugly head”, said another. I imagined bloody Matt giving sound bites about how lucky he was to have missed the bus that day.

Then the nudger got up and started sauntering towards me. “This is the end, my friend”, I muttered as I braced myself for the action. The mohawked youth came close to me, bent down and whispered “Our apologies for disturbing you”. On cue all the other guys and girls got up, said “sorry” most politely and trooped off to the other end of the compartment.

As I sat there thinking about what had just happened, I realized that in truth there had only ever been one racist bigot on that train that day.



1. padmaja - February 16, 2016

a lovely read, as always!

globejam - February 17, 2016

Thank you.

2. zulfi - February 17, 2016

Awesome opening, small plot, twisted ending and a great underlying theme.

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