You must understand by now that putting me on Metro without a companion is like rubbing a rolly-polly baby in bacon grease and tossing him or her into a pit of ravenously hungry beasts.
Okay, it’s nothing like that; but it can be a trying experience. I am a FreakMagnet.
Tuesday I was on the Metro, minding my own business and reading a book. A fairly nondescript man in his fifties or perhaps early sixties sat down in the seat catty-corner to my own and spent several minutes trying unsuccessfully to catch my eye. I ignored him. Alas, he was a tenacious Freak and lack of eye-contact wasn’t going to stop him from speaking to me.
He cleared his throat rather imperiously and then launched into a lecture about the laziness of South Asians and how India would never rise from the gutter so long as Indians are in charge. He was very British.
As I said, he was rather nondescript. The tone of his lecture was such that in my memory he wears a three-piece white Colonel Sanders suit and a pith helmet. I can’t be certain if he was carrying a cane or if my imagination has supplied that, although I’m entirely certain my imagination conjured up the monacle. Also the rhino gun.
It so caught me off guard to hear someone holding forth about, and I quote, “the Wog problem,” that it felt like it was several minutes before I caught on that he was commenting on my book, In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India by former Financial Times South Asia bureau chief Edward Luce. It’s quite good, but perhaps you shouldn’t read it on the Metro. (Ben Macintyre’s review for the New York Times is here, if you’re interested)