Friday, April 26, 2024

The Black Shirt and The Chase


Today, I encountered an issue with the polling process. Yesterday, I had downloaded the voting slip on my office laptop which I couldn't transfer to my phone because of security restrictions. I assumed someone would have dropped the slip at home letter box as is the case usually since the house is locked. But upon arriving home late last night, there was no sign of it. So I tried downloading it again onto my phone, but unfortunately, the website was down today, leaving me without the slip at the polling booth. Despite the efforts of the polling agents to locate my name, they were unable to find it. They suggested I look for someone wearing a tucked in black shirt outside the booth who might be able to assist me faster. Upon exiting, I searched for the individual in the black shirt but couldn't locate them and so returned home to retrieve the slip from my laptop. Upon my return to the booth, I spotted the man in the black shirt, wearing white pants, which reminded me of a funny incident from 25 years ago.

We were in our 7th semester and had signed up for the IES exam. At that time, we had no idea about its difficulty or seriousness; it was more of 'our seniors are taking it, so we'll do the same' mentality. Most of us in our class had signed up, with all the enthusiasm of clueless adventurers, and we had planned to travel the previous day to Ernakulam, where the center was located. I believe someone in the class had booked a couple of rooms in a hotel, anticipating a large group. However, on the day of the exam, only four people showed up - two boys and two girls. This was a time when even interacting between girls and boys was enough to raise eyebrows, and staying in a hotel would have been scandalous. So, we decided not to go to the hotel, and our classmates left, leaving only me and my friend behind.

My friend called her dad and explained the situation. Naturally, he wasn't too thrilled but told us to wait in the station to see what he can do. He then managed to coordinate with one of his colleagues in the Ernakulam office to assist us. So when we called again, he instructed us to look for someone wearing a "black shirt and white mundu(dhoti)", and we were to go with him. We had no idea who he was, his age range, or how he looked. By then, it was late evening, and darkness was setting in, making us increasingly uneasy about being alone at the station. Obviously, this was before the era of mobile phones, so we waited at the station looking for our knight in not-so-shiny attire and eventually spotted an elderly man dressed in a black shirt and white mundu. Assuming he was the person we were supposed to meet, I stayed back with our luggage and my friend approached him. However, the old man seemed frightened by a girl approaching him with confidence. He began walking faster, with my friend following him, and he paced even faster. Somewhere along the way, she lost the chase and the sight of him and we were wondering what to do. There was no way we could call back home again and admit that we had lost sight of our 'savior'. Luckily, our actual rescuer showed up eventually and whisked us away to a convent hostel, where we stayed for the night.

The case of mistaken identity and "the chase" became a source of legendary tales in our circle for a long time. Unfortunately, this incident also meant we were denied permission to travel for any future exams or placement calls, which were centralized in Ernakulam at that time.

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