Flash Fiction: A Helping Hand

The professor was was deeply engrossed in his book in the dimly lit train compartment.

 “Where do you go, Sir?” The lanky man asked.

“Mayiladuthurai” replied the professor, glancing up for a second from his book,  not too keen to look  at the person so as to avoid conversation. He was a regular traveler to his home town every Friday night by this train.

“I am going to Villupuram, my home town. I travel every Friday night. Somehow, your face looks familiar”  said the man.  Ignoring the professor’s nonchalance, he continued “This train reaches Villupuram at 1:00 AM midnight. It’s a pain to keep awake”

“Yeah! Once I fell asleep and failed to get up. I had to travel back the next morning”. This remark was from another person sitting next to the professor. 

“You too are to Villupuram?”

“No. To Kuttalam, next to Mayiladuthurai”.

The two persons continued their conversation. The professor continued with his customary agenda of finishing one book at every Friday night, sacrificing his sleep.

11:00 PM.

“Excuse me, Sir, Are you likely to keep awake till Villupuram arrives?”

“Yes. Of course” said the professor.

“Then please help me. Can you wake me up at Villupuram?” The professor agreed hesitantly.

 “Sir, even if you cannot wake me up, please roll me out of the door, I won’t mind!” The professor smiled and nodded.

* * * * * *

As the train approached Mayiladuthurai after dawn, the professor started packing.  The man sleeping in the upper berth called out, “Which station is next?”


He sat up in a jerk. “Oh my!  I had to get down at Villupuram! You had promised to wake me up!”

The professor was shell shocked. The man started a verbal deluge at the professor for not honoring his promise.

The professor was blinking and scratching his head in confusion. The man continued showering abuses at top of his voice. The professor intervened feebly:

 “Well, Mister, you have every right to scold me. But just for a moment think of the fate of the other person, whom I shook up, failed to wake him up and consequently dragged him out of the compartment at Villupuram station!”

(Based on a joke shared by Late Thenkachchi Ko. Swaminathan)