"Go away!" "Go away!"
I was in the ticket hall of Khulna railway station in southwest Bangladesh and I was taking my irritation out on a street kid who was only trying to find some money for his next meal.
He was pestering me and I was annoyed. I was upset that I had not stopped Zea going off to buy me a Dhaka bound bus ticket. I don't like buses.
Too many times in India while riding my motorbike (the original Asha), I was forced off the road by oncoming buses. If I was lucky enough to spot one coming up behind me I would stop and let it overtake me.
The drivers don't stop for anything and it would not surprise me if that included for their close relations, family and friends. As long as you are aware that they are not going to get out of your way, you just get off the road.
Once I ended up in a ditch, bruised, clutch lever bent, and the handle bar squint. I had to stop a jeep and ask the driver and his two brothers to give Asha and me a push back up onto the highway.
So getting a bus anywhere in South Asia is the last thing I want to do.
I was falling asleep when Zea went off to get the ticket and I should have stopped him to ask him to get me a train ticket instead.
The train ride would give me the opportunity to meet more people and I would have a much better time: food on the train, a good chat and even some sleep.
Zea well knew that I would not be able to get a ticket on the night of departure. However, he humoured me and took me to the station anyway.
The car park at the front of the station was full so we had to turn around and park way back in the market. There was load shedding (a power cut), to provide some light to work and sell, all the fruit stallholders and vendors had set up small oil lamps with yellow red smoky flames attached to the top of their four wheeled barrows.
Through and above the crowds of evening shoppers we could just make out the yellow hazy light of Khulna station departure hall.
As we entered the ticket hall, an invisible wall of stale urine and the tangy citrus from oranges hit us.
The flaky white washed hall was tall with fans on spindly stalks, fluorescent lights high in the ceiling, and all around were posters of local politicians.
All the flat surfaces and tube lights inaccessible without a stepladder were covered with a thick layer of dust. I would not wish to be here in the summer when it gets hot and someone turns the fans on.
There were four long queues of passengers trying to buy tickets and jostling for position. Two mangy strays snaked in-and-out of the lines like pedigree hounds at a dog obedience class.
Zea left me to go and see if he could get me a ticket.
The longer he was away the better the chance I thought of him managing to get me on tonight's mail train to Dhaka.
Before sitting down on the mock marble concrete bench, which encircled the hall, I swept the cold surface free of orange peel. The peel lay as if it was on a pebbly beach at the high tide watermark.
Every two feet or so in ever decreasing circles towards the centre of the hall was a line of discarded orange peel, banana skins and mango fruit slice wrappers.
I tutted to myself: Oh' why did I not get Zea to get me the ticket earlier.
The hall was bathed in a yellowy grey half-light like an old sepia photograph, the pigments of the political posters had faded to a dull monochrome. Who I thought, would want to vote for any of these guys?
The posters had been pasted to just above head height - the ones below that had been half torn of the round concrete pillars. Someone with a cynicism for politicians or was just bored with waiting for a train had gone round drawing glasses and moustaches on all the candidates with a thick black marker pen.
In my state of anxiety the hall became enclosed and forbidding - the mock art deco station building of the 1930s took on the air of a fascist regime.
All the posters profiles, although different in style - gelled into one despotic form. In the half-light all the travellers appeared to be wearing the identical grey suit. The women's brightly coloured saris had all become drab and uniformal.
I expected the station announcer to report: that the party, for the betterment of the collective, had commandeered the 19.84 train to Dhaka Kamalapur all card-carrying cadres were to proceed immediately to platform 101.
Non-party members are to remain in line to receive a ticket for non-availability of conveyance to be redeemed on a day of the party's choosing.
The beggar tugged at my trouser leg and shook me from my fantasy.
"Oh go away!"
His blood shot eyes looked up at me, his outstretched hands motioning towards his open mouth.
"Jau! Jau! Go! Go!
Zea returned with a look of despair on his face.
Pushing the wee boy aside he told me that the only way to get a ticket for tonight's train would be to queue up and even then there would be no guarantee that I would get a seat for the 12-hour journey.
So we turned and walked out on to the forecourt of the station. The blackness of the night felt strangely reassuring.
However, if I walked to the right the boy would move to the right. If I moved left he would move to the left. So I marched straight on back to the car. He nearly stumbled and fell in front of me.
As we drove off to the bus station the little boy put his fingers up to his mouth then smeared the car window with his saliva.
To be continued.