I was sitting at a bus stop, resting my legs after a long walk.
I had to walk 4 miles every Thursday to go to Arnav’s house for teaching him origami. He is a nice boy, although not very much interested in paper crafts. His interest is in sports, especially tennis. He talks about that all the time when we sit together – how big is the tennis lawn in his school, how his friends play better tennis than him, or how tall his tennis coach is etc. Arnav’s parents work in some high class corporate office, both of them. I don’t know the name of the office, nor I know the name of Arnav’s school, but I know they have buses that take him to the school and back.
I also sometimes feel like taking a bus instead of walking, especially when the buses run past me on the road. The fare’s not much either, around 10 to 20 rupees, although with my economic condition that also seems too much occasionally, but the reason is not that. I just liked walking, because in between the slow steps my eyes noticed lot of things. A girl getting out of an auto, a policeman stopping a bike, a man lying under a street lamp, or a beggar on the footpath. Every Thursday these sights, mostly same with minor differences, accompany me for the four-miles-long walk, and I like walking, because I like seeing.
Just like right now, while sitting at the bus stop, I saw a man at my left, standing beside the road with a blind man’s stick. He was going to cross the road.
As the cars kept whooshing on the road at high speed, I kept seeing the man. Seeing was easier, and probably that’s why I liked it. But the irritation that was growing inside me was making the scene uncomfortable. I hoped that someone would come and help him, so that I won’t have to leave my seat. But there was no one near him., and people in distance showed no sign to come for my rescue.
I stood up. No one is coming, no God is going to come down and fly the man to the other side of the road. There was only me.
I asked him. I didn’t know his language; I am not from here.
“Ha”, he nodded.
He had to catch a bus – he told me in his poor Hindi while crossing the road. Just as we reached the other side, a bus came.
“Mehdipatnam?” I asked the driver.
“Yes”, he replied.
“Lucky timing”, I thought.
When I came back to my old seat at the bus stop, it was almost half past five. The class will start at six.
“Hi”, a voice came from my right.
I turned my head. A man was sitting beside me, at a little distance. There was something uncanny about him. His height, his posture, his voice, his face –
“Hi”, I replied, “Who are you?”
“Who do I look like?” he replied.
Exactly, that’s why his appearance intrigued me so much. He looked like me!
“You look like me!”
“Then I’m you”, he answered.
“But your skin tone doesn’t match with mine?” I asked.
“Oh that’s a minor difference, you can ignore that.”
“And your shirt colour also is different –“
“Now you are going to notice the differences?” He seemed a little irritated, “You didn’t notice them at first? You didn’t notice while helping that blind man cross the road? Did you ask his name, or caste, or religion, or what he eats?”
Surely I didn’t, but –
“How do you know about the blind man? You weren’t here, were you?”
“No, but you were here. You saw. Whatever you see, I see. Because I’m you.”
The sun was setting. The sky was darkening slowly. Stars were beginning to come out.
The man looked at the blue sky which was becoming violet gradually. The calm of the sky was reflected in his voice.
“Beautiful. The light isn’t going to be there forever, you know. The sun won’t burn forever. Everyday bloods are shedding, Soumik, everyday people are crying in pain. People are blind today, Soumik, in love or hatred, but the day the light extinguishes, all of them will be blind again, but in fear. All the things they fight for today – all their colours, their lands, their politics, their discriminations – all will be lost in dark. On that day they will scream for peace while the chaos shatters their every hope. Friends and enemies will grasp each others hand in last hope of living. On that day, Soumik, they will realise that they are all same. All the differences are minor, superficial.”
The sky was being even darker minute by minute. I knew that it was almost time for my class, but somehow, I couldn’t leave the company of this man. How could I? He seemed so close to my heart! All his words and his thoughts felt as if were buried inside me for years. As if he was speaking what I already had known.
“Still, I somehow can’t give up on them, you see. I can’t give up on the humanity that has learnt to plant trees and build sanctuaries and write songs of love and peace. But why does all that seem so feeble compared to the gunfire?”
“What if we teach others?” I said in a last hope.
“Who will teach? And who will you teach? Everyone knows already.”
With a sigh of disappointment his voice came to a halt, as the sky became completely dark. I looked at my watch. It was six o’clock.
“Ok, so I have a class, I’ll have to go –“
“Bye then,” he said with a faint smile, “Hope to see you again.”
The street lamps were being turned on, one by one. The man was gone. I don’t know if I’ll see him again. I don’t know if sun will rise tomorrow. But life goes on, without any worries about anything.
I came down on the road and walked towards Arnav’s house.
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