Most of the times, life shows us its various hues when we travel. It may be so because we fulfill the most ancient and core pre-requisite of gaining wisdom-‘to be a khanabadosh’. Yes, to be a nomadic.
I hadn’t a bit ready to absorb the experience that life offered me on a day in the winter of the last year.
I was travelling through the city-bus in Pune. As I started my aimless journey at dawn on a fresh, chilly day of December the bus was treading the road with not more than a dozen passengers aboard. The old hats were glued to the newspapers. They were reading the news with so much concern as if having lived life for about sixty years they found nothing as significant as peeping into the lives of murderers, rapist, politicians and film-stars.
I was sitting at a window seat. As per my program of the day, I started observing the passengers.
Some college girls climbed up the bus at Shivajinagar square and I found the incisive chill breeze got pleasantly warm. The eyes that had become the part of the newspapers now had a more beautiful sight to be glued to. I wriggled a couple of times in my seat to indicate a vacant place so that the air around me would become a little more bearable and worth smelling with a beautiful presence on my left or right. Given the enough vacant seats to even sleep on, the chances for me of getting a pretty neighbor was one in a thousand.
The Conductor checked the tickets. I showed my bus pass.
Some school-children and office goers entered the bus at Balgandharv. And an elderly gentleman rushed to take the seat beside me. He looked weak and thin. As if the age had taken over him fast, he looked liked a pre-aged person. He was about to sit beside me but as he looked at me he stopped suddenly. With the mixed expressions he stepped back and went straight toward the front side of the bus and stood there. I was puzzled to see his reaction on seeing my face. He was staring at me. I couldn’t bear his gaze nor could I look away from him. His face was tensed with pain, grief and confusion.
My presence has affected the old man and his presence had swept away my peace.
His eyes had become the kaleidoscope of his emotions. At the next moment, he took away his eyes from me. I sighed in relief. He was trying hard not to look at me.
‘Deccan Bus Stop’, the conductor yelled. The bus stopped suddenly with a push. Some more passengers thrust themselves in. I searched for the old man. He had got down and walked to the other side of the road. I could see the tears rolling down from his eyes adding to my bewilderment.
I got down forcing my way through the packed bus. I ran right in front of the man who had ruined my peace. He stopped and observed me from head to toe.
I felt as if he was in a dream and I was the part of it.
He sat on a bench on the footpath. The pain in his gestures was unbearable but I couldn’t leave him there as I felt I was connected to him somehow.
After some long, tensed moments the old man mumbled some words. He asked me my name then smiled in disappointment. I didn’t get why.
He said, “would you like to come to my home?.....it’s not too far”
I wanted to say ‘no’ but couldn’t.
Within five minutes, we entered a characteristically old Puneits home. As we were in the front hall, the old man showed me a photograph on the wall on my left.
I didn’t know how much time had passed after the photograph caught my attention. I was sitting on the sofa. The old man was beside me holding a glass of water. I pinched myself on my left hand. No it wasn’t a dream.
The photo-frame on the wall was holding the image of my own self. The same eyes, the same face with the same smile. I read third time the dates below the photograph-
Born on 22 April 1985 and died on 4th August 2014.
Now I got the reason why the old man was shocked after seeing my face. He had lost his only son just a month before.
The old man tried to tell me something. I gulped down the water and hurried out of the house unable to speak anything, unable to figure out if my encounter soothed the heart of the old man or it just darkened his profound grief.