Sunday, February 13, 2005

63

They said that life is never boring at a bus stop. One rainy evening in Bombay I waited for them, those who spoke those words, so that I could rattle their bones into changing that statement into something else. Something like "Life is never boring at a bus stop outside a girl's college". I was also waiting for the bus number 63. In the Indian script, 63 look pretty funny. Like two people sitting on benches with their knees dovetailed and looking into each other's eyes, all the while they sit in a glass casing on a double-decker bus, oblivious to the multitude of eyes looking up at them and alternatingly being glad and turning away in disappointment for having to wait longer for the right numbered bus to pull in. I always wondered if 63 were two persons then they would have lost their lives and the rights to it to Hallmark or Archies, especially around Valentine's Day. Anyway, I hadn't seen that number arrive at this bus stop after it slipped away faster than I could run to the bus stop after paying correct change to the man in the pan shop. And that was over an hour ago. Buses have their own sense of humour. They rush in when you do not want them, and pull away before you want them to leave.

Well, where were we? Aah. The rainy-day-bus-stop-sojourn and my waiting for those people who said weird things and 63. There weren't many others at the stop. A silly schoolgirl with ponytails, sucking on a milk ice cream which was made wet by her tongue and the rain in a pattern which seemed to strictly follow an understanding I wonder about. And then there was this fat Gujarati lady whom her umbrella couldn't cover, and if she kept growing like that, no insurance company would either. There was a man with a red and white cane standing outside the shelter of the bus stop. He kept wiping the water from his brow and sticking out his tongue, catching rain drops which found his tongue a better place then the water ways alongside the pavement. And there were these fisherwomen who had brought their fish out of the waters near the Worli seaface only to titillate them with the water from the heavens. It was such a sad sight to watch those fish in their dull colours lie so, unable to enjoy the water they so wanted and begged, before their tails had stopped beating about. In spite of this irony, the bus stop was boring. And I so wished that ice cream ran off its stick.

The fat lady's mobile started ringing in a painful reproduction of some latest movie song. She enjoyed it for some time before taking it out of her handbag. And then started a conversation, which could be accomplished without the phone. Maybe the person at the other end wasn't so loud. A bus slid in and missed the fish baskets by a couple of inches. The women promptly got up and started shouting at the driver and started quoting well-practiced stories about his family. He decided to pull out and the gent at one of the windows decided to empty his mouth of its red fluid load it was carrying since the last stop. The fluid canon was aimed at the unfortunate fishes and the women ran back to shout at the gent, who withdrew from the window. Stories about his mother and sisters spilled out faster than the driver could shift gears. The fat lady realised that this was the bus she was waiting for and ran, rather rolled, towards it, but the driver had had enough. She kept shouting out to the bus and then into the phone, before returning to the shelter and her conversation. The ladies with the fish decided to pull in the fat lady's support against the driver's clan. They busily cleaned the fishes in the water that ran noisily in the water ways. The tongue continued to dart out capturing water like a frog does flies.

I looked at him and wondered. How would he know which bus was for him? He didn't ask anyone about the previous bus. Did he know it wasn't for him? Would he ask me when the next bus rolled in? I moved a little closer to him preparing for a chance of helping the least noisy human at the stop. The ice cream was quickly replaced with a lollipop from within the raincoat.
"Which bus are you waiting for?"
I waited for him to draw in his tongue before he could reply to me.
"None"
The tongue feasted on its bounty of water drops, before darting out.
I withdrew and decided that this man was rude. His disability hadn't quieted his attitude.

63 rolled in and slowed down when it realised that I was waiting and not many games can be played with a man well prepared. I slowly closed my umbrella and turned to have my last look at the frog-man. He abruptly turned to the left and started walking and tapping his cane in front of him. From a distance of over a hundred feet, a pretty girl walked looking up at the skies and an active cane taping away in front of her. Their pace quickened and the canes were a blur between them. They nearly bumped into each other and laughed. He shook his head wildly and she playfully backed away from the rain that the heavens had stored in his shock of hair. They folded their canes and hugged each other. How did they know it was the right person from hundred feet away? Her perfume must have drowned in the smell of the baskets, and the fat lady had done her job well in killing out all taps from her cane. How did he know it was she? They walked past me while talking to each other in chaste Marathi.
"Did you wait for too long?"
"Not at all."
"Must have gotten bored."
"Well, the rain played on my tongue."
They laughed as that statement beckoned some old private joke of theirs.
"And this man", he looked towards the stop, "kept me good company."
She smiled at the shelter, and that smile carried a sense of gratitude for caring for her friend while he waited for her.
I watched the bus pull away from the stop with a merry laugh of succeeding yet again. But I couldn't take my eyes of the couple who walked in the opposite direction. Their canes spoke when they didn't. The rains, having lost their purpose, stopped and I turned to watch the fat lady at her conversation and the ponytails hiding the yet unfinished pop. 63 hopped and skipped away while they sat lost in each others eyes, knees dovetailed, in a glass casing. I watched the shrinking numbers and felt joy for the first time in missing my bus.

5 comments:

  1. Was like watching a movie. Beautifully captured in words!:)

    Will b glad if you could consider changing the font 'n the size. That would make it easier to read.

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  2. And all I need to do is consider? Not actually change them? ;-)

    So do you want the fonts bigger or smaller (I think that is dumb question)?

    I kinda like the italics. Let me keep that.

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  3. Well, smaller would b better!

    Scrolling reduces the joy of readin

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  4. BTW, thanks for your compliments. I had forgotten what I had written and so had to re-read it before I understood why you felt so.

    Thanks again...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Parvati8:34 PM

    A rare and beautiful photograph along with an enchanting and well-narrated "showing and telling" story...

    ReplyDelete