The blue shade brings a sign of relief. It isn’t the sky’s blue that brings relief at that instant , it’s the color of the buses here. I almost hurry towards it with the air gliding through my face. I normally take around 4 minutes plus to reach the stop from my house. Walking past the “The Lane” gives me the much needed happiness and smiling at the old woman if at all she’s there gives me the the happiness much needed. Even when am late and running i always take ” The Lane” ( that’s the only shortcut) and i always observe the people there with the corner of my eye. I never understood why i have this feeling but i feel that i am not welcomed there. Doesn’t matter i still love it though.
As i climb on the bus and normally take the seat on my left or stand , i know i am ready to face the new day. It took me a while to figure it out. The Pattern. Initially when i started frequenting this bus i didn’t even guess there would be such a thing as a pattern. I din’t want to take this particular bus because of its number, 13( i somehow don’t like the number). Though all the buses are equally good this particular one suited my timings the best. Proud to tell that buses in Bangalore are some of the best in the country. Well coming to the pattern 😛 It all started after a few days of taking the bus continuously , you see when you frequent a bus at a particular timing, a lot of other people do too and they call themselves “The regulars”. I so happened to sit in a particular seat and just after i sat a person entered the bus, though there was an empty seat he refused to sit there. He stood right in front of me and started glaring every once in a while. I didn’t understand why at the time. When it happened again 2 days later, it got me thinking. Am i sitting under a treasure? Or is the seat his? after all buses are for the public. I looked at the people around me and started going back a few days and remembering who would have sat where. It wasn’t difficult to remember. They almost sat in the same seat they where sitting. Oh! so that’s y. Like the great Indian tiger( other tigers too, but i am an Indian!) that marks it territory by pissing along the boundary , did these people mark their seats? By spitting? Be it the round faced gentlemen in front of me or the dark eyed uncle behind. Be it the boy who wanted to be called a man on the right side of me or the student with a black spectacles who was hooked to his music on the left. Be it anyone there . They almost sat in their seats daily. They almost followed the pattern without knowing it. It was a relief after i figured the pattern.
As my destination materializes in front of me i get ready to step down. And there at that moment i acknowledge every time that i have become a part of the pattern too. And it pretty much involves standing.
‘Smile’ that wonderful feeling that tells you someone has just opened up their hearts and their happiness to you. A genuine smile seems so rare these days. Yet it lurks in the face of a man who walks past “The Lane”. And it is meant specially for someone. As he walks sometimes and rushes some other times to reach the bus stop, his eyes never fails to go to the corner of an old house where she sits. Even in the hurry of a hurricane his eyes glances to the place almost involuntarily, She is there sometimes. She isn’t most of the times. But yet a single hope drives him to hope she will be there that day and that she would at least receive his smile the way she always does. She never acknowledges his smile and never once returns back. Yet i know it gives great pleasure for him to smile at her as he passes. It’s an innocent smile, one you would love to get. He was so used to see her some day or the other that when she didn’t turn up for a long time it started worrying him. Is she ill? That’s the question that kept bothering him for age had taken its toll on her. She must have been a beauty in her youth for she still has the grace and charm in her. Life didn’t seem fair to her i think, she lived alone at that age. And almost everyday as is her routine she would sit in front of her house staring at all the people who passed by. But she would sit there at different time of the day. He just hoped that she would be there when he passed. He wasn’t even sure if she saw him or all of them properly, the spectacles on her eyes were unusually thick.
It was the in the rise of winter when it happened. The evening was dark and he was returning from someplace. As he saw her from a distance he noticed that there was a ribbon on her hand and she was holding it with great difficulty. Cold sometimes seems so cold on old people. Her hands were shivering and suddenly as the breeze touched her hand she let go of the ribbon. He knew she couldn’t get up to go after it. The breeze lightened and ribbon stopped moving a feet away from her. She looked at it with a loving look, as that of a woman who would look at her child. He then knew that the ribbon was special to her. He ran to get hold of the ribbon and just when it started moving again he caught it. Walking back he gave the ribbon to her. She smiled at him before he did. The elation he felt surpassed the joy that appeared on his face. He returned the smile to her. She didn’t say anything but he knew that his smile meant a lot to her everyday. He knew then that the simple things in life means the most to lot of people. She had acknowledged all his smile with just one smile that day. He also knew that he would keep smiling at her as long as passed “The Lane” or as long as she sat there. Deep down in his heart he also knew that she would return his smile back whenever he smiled at her. He must have stood there for a long time for when he turned back to smile, she wasn’t there.
The man was me.
It was right there. The lane i walked past daily. And the one i so longed to see . It wasn’t exactly a posh lane filled with fancy cars and fancier houses. Quite the contrast, it was one of the thousand’s of lane in India. That went through a place called “slum”. Yes, you got me right. It was my morning ordeal. One i didn’t quite often miss. I was quite accidentally introduced to this lane. A wrong turn and boom! i was walking through it. What attracted me was the ugliness. The dirt lying in the road reminded me of the problems the people face in their life. Be it the woman who washed clothes on the road with a soap that was close to its death or another man trying to start his scooter daily and then giving up and walking to whatever place he had to go. Or the woman trying to boil water by burning wood that sometimes refused to burn due to the cold. Yet she never did give up. Or the old man who tries to make garlands everyday from flowers long brought in the morning and watered to keep the flowers and his own hope fresh. And the ten’s of children who get ready to go to school everyday not knowing the difficulties of life ahead yet burn with desire to learn something new. The houses there are small and the windows and doors smaller still. Yet with all the misery and the problems engulfing them, there was that joy in their faces. The happiness and a profound satisfaction of having done something in their life. Maybe they didn’t dream big but i know they had worked hard to be there and being there with 2 square meals a day and proper sleep they lived their life. The satisfaction of feeding the dogs when they themselves were not filled teaches me the highest virtue in life. I know not if 10 years from now on, if the lane would turn into a road or the houses demolished and apartments built. I just know deep in the recess of my memory lane this lane will leave a mark.