He tries, albeit unsuccessfully, to stifle the yawn that seems to rise out of nowhere from inside his body. His head has been throbbing for the last five minutes, he hasn’t shaved or showered and there is a persistent itch in his left armpit that is desperately pleading to be tended to. Reeling in the throes of misery at not being able to wake himself up at the designated hour in the morning, courtesy a late night movie on TV that he did not even like, he decides to rid himself of at least one of his grouses and slowly lifts his right hand, even as his eyes dart around restlessly, convinced that what he is about to do is a largely uncouth act and any witnesses for the same would be absolutely undesirable.
He likes to get to the stop much ahead of the scheduled time and so almost all of his fellow private-offices-bus-stop-mates, save the pimple faced man standing under the gulmohar tree and the bespectacled girl who like every other day seems to be too occupied in her own world to even register his presence, have not turned up yet. Not in any way threatened by these two, he manages to get the hand under the troubled armpit and makes a clumsy attempt to cover his at-work fingers with the other arm.
The pimpled man’s bus arrives by the time his hands are back in their original position. He knows all the buses and their vendors by heart now. Bespectacled girl’s bus is air conditioned with slightly tinted glasses, pimpled man’s bus is rickety with clear scratches on its painted exterior and a perpetually lopsided motion that gives it the appearance of a camel out on its walk. His own bus is painted in a fresh mix of sky blue and white and has a name that he considers to be the ‘sexiest’ amongst all its counterparts, ‘Miss Mary’ being that name.
Many of his bus-stop-mates have still not arrived and so has the slim girl, who regularly boards the city transport’s Volvo from the neighbouring bus stop. He has a mild crush on the girl and likes stealing glances at her from time to time. Some days she lets her hair free and he enjoys watching her walk along the street, as her hair sashays alongside the mild breeze. Her absence bothers him and he looks in her direction, desperately hoping that she turns up; but she doesn’t.
He notices a new hoarding amidst all his gloominess. It is a picture of a white young couple who look far too young to be the parents of the two little kids who are accompanying them. He dislikes such advertisements, considers them disrespectful towards the country, its people and yet he also knows, hardly anyone would really be bothered by the same.
A group of 5 girls gets to the stop just then, their giggles and self-mocking banter, taking his mind off some of his anxiety. One of them turns around and smiles at him. He smiles back too. She was a junior at his college, a fact that she finds a need to acknowledge in those half-hearted greetings, every time she sees him. He finds this prolonged familiarity taxing; and yet finds it impossible to stop himself from being mildly relieved every time she ends up prolonging it through another smile.
As if celebrating that relief, he lifts his hand and touches the uncomfortable stubble on his jaw and looks towards the other side of the road. A young man, approximately his own age, is standing right opposite to him,his hands tucked into his pockets, earplugs neatly plugged in and his eyes downcast. A woman and her two school going children, possibly waiting for their own school bus, are standing right next to the man. The woman is clearly disconnected from the attention, her younger son is trying to seek . He thinks of his own mother and his own childhood.
He always walked to school and his mother had her own ways of practicing disconnection. A bike with its silencer seemingly non-functional, for his eyes scrunch in displeasure at the sound it makes, stops right in front of the young man, almost at the same instant. He watches more onlookers scrunch their faces, as the bike zooms away from there almost instantly,as the magnets on it in what seems to be less than a second.
He follows the bike for as long as he can before noticing an old man, trying hard to drag a cart loaded with bananas. The exertion on the man’s face is clearly visible, even though all the distance. A middle aged man, dressed appearing insanely funny to him, courtesy the blue shorts and the white sleeveless vest he is wearing, wheezes past the banana man, causing him to almost lose his balance with the cart. He looks away the very second, embarrassed and guilty for the banana man, and tries hard to distract himself by focussing on the closed shutters of the stores, beauty parlours, laundries and other establishments that line up the street. The morning hasn’t begun for all of them and he envies them that freedom to start their day at their own time, in the closed comforts of their little havens. They don’t have to drag pathetic carts along the road or they don’t have mandatory hours of work to log in, day after day.
Just then, he notices the long haired girl he has a crush on, walk towards the bus stop. She is not alone; a boy walks besides her, her right hand holding onto his left wrist, they are engrossed in some conversation that makes them almost miss the bus stop, for they don’t stop there and continue to walk. But he soon realizes, it wasn’t a mistake. They are merely walking up to the zebra crossing so that they can cross the road, all through, their hands still held together and their conversation still intact. He watches them get on the other side and then get inside an empty rickshaw and disappear. The bored mother and her two children have disappeared too, and for a few seconds, he is worried that he has not seen the school bus arrive. But a closer inspection reveals that the mother and her sons are still there. They are just seated on the steps to one of the stores, the little boy’s head resting in his mother’s lap,even as the mother is busy staring into the space.
His train of thoughts is broken when he hears a couple who has just got down of one of the public buses, as he can figure out from the multitude of bags with them, busy arguing with one another. The woman is accusing her husband of stealing her money when she had fallen asleep in the night. The man denies the charge. The fight has by now gained everyone’s attention, even the bored mother. The man, gradually losing his patience, puts the bags in his hands down and surges towards his wife, ready to land a slap on her face. The woman flinches at that mild slap, almost anticipating a repeat, but before that can happen, some of the onlookers have pulled the man aside. Before they can land a rain of slaps on the man’s face, his wife takes everyone by surprise. She rushes to her husband, holds his hand and holding onto all their bags, walks away from there.
He watches their receding backs only to notice Miss Mary approaching from the other side, in all her blue and white glory, earlier than usual, disappointing him and surprising him too, much like the rest of the day would.
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Here, we present Prashila Naik from the the Yaks batch of 2013. A technologist, who is an observant writer. Her writing encapsulates reality and showcases an eye for detail.
About Prashila Naik
Prashila Naik was born and raised in Goa and yet she dreams of retiring into the idyllic landscapes of Ladakh and longs for a day when every child in India will have two full meals to eat and a permanent school to attend to. When not dreaming or longing, she continues to extend her repertoire as a technologist, who also happens to write, and occasionally manage to get herself published. She has Scoliodentosaurophobia (fear of lizards), and likes to call herself a pesceterian.
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