The mid-summer sun promises of much exhaustion, but that day. The Bangalore roads were traffic free. The reason, Bharath Bandh, so it wasn’t just Bangalore who had the benefit of crowd free roads but the whole country celebrated a moment.
But, there is a man with a story. He doesn’t catch anybody’s attention, his attire, simple and dirty. He could come by as a homeless traveler. The authentic cotton white hat adorned his head barely giving away his receding hairline. His long silver beard is dusty with the pollution in the scorching sun. As he crossed the road teary eyed, he coughs twice least bothered about the city etiquettes of covering his mouth.
He wipes off the shining sweat beads off his forehead and drags his way with all the weight his torn bags are carrying. He crosses the road a bit limping and weary eyes cautious of the speeding vehicles.
“Rajajinagar?” He tries stopping a rickshaw with a tired tone.
“Bharath Bandh” a group of aggressive Patriots shouts slogans along the road.
Every shop was shut down, every mode of public transport was temporarily at a halt, and every other middle-class citizen had a problem with this.
I sit inside my AC filled car as I dodge the reclusive heat of the sun. All the designer wears on the online shopping venue doesn’t catch my attention as the struggling stranger does.
With a punctured wheel, I await the return of my driver who has taken ages to search for a garage that could replace my wheel and get me home to my loving family.
I observe the man as he struggles to find a way to commute.
“Madam, can you give me a lift. It is an emergency, and none of the buses are in movement” He narrated his state that I was well aware of, in his broken Kannada language.
“Where to Sir?” I ask him, trying to quench my curiosity.
“Water madam” He almost begged. I withdrew my curiosity instincts and fetched a bottle from the back seat.
He gulped it down like an animal. I made him keep the bottle.
“Where to, Sir?”
“Rajajinagar” He squeaked
“But that is two hours away from here, and I’m not traveling that way” I made sure he understood my Kannada and gestured him the absent wheel of my red swift.
“Oh, how can I help you, madam.” It was a spontaneous reaction that fetched him the respect he deserved.
“Sir, It is ok. Let us sit under that shade of the tree until we find help” I lead him to the only tree on the roadside in the next 50 meters.
“The place where I come from has lots of trees and cleaner air to breathe. We have bullock carts that help us commute. But Bangalore is like abroad for us” He smiled as he reminisced his village.
I nod my head in an assertion.
“I came here to see my daughter who is in this city. I have her address as well. It has been ten years since I saw her. See. Also, I came here to give her these” He opened his dusty bag to fetch a three football sized watermelons.
“Why doesn’t she come home?”
“She married a Hindu, and I couldn’t forgive her for that. Allah Maaf Kare” He silenced with a prayer
“I can understand Hindi, and it happens. You realized, and you are going to meet her. That is really a good thing” I smile at his acceptance.
“I am too late madam. Today is her 23rd birthday, and she is no more. She died a few weeks ago, and I never got to know. I heard she has a five-year-old daughter. My grandchild. I’m taking these for her. She is my Sabha now” He gulped down his tragic story.
I sit there with a shiver on a sunny day. Here was a father going to visit his dead daughter after years and there is a kid who has never seen her maternal grandfather. Will they accept each other? Do ego and religion come in between any relationship, any blood bond?
As I gazed into the oblivion, a car stopped in front of me. Chandini, a friend of mine from school, got down for the customary reunion hugs.
I ask her a favor to drop the old man to Rajajinagar, the place where she resides. A few minutes later, I still sit there wondering how time flies and what we lose. We need to acknowledge people around us. We need to tell them how much we cared, loved and sacrificed for them.
Essential as it is to tell, more needed is the heart to forgive and to forage out our own imperfections and move on in life. With love, with gratitude and a smile that can make memories live longer in the hearts and not just in the camera rolls.