I ran and post a few turns, lanes and marks, I eventually reached a place where fortunately I saw a late night pan and cigarette shops open with a few people standing there.
I with an absolutely blank mind immediately headed towards them to save my life. I could have certainly rammed into the shops to save myself if a few people wouldn’t have come forward and hushed the dogs away. As soon as the street guardians went enlightening me of my lungs in capabilities, the real purpose kicked in. I stood there struggling to catch my breath, still shaking by the terror caused, started explaining my situation to all. I also in the meantime got to know that this is an intercity bus stop whose last bus left a few hours ago leaving my rescuing shop open which was any which way about to close. While explaining and expecting help of any kind, I very specifically ensured that
a) they should very clearly understand the intensity of the events, with the running time as the primal factor and
b) They should know that we don’t have a single penny with us.
Amidst all this sharing a creamy white new looking Jeep came and stalled at the Pan shop. The way the pan wallah waived at the driver I knew he was a man of some authority. I very smoothly, paying homage to the recently developed warmth in others, went to the driver to seek some help. And as soon as I peeped in I saw a woman in her khaki dress in the driver’s seat. The Pan wallah very sympathetically explained my situation to her and also told me shrugging his shoulders and nodding the head, praised the woman and said that she is the lone woman taxi driver in the whole town, earning the brownie customer points for the shop. I looked at her with the most pitiable face, to which she very vaguely looked and frowningly said; I meet lots of boys like you who create such scene unnecessarily. And then turning to the pan wallah said, you also beware of these thugs. And then raising an eyebrow she looked at me and while going to the wheels said to the pan guy, you never know to which gang he belongs too. You run the business, close the shop and leave.
Listening to this I don’t know what hit me, but I broke, I broke down. There was a sudden outburst of tears. I didn’t know what to say, I just folded my hands and implored, “Please ma’am, please if you could be of any help ……PLEASE help us. We are like your kids. Believe me, if you’ll drop me we’ll take you to the seats, show you our tickets and pay you to double the money you charge. Just trust us. Believe in us.”
I pleaded so pitifully that the recent warmth developed in the rest audience came forward and sympathized with me. The lady also, toning down a bit, said slightly politely, “Ok, ok don’t cry. But kid even if you are saying the truth, frankly I can’t be of much help to you. It’s too late for me to go home, and my husband is a hell of a freak.”
Firstly, I can’t help you.
Secondly, if there is any slightest hope to take you to Satna, I have to go to my house and take permission from my husband, which I know will never happen [she said smiling disgustfully]. Hence don’t be hopeful on me, I will suggest you go to the highway nearby and ask for some lift. If you want I can drop you there?
It was the best thing I knew to do, but then it was the best thing in MY picture. What if, the other guys got something better than this? No, No. I knew I have to go back first. I asked her Ok, can you come with me and pick up my friends who are waiting at the railway station, and then drop us all to the highway.
To which she turned on the ignition, and said, don’t cut the hand which lends you a finger, is there a fool written on my forehead?
Then changing the gear, said in a very confirm tone, I am leaving, I have a madman to deal with. Then turning to the Pan wallah she said, guide the boy the direction to reach the highway and then bidding good-bye to me, without even caring for the response, left.
Slowly the white beast transformed to two sharp red dots, frowning straight at me, just slightly before the fog swallowed it. I, puzzled by everything, stood all frozen and still, looked at the vehicle moving away from me. Hope and hopelessness were now becoming closely juxtaposed for me, with hopelessness prevailing over its counterpart now. I was left with my helplessness behind, still fixated on the blank cloud of fog, hoping to see some hope, on that dim-lit road. But no, it’s not that easy, she was gone.
There is no point waiting for her. But again there is no hope in doing anything now. I moved a little and got reminded of the life in me by my inner conscious. But I didn’t know what to do next. I felt much drained, drained of all positives of my personality. I, with a puckered face, slowly came and sat on a big stone piece adjacent to that pan shop. I sat and breathed. I tried to recollect my shattered pieces of the already drained self-confidence. I have to do it. I have to at least give my 100 percent irrespective of the consequences and result. And I also knew that I am short, way short of time awarded to me by me.
While I was constantly battling and up boosting my lost prime, I felt someone staring at me. I turned and it was the pan shop owner. He looked at me; maybe suspiciously or maybe trying to understand my situation before offering anything. But one thing was sure by his shift in attitude; the seeds of skepticism have been sowed by that lady.
Up till now, almost everyone evaded the place leaving only me and him alone, probably avoiding the awkwardness of denying the help to the needy…….”the practical world”, I know.
Anyway, reached him and said, can you please guide me my way back to the station, I am a bit unsure cause of that dog incident.
He still lost at my face gazing without blinking; you said your friends are at the station, do they have a cell phone? He said, slightly focusing his left ear to me with a frowning face.
I nodded yes in reply. While being completely stiff and still frowning, with an ear at me and eyes stuck at my face, he moved only his right hand, like a robot, and picked and offered his mobile phone and almost whisperingly said,
I, ignoring the weirdness offered, instantly grabbed the phone just to enhance the helplessness more. As soon I looked at the keypad, I realized I have to dial, yes dial. I immediately developed the respect for the age-old dying land line phones where we used to dial, so even if we didn’t consciously remember, the faded subconscious always remained, but now I am BLANK. It’s like being thirsty in an ocean.
I said, I don’t remember the number.
On this the pan wallah smiled, as if deciphered the solution to a mystery and took back the phone.
Can you guide me the way back?
Ya Ya sure, suddenly all happy and cooperative. He guided me a few turns and lanes. I, ignoring the change in his behaviour, thanked him and left, ensuring that no matter what happens I will not run, being again hopeful on Shivam and Bhuppi’s part and moved.
I knew this will happen. The intuition already kicked in on the hopelessness side and kept poking me of the future, the future of me forgetting the directions.
What man….at least this could have been a day. I could only hear a distant whistle of trains, the only source of guidance for me to move ahead. I was constantly hoping and praying that those two might have got some help, and have the patience to retain the help and wait for me. Because I, with every passing second, was getting confident that I might be the weakest bottlenecked link in all three. As logically moving away from the train was my adventurous brain’s superlative idea. But what if they already have got the help and waiting for me, what if they are all sorted and their time is being wasted by me. STOP, why are you over thinking and exhausting……wait, I could hear some voices, yes…yes….someone is around , some human is around. In my happiness to get in reach with the voice before it fades away, I turned into another dark lane of the voice.
I see an empty road with two-horse carts, fully wrapped in white sheets. The sharp curves on the sheets and its huge size made it pretty clear that there was furniture wrapped properly in it. I saw two men coming from a nearby house and yes….it’s furniture only. They came and continued their already continued work of unloading. But as they saw me they stopped. And before I could share my extra happy human seeing excited voice, they almost came running at me, shouting and calling few names. While they approached me a few men appeared from nowhere, making me realize again that the night is still very ….very long.