Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Bent at the knees

a year gone by!

I know we have not been posting for a few days now. I have been traveling on other assignments & that took up time. But today a year’s up – a year of writing, of pure joy & telling stories the way we like it. And today i thought of writing on my old man itself – hence the title – Bent at the knees. Meanwhile season’s greetings & enjoy reading!

I looked at the watch – 9.20 am – shouted, Dad, hurry up!

Am ready – pat came his reply.

Dad’s reply surprised me. Post-surgery, he used to take his time and then some. Bottom line – i wasn’t ready for him being ready. I had just fired a warning shot- it backfired. This time he got ready real-quick for his dentist appointment. Now I wasn’t ready. I jumped into the shower. There i heard him say – I’m going. You come.

And that’s how it rolls – i want to be on time, blame the old man for making me late. In the end, its mostly the other way around!

Catching up.

Quickly i showered, dressed & headed out of the building. Dad was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, the dentist’s clinic was down the road, very close to our home. I knew he would be walking ahead towards the clinic. In order to reach him, I began walking briskly.

While I walked, I thought of my planned trip out of the city. I had to leave the next day. It was dad’s dentist appointment because of which I had postponed it. The same one he had left for without me.

Pre & post surgery effects.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Before the surgery, dad couldn’t walk long distances, had to sit down & rest at short intervals. The surgery had worked wonders & he walked without stopping. He only needed help while climbing steps. Somehow, he had picked up pace & was nowhere to be seen. I have mixed feelings about this. I really quickened my steps.

At the corner right outside the society gates, I finally saw him. I shouted – Dad! The veggie vendor at the curb, the lady shopping stared at me – in salt-pepper beard, bloated paunch, long hair-shouting Daddy! Daddy!

After three full throated calls he turns, sees me & smiles. I run up to him.

Earlier I couldn’t walk so much, dad admits.

Well done! I compliment dad – knowing that was exactly what he wanted to hear. His smile grew wider. There is still that ease between us. It surfaces very rarely – but its there.

Recollecting pet peeves & old habits.

Now I just am scared of climbing steps – his steps slow down. After that statement he slowed down. He spotted a middle-aged shopkeeper at the chemist shop. He waved, the man waved back seated on a chair. I have seen the man sit on the chair & watch videos on his mobile all day. The shop was mostly run now by his young son.

You know I used to trek hills each day – dad surprises me with that statement. We had reached the market square,. i saw my regular vegetable vendor – the old lady squatted & lost in thought. I wave- didn’t catch her eye. Quickly I put my hand down & tell dad –  

You would get up at 4am to do that each morning.

All those habits is what’s helping me now – he beams.

I agree. His walk though has really slowed. I ponder whether I should get a rickshaw. The distance is barely 20 meters. Still.

Of sudden stops & hollow promises.

We heard a commotion – looked sideways. A fruitwalla had caught a rat in a trap. The road side vendor were playing silling games. He was scaring the other hawkers by taking it close to their face & running behind them. I watched in awe as the fit agile hawkers dodged him across the busy streets. I felt jealous at their agility, vowed to get in shape. Somehow the promise rang hollow even before i could finish making it.

I forgot my health issues as Dad just stopped abruptly. He reached out and held my hand. A rickshaw slowed down next to us. I put my hand out to stop it. He immediately pulled my hand down.

It’s just gas -, he said sheepishly. As I smiled the rickshaw guy grunted & zoomed away.

I laughed, he joined me. We walked slow, our knees in solidarity with the gas.

Of fitness methods back in the day.

Before you were born, I used to walk with your mom to the market – he commented about walking long distances from the house. To save money–, he admitted, –and that helped us stay fit.

I thought of all the money I have spent on gym memberships & online fitness classes. And still am in the shape I am in.  This man at 83 bounces back from spine surgery with just gas trouble – wow.

Bent at the knees.

Photo by Kseniya Budko on Pexels.com

We are here, he pointed to the dentist’s clinic. I moved ahead of him, did the one thing for which he needed me. Helped him climb that one step up to be on the marble floor leading inside the clinic.

We walk into the clinic. The young dentist comes out, says hello & shakes my hand.

will it take time? Not at all – he says.

Dad walks in with confidence. The dentist closes the door, draws the curtain. As i sit down, i find myself panting. Also my knees are hurting. My mind rushes back to the thought of dad at my age. He was already a father of three kids, plus a full time job. Still he found time for his walks each morning.

As i sat there, i rubbed my knees thinking of the times ahead. For dad, for me. I sat there resting, watching the road. As i waited for dad to get back. not sure who would be accompanying whom.

Post credit – Soni Anthony.

Photo credits – Pexels.com, Soni Anthony.

Advertisement

Forest. Witness.

Forest floor is wet. Grey clouds pack sky. Air is nippy. Toes sink into mud, happy as elephants in mud-pools.

Chonky maze.

Birds are loud here, humans not so. Avian sounds filter through leaves. Thick canopy hides unless moving.

Lovers use thick trunks to hide behind and find nooks for nooky. Guards use long laathis to tap thick trunk and untangle skin from bark. Bark is worse than bite though, lovers elope back into their nooks as guard whistles at next trunk.

A place to rest. A frame to see through.

Trees have own smells. Acute smell, delicate smell, ambiguous smell; nose is overworked and brain out of depth. Hoping bees and birds are biting!

Clouds get thinner. Light filters through tree tops. Rays of light dance as beams and drops of rain shine on cobwebs. Magical shapes and colours in midst of city.

About to worship the ground it rose from.

City is this too, though human administrators did try to make residential blocks where tamarind trees stand tall in their grove and stoop to worship ground. Current residents witness all.

Trees, birds, insects and dogs can be seen. Snakes, bats — rest — seem to be resting in this cold. Bamboo, thick, impenetrable, seems perfect home as does tall palm.

Home.

Much like that, invisible stalks botanical gardens where we are. Vikaas wants lateral entry having failed to navigate bureaucratic hierarchy. From toes that sink into floor to people who wish to raze it to floor, forest witnesses all.

Going up.

Blog post & photo credit – Hormazd Mehta.

All in

Finally started work on the teeth on knowing there was some money available. Thankfully, there were teeth available to work with. Phew!

There’s three molars missing and one molar is a milk tooth. For a meat-eater’s teeth, this is near-terminal. The others have been worn and the last dentist had said, “You’ll be lucky if you have any teeth left by 60.” Uuhhh….

One root canal, two fillings and three bridges, followed by making a guard to keep from grinding the teeth while i slept.

It started in early October. The Brother told me, “Once it begins, there’s no going back. You’ll have to do all of it.” “Okay, daa.”

Two months later, the bridges are finally in, the fillings have been done, the root canal is complete and the mouth is getting used to new teeth, a different shape and a new structure. The guard will be made next week.

There’s so much of the body that i am not attentive to that it speaks louder and louder till i, hopefully, listen.

The root canal took a week to complete. It was surprisingly painless.

“Metal or ceramic?” “First two ceramic, third one metal.” “Okay.”

The first set of molars separated by a canyon readily accepted the bridge. Beginner’s luck! The next set, directly above them, refused the second bridge’s overtures. Even after grinding the bridge some more, they refused to fit. Back they went to the studio to be moulded along with a more detailed reconstruction of the teeth.

A week and two sittings later, “We’ll fit these with a temporary adhesive for now. If it feels fine, we’ll keep them in there till it comes off on its own and then put a permanent adhesive.” Okay then. The bridge came off three weeks later in a friend’s kitchen, when i was washing up after dinner. My first thought was, “There were no nuts in the food!” Followed by, “Oh, teeth.”

The third bridge on the opposite ridge took the longest as the other teeth decided to join in on the fun. On trying the third bridge, the doctor asked, “Do you feel anything in your way?” “Uh huh,” followed by nodding.

Out came the tiny mirror. The lips were raised and teeth checked like a dogs. I had a strong urge to go, “Rrrrrrr.” Then started the grinding of the bridge with the tiny drill of doom. “Eeeeeeeee…..” That wail brought all the nerves in my head to life, even though it was two feet away.

The seventeenth time this happened, i did go, “Rrrrrr,” to myself. The carbon paper was brought out and my discipline was now being checked. “Open.” Paper placed on tooth. “Close.” Paper chomped by teeth. “Open.” Placed. “Close.” Chomped. “Open.” Placed. “Close.” Chomped.

This game continued for a while. There were no rewards at the end of eqch game, just some grinding by the drill followed by another game. “Do you want to send it to the studio again?” “Yes.”

Four days and a postponement later — it was me — the bridge was fitted, but not before more grinding. “We’ll do the night guard next week after these teeth set properly.”

Finally, they were all in. The Brother’s words rang true, we had almost done all of it over these past two months. I could chew easier, but the toothy, lop-sided grin remained. Thank goodness for that.

Now to find out if i’ll have teeth left over by 60. For that i’ll have to stick around till then. Oh well . .

Post & photos credits – Hormazd Mehta.

Chicken Sagar sagas – vaccination philosophies.

Chicken Sagar is a satirical series on everyday issues in Contemporary India. This one is on the vaccination debates during the Pandemic era. Each Indian has taken or avoided the vaccine based on-some philosophy or the other. This is a take on that… Enjoy!

As soon as I reached the shop we got down to business. I ordered 2 boneless breast pieces, about one kilogram of poultry bred broiler chicken.

Hhhrmph – Chicken Sagar’s grunt. Acknowledgment that he heard me. He relayed the order to his assistant -better known as Chicken Sagar’s assistant. That’s when I observed

Chicken Sagar’s 45 degrees of seperation.

Chicken Sagar’s counter consisted of a plastic desk (with drawers attached,) a revolving chair, a bill book, mobile phone attached to a charging adapter. This was his throne – his seat of power where he sat & conducted his buisness. The chair & counter was placed in such an angle where Chicken Sagar would faced his favourite chicken coupes at all times, also keep an eye on assistant plus have an eye out on his customers & the road ahead, all seperated by an exact 45 degrees.

That day, Chicken Sagar heard my order, swiveled from me to coupe to assistant & shouted – – Don breast, boneless – medium dee’

Chicken Sagar’s assistant was always busy cutting chickens. He never acknowledged the orders nor argued, just kept on working. But on rare occasions he did speak. And then everyone including Chicken Sagar listened.  This time though it wasn’t he who spoke. The words came from somewhere else. From a local

Local v/s foreigner.

Maashe! – where are you from?

Startled at these words, I looked for the source. I didn’t have to go far. He was a middle aged man. He was sitting on the stool placed right between Chicken Sagar’s shops- open chicken shop & shut wine shop.

The shutter of the wine shop always remained shut. That’s because Chicken Sagar only kept the back door open. It gave the shop a very shady feel. That made the men flock to the place.

Back to the man who had just shouted ‘awesome’. One look at his grumpy face made me realise he was asking me.

What patrao – Chicken Sagar asked the man, –early morning what is so ek number?

It was past 12 noon. But it wasn’t really the time to point it out to Chicken Sagar.

The man didn’t respond to Chicken Sagar. Instead he fixed his gaze at me & asked – 

Where do you stay?

Eva villas, i answered. That was the brand of building owned by one company. The builder had brought land all over the village. Now the red faced man’s face took a dark shade..

And where are you from?

Bombay – I replied. Outsider! his eyes said, his lips stayed shut. As his face now turned crimson.

So, you took the vaccine to come here?

Patrao took his vaccine shot yesterday, said Chicken Sagar’s assistant. The wise man’s words had Chicken Sagar raise his eyebrows in admiration.

How could they do this? Insist that all of us take vaccines – Where is the data? that Where are the human trials? It’s a conspiracy – culling – pollution control – tackle global warming. Everyone is in on it – WHO, big pharma, UN, governments….

Aiy, aiy,aiy Patrao stop.

For a full minute Chicken Sagar let Patrao rant before he intervened. Seeing that it had no effect, he looked at me embarrassed & said – ‘this is because he has a place to sit & people to hear’. He looked towards his assistant turning full 180 away from his chickens, ‘Take that stool away-‘ he told his assistant pointing to the stool before turning back.  

I was stunned – kept looking at the man on the stool. In a faded Mohammed Ali boxing t-shirt & brown Bermudas, he looked like a simpleton. I would have never taken him to be an expert on the vaccine. Something must have really hit him hard that he acquired all this knowledge – knows so many things. Perhaps he tested positive, it must have been difficult. Worse – he must have lost a dear one.

Tell me Sagar, this is just not done! Said the man when Chicken Sagar got up himself to get the stool. Hearing the pain in his voice Chicken Sagar spoke –

See –vaccine is what? Just injection or drops. My chicken get injected in the farm – all of them, no exceptions. It makes them grow big & healthy. True – some cannot take it, but most do. Then they come here & live healthy lives.

I heard this against the backdrop of Chicken Sagar’s assistants holding a knife in one hand & the healthy vaccinated chicken’s throat in the other. These pearls of wisdom from Chicken Sagar also made Patrao get up from the stool. It was that kind of moment.

Also go the back & have a drink – Chicken Sagar told Patrao. Suddenly the grumpy face disappeared, all doubts on vaccine vanished. He turned to go then made one half ditched effort at resistance –

You are not supposed to drink after the vaccine, the doctor –

Till now you had problems with the vaccine-, Chicken Sagar interrupted him,  ‘-now you have a problem with my drink’.

Chicken Sagar’s drinks were beyond doubts – Patrao knew that as he had been a steady client for the past 15 years.

Plus, the vaccine can give you fever-, Chicken Sagar added, –and you alcohol can give only acidity, it kills fever.

That was all it took. Vaccination won. Patrao happily left to get a drink. Chicken Sagar wisely took the stool away. Chicken Sagar’s assistant handed me my order. I paid & left from the place still pondering over Chicken Sagar’s vaccination philosophies.

Conversations overheard in a coffee shop.

The young girl behind the order kiosk of the famous coffee chain looked hard at my bill. Other than charges for coffee it had charges under a multiple heading that could give anyone a headache. She was young a fresher & struggling with the bill.

I took a guess, asked in Marathi– Is there a problem?

No Sir, she replied but in Hindi!

Mariachi band music played on the speakers, another staffer spoke in Kannada, two housewives gossiped in English at the table. 15 years back this place used to be all farm land. Like the girl staffer, everyone spoke Marathi.  

Will this app work?

Of course, sir!

How many people can you get to join ….?

The ‘of course sir’ guy leaned back – saying a lot without saying it. The ‘questions’ guy stared at him. He was dressed very differently from the other, his mac was open to an excel with digits all over. There was a third guy with them who observed the play between the two men while enjoying his cold mocha shot.

It will work sir – don’t worry.

The third man said it. The others had a worried look after that. They left soon after – the questions guy didn’t touch his capuchin no. Even though he paid the bill.

He – Will you have your usual?

She – Just no sugar. I’m trying to –

He left before she could complete the sentence.

The housekeeping guy swept close to her feet. She shot him a look; he backed away without looking at her kept sweeping backwards all the way to the service area.  

She – What took so long?

He – Que.

He stood for a second with his mask on & the tray still in his hands while he answered. Something I couldn’t hear. They left in a while. The housekeeping guy took extra care to clean all traces from their seats.

When did you get back to India?

A couple of months ago.

They were middle aged – one in khaki shorts, other in blue jeans – trying hard to be casual.

Are you going back?

I can but I won’t.

He looked at him. They smiled. Both knew that wasn’t true.

Can we sit here? he asked.

He was wearing a silver-grey golfing t-shirt a size larger than his frail size. She was in a colourful cotton salwar kameez white with green & red motifs.

This place is for people to work – she said.

But we are retired – he was tired of standing – so he sat down anyways.

We can sit here – she assured him and sat next to him to give company. 

Even if we don’t work – he smiled at her as he looked at a girl lost in her laptop on the other side.

They laughed at their joke without worrying about work.

Why are you sitting here?

They looked at a younger version of them towering over them.

What happened? He asked

This is for people who are working. We can sit on the other side.

We are happy here – he said.

But we can sit there by ourselves.

Come on let’s go – she said

But we just sat down – he protested.  

She got up. their younger version stared. Finally, he relented. They went to the corner where people who don’t work sit down.

The shops are filling up again

Good

Means more people will use the rest room

Good

More work for us

Doesn’t make a difference.

I heard them while I was getting into the loo – talking in Marathi. They stood outside the divided rooms marked gents & ladies. Masks on chin, grey in their hair, gloves on their hands, they stood next to each other and waited for people to leave so they cou

In a while I saw them before the coffee shop. A giant glass façade separated us. If I changed my angle the coffee logo hid their faces. I sipped on my coffee, watched them before I got down to write this piece when I looked up , they were gone. All I saw is the lady staffer struggling to read yet another bill..

The old man who loves street dogs & holy smokes.

This was at my dad’s place a while back. Early morning, I was out for a walk/run, when I saw the old man for the first time. He was sitting near a large tree, petting street dogs while enjoying a smoke. Problem was the tree & where he was sitting. Read on…..

The fitness bug had bitten – three days of straight exercise.  Walks, Surya namaskars, yoga stretches – you name it. It got to a point where in 24 hours I went for a run the night before & the next morning I did it again. Experts normally would shake their heads at this kind of routine – but I was no expert. Besides all the stuff I do is light, just about 20-30 minutes. And am really glad about these two runs, especially the one in the morning.  

I was running around dad’s place, a gated community of sorts. Because the gates are always open & the security stopped nobody! Still, its nice inside as the buildings bunch up at a distance cutting out the noise & pollution from the main roads. There is a line of trees planted around the periphery of the society that surround the entire space forming a natural walking track. Though at places the road is uneven, patches of gravel & dirt with potholes. Still beats running on dusty polluted roads outside with traffic swinging from both sides.

Another unique thing about our place are its street dogs. There are quite a few staying both inside the colonies & on the track outside. Kind folks from the apartments feed them, kids play & most importantly they can sleep or take shelter under parked cars without anybody chasing them away. Sure, they gang up & create a ruckus when home dogs come out for a walk but otherwise, they are very friendly & wise.

I had befriended a couple of them – both black coated skins, one a young rogue with patches of white, the other older one was an even black pure as silk skin. They would come happily nodding their tails at me. it was during the run that I also kept an eye out for them. that’s when I saw the holy smoke.

At a turn I spotted one, ran towards him. Usually he spots me & runs towards me. This time he didn’t see me. I thought that’s because his attention was diverted someplace else. I made whistling sounds – mistake. My breath got all caught up in the whistle, I began wheezing that lead to bout of coughing. Had to stop running as the coughs refused to go away. As I coughed, I looked up. now the dog was missing from my view. All I could see towards the side was a parked van & beyond that was a tree.

The van parked was obstructing the full view of the tree. My first guess was one of the dogs or both were underneath the van -maybe eating something. But as I neared the van, I saw white smoke rising from beyond it & near the tree.

It was an old tree – griped & grey with veins sprouting all around. It looked graceful & majestic. People had tied religious white threads around it, a raised circular platform was built around it. On the platform were little frames & idols of different gods & goddesses. There were steps leading to the raised platform, even a place to sit. Here, I discovered the reason for the smoke & the disappearance of my friends.

My first guess was right, both my friends were missing because of food. They were eating biscuits that a balding old man was feeding them. The reason for the smoke was his lit cigarette that he had kept to one side. While he was lovingly feeding the dogs who didn’t mind the nicotine or its rising flames one bit the smoke was busy paying homage to the gods & spreading tobacco love all around. The old man didn’t so much as glance at me as I continued to run.

I was hurt. Forget the old man – my four-legged friends had so betrayed me – all for a packet of Marie biscuits! The hurt must have shown as the big aunty who walks 10 rounds each day stared at me. The helpers at grocery store smiled, the security personnel waved, I kept scowling. The words treachery, traitors, trolls, and al lot of other T’s crossed my mind as I ran to again reach that corner with the tree.

How old men just don't give a damn.

The old man was busy reading his newspaper. He had put the cigarette out. Again, he didn’t look up. I slowed down to take a closer look at him. The grey specks of a two-day beard were showing, his t-shirt was shabby, hair unkept & his sandals were worn out.  I took a couple of pictures from a respectable distance without being intrusive. He didn’t notice as I walked away. As I did, one of my friends came up to me. I stood to the side. He looked up at me, then looked towards the old man. Went and sat at his feet. I moved on.

After my run, I asked the security guard I knew. He told me that was the old man’s routine. Said he spoke very little to anyone. That people left him alone & that he also kept to himself. At home I recollected the old man again. I thought of his eyes –  he had dog eyes, the same like my four-legged friends. He did care – but not for those that walked & ran around to stay fit. He was beyond all that. his eyes saw things the same way the dog’s eyes did. Live, love & let go – everything else is just Holy smoke.

Sunset

The half moon, high up, directly above the bald head. The rising sea, thudding into the rocks that make an arbitrary shore. Soft murmurs of people, riding the wind along with the sound of the waves. A pink and magenta sky, fading into a dull violet in the east, punctuated by the moon.

A little distance from the sea, the city roars on. Here though, there is space to breathe, think, feel, be.

Nemesis

I open the book and stare. I feel it stare right back. Maybe, whatever is around us is staring too.

The page is what it is — blank. My state of being is giving it meaning. Right now, it seems menacing and i wish to hide. In that blankness, are opportunity, choice, hardship and whatever else i wish to ascribe to it.

I do not ask the page for its own views. I am still to learn how to interact with it.

For now, the page is a page is a page and every word is a choice. I can learn to be friends with it or i can treat it as the enemy forcing me to make a choice.

I do neither. I sit. Facing it. And breathe. Again. And again.

Inhale, exhale;
Length, breadth.

The page seems a mirror of my own self.

I focus on the breath. I know i will get out of my own way.

Twisted life lessons learnt during late night travel.

9 in the night, at the bus depot in Panjim, Goa – beach capital of the country. That late night travel would teach me life lessons with a twist – who would have thought!

An hour earlier .. …

Evening in goa Tourists, snazzy eats, pubs, casinos i – big bright lights & party feel.

Surely i should get a late night bus right! ? I said to my friend S. He shot me a look. Soon we left for the bus depot.

Bus were parked , barely any lights and very few passengers. I thought of the bright lights in the city and barely some distance away it’s this deserted depot! That brings me to lesson no 1 –

Always look beyond the bright lights!

Finally i found the enquiry counter. A moustashed man was sitting in the cabin surrounded by glass & aluminium bars around it.

He looked up, I asked – Madgaon?

That side-, he pointed towards a corner & added – hurry.

I ran towards the bus, stopped, turned to run back. I hurried to S’s car, took my bag, warmly embraced S before i jogged back again in the opposite direction.

TICKET COUNTER – the words attracted me. I rushed to the mutliple stalls, saw a man behind one of them busy toying with his tobacco pouch.

Madgaon ticket ? I asked.
Next stall- he said without looking up.

I muttered a curse as I tugged my 20 kg backpack & snaked back around the iron bars to reach the other stall. I reached there only to find the same man there. I was about to repeat myself when I observed the two stalls the same man side by side.

The stall he was standing at was clean and neatly done. The other stall where I saw him rolling the tobacco was a mess of crumpled paper, remains of dinner and tobacco powder!

Lesson 2 – Keep your work life seperate from your personal – at all times!

He punched he ticket, said – that’s the bus, go now.

The urgency in his voice made me run to the bus, abckoack and all. I scampered in now all sweaty from the walking and runnig abd didn’t stip till I climbed into it. Only to realise it was empty. Not even the driver in his seat. And that’s when lesson number 3 flashed –

Don’t rush things – even when pushed!

I looked carefully, found one guy asleep a few rows to the back. His shirt matched the seat covers that merged him into the background. As I took a few steps he stirred, stared at me , gave a disappointed look and shut his eyes again.

I looked around, found just the right seat. It had a lot of leg room, also space to place my backpack ahead of me. I took it. The ‘Reserved for disabled’ tag didn’t bother me. Nor did anyone come to check or tell me otherwise. Afterwards another guy came in, he checked at least 3 spots before chosing a spot right behind me. Then the driver came. Luckily he took his designated spot! And that was lesson no 4. –

Darkness reserves opportunities – grab them!

The bus crawled out of the city. I surfed the net. Behind me the guy was listening to local news aloud. Sometimes there would be silence for a bit then again I could hear it. I guess that was the net connection. This despite 4g, despite prices going up thrice in 3 months. Earlier prices wiuld be in check because of state owned Internet companies. Now they were shut or sold off to private players. All part of the internet for all plan. Now that explained the lag. The bus reached the higway and cruised.

I began work on a blog post about dog body language. In 20 seconds realised i knew nothing on the subject. I looked out the window, the bus was flying , behind me the chief minister proclaimed – No one can stop us now.i looked back at my phone seached tbe big bad net & found the info. In 2-3 seconds I turned back surfed the internet got random pieces of info – stitched and hammed the piece just in time when reached Madgaon. And that’s lesson no 5 –

When stuck – persist, stick to the plan , eventually you will make it .

I got off the bus -found a the bike pilot who would take me to the main railway station. I did not negotiate with him as it was too late in the night After a good twenty minutes of riding he took me to a spot near the rail tracks and said – Sir if you get down and walk 5 minutes you will reach platform number 3 and then you can hop over to any platform.

I didn’t like the cheesy voice he said it in Why don’t you take me towarrs platform no 1 instead? I asked a bit sternly.

Well sir, it was far …this is neat …you can…you know – he hemmed and hawwed . I was having none of it, ‘You have to take me to platform no 1. Am not paying you and then walking around with this big bag!’ I said with finality.

Having no choice he turned and made his way to platform number 1. It was a circutous way that took a good 5 minutes on his bike. And he wanted me to walk all the way, imagine.

Sir please give me 50 more he pleaded. I put my foot down – nothing doing. Finally to get rid of him I gave him 20 more. All the while feeling he wanted to get the better if me and I didn’t let him. Till I reached platform no 1 and heard the announcement

Train to Bangalore leaves from platform no 3.

As I walked my way back to platform no 3 the last lesson came to me

The only person who can outwit you is you.

Pain in parts

He didn’t seem in pain. But something was wrong I was at R’s house when I asked –

What happened?

This….

R showed me his hands. A red rash had broken out in patches on both his hands.

Will you still be attending the gig?

Oh most certainly!

This is because of stress, i said.

Could be, he countered, will only increase if I don’t go out.

I watched R – my friend, my brother from another mother. I said nothing. Before leaving i glanced back at the raging red that were his hands.

Next day morning

I sat on my bike when the call came. The name displayed – M. It kept ringing & ringing, I let it. Too early in the morning to hear his sorrows. Interestingly his number on my cell displays as M with couple of heart emojis next to it. M displays in white, hearts in blue. All set against a black background.

I could never store a number like that – not because I don’t want to but because I don’t know how to. But M could have done that. M can be like that. The call rang till it died down. I left it at that.

Traffic signal.

The new track was good. I wanted to add it to my playlist. I looked up – signal still red. I reached in my pocket, removed my mobile – on the main screen it displayed – L’s message. My eyes flickered – I read;

Am on the train

How much longer? I typed. Then went back to the music tp add it. For that I had to tap on the heart symbol.

Three hours, she messaged back immediately. I had not expected her to, she usually took time.

How’s the leg? I typed – a part of me not wanting to ask, a part of me still angry with her for going away when I had asked her to stay. Signal turned green, honks, vrooms, dust, the works. I had to ride ahead. No other way.

Still swollen, wrapped in ice packs, her reply. I stopped just ahead of the signal to read m, then I didn’t wait, moved on.

A great sadness & grief surrounds me. I know it will be like this for some time. Before it will not. L’s last message. I read it only after my journey had ended. Too late by then.

Next evening.

Let’s have dinner before I head back.

Usually we finished work and went home. But I wanted to delay going home. Luckily my buisness partner S agreed.

Let’s go to that Asian food place

Let’s

To reach the place we had to cross a traffic signal. This was near her place where we met often. It was late evening, long shadows and all.

I looked left-right and crossed the busy junction in a flash. Then I turned back. S was still standing there in her blue dress on the other side.

What happened? I cried out. Almost. Stopped myself just in time.

Because I remembered – she has something known as ‘Retinitis pigmentosa’ – that leads to tunnel vision. This means she gets stressed at crowded places and footpaths, especially in the evenings. And this was a really busy junction. So obviously she’s stressed.

I walked a little further, crossed the road again at a distance and went back near her. Her focus was only ahead on the road. I said in a casual voice –

Okay now let’s cross over.

Wait, she said nervously.

Relax. No vehicles.

Okay – she said. Then she put one foot forward quite unsure. The next and the following ones were steadier as I walked besides her continuously talking about some stupid thing or the other. I saw the sweat on her forehead, betraying her calm face.

Thank you – S said once we were on the other side.

For what?

For crossing over.

How do you know? I asked in surprised disappointment.

I just know – S smiled. We walked ahead silently avoiding the footpath and taking the busy streets.

Sunday sea-side.

Indeed I feel quite overwhelmed at present. Too much to be done and im way behind schedule. Besides I have health issues that I am ignoring and surviving on pain killers. Now I am getting used to them. so right now really wont be able to give you the time. Maybe after my show –

This was a friends reply to me on email. What happened was –

I was meeting an artist friend after a long time. We met at an old joint – tables by the sea. She had a glass of wine, I didn’t. We spoke of a lot of things – love, life, lockdown. At that point I wanted her to do a project where I document her artistic process. She agreed. Later I realised she felt frazzled and must have said yes because of she could not say me no I sent a voice note telling her please feel free to not do this.

The above was her reply.

I wrote back with a smile to take care and hope to connect soon.

I then put my head down on the table. It was aching – pain from my acidity – pain from my aches – sometimes it’s the legs the belly. I don’t know whose pain I am holding now. Is it mine? Or someone else’s?

My phone rang again. it was M. I let it ring. Till finally I picked up.

Yup?

Bro, I had a bad fall.

What? How? When?

He told me – out for a cycling trip. Wayward car cut him, scraped, his bike skid and he fell badly, been hospitalised in some god forsaken place.  

That’s when I called you yesterday.

Shit!

Which hospital? He told me. As we spoke, I began dressing up. I had no choice but to run to his pain.

Photo credit – Google images – couldn’t get tbe name of the artist. Thank you anonymous!