“Side de, side de,” shouted the bus conductor, almost unknowingly, like how one touches their face a hundred times per some seconds, thought Manish, too exhausted to fact-check, or, perhaps, too in a hurry to care enough. Well, meet Manish. A handsom-
“Oh hello sir, ticket?”
Exactly why I despise this city, a person cannot even think in peace, signalling a potential internal monologue while struggling with choosing between the daunting task of finding chillar and facing the condescension of the bus conductor. If it were possible to notice internal furores of strangers in strange vehicles, he must have done so, thought Manish–while thinking of a better word for thought–seeing the extended palm of the sweaty stranger next to him, adorned (kuch zyaada nahin ho gaya?) with the then most sought after commodity–chillar.
“Yeh le bhai,” offered the sweaty-palm, similar-aged, aisle seat preferring stranger cum debtor, holding a coin worth two units.
(I don’t understand people’s obsession with facts, rupee mat kaho yaar, bas kahaani suno na).
After having famished the conductor’s need for change, the revolutionaries attempted conversing. Several online payment attempts later, Manish noticed the not-so-strange companion of the debtor in his virtual identification image (sorry, mujhse display picture bola nahin jaata; haan hoon main pseudo–intellectual). As if sensing the upcoming overload of dramatics, Google-Pay left the chat after a sixth attempt.
“Aap kahaan jaa rahe ho?” Our debtor is a curious cat after all. Manish, on the other hand, still in his own world–surprise!?–murmured something. Shaken awake from his reverie, he deliberated whether or not to exchange pleasantries and make small talk or to save himself from any more details. The debtor didn’t really leave him with many choices. He questioned and answered, both, himself. What a self-sufficient being. “I’m going to this temple on the top of some hill. My wife-”–reverie officially over alert–“wants me to go with her. One of her distant relatives, main unse mila nahin ab tak, but he is seriously ill.”
“The perfume makes sense,” Manish Aashiq blurted out.
“Sorry?” asked the debtor.
“Sorry,” said Manish.
Manish saw Grant Road approaching and felt relieved for the first time. He got up and while bidding goodbye told the debtor, “Phir milenge, tension mat lo! He will be fine, cancer has a cure these days.” On the way out, yesterday came running back to him. After all he isn’t an old man yet, naak toh ekdum theek hain.
By Varsha Gopal
Varsha is a Master’s student hoping to be in academia someday. She can often be found binging on sprinting videos, fawning over Serena Williams or adding to a never ending to-read bookshelf. You can find her on Instagram @varshagopal41.