The horn of the bus honking from my behind broke my sleep.
I was just clinging to the side of the bench which was not even capable of accommodating 3 people, but we 5 friends managed somehow to adjust ourselves on this one!!! No matter how hard I tried the sleep never came back.
The constant voice of the tea vendor trying to be the salesman of the year kept on waking me up from my unaccomplished sleep. I once even tried to slow him down by my looks, but he was a hard salesman.
No matter how hard I tried.. his volume kept on raising in my ears every second.. My body & mind were not in sync after this long trip but still I was awake trying to enjoy every moment before I would jump in the back of the bus & reach my normal life once again.
The smell of delicious vada paav being served with hot chillies was being served right next to the ticket counter which was already crowded with a long queue of people waiting to get their tickets… It was already 12 & we were the only ones at the station who seemed to be happy.
We shouted in loud voice… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The idea was not to wish each other… but the idea was to wake up the people who were sleeping soundly irrespective of all the irritating sounds you can hear at the station. Somehow being with a group of 5 friends brings courage in you to do stupid things…especially when you have no worries.
We were waiting for our bus at this small station of Maharashtra. It was an unplanned trip made over a couple of drinks. Sometimes I think how easy was life that time… planning a trip was so easy… you didn’t have to think about the deadlines… you didn’t have to think about leaves.. you didn’t have to think about seats availability in the AC section of train because one could travel miles even if it was a general unreserved ticket.. you didn’t have to think about hotel reservations, meals, WIFI availability at hotel…all that mattered was fun.
So, we still had 1 hour before our bus was suppose to arrive. So we decided to take a stroll around & have fun during the last hour.
So we went to this tea stall & asked for tea & cigarettes. It was then I noticed this old couple in late 80’s sitting next to tea stall with 3 luggage’s in crippled state endlessly looking at our faces.
Hunger was speaking from their faces, waiting for someone to have pity on them & provide them with something to eat!!
Somehow their faces touched my heart… Usually I turn my eyes when I see such situations or people in such situations & avoid getting involved, but their faces are still hard to forget.
I could not stop myself from moving towards the old couple, leaving the laughs of my group. I reached out to them but I noticed my cigarette was not welcomed by them.
During those days cigarette smoking in public was not a crime…. At least politically it was not.
Since I was the one who volunteered to talk to them so I had to let go the 2 Rs. Cigarette which I just started to smoke… (I wish my parents don’t read this story.)
So.. I asked them if they would like to have something to eat or drink. Although the reply was silence, the answer was but obvious…
I asked the vendor to provide tea & snacks to this couple on my behalf…I could see the classic expression on the face of the tea vendor.
You would normally encounter such people on almost every railway & bus station of india where they would approach you for money or assistance to reach their home… but usually they are not the needy ones… but they prey on people whom they find emotionally weak & try to encash money from them.
But this case was different since I was the one who approached this couple… I still ponder why & what triggered me going to them… but there was a immediate connection which was established.
I sat beside them silently watching them have tea & snacks… Hunger… It’s a very small word but means a lot to those who experience it.
After their stomachs were full, they were ready to talk, & the first question was raised by them… as if they knew that I was not a local domicle.
Where are you from my son? They asked. A tea & snack made me their son.
Lucknow I replied with a smile on my face.
What do you do? They asked..
I’m studying.. I replied.. I’m sure they could not understand if said to them I was doing Engineering.. so studying was the best answer.
Good Good!!! Where are your parents? Their questions didn’t seem to stop.
Although they infiltrated by personal space.. but I didn’t mind sharing this info with them.. in Lucknow, I said..
What are you doing here? They asked..
on vacations with my friends.. I pointed in the direction where my friends were waiting for me to return from my volunteering session.
Do your parents know you are here? The next one was quiet taunting!!
I smiled & replied.. Yes.. Of course they know.. I talk to them daily.
Good Good!!! you should talk to your parents daily.. & don’t go anywhere without telling them.. they would be worried about you.. they said..
Now it was my turn to ask… where are you going? What time is your bus? Do you have a ticket?… I asked almost all the possible questions which popped in my mind…
We are waiting for our son to come back.. we are going back home.. after attending a marriage function in family.
Suddenly I felt ditched.. they had a son.. & I thought they are the needy ones… 15 Rs. Wasted in getting emotionally ditched… but as it is said every experience is a learning, so it didn’t matter much as in the end I learnt something…
But then I asked where is your son.. it has been almost 1 hour.. where has he gone.. in this early hour of the day..
he will be back soon.. he said.. he will be back soon… they reiterated..
their answer was not a satisfactory one.. I could sense something not calm in that one line reply..
I asked how old is he..where has he gone.. tell me I’ll find him for you… presuming that he was in & around the bus station & I could find him with my friends..
32 years they said… he will be back soon don’t worry.. he said he will be back.. they asserted firmly…
This did not bring peace to me.. & I asked when did he go…
“Five years back…. They said…” but he will be back.. he said…