‘Come and sit here, next to me.’
The teenage boy who boarded the bus at M G Road looked in the direction of the tremulous voice. It belonged to a genteel bespectacled man with an amiable smile seated in the third row from the front.
The boy hesitated for a moment, since there were a lot of vacant seats, but finally settled down into the offered seat, still amused by the invitation.
‘Good morning,’ replied the man. ‘Not many would leave the comfort of their homes on Sunday mornings, isn’t it?’
The boy smiled in acknowledgement. They sat in silence till the bus passed three traffic lights and neared the Metro station at Minsk Square.
‘There is a tale about Minsk Square and the fighter plane propped here,’ said the man.
‘Uh – I guess something to do with Bangalore and Minsk?’
‘You are right. How old are you?’
‘You weren’t born back then. 1991. Belarus gained independence. And this plane, HAL Ajeet, was installed here along with the status of an unknown soldier.’ He said in a wistful tone.
The boy nodded expressing interest.
‘2009: they started excavation work for the monstrous Metro and uprooted everything around. The plane was reinstalled later, but the statue never came back. I wonder what happened of it?’
As the bus gained momentum they eased into an effortless conversation, talking about random topics that meandered from the city landmarks to local food to the burgeoning IT jobs.
Soon the bus pulled towards Lingarajapuram.
‘I have to get off at this stop. It was a pleasure talking to you.’ The boy said.
‘It was kind of you to give me company.’
The boy waved back and alighted.
The man slipped back into reminiscence and mumbled to himself – ‘I have a day pass.’
He had done this, innumerable times for many years, seeking out fellow travellers to sit next to him and savour his short, witty, chatty and even voluminous talks. Most of them, plain strangers, conversed with him without being condescending or pretentious and he felt immensely grateful. He too regaled them with anecdotal stories of over six decades that he had lived in the city.
Nobody had ever asked him why he carried a day pass. And where he was going? At the end of the day after having hopped from one bus to another and circumvented the longest routes of the city, he went back to the solitude of his home where there wasn’t anyone waiting for him.
- His longest companion and co-traveller had breathed her last. She was sitting next to him when the bus swerved and rammed into the obtrusive Metro Rail pillar. He survived but his wife did not make it.
The bus screeched to a halt at Hennur and he recovered from his thoughts.
A heavily pregnant woman boarded the bus and laboured forward. The man reached out to her cheerfully – ‘Come and sit here, next to me.’
Photo By: Abi Ismail
This is an entry for Five00-7, a writing event hosted by ArtoonsInn. Check out the event prompt and guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/five00-7/