“You’re weak because you’re smaller than me!” My neighbour shrieked gleefully. He had been gloating ever since the wobble began. Irritating chap!
Today he started in the morning itself! Idiot!
And yet, something wasn’t right.
But I was too happy to worry, totally fascinated by this city, bustling with people running, driving helter-skelter as if their life depended on it.
I loved my home. Yes, despite the cacophony of needless honking, overcrowded, messy roads, hot weather (heard it was salubrious many years ago).
The conversations from the vehicles stuck in jams below made it worthwhile.
Parents fighting with children about being late, not doing homework, not studying enough! Children arguing back about increased stress, peer pressure, unreasonable expectations!
Conversations about fabulous holidays, great achievements, pride in their work, love at first sight, eternal love, breakups! Stony silences! Sometimes, companionable.
Life at its fullest and conflicting best.
I often wondered if life was so conflicting why didn’t they put an end to it?
I found the answer in one conversation between an elderly man and a young one.
“I hate life, grandpa. Life’s messy! I want to run away.” The boy gripped the wheel tightly, his face grim.
“Life will follow you everywhere, son. She doesn’t give up.” His grandpa’s voice was genial.
“What if I killed myself?”
The old man’s voice trembled for a second. Then he said in a steely voice, “Beware, boy! Life’s not ours to take. Life’s ours to live.”
Those words struck a chord, a lesson I reminded myself everyday. Today too.
The swaying began a couple of weeks ago. One day, suddenly, I found myself leaning over so much I thought I’d topple over.
Thankfully, I could steady myself quickly. But I felt it the next day, and the day after too. Irregularly but undoubtedly.
The day before yesterday, the wobbly feeling came more than once a day, and yesterday, almost every hour! A few alarmed faces looked up at me.
A few officials inspected me this morning. I recognized one of them. I’d only seen him in tracks and tees before. Today, he was in a suit. The shape of his bald head was unmistakable.
He often met another man late at night when no one was around. The other man always carried a bag full of money. I knew this because the bald man opened the bag every time.
This morning, he was brusque! “It looks fine. This iron pillar is designed to hold a running train, for God’s sake. It cannot topple over if its dimensions vary a little from the approved standard.”
They stood mute under his stern, angry gaze. They nodded and went away.
I too lost myself in the milling life beneath me.
“You’re wobbling again!”
Drat! That pesky fellow!
“Mind your own …..aaahhhhhh!”
I toppled over, falling on a scooter, the child and the mother riding pillion buried under my weight.
I broke the only human law that made sense! I took two lives.