The door bell rang just when I was about to step out. It was the courier guy. Scribbled my name in running script on the device and then on the list that he was carrying. The man’s credit card statement.
Locked the metal latch and rushed down the stairs. I was late by five minutes.
Underneath the banyan tree adjacent to the Hanuman temple, a rickshaw-puller was enjoying his afternoon siesta. On any other day I would have let him enjoy his nap, but not today. The girl will fire me from mommy-hood. Woke him up and he was more than happy to give me a ride.
Red light at the crossing. The incessant honking just puts me off and the best way I deal with it is by getting zoned out. While the ears were on ‘off’ mode, the eyes observed more sharply.
Sitting on the pavement was this bearded man in his early forties. Dressed in saffron. Fake rudrakshas around his neck. A wooden kamandal (water pot), a staff (a long walking stick) and a potli (cloth bundle) lay beside him. He was adjusting the sandalwood pulp on his forehead using a pocket mirror. The beard sweeping his hairy chest ran down till his potbelly. I wondered what would be the amount that leaves a healthy man with no choice but to bare his body in this cold winter afternoon.
She ran past the rickshaw. In a hurry. Her woollen shawl was trying to catch up to her feet while her torn handbag was sliding down her shoulders. Running for life? I thought. But that smile… The incomplete smile on her face meant something else. She was running non-stop. Not even bothered about the running traffic or the abuses hurled at her by the riders. The light turned green. As we crossed the roads I noticed that she had stopped running. The Metro Feeder bus on the bus stand on the opposite road had left by then. For some reason I looked back again at her. This time our eyes met and we smiled at each other.
A school bus overtook us from the right. Just before it left out of sight I saw her. A cute little girl with two ponytails waving at me. I waved back. Her twinkling eyes and toothless smile. Precious! May they stay forever. I prayed silently.
The school gate approached. As I kept the tenner and the five rupee coin on the palm of the rickshaw guy, he bowed and smiled. It was his rightful money. He had earned it. But grateful he was. Just as I was. For the day. For the ride. For the people. For the experiences. For the lessons.
So much in just ten minutes. And then I realized it. It was the ability to turn off what was not necessary, what was not worth my time, what was negatively impacting me. The honking.
Thankfully the daughter emerged only after two minutes. Her smile as she spotted me at the gate was another precious moment to add to the balance sheet of this life.