A Happy Story!

She sat at the last seat; it never occurred to her that she should try and move elsewhere, she was accustomed to it now. She enjoyed watching everybody quietly from there, everyday. People laughing, doodling, yawning. There was some absurd satisfaction she derived from observing them. And she blinked a little less than others. There wasn’t much time left now, and in a few minutes she would be winding her way through the red brick corridors, hands in pockets, like she wanted them to be tucked away from the gaze of others. Too many criss-crosses marked the dry, brittle skin of her palms. Everybody writes a sad story once. Not many like to read one. But this story isn’t about sadness. Our quiet girl was not sad. She just had too many things to think about. The only hitch was she thought about all of them at the same time. Anyway, let’s leave her to wander leisurely where she wishes, and let’s talk about a certain old man, bald and ageing. He liked to sit in front of his house everyday and follow every activity keenly on the road from about 10 am to 4 pm. Must be around sixty, but he never seemed tired of the ritual. Sons were settled, daughters had been married off, and dearest wife had passed away. Lunch and dinner were served on time, and there were no complaints. This old man wasn’t sad either; he just wanted something to think about, the traffic helped to some extent. His skin was dry too, but that was old age, it steals away every drop of moisture, leaving parched unrecognizable stills in place. Today he just saw the latest picture of his grand daughter, contentment laced lightly with affection marked his brows. It was a happy day, after all. The girl meanwhile had reached her car, slid into the backseat, switched on the radio and sighed at the prospect of not being able to do anything but listen to dreadful rap music for the next one hour. Mazes filled her brain, hunger made it worse. She closed her eyes for most of the way back. Seeing the world through closed eyes is an intriguing exercise, she liked to construct things this way, or re construct what she hadn’t enjoyed in the day. When they opened the car was nearly there. She looked out and saw the same old man again; she wondered how he didn’t tire of sitting in the same place day after day. Perhaps he had nobody to love him.  The thought saddened her for a moment. The old man too had seen her, he noticed she looked weary than usual, he wanted to ask her how she was doing, if her college was getting too much for her frail self to handle. He felt sad for a moment too, for though they lived right opposite, things weren’t like they were in his time. The neighbourhood attitudes in the 21st century were based on hesitation and indifference, which, once taken root, only grow. The car went it, the gate was locked. The girl went straight to the kitchen, while the old man was not distracted by a new kind of car on the main road. Yet, though sadness had briefly crossed both their minds, this is not, I repeat, a sad story. It might have been one had the girl seen the man, and not felt anything. Or if the man hadn’t recognized her. Maybe, someday, they might talk, and that certainly would make a happy story.

Rashmi Singh