That day Doon was witnessing a heavy downpour, and like other times that we met, which was twice. This time too, we planned to see each other at the peak of the season.
In the last two meetings, we endured the wrath of the scorching summer month of May, and the hot and humid weather of June. Which made our face turn tomato-red with a flush of pink on our cheeks.
Hence we thought, why should we miss out on monsoon magic? So this time it was our turn to experience the thunder, rain and the beauty of the rich verdure, that comes to life during monsoon season.
Read Chapter I (Part 1) by clicking here- The Man with the Saddest Eyes
In haste, I left my home to catch the early morning bus, heading towards the city centre Clock Tower. After a little confusion, we finally met and decided to go for bird watching.
Since the weather was clear and there was little to no chances of rainfall. Like school kids, we marched our way to the crammed roads of Karanpur. Which was flooded with students and pedestrians, moving hither-thither in different directions.
I recalled all those times when I used to cross the same old roads for visiting my college, which was worthless given the fact, that how poor our education system is.
Based on how well you soak up the book and your wisdom is decided by a few numbers. Whilst there is little to no contribution of teachers to put their ideas on the table.
The good ones weren’t paid well. While the mediocre ones bagged new titles every year, from teacher to coordinator, and then to the head of the department. I sighed, missing my favourite teacher, who was a gem in the coal mine.
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While I was spurting my thoughts and having a soliloquy with myself. My fellow traveller was gazing at the madness of this city life.
When we took a few steps further and moved into the city, sudden showers welcomed us with pearl-sized raindrops, which soon flooded the street.
We opened the umbrella, our only saviour for the day, and went to sip a jar of pomegranate juice. After which we hurried towards the bus stop, facing Survey of India office, which is in desperate need of a post-colonial makeover.
Being a connoisseur of the building of Survey of India, I enjoy watching the old lofty trees erected in its compound, singing the tales of the bygone era.
During that time, the walls of the building were demolished to widen the road. And one could easily see the parasite grass growing near its boundary.
While waiting for the bus to take us to our destination. My wandering eyes rowed and met with a face, that couldn’t be forgotten. “He was the old man with the saddest eyes,” I told him.
I don’t like staring at someone because when someone does that to me. It makes me feel anxious, especially when they don’t break the gaze. You can feel their filthy eyes, seeing you as prey to pounce on.
However, I was happy to see the old man after so many days. So I told my fellow companion, “Look at that old man, I wrote a piece on him. As I used to see him every day, walking aimlessly on Tapovan road. Doesn’t he look familiar?”
My person smiled as he saw him, walking around in his tattered slippers, keeping his spine straight. I added, “See how much strength he carries in those sad eyes, that they shine bright in broad daylight.”
Since we both are ardent observers, we studied him from afar, without trespassing into his territory. Or breaking his solemn peace, which his face reflected, that he dislikes the most. In my heart, I cried, “I feel he is a loner like us.”
Soon, the thread of conversation broke off, as I saw our bus. We paved our way into it. But to our dismay, the bus dropped us midway, and our destination was far away from it.
The rain didn’t stop and it continued to chime on my silver hoops. Since he is a couple of inches taller than me, he carried the umbrella like other times.
Though, the first time, when he asked to hold the umbrella for me. I was deeply touched by his chivalry but I denied his help.
Because my psychedelic-print umbrella bore every colour of the rainbow. And the colours were so much popping, that it looked hella girly.
Varied colours such as bubblegum pink, violet, grey, and neon yellow were crisscrossing each other, creating a ripple effect on the umbrella.
Last year my father was looking for an umbrella to combat the torrential rain. But he was very specific about wanting a “black umbrella.” I thought, why isn’t he taking my umbrella, when he is a dire need of one.
But soon I realised, Oh! he thinks it’s too girly for him and isn’t age-appropriate. This clue was enough for me to figure out, why he needed a black umbrella at firsthand.
I smiled at his innocence since he didn’t want to say it out loud or reject my umbrella. So a maroon umbrella came in handy for him, which was idyllically lying in the drawer.
This was one of the reasons, why I refused the help of my fellow companion. But it wasn’t the only one!
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Some men usually don’t like carrying an umbrella or offering help, and when they ask for it, it is a formality. Whereas, some don’t feel comfortable in expressing care for their partner in public. Because of the weird gazes they get.
So I thought I’ll carry it for us, it’s not a big deal, I do it all the time. But he insisted and on denying, he gently took the umbrella from my hand and carried it for me.
I felt happy and that happiness seeped inside my bones. It was care and affection in its true form, and what else a human can desire for? I’m a simple person, I only like things that have a soul.
Without having to say anything, we walked on the waterlogged roads. It felt nice as we saw people moving in chaos, some rash driving and throwing rainwater on others.
While some worried about their clothes getting dirty, and their hair and make-up getting spoiled. But we were at peace both from inside and outside.
Although our clothes were now soaked in rainwater and sewage. And we being germophobics would quickly want to change into a fresh pair of clothing, any other day. But not today!
Because we knew, if we didn’t cherish this day and missed the rain, we will miss a memory that’s too precious to lose.
On moving further, we found the road was blocked, as the water was gushing from the nearby stadium. We had to halt for a moment. So we decided to take refuge under the corrugated roof of an old shop.
The rain was in its full glory and we waited for it to stop. On the opposite was a boy sitting on the stairs, and a few pigeons, owning the terrace of a playschool.
We saw the same things and felt the same, as our senses were in sync with each other. There was an adrenaline rush in our veins.
While observing the environment around us, my eyes caught the sight of the man with the saddest eyes. He was walking on foot from the bus stop to Tapovan road.
This time, we both were eager to see him and noticed his movement. I told my companion, “I told you he walks alone every day. I want to ask him if he’s okay? but it might bother him.”
He agreed and told me, “The old man certainly has a direction marked in his head, where he is going right now. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have chosen to walk on these lonely roads in such foul weather.”
I nodded my head and saw the figure of the old man fading into the narrow lane, occupied by unknown faces.
“There’s a man with the saddest eyes, who walks like me,
Sometimes in hurry, other times in worry,
I believe he is a stranger,
But not the strangest fellow to have crossed my path.
He always walks in his slippers whose straps are falling apart,
Which he often tries to fix it with his bare hands.
Look, he is doing it again, in this rain.
Is he a detective?
Or a maniac that walks like a zombie on the deserted road.
Does he have a home or he lives alone?
My person noticed him, while lending an ear to my rambling.
He saw him and painted a different picture.
Telling me, he isn’t a detective but a simple man, who has plans on his hand.
He is following the road, that takes him home.
He has a destination, even if he’s alone.
I noticed his white shirt, which like other times was covered in grease and dirt.
But before we could see his whereabouts,
He was eaten up by the fog and was nowhere to be found.
The old man was lost in a blink of an eye, hiding mystery in his eyes.”
When my fellow companion and I parted our ways. He called me, enquiring if I was fine because it was a bumpy ride back home. I told him, I was well and asked him if he is back home. But he was interested in learning more about the old man.
He told me, he read what I wrote and felt the essence of it. And how old age will hit us all and when it does, make sure it doesn’t make us dry and helpless.
But fills our heart with the same strength and passion, that the lone man with the saddest eyes, carries in his heart to follow his destination. And that destination shouldn’t be made of hate but love, infinite love for all.