Wrinkles are amazing and I have always been attracted to them. I am not sure if I understand the charm around it but they look to me like mystery treasure houses of stories. May be it was because of my grandmother. As a kid, when she used to tell me a new story every other night, her explanation was that with each wrinkle she gained a new story, and she gained many, to be sure.
But this is not about my grandmother or me but the regular guy I met in the most regular of all places: a Mumbai BEST bus. I love Mumbai and I definitely love the transport. It may be uncomfortable, but it is robust. This happened when like every other, day I hopped into my bus and unlike every other day I managed a seat. I was late and tired and it felt good. The bus was sparsely filled and I managed a window seat with no neighbour to bother me.
“Kuthe, Where?” the coarse voice said and I saw him. A man with wrinkles, and they looked sad and tired. His eyebrows were bushy, silver white and his eyes lonely. I informed him the journey details and here began the challenge. I could not tender the change.
“You either give me the change or get off at the next stop”: not a plan I wanted to hear.
Suddenly the blue boring seats looked like a feather-bed to me.
I told him that I didn’t need change right now and we were at least 30 minutes from my destination, but the wrinkles frowned.
I tried my luck a bit too hard and said that he did not have to return the change at all. I shouldn’t have done that: the wrinkles started to look like snakes and voice became harsher.
“You new kids with some money think too high of yourselves, you think you can buy this bus with your card.” I was embarrassed and decided to keep mum. People around had already started to judge me but I decided to keep looking down.
“Here, take this to BEST office and they will refund you your change.” He gave me a piece of paper and I made sure he could see me carefully putting in my wallet. The wrinkles relaxed a bit but the voice didn’t.
He sat next to me and neither of us talked to each other, but I kept glancing at the amazing art his eyes possessed.
“Hmm, where do you work?”
I said, TCS and the wrinkles went up. I explained it was a Tata company and we created software.
“So you are in computers. Do you make good money?” By now the wrinkles had relaxed and looked more like an ocean with slow tides but my answer that I make decent money did stir those tides a bit.
“Decent enough to buy a conductor, eh?” The wrinkles enjoyed the joke and embarrassment it caused me but somehow I did too.
“My daughter,” he whispered, “she likes one of you guys. He works with phones and goes to work at nights. I don’t know what work makes you sleep when the sun is up.”
I tried to explain him about American shifts but the wrinkles dismissed me.
“She thinks him as modern. Arey! He doesn’t have a home and spends money in alcohol; his parents are at some village in Nasik. Any respectable son will bring his old parents with him and not spend money on alcohol, but my daughter doesn’t understand”. The wrinkles made a million shapes I could not understand but happiness wasn’t one.
“I am just a conductor but I own my own chawl at Dadar. Can you with your AC buy one?
No, you cannot because stability is not what you kids see. You all see glitter, nothing else and we are the so called old fashioned. She asks me to think bigger and likes a guy who has no idea of his future. I ask you what security of life he will give my daughter. What life to their kids?” The wrinkles got tired of all the animations he made and they wanted to sleep.
“Do you think I am wrong?” I said no and agreed with him and added few points. The wrinkles relaxed but were still sad.
My stop came and I stood up. “Listen, give me the paper and here is your change,” he said. I thanked him meekly and went towards the exit. He stared at outside and the wrinkles looked peaceful. Sad, yet peaceful.
By Nitin Govindan
Image Source : Pixabay.com