As we relive each fragment of the past, we tend to emphasize and imbue it with a larger-than-life meaning, something which seemed insignificant in the first place. Even if we let the past flow next to us, a fraction of the populace always attempts to shrug it off. I think that is who I am.
It was supposed to be a simple matter of give-and-take in every manner. With a given time to catch up on after running my errands for the festivities, I needed to reach my destination as soon as possible. As the tuk-tuk driver kept frantically searching for any one passenger in the vicinity, his eyes locked upon the person flaunting his oversized leather boots and bathed in his own sweat.
“Brother, come aboard. No need to think. I will take you wherever you want to go,” he reassured me, as he approached me from the back.
I felt relieved at the offer. I needed to reach on time, I reminded myself as I jumped aboard in no time at all.
While this may sound a bit too crude and commonplace, gratitude is something we can never measure up as per our social standing. Even in the most desperate of situations, as we attempt to make up for something or the other, we realize we ought to resort to it. Compromise, as we call it, is not one of the aspects we usually pride upon. And yet, it comes unto our presence with sheer audacity. Because there is always something in the lacking. And though it emerges from a mutual sense of solace in an unknown soul or a blatant aspect of sheer altruism, we aspire for that tiny sense of fulfillment that doesn’t often come our way.
“Brother. Do you have some water with you? I am terribly thirsty,” he implored me.
“Sorry. I don’t have any. Would this help?” I asked him, as I handed over a wet tissue.
He took one, as he examined it with pure wonder.
“What do you do with this exactly?”
“Just dap it around your mouth. Won’t quench your thirst, but it will suffice.”
He carefully used the corners, as he pocketed it in his shirt pocket.
“Can I take this home with me, Sir?”
I was mildly amused, as I nodded slightly. He beamed in gratitude, as he kept on yammering out in broken bits of speech, about his bygone student years. An often-ignored middle-aged remnant who kept trailing along the well-established campus roads of Delhi University, he could now be seen in an altogether different light.
While I gradually felt an affinity towards him, his constant cries of ‘Metro…Metro” had fallen on the busy wayfaring din of the city. The stop that I was supposed to go to didn’t have any kindred passengers. While the others cited out a different destination, he would exclaim, “It’s the same thing! Only different stations!”
But was it a case of misinformed loyalty to the passenger? Or did he assume that he owed me in some way? If that was the case, then I might have failed him. I was not going to remember him later towards the day.
As I stepped down from the vehicle, I realized that he would vanish from my mind by the time I take a turn into the next street. Having no sense of allegiance for him at this moment, I chose to walk away without a tip, even though he might have lost his other passengers for my sake. This constructed self was destined to be lost again in that dusty street, with heaps of misshaped pakodas and paranthas not to be savored by the either of us. One is constrained by the money he had and I, with no time in hand. By now, I should have moved along to my other obligations without sparing a thought for him.
And thus, this remembrance will be a contradiction in itself. Because I haven’t forgotten.