THE ULTIMATE DESTINATION
Bustling busy road. Sun played its part as much as it could – the time being half an hour past its maximum efficacy. Cursing my car, I sat there amidst dirty sweat-macerated faces, unkempt hairs, manner less poverty-stricken people. No matter which face that I see, it’s always the same – soaked in perspiration, faces full of sadness and partial madness. I felt it very clear that I wanted to get the hell out of this sick and gawky environment, and get to my office.
Pulling out my iPhone in my right hand, while my left hand is employed in carrying my suitcase, I dialled to my client’s number. While the other was ringing, I noticed that a little boy, of around 12 or 13 strained his neck muscles and peered into the prodigious entity in my palm. It boosted my ego a bit – Maslow’s hierarchical rule; giving in to my surging self-esteem, I stylishly held the phone to reach the other end. All those to whom I’m acquainted with, are regale, at least, in terms of their opulence, if not by birth.
Sensing the other end’s “Hello!” I spoke, ‘Hello Mr. Clark, this is Arun. I, I’m sorry, sir.’ I sensed a million eyes feast on me, as I spoke in English, for, to these ears, English is but a wonder, ‘My car faltered. I’m in railway station bus stand, sir. I’ll be there in,’ I realized that I don’t know the travel time and hence I abridged my decibels to a level, as if I were lamenting, and said, ‘err, maybe in an hour.’
I hung up. Seeing a squab figured person, I felt my facial muscles set in a gawky fashion again; I shifted my frame in an awry manner in that corroded metallic seat as if reassuring my place. I don’t know why I felt so, but I wanted to dash out of that place, as soon as possible. I’m not agoraphobic, or demophobic, for I’ve seen hundreds of conferences, addressed to thousands of ears, but this particular place, packed with people – of low-profiled people – chocks my living. I wished that a bus with very less number of people should come soon, not to mention that I already missed a few buses, for the fear of being amidst masses of nauseating bodies, their cacophonous conversations – their ranting, to be more specific – for conversation, as defined by Jeffrey Archer is 50% listening and 50% speaking which can never be expected from these illiterate crowd. Though I know that not all bus-travellers are illiterates, my conceit enjoyed to think only in that way.
As I waited, everybody’s centre of attention was diverted from cursing the Sun’s swelter to appreciating a clumsy looking street-dancer, who came out of nowhere. I’ve experienced this feeling a million times – the thirst to seek attention; but my thirst were all for hedonistic purposes, seeking to graduate my self-esteem; but his venture is for his tummy, the inevitable. My efforts, even if not successful, won’t kill me, but his, should he fail, will kill his squad – a girl of about 12 or 13, a child of around 2, and himself – both probably will be his daughters; the lunacy of the government! It should impose compulsory family planning for beggars – my mind shared its views.
I watched their circus, partly in enjoyment, and partly in repugnance; the bigger girl did some tricks like throwing tea cups, or something that is shaped like cups, and conjured it for the merriment of the crowd. She looked so adroit at that trick. She managed to successfully complete the conjuration for around 10 minutes and gave her dad a look; he then pranced forward and made a few tumbles, well spaced and uniform, using his hands; then he lifted his 2 year old daughter in his right palm – both her soles purely standing on his single palm – and raised his arm over his head. It was evident that he was struggling, but he was compelled to do it. The child opened her arms wide and made a few dance moves – the ramifications of his training her. If the volume of his palm is neglected, then it will appear as if the girl is dancing in levity above the man’s head. Many such tricks filled the time.
I realized that I didn’t even notice if any bus came by, and cussed at my own imbecility. Then the man sent his bigger daughter who went onto every single person in the bus stand and asked for alms. A few dithered initially but gave afterwards, and a few just turned their faces the other side as if they’re not chary of her presence. I too gave a 5 rupee note, glaring aversely at her black face and missing incisors as she smiled gratefully.
As I was about to go, I watched a man speak to the conjurer. The other one seemed decent in his checked white shirt, and was saying something to which the conjurer nodded. Out of curiosity – one of the basic qualities of the six sensed creatures – I decided to assume the role of an eavesdropper.
The juggler said, ‘No,’ in formal deference.
‘See, your generation has gone in this way. Do you want your child also to be a beggar? Do you want their generation also to stink like yours? You must work to uplift their generation. Forget your generation, it’s already over. The next generation, your children also should not suffer, shouldn’t toil for daily food as you do.’
‘Yes, sir, but how? I-’
‘I own a lathe shop. You seem to be having good strength. Come with me now. I’ll give you the job of a turner. Monthly 5000 salary. How about that? I also know a friend whose house is open for rent. I’ll make arrangements for the advance money and rent for 3 months. Thereafter, you should take care. Most importantly, provide them education.’ While he said so, the performer fell to his feet and cried.
I realized that I missed my bus again. But this time it didn’t disturb me. I decided that I too will make change. I subconsciously said, ‘I will take care of their education. Let them both study well. I’ll sponsor for their higher education also.’ I concluded that it must be subconscious, under the influence of some unknown inner exhortation, because I became aware of what I said, only after I completed saying it.
I saw a car come and halt before me. The window pane went down and a beaming face materialized from inside; I knew the driver – Mr. Clark’s driver. Mr. Clark had sent his own driver to help me out. He gestured me to get in. I nodded and gave my address card to the entertainer, asking him to meet me on Sunday evening, and went. As the engine rambled and the car started to get out of that place, I felt some sort of indescribable, strange, but divine feeling spread throughout me. I felt that my race had started – the race to contentment – the ultimate destination.