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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


Submitted: June 03, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 03, 2018




Himanshu came out of his office in Kolkata’s Chowringhee area and looked around. It was early evening and the sun was a ball of bright crimson setting towards the west of the Maidan behind the famed “Monument”. The sky was pale blue with scattered nimbus cloud; specks of flying birds were dotted across the horizon. Despondently, he thought that it was the only eye-catching panorama. The rest was overfilled with huge and noisy traffic with incessant air pollution of belching smoke and fumes.  

But all these were not of any interest to Himanshu. In this multitude, he felt strangely alone… he felt that there was nothing here or elsewhere, which could make his shuffling feet to move. But he had to go… he had to reach Rani- Kuthi where he had a small apartment. He knew that the emptiness of his house would greet him soon enough after his grueling day at the office; this he dreaded.

How he would love to avoid this daily routine and do something else.

With a suppressed sigh, he started…. with hobbling feet … not fast as his left polio-afflicted leg wouldn’t allow that. Hung over his right shoulder, his office bag felt heavy, but he couldn’t shift that to his left shoulder, which too had wasted due to that crippling disease. Moreover, his twisted left hand would not be able to hold on to the straps of that bag.  So, he depended on his right side of his physique… which kept him going … alone.

When Calcutta State Transport bus reached the bus stop, crowded to the hilt with the returning- office crowd, he just stared at it helplessly, a man of his disability really couldn’t squeeze into that space. When the bus thundered away, he shook his head and resigned to wait further, nonetheless, he knew that during the next hour or so, he had no hope to get any unoccupied space in any bus.

There was a vacant seat, however, in the bus stop on which he sat down. Others too were there. He looked down at his mobile which he held tentatively in his left hand, typed a message and then glanced around. Sitting just next to him was a young woman. She was wearing a white saree with black borders and her hair was tied up in a bun. Her black rimmed glasses made her look severe.  She seemed to be also returning from office. As he watched her, she sensed that and shifted her gaze towards him with a slight frown. Their eyes met for some moments then Himanshu withdrew his gaze and looked away. He thought that she was quite pretty.

Almost an hour had since passed, and two buses had gone, but Himanshu couldn’t board them. He noticed that the lady too couldn’t manage to board.

It was getting frustrating to wait like this, which Himanshu knew was quite usual at that time of the evening. But that day was different, and he was simply not able to endure it. Glancing at his watch he decided that he would have to take a taxi. Although he was not happy about spending so much for just returning home, he waved at a taxi. The yellow and black cab stopped and Himanshu asked the driver if he was willing to go to Rani-Kuthi. As he was about to enter the vehicle that lady with black-rimmed glasses came forward.

She said, “Can I share this ride with you….  I also live that side…” Her voice was melodious and quite inaudible in the din but Himanshu heard her. He could even make out her words.

He nodded, “Yes… no problem…. You can join me.”  Then a little unnecessarily he added, “… I don’t think you will be able to take a bus in this traffic…”

The taxi was winding through Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road, but there were more stoppages than any meaningful movement. Initially, the lady was gazing out of the left window at her side, but when there was a prolonged immobility near a traffic junction that she uttered a noise of irritability and glanced at Himanshu.

He said, “This is the life in a modern metro… what can we do… nothing!”

She nodded and was about to look away when he said, “I am staying near “Bot-Tola” in Akash Building. Where do you stay? By the way, I’m Himanshu. ….”

She replied, “I am Saira, I stay near “Usha- Gate”, a little ahead.”

The ice was broken, and they continued with their tête-à-tête for next more than half an hour till their cab reached the first destination.

While alighting from the cab, Himanshu tripped and hurriedly held on to the door to support himself. Saira watched silently.

Next day evening Himanshu was returning home from his office and as usual was in the same bus stand. That day was Saturday and the rush was comparatively less. Despite that, there was no seat vacant in the stand and Himanshu was compelled to remain standing with some difficulty.  Nobody cared to offer him any seat.  About twenty minutes had passed when he saw Saira walking towards the bus stop; he waved at her and she came to him.

“As usual… same problem?” She smiled.

“No… no…. today is Saturday … should be ok.” he smiled back.

Over the next month or so they met often, always at the bus stand.

For Himanshu, this was a boon… a chance to shed his loneliness… to get companionship.

Himanshu was open in sharing his personal details; he was a software engineer from Bhubaneswar Regional Engineering College, this was his first job in Kolkata with an IT firm and his parents together with his younger sister were staying in Bhubaneswar. 

Saira too had pitched in; she was an accounts officer in a merchant's office and lived in a one-room apartment with her widowed father. He was a retired military soldier now actively running his modest grocery shop. His business took away most of his spare time. She was the only child of this small family.

As the acquaintance grew, the relationship started to become deeper. That evening, in a coffee shop in Park-street, Saira said, “Himanshu… we have been talking about so many things, but I have never asked about your debility… I am sorry if I am inquisitive…”  

Himanshu finished his cup in silence and looked away for some moments; he saw her looking at him intently, then he closed his eyes. It seemed to Saira that the question was hurting him deeply, but he eventually opened his eyes.

“Saira….” His voice was choked with emotion, “…. You have asked about greatest tragedy in my life…my disability… that crippling deadly and infectious disease … polio…. You have seen what it has done to me…”

He feebly lifted his left wasted arm, “Who knew that this would happen to me… I was a brilliant student in my college… had a great future…. I was a hero of some sort before my friends and professors… exams were my forte….”

He stopped for some moments, perhaps the words eluded him, then, “…  but life had something else stored for me, totally different, totally wretched. And this I understood when I had this polio attack during the final year of my engineering. I was waylaid for long and my whole existence seemed to be breaking away… but God was great… I could attempt my last exam and clear them… just about! Gone were the days of my academic glory!”

Saira’s eyes were moist as she listened.

Himanshu was saying, “Then I began my new life. But little did I realize that my exams were not over… my toughest exam had begun. … God knows how I will conquer it…?”

The waiter came to their table and Himanshu ordered for another round of coffee. When he had gone, Himanshu couldn’t begin.

Saira said, “Yes Himanshu… please go on…”

She touched his limpid left hand resting on the table, with tenderness.  Perhaps her feeling of love for him reached him through this touch.

Himanshu stared at his afflicted hand for a long time, then said, “In this exam of Life I have started failing… my final year fall in my marks had badly affected me. When I started to search for a job in this highly competitive market I realized soon enough that although people empathized with my incapacity and my tragic tale… they were not willing to offer me a job. I did not get one in Bhubaneswar after months of trying and was compelled to look elsewhere and found one in Kolkata. It is not a wonderful job, but I hope it will sustain me and my family in Orissa… I am the only breadwinner… I am not very sure how long I can go on in this alien city.”

Saira shook her head, “Himanshu, I can understand your feeling, but I also sense that you are giving up… you don’t want to fight your battle of life… this is not correct…”

Himanshu frowned a bit, “I don’t know…. it is easy to give advice… but when one goes through the hard experience of life… one understands it is easier said than done.”

 A week had since passed, that evening it was raining, but there was no dearth of office- returning crowd.

Himanshu waited as usual for the bus… it was a dreadful day at the office… the promotions had been announced in the morning and Himanshu was left out despite what he thought was his better performance compared to the co-worker, Nilesh. But the management had thought fit to elevate Nilesh. Himanshu was so upset, in his mind, he had the nagging feeling that his disability was his enemy… he was constantly looked down upon by his peers and seniors. This was the culmination of his physical tragedy. When he went to his boss Ritish, Sir, to speak about this, he was severely reprimanded.

Like other days he expected Saira to be there at the stop, but she was not. He felt depressed and alone.

Few buses had passed by… there was so much of rush that he could never have hoped for alighting on anyone.  Time was passing by and it looked that more dark clouds were gathering in the sky and there was every chance of rain coming down more heavily.

The next bus reached the stop and there was a mad rush of the commuters towards it. After a few moments of hesitation, Himanshu held on to his bag tightly and ran forward… the road was slippery and there were potholes…. these couldn’t be any hindrance for a normal man, Himanshu was not …. He reached the bus, put his right leg on the footboard and grabbed the railing support with his right hand to hoist himself up when suddenly he felt that the bus had started moving. And then something gave away. His hand slipped, and the right leg couldn’t balance the body. 

There were shouts from some of the passengers as they saw that a semi-paralyzed man fell off the bus on the road and the rear wheel went over his right leg. Himanshu cried out loudly in pain and then a darkness descended upon his consciousness.

When Himanshu regained his sense, he was in the hospital.

Saira was there, standing near the foot of the bed.

After the doctors had gone, she came forward and touched his forehead gently. His right leg was fractured and soon would be cast in plaster and many bruises on his body had been covered with bandages.

Although he was in pain, with pain-killing injection it was tolerable.

Saira said soothingly, “How are you feeling Himanshu… I was so scared when I came to know about this….”

Himanshu smiled wanly with some difficulty and said, “Thank God that I am alive…. I thought that the bus would totally crush me under its tyres…. but only leg was hurt...” He looked down, “My left leg is already useless and now my right leg too will be gone…. What sin did I do to deserve this?... To become totally invalid?” 

Saira sat down on the bed and gently kissed him, “No Himanshu…. Your right leg will be normal again and you will be able to go back to your routine.”

He shook his head, “No… I am broken… I can’t fight this world anymore….”

He turned his face away.

About six weeks later Himanshu was discharged from the hospital. He had recovered sufficiently to be able to use his right leg and his other bruises had also healed. The doctors admitted that due to his lack of robust health his recovery had been slow.

They had taken a taxi and were going to Saira’s house.

On the way, Himanshu was in a meditative mood. Sadness had set in. He was not sure what would await him in the office, the next day. Already he had exhausted his leave and his prolonged absence was without any pay.

Saira sitting beside him was looking at him, “You don’t look well… Himanshu.”

He sighed and said, “I am thinking about my future…. I don’t know if I can hold on to my job… and this accident has really shaken me… what will happen to me?”

Saira said, “You are not the only one to face this kind of problem…. Think of so many people in this city who may be facing worse situations than you…. Many of them could be confronting their difficulties with positivity, with strength in their heart…”

Himanshu shook his head, “Show me one person who faces more problems than me…. And he is happy… Then I will agree with you… it’s so easy to preach….”

Seeing Saira’s dejected look, he reached forward and held her hand, “But I appreciate your concern for me. I am with you!”

Saira remained silent.

On reaching her house she rang the doorbell.

A little later the door swung open. It was opened by a man on a wheelchair; a middle-aged man with twinkling eyes, having salt and pepper hair neatly brushed back, handlebar moustache, an aquiline nose and a face adorned with a smile. His both legs were covered with a white shawl, but Himanshu could make out that they were non-existent. The thumb of his right hand was missing too. His left eye was covered by a black patch.

A man who had been wrecked in military action…. he was a war survivor!

He was Captain Mukherjee, Saira’s father.

He clasped Himanshu’s right hand in a firm and friendly grip and welcomed him.

Over the next few months, he came to understand that the good Captain, with so many handicaps, was facing his life with such equanimity and optimism that he was an inspiration for all who came in his contact. Himanshu also understood that Saira was at his side …every moment of his life … supporting him, cajoling him and holding his hand.

That winter evening Saira was waiting at the bus stop. As usual, the evening rush was mind-boggling. Unobtrusively a silver Toyota stopped near the stand; a driver was at the wheel. Alighting from the car a man walked with shuffling feet towards her…many heads turned to look at him. Saira looked too, with a slight smile on her face. He came near her and took her hand.

She said, “Congratulations, Himanshu!” 

Himanshu celebrated with his wife and father- in- law his elevation as Senior Engineering Manager of Expedient Software Ltd.





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