The truck driver

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It was in this rather glib state of mind that Jim had a chance encounter with a poor man, a truck driver, who gave him a glimpse of the desires that dwell in the deepest layers of the human heart...

Submitted: March 23, 2007

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Submitted: March 23, 2007

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Liberty is the highest political end. — Lord Acton

I.

A tortuous series of events had brought Jim, a young man in his twenties, to take admission to an institute of higher studies. His family had opposed it, yet he stood firm in his interest for higher learning, and was now studying for a postgraduate degree in the humanities. He was a seeker after truth - about himself, about things and people around him, about man, and about society.

Jim was built slightly, rather thin. Fairer than others around, with very fine, brown hair, he stood in striking contrast to his friends and others in general, and never failed to attract attention. Nature had made him physically soft, but rather firm in will. What failed him was his weak voice, for he spoke softly, and very often could not be heard clearly at all. Jim was an introspective man, closer to his inner self than to people and his surroundings. To others, he appeared to live more in his thoughts than in reality, almost a personification of Descartes' principle "I think, therefore I am!"

Apart from seeking truth, Jim was also desperately trying to find his own place in the world. A place where he could live freely engage with his pursuits in solitude, a home that he could call his. It was a way of life he had imagined himself living while in high school - a home away from the rest of the world, where he could freely pursue his interests. Too lofty a thought, too convenient, bordering rather on the luxurious, as some readers would say.

Jim often went on walks, and had formed a habit, during evenings, to occasionely walk down the narrow road that went behind his college building, reaching the banks of a small river which was now nearly extinct, though flowing opulently when it rained. On the other side of the river bank stood a dense row of trees which provided him with a scenic, unperturbed view of nature. Just the right place for him to spend some 'quality time', in the reader's language.

It was in this rather glib state of mind that Jim had a chance encounter with a poor man, a truck driver, who gave him a glimpse of the desires that dwell in the deepest layers of the human heart, in the mind of a common man, living far away from his lofty, dreamish world of thoughts.


II.


It was an evening like any other day, with nothing special; just another day when the sun was about to set in an hour, putting the world to sleep, making them ready to face another day of its heat and shine. Jim locked his room, situated on the ground floor, and walked out wearing loose, cotton clothes, wearing casual slippers on his feet.

The way to the river was short, and passed through a small habitat, with a line of shops and small businesses on either side. His milk supplier lived on the same street with his wife, tending buffaloes in a small enclosure near the house itself. Jim reached the river bank, and occupied his routine seat, a short distance from a small temple of shiva that stood on the bank, a normal place for temples in India.

He surveyed the scene on the other side of the river. It looked alright, just as things had been earlier. Some village children went about swimming in the dirty waters, a usual sight in Indian villages everywhere. A local man wearing a towel could be seen walking toward a broken wall on the sideline of the temple. For a near moment, his bare, manly buttocks caught Jim's eyes as he tried to change into his shorts. Jim reacted like a man would, amused and trying to wish the view away; had they been of a female – his eyes would have been fixed and glued.

At the same time, unknown to Jim, a rather shabbily clad young man, in his late twenties, had settled down at a short distance from him. They were at a talking distance, yet far enough to ignore each other's presence. The man had rough hands, was rather dark, and appeared to have taken a short break from his routine work.

"Nice place, right?", the young, poor-looking man said, without even looking at Jim.

Jim hesitated for a moment. Was he going to talk to a man who appeared to be a manual worker of some sort? He had hardly ever done that before.The serene atmosphere, however, had dulled the harshness of his senses, as it never fails to do to men, and lowered the barriers of that instinctive protection from undue interaction with others that city dwelleres tend to develop over time.

"Yeah," Jim replied, looking straight at the man and then turning away, yet quickly shifting his body position to show his approval and that he wished to communicate further.

"Are you in that college?" the man inquired. He looked as if he knew about it.

"Yes," Jim replied, nodding and looking at him.

The poor man fell silent for a while, then spoke again with renewed curiosity:

"Are there girls also in your college?" "Do you study with them?"

"Yes," Jim answered, with his curiosity aroused.

"So where do they live?" the man asked in a tone that reflected complete ignorence of college life.

"They have a separate hostel." Jim was now quite amused with his ignorence, and went ahead to inquire about his trade.

"I am a truck driver, the young man revealed.

This seemed to freeze their conversation. Jim wasn't sure what topic he could talk about with him. The two of them continued to survery the surroundings for a while, even as a cool breeze blew around them.

"Look at those birds!" the man looked up and said. Jim followed his eyes.

"How free these birds are. If only men could fly and become like them! How free his life would be then, " the man spoke looking at the dark blue sky. It was a common enough thought, linking birds with freedom. Yet the man appeared to talk from his heart. He spoke freely, and tried to reveal the truth that lay in him.

Jim, as glib as he always was with his thoughts, tried to dismiss the man's idea. He tried to say, "But these birds live a life of hardship, forever struggling to gather their daily food. Their life is hardly desirable for men." Yet, words froze in his mouth, and he let the man stay in his thoughts.

After a while, both of them got up and walked out of the bank together. The man's truck stood nearby, and he offered Jim a ride back, which he appreciated but refused with a smile, preferring to walk back on his way.

Jim returned to his room and soon forgot the incidence. Yet, he was surprised to find a common ground between him and the young truck driver. The desire to live a free life is planted by nature in every individual human heart. It is shared by all, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, man or woman alike. It is not for nothing that it is the highest political end for man. The road to freedom is perhaps the only way worth taking.

 


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