Sunday, May 17, 2009 

Several Hours and Umpteen Days

The screech of tyres, the growing knot of people in the middle of the road, drew his attention away from the dappled gold in the green tapestry of trees lining the road. His colleague, till then gabbling inanities about the weekend, went slack-jawed and pasty in shock. He told the driver to carry on to the office and return, and got down in the middle of the slowing traffic.

             It was a young man. Somebody had removed the helmet that was now superfluous, and his face had nothing but a faint surprise in the arch of his brows. The eyes were closed, the breath shallow. Around the knot, the Monday morning traffic eddied and then continued. The 2-3 people who'd stopped were trying to lift him, somebody opening a waterbottle, looking for somebody to take action.

             He flagged a rick down by the expedient of catching a bar as it slowed, and refusing to let go. He flashed a couple of hundreds at the driver, who kept looking terrified and mumbling refusals. He lifted the young man : surprisingly light. He did not know if he still breathed, and didn't care to check. He awkwardly entered the rick, and told him to head for the hospital at the end of the road. The auto weaved nervously in and out of traffic, the driver touching the framed goddess on the dash every now and then. Five minutes, and they were at the hospital.

             He lifted the man gently, walked in, with a sense of relief, laid him on a stretcher in the hallway. People rushed, and thankfully, they began to wheel him without any delay. He fished in the jeans and brought out the usual flotsam of existence : a plastic comb, a licence, a balled up kerchief, a wallet and thankfully, a mobile. New message, it said, and he pressed the button. A smutty SMS opened up, inane jokes meant to cheer up a Monday. He dialled the number, and a voice asked him if he was late. Listen, he said. Main hospital se bol rahaa hoon. Your friend is hurt, badly. Come here immediately, and tell his family. Even to himself, his voice sounded unfeeling. I'm his brother, the voice on the other side quavered. Whatever, get here, he said and cut the connection before realising he hadn't said where. He handed over the phone to the receptionist as it rang again, and she started explaining addresses and locations. She looked at him questioningly, and he pointed to where the stretcher had been. I brought him, he said, give the phone to whoever comes. And he handed over the remainder items. She pulled a pad and began writing down the details. He gave name, showed ID, wrote his address, and came out.

             The rick was still there, and the driver shambled over mumbling. "Bura na manna bhaisaab, subah ka waqt hai, problem mein nahiin phas sakta tha". He nodded, weary in soul. "Bach jaayega ? " He shrugged. He sat in the rick, and the driver, sensing his mood, silently retraced their path. His car awaited him, and he went back to change the dress now specked with blood.

             That evening was one of their companionable silences punctuated by his occasional monologues and her rare replies. He was reflecting on his last translation of Faiz and the one commencing. He startled himself when he suddenly said " Don't say goodbye, OK ? Just leave when you decide to".

"Mmmmm ?"

He sighed. "No goodbyes", he said. Then realized that she didn't get the context. He started to explain, and trailed off, knowing the futility. "Just this. No goodbyes. Just say going, if you can, and go. Or just go."

"So you have been thinking about my leaving".

He smiled then; it suddenly struck him as amusing in a way. "Since the day I first spoke to you", he said.

 "Why? “

“Too short a date”, he murmured, but to himself. He felt suddenly tired. I’m sorry, he said. It’s been a long day.

“And what will you do when I go?”

He shrugged. Hope is the blanket one pulls over tighter in the far reaches of the night, while the heart knows the silence masks the pain that creeps in soft-footed.

“Inko sholon ke rajaz apna pataa toh denge 

Khair, hum tak woh na pahunchein bhi, sadaa toh denge

Duur kitni hai subah, bataa toh denge”


“Mmmm. Translate.”

I shall remain unFaized, he was about to say, but checked himself. She was liable to explode at his puns when angry.

“We shall send burning verse to tell them of us

Even if they never come, at least they will call out to us.

At least they’ll tell us how far the morning is”.


Much later, when revisited this favourite of Faiz’s, he realized the problem, the reason that he was unable to let go. He was seeking a defining moment, a goodbye.

 Relationships, unlike rambling poems, do not necessarily end in killer lines.