There’s so much that can happen in the first week of the new year. And quite a lot of it does happen. Some of it happens later, and some things just lay down in the pipeline. What strikes me as the most compelling thought of my new year is how self absorbed we all seem to be in this first week. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s ideally supposed to be a flag, this first week. A brochure that outlines everything that’s going to happen this year.
So this story is on that same thought, and as much as i would’ve liked it to happen, it didn’t. Which means it’s fiction, but that doesn’t mandatorily categorize it as a lie.
I was walking down the street, and it was close to midnight. I knew this wasn’t a good idea to begin with, but a man does as a man pleases. So here i was, in the middle of darkness, dressed in an old jacket, unshaven, looking for company. It’s what you do when you’re sad, alone, penniless and scared. The usual drill.
Let me explain myself on all four counts.
Sad? Because I’m living far from my parents, because I miss my old friends, because I recently closed my doors to a lovely lady who loved me more than herself, and I on the other hand, professed my feelings to a creature who refuses to acknowledge certain realities to herself.
Alone? Well, the sad part pretty much explains the loneliness, and it’s aided by the fact that i live alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Bangalore city, the town where almost nobody’s alone. Except yours truly.
Penniless? It’s not entirely true, but the truth lurks nearby. It is, after all the third day of the new year, which makes up for the fact that i spent a considerable chunk of my salary on New Year’s eve..
Scared? This one’s interesting. You see, staying alone, although it gives you creative, explorative, and all other sorts of crappy freedom, it still keeps this one belief alive in you, and as much as i hate to admit it, i believe in the supernatural. Watching a horror flick never helps much, and to top it off, when the local electric supply decides to play a little game of hide and seek, you’re as good as doomed. So, on the fateful night, the authorities made sure that i woke up in darkness, frantically searching for my contact lenses. And when i found them, the only thing i could think of was to jump off my bed, put on some clothes and run for the streets.
I did exactly that, and that’s how i ended up here, without any crossroads, just a scared guy in an open street. The facts and thoughts described above were playing around with my mind when it started drizzling. I did what my natural instincts dictated. I started looking for shelter. And I found my nearest sanctum about fifty metres away, near the entrance of a local park. There was a bench, and i saw one person sitting on it, with his back turned towards me. He appeared to be scribbling something on the gate of the park, and he was holding a bottle in his other hand.
“Evidently not mineral water” my mind informed me. I started feeling uneasy, not so much on the count of a drunken jerk trying to ‘destroy’ public property or national heritage, but more on the lines of being alone at night in the presence of a drunken stranger. While it’s raining. In Bangalore City. And I was dead scared, remember? So I tried to edge myself into the scene, and i slowly tiptoed towards the bench. Every step I took, my resolve became stronger and stronger. I wanted to take my anger out on this guy. I wanted to tell him off for ruining a monument that belonged to the city. I wanted to make sure he didn’t have a gun. Or a knife. Or a spoon, for that matter.
When I was about a metre away from him, I noticed something else. Something that made me rethink a lot of things. I noticed that he was shaking. But he kept on trying to scribble. I came closer, and bent down near his shoulder, but he didn’t seem to notice.
When i tried to shake his arm, he leaned forward and started crying. That’s when I looked deeper into the words he was trying to scribble. It wasn’t a girl’s name, at least not in good faith. It was a wierd assortment of words, something I hadn’t seen before.
He had written, in his shaky handwriting:
” Raghavan Srinivas Memorial Par ”
I realized i must’ve caught up with his trance when he was about to scribble the missing ‘K’. I couldn’t decide on what i wanted to ask him, so i decided to keep it to the optimally requisite questionnaire.
“Who is Raghavan Srinivas?” I asked him, and somehow I couldn’t look at his eyes when i uttered the words.
He replied soon.
“My father. He died last month. He was a member of the city council, one of the people who had envisioned this park, fifteen years back. When he got sick, I tried approaching the council for a board to be put up at the park, to honor his birthday. Today’s that day. But the council ignored the request. And he’s dead now. So I’m scribbling. Stupid, right?”
And he turned to look at me. I couldn’t really make out much from his face, probably because of all the water pouring down from his forehead and eyes. He handed me the bottle, which was almost empty, and started walking on the road. I stood there for about ten minutes as i saw him disappear into the soaked up background of the night. When i turned around, i had a very good temptation to finish what was left in the bottle. Then, i remembered, walking alone at night wasn’t too safe, and being drunk wouldn’t help either. I smashed the bottle on the bench and picked up a shard of broken green glass.
I finished scribbling the ‘K’ and threw the remainder of the bottle into a nearby hedge.
It was time for me to return to my dark room.