That ‘he’

He walks very fast. It has been his natural instinct. As soon as he is out, he shoots off. It has happened in the past that he shot off in a wrong direction and when he realized it he shot in reverse with the same speed without feeling sorry or stupid.

That day he walked towards the station to go home. Half way down he realized his left shoulder did not have the usual strap of his bag. Oh no! He turned back swiftly and headed towards the studio he had been. Due to walking with the bag his left shoulder sometime gets a bit sore. He then shifts the bag to the other side. He had gone quite a distance without bag. But there was no alternate. He had do this. He walked even faster. As the door of the studio appeared in vision, it wasn’t looking right. It was locked. They had told that, that was the last job for the day for them. He asked the adjoining shop but was told they all left 10 min back in a cab. You could have met them at the station. He said actually he wanted to walk, so…

So much confusion! Disappointed he looked around, as though trying to find as solution. A man was looking at him quizzically. What! He thought, what is he gaping at me for. He realized he was wearing worn out shorts, a faded t-shirt and a pair of house slippers. How! He wouldn’t step out of his house in such attire. And he is here at the other end of town. So shabbily? No way! He has always been well dressed if not one of the best dressed. This is not him. But; there he was.

He sat down on step outside the locked door. He had to figure his next move. Since his bag is safely kept in the space behind that securely locked door; so is his wallet, phone, house keys and other smaller stuff. Main problem was phone and wallet. He couldn’t figure a plan was feasible. It wasn’t appearing in his mind. Not even a foggy or rough one.

He cannot go to a bus stop or train station because they invariably sell tickets at a price, right now unaffordable. He decided that he need to move from there. A solution if any isn’t here. He started walking yet again in a direction but without intent. Maybe he felt should he walk home, that was nearly 35 km. He was confused and foggy. There was metro tunneling job being done. Huge number of workers were milling around carrying things. He did not realize that he had walked into a non-pedestrian area. No one noticed that. He was in ‘no entry’ zone and was wondering why suddenly walking had become so difficult. Path was full of iron rods, wood planks, bags of cement, bricks and the related things. Somehow he could not realize that he was on the wrong side. Many workers passed by him but did not care as they too busy themselves. Only a security or some engineer could have stopped and guided him what to do. His slippers were soiled and rest of him had splashes of wetness. Finally someone perhaps thinking he had ‘lost it’ guided him out of the mess and he found himself at the Marine Drive. Here he knew which way to head.

He started walking again with same speed but with a heavy heart. He was about to ask the most asked question in such situations, “why me”. Façade of a familiar building emerged. He recognized it. It was Famous Laboratories and recording studios, Tardeo. He had been here for many song recordings of his films. But somehow everything about the building was looking very depressing. It was very shabby. It was perhaps had been painted years ago. Walls were broken in many places. In fact side wall of the building had fallen in the lane. Unknowingly he took a look at himself. Is Famous looking like him or he is matching Famous? Back of the building leading to the film laboratory also was in ramshackle condition. People had to dodge and walk between bricks and other broken parts. In such a scenario he found something weird and surreal. He saw a small group of well-dressed people organizing some kind of sale or exhibition. They had a banner in which name of a book and its author was mentioned. Copies of a rather fat book were placed around; on a soiled hanging wooden plank. They had made small platform of the bricks fallen around and placed some copies of the book on it. Just one book was placed high on front wall, where some photo frame might have existed ages ago. A man perhaps the author was signing a book. He recognized him, but couldn’t exactly place. Man looked at him and said, ‘hello here take a copy. It’s a gift’. He refused politely. He did not want it and no way could he have carried it. Author insisted, ‘please I will be happy if you took it.’

He had started walking away. Swiftly distance started growing between him and Famous. As he walked Famous was being left behind. Soon he had put a lot of distance between them. The Lab now did not look so bad. The author in the crisp white shirt seemed insistent. He held up a copy of the book looking at him as though calling him out, ‘here! Your book.’ Figure of the man in soiled clothes was fading fast. And soon it merged among others.

It was difficult to distinguish the man in soiled clothes from crisp ones.

Infectious Goodness

I met my friend Gautam yesterday. Like me he too is very regular in his exercise regimen, especially the walks. His doctor has told him that at his age, one-hour walk everyday is a must. If he wants to go to a gym, do Yoga, learn karate or any other activity, it has to be ‘walk’+ that activity. During one such walk something strange happened with Gautam. He narrated to me the story next day.

Gautam had already completed his daily walk quota in the morning. He had come out again in the evening for a stroll in the park; maybe just to stay a little ahead in life. He was only half way down the track; he spotted a wad of money on the ground. He stopped right next to it, keeping his shoe near the neatly folded notes and looked down directly at it. Watching an awkwardly static person in the jogging park; other walkers too followed his look and also saw the money. Gautam looked up at some passing men engrossed in serious walking.

Gautam: does this belong to any of you? He stayed near the money. But it seemed that those people had already started breaking their carbohydrates into glucose and water. So, no one was in a mood to break the pace for little money that didn’t even belong to them. A tall man just nodded ‘no’ and walked off without slowing his pace. A dark lady in short hair said smilingly, ‘finders keepers’, not bothering to stop. Gautam picked up the money. Watchman from his cabin had also noticed this. Gautam walked to the watchman, showed him the money and told him, “I found it (pointing to the spot) there. Did any one inform you about their lost money?”
Watchman: “no (extending his hand to grab the notes); but I will keep an eye.”
Gautam: “wait, let me count it (he counted the money). It is 110 rupees. Keep it but if I cannot find the owner then I will take it from you before I leave. It is 110, ok?”
Watchman: “ok sir.” But just as Gautam was about to hand over the money to watchman, Gautam noticed a large bunch of women entering the garden. He stood at the edge of walking area and raised his hand with the money.

Gautam: “anyone lost this… any one?” Most ladies laughed and passed him by; but a thin woman with graying hair said, “you are giving so much of your time for someone else’s money. Everyone is not so nice.” Gautam: ‘

“that’s no problem; I will give it just a few minutes more.”
Thin woman with graying hair: “good luck to you” (she walked off laughing away).
Gautam: (trying his luck again) “hello any one dropped this right here, any one?”
Next was a group of four women, chatting loudly. Among them there was a fat lady in yellow suit, “Yes, it could be mine. I had a 50 rupee note with me when I was shopping.” She showed her empty handkerchief. So careless! Gautam thought.
Gautam: “you should have at least tied up the money in your handkerchief.”
Fat woman in yellow suit: “yes. I don’t know how it slipped.”
Gautam: (placing money in her hanky) “here, take this.”

Other women started complimenting him and smiling, as they always do. Gautam was hugely relieved; but by now he had lost precious five-minute walk. So he picked up speed thanking women for their complements. The women too continued walking for a while. Gautam paced faster in the next two rounds. That group of women was now sitting on a bench and chatting. So every two minutes Gautam passed them, he knew they were looking at him. He felt very uncomfortable.

Soon there was a surprising twist in the tale. A small made woman had walked to that group of four women and was talking to them. As Gautam passed again, group of women stopped him.
Fat woman in yellow suit: “actually the money belongs to this lady. She has come back all the way from her house trying to find it.”
Gautam: “so now you are giving it to her?”
Fat woman in yellow suit: “yes. I thought it was mine; but it is surely hers.”
Gautam: “but what about your fifty rupee note? Do you have it or is that lost too?”
Fat woman in yellow suit: “no, it is in my bag.”
Gautam: “sure? Otherwise tell me I will keep an eye on the ground for your money too.”
They all laugh aloud. Gautam coolly started his walks again. He was pleasantly surprised at what had happened.

Dark lady in short hair: “you can’t go on finding money in every trip.”
Gautam: “yes I know. But even if I do find more money, it will be a big headache to find it’s owner every time.”
Dark lady in short hair: (laughing) “true. I don’t think anyone thinks like you do.”
Gautam was moving away from her.
Gautam: “oh that’s no big deal. Bye.”
Dark lady in short hair, “bye.”