This article has been submitted by Ajeya BG for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
The street is deserted, a typical Sunday afternoon sun bearing down on its black, potholed surface. Occasional motorists weave through these potholes and manholes, with a liquefied, watery road on their horizon. Hurrying home to their boisterous wives and pestering children.
There are rented single-bedroom, tile-floored houses nearby. The fat men with enormous fat, sweaty moustaches are fast asleep, beside their creaky, fat wives, under their creaky fans and on their creaky beds. Their children sneak away, and watch television, their parents’ snores drowning the reduced volume.
There is a man walking alone on the road beside the footpath, hands in his pockets, humming a lonely tune in rhythm with his lonely steps. He has a nose, a couple each of eyes, ears, hands and legs. And of course a mouth.
Must say, he has a striking resemblance to you. Or is it you? Its you yourself! says a voice somewhere.
You are a little perturbed by that voice. But you continue walking, ignoring it. Like how an obsessed woman ignores a price tag. Of course, with her man beside her.
As you walk on the road beside the footpath, you see a man inside an opened drain. He is dressed in brown uniform which has become a deeper brown, wet from the sewage. And he wields this tall, thin, brown stick too, with unerring dexterity.
You automatically wrinkle your nose when it picks up the smell. Why is he doing that? It’s not dignified labour. Shame on this system! That voice again. You were under the impression you were alone. What is that voice, you wonder. But the system was made by the people. It ignores your wondering. People like you. You un-wrinkle your nose. You stare at the man in deepened brown. He notices and smiles. A helpless, what-else-can-I-do smile. And then you walk away.
You walk a bit more and you’re in front of your destination. A small, creepy, dingy and smelly cigarette shop. A crowded corner on a deserted road. There are many men around you – some exhaling rings off their smokes, others, just smoke. There’s one guy all suited up, pressing away on his phone in one hand while a cigarette burns away to ash in another. There’s another man, seated comfortably on a stone beside the shop, his lungi unabashedly flailing in the light breeze. He looks like he’s been there since morning. Probably he has.
You ask the man behind the counter for a pack and a couple of mints for later. The fat, dark man bends with much effort to reach into the shelf. He hands you your pack and mints and sits back on the chair, scratching his hairy armpit and stifling a yawn. You think if he’s become dark because of all the smoke. You have heard that passive smoking harms.
As you remove one out of the pack, you glance at the ‘Tobacco kills’ warning. You wonder why no one reads it. Everyone reads it. The voice. I’m sure no one does. Why would they smoke if they read it? Trust me everyone does. But no one heeds it. But why? Because they know they’re going to die anyway. Because they know everyone dies someday. Because they know there are far worse things than cancer and death.
You smile to yourself, with the stub between your lips. There it was, a small nugget of wisdom on a pack of smokes. The voice was turning out to be interesting.
You finish your smoke with these thoughts swirling in your head. You discard the butt and stamp it out with the sole of your slippers.
You fish out a hundred rupee note and look at the smiling old man on it. Why is he always smiling? How should I know? Because he doesn’t know what the reality is. Because when he smiled that smile, he was over the moon to just see a sovereign Indian rupee. Because he doesn’t know that if he knew, he would probably break out from his grave and wipe the smile off.
The fat, dark man’s disgusting sneeze makes you look up. He is standing with his hand stretched out. With an expression like he was lifting something heavy. Like he was making love to an extremely ugly woman. You chuckle, gingerly place the note on his sweaty palm and watch it vanish into the bowels of the cash drawer. As he reaches for the coins, you tell him to keep the change. Yes, you are in a benevolent mood today.
Six rupees?! That is benevolent?
You ignore the voice. You walk back from the crowded corner in a deserted road, past the man in deepened brown, past the rented single bedroom, tiles-floored houses, past their fat owners and their skinny children, into your house and onto your bed.
Who are you?, you ask in a last ditch effort to disclose the identity of that voice. Just the man inside you. You fall asleep.
Ajeya BG is a law school aspirant from Bangalore, who professes an affinity for intellectual conversation and argumentation. Other than being a voracious reader and public speaker, Ajeya likes films, and directs short films too.