Fiction

The Traffic Signal

A cloudy day with a slight hint of Sun slithering beneath the dense grey cover, is a common sight in August in Delhi. It is the season of Monsoon, with South Western wind flying over the skies, bringing with them a respite from harsh summer days.

For Delhiites, it is a time to rejoice at nature’s romantic moorings, as well as to complain about pitiful official maneuverings. As for some unknown reasons, the civic committees chose to indulge in sewer cleaning and road digging at the opportune moment when Rain God strikes the city, leaving the citizens at the mercy of apathetic corporates. Mile long traffic jams choke the city, making each traffic signal a slow painful wait.

And, it was at this very rain induced traffic jam that Aditya noticed him, a fine young man, sitting atop a bike, with a shoulder bag, slung low in the latest fashion, a red T-shirt flapping over frayed branded jeans, ducking his head nervously now and then!

He looked, in all probability a college goer, returning after a hectic day of boring classes and fun filled canteen sessions. He was perched on a black bike, a Karizma, Aditya noticed with some envy. After all, he too was a young man, (well, if a little above thirty could still be counted as youth) and like every other specimen of his species, he yearned to ride atop the electric horse, swerve it dangerously on curved roads, elicit a heart felt sigh from passersby.

But, some dreams are not meant to be real. Astha had denied to let him buy a bike, she was scared of driving and would not let her husband join in the mad rush of speeding cars and glittering bikes.

So Adi, despite being a hot blooded man, was forced to travel in public transport. For last five years, Route No. 216 has been his steady companion, where he spent one and a half hours daily, morning and evening, sitting motionlessly on the corner seat. Initially, it was really straining for Adi. He had always been fidgety, and found it almost impossible to sit glued to an uncomfortable rexine seat.

But, man is the most adaptive animal, given a chance, he can adjust to anything. So, as time went by, Adi too begun to look forward to his routine bus ride. He developed an intense desire to know about others lives, to observe them from a distance, to try and predict what could their life story be. After all traveling alone for one and a half hour in a crowded Delhi bus is hardly enjoyable. One does need distractions to ignore the sardine smell, wafting up the nostrils, from the patched underarms, and to avoid looking at the disgusting red stained mouths, constantly chewing tobacco!

Over the years, Aditya’s observational skills have progressed quite a bit. He felt as if he could gauge the secrets hidden behind the silent expressionless visages of his fellow travelers. Though, it is quite another thing, that most of the regulars considered him as a shy, reserved man, who better be left alone with his dreams, than to be involved in a non sense chit-chat.

However, today, as Aditya looked at the bike boy, he felt some strange emotions. He could hardly understand the reason for boy’s restlessness. He seemed lost. He had a horrid expression on his face, and was incessantly staring at the ground beneath his feet. From time to time, he craned his neck to see on the other side of the road, and then hurriedly moved his face to the other side. Then, he would again begin to look down. He fidgeted nervously, twitched his fingers, tilted his head, and stared at the ground unblinkingly.

Aditya was keenly observing the boy, trying to decipher the reason behind his strange show of emotions. Why was he looking down? Was he searching for something? Had he dropped some coins and was now anxious to reclaim his money? Or, did he lose an important document? What was his treasure, a professor’s promising note, a probable job ad, or someone special’s phone number? Or was he indeed like Aditya, a troubled soul, who found himself drowned in this merciless world, and was preying Mother Earth to open up and scoop him in her loving embrace!

The more Aditya looked at him, the more he sympathized with him. He wanted to jump out of the bus and reach out to him. But, it was well nigh impossible, as there was a huge car and a tattered tempo, precariously parked between the bus and the bike. Adi was almost home, just a right turn, and the tortuous journey would end, at least for today. But, what about the man on the bike. Will he be able to reach his loved ones as safe, considering the mental hassles, he seemed to be trapped in. He was young, his mother would have been waiting for him with hot dinner, his pet dog must have been perched on the outer gate, his father whiling away his time in reading the day old newspaper. Will he be able to see his loved ones again, while driving distractedly? The accidents are fairly common in rainy days, when over flowed sewers slime the broken roads.

Lost in his deep thoughts, Adi lost sense of time. All of a sudden, he found the bus was moving. The cursed red light had blinked green, the driver shifted gears and the bus roared ahead. Adi looked out of the window, anxious to catch the last glimpse of his subject. The biker was still standing where he was, but now his body language seemed different. He was curiously looking at the other side of the road, trying hard to avoid eye contact with the traffic policeman standing at the signal.

Aditya looked from one to the other and realized that it was not a penny, card or number, the fellow was searching for, nor was he drowned in some sorrowful misery, but was all the time trying hard to hide his face, bury his guilt into the tar laden road, to avoid being challaned for violating a traffic rule!

That guy was not wearing a HELMET! Adi smiled at his overactive imagination and got up to get down at the next bus stop. He had reached HOME!

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