Saima Rashid

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His mornings have brisk start. At the crack of the dawn, he sets wheels of his passenger van in motion. And remains restless, besides breathless to be first among the equals at a local stand. After lifting a vanload of passengers, he heads for his stopover.

It is his daily rhythm. Often arduous, and seldom agreeable. But he has no complaints. A caring son, a loving husband and an affectionate father, he always hide his self behind a charming smile.

One a wintery day, I stepped inside his vehicle. Things appeared normal. All his seats were occupied by passengers. His audio player was playing some Bollywood numbers. He drove very calmly and carefully. And then, he started gossip with the front seated passengers. He doesn’t bore them. And for sure, knew the art to keep people around him in a good mood. I found sound and substance in his talks. Besides, they seemed quite intriguing and amusing.

Sandwiched between passengers at back seat, I saw smile sprouting on the faces around me. And it was a heartening feeling to be among the cheerful company. My mother always advises, “One remains happy by cherishing the happiness of others”. And I always wished to see all the fellows happy.

But I hardly knew that the cheerful motion would have a sudden hiatus.  On the half way, in the middle of the road, the wheels developed some glitch. And for the moment, the happy ride seemed heading towards standstill. All sounds fell silent inside the vehicle. And that charming face of driver suddenly flashed a gloomy hue. In panic, he brought the vehicle to halt and got off.

He glanced at the wheel, closed his eyes and pretended to be the most unfortunate fellow on the earth. The tyre of his van had been punctured. And soon it was a departure of cheerful company. “It will be absurd to wait here, better to get on in some other vehicle” and one by one, all stepped out of his vehicle.

Watching windows of his vehicles flying open, the driver assured: “Don’t worry, you will reach your destination on the dot.” But his assurance fell flat on ground just like his punctured wheel. All made an inward fun with a slight giggle, “how on this earth, tyre repair won’t take half an hour or may be lot.” And all walked away.

A sense of pity overtook me as passengers departed. And with that, an underlying message unfolded: “All in pleasure, but none in pain.” Humans do disappoint with their actions. The man who was spreading smiles in his vehicle few moments ago deserved some patient company. But then, the daily routine of those who were travelling from here to there might not have afforded to stay any longer. Everyone seems in rush, in panic and in haste.

But the man deserved a little chance to set his journey again. He got none.

Surely, he knew the skill of changing tyres. But his raged nerves were making the task a bit cumbersome. Though, his vehicle was about to board another passenger pack, but somehow the puncture wasn’t sinking in. When such a situation unfolds, one normally expects a helping hand from the people around. Or maybe, I am asking for too much!

I was the lone passenger who was cooling her heals near his van. Drown deep into thinking, people being so mean, made no sense to me. All those lectures on compassion, virtue and community, taught by my revered teachers started fuming me with rage. Where on this earth such lectures exist, I thought. “Indeed, theories of absurdism,” I smirked.

While I was stirring up a tempest of rage inside my mind, the driver was still at his repairing task. Sweat drops lined up on his forehead. I wanted, I desired and I wished to help him out, but I couldn’t for obvious reasons.

And soon, the last passenger walked away.

(Saima Rashid is pursuing her undergraduation in Journalism from Srinagar’s Women College)

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