My house is on the front lane, facing the main road. The window in my study forwarded me with a view. With my table positioned in front of the window, I afforded myself many an hours to look out. There was a metal shed in those days that put a pretense of a bus-stop, and allowed me to pry on unsuspecting passengers into their lives. Unaware, they allowed me to study their mannerism while they waited for their ride. The tentativeness, the impatience, the indifference, all exposed them. Their halt put them in the spot light, rendering a nudity, openness, exposing their lives to me. I would read them, as a book left open for me. Blessed or cursed as I was with an ability to read into their minds, the intrude however rude is the reason for this story.
Of the many regulars, there was this couple who would walk into the bus-stop just after their noon classes. He was a lean guy, tall with a beard. His well pressed shirt and pant showed that he was well cared for by folks of limited resources and on his part he took great care not to disturb the creases. While others of his age would sit on the horizontal poles of the bus stop, he would carefully stand away lest grease or cuts would eat into his monthly budget. The girl with her neatly plaited hair and simple Salwar-Kameez also gave away her humble middle class background. On odd days her ill fitting dress suggested sharing with siblings. Yet her choice of bright colors added to her attractiveness. Their togetherness worked like brandy on a cold day. I found myself eagerly waiting for them every day at the appointed hour.
Standing side by side, they had challenged society and yet their upbringing had set boundaries which they dared not to cross. With her head bowed and his distracted from her face, never holding hands, never an arm around the waist, there was a bonding visible from my window. So pristine that one could not be blamed for wanting something similar. This was the ultimate romance as it may have been called in the eighties. Days went by, with this routine being only broken by Sundays. Their presence at the bus stop faded the background for the forty minutes they waited. Their wait was not for a bus, with many coming by and going. They just claimed their time and space, leaving so as to repeat the routine and met again the next day.
Today in hindsight, I realize that this romance was doomed to fail. I have learnt that good things don’t last forever. They stood apart, with a faint line of light outlining their bodies creeping through, amplifying the trouble in paradise. The look on his face was distant and she was looking away. They remained quite through their forty minutes and left. The next day saw the same, with no sign of healing in paradise. If anything, they stood further apart, she looking away and his expression distant. Days passed, with the distance between the two bodies increasing and their forty minutes wait decreasing. In fact, she would leave after 10-15 minutes and he would complete the forty minutes wait alone.
A dull feeling overwhelmed the heart. His beard now took prominence over the other facial features. Their expressions lost. One should have known this would happen and yet for the first time seeing him alone in the bus stop hurt. With his vacant expression he stood guard his forty minutes. For what futile purpose? Paradise was lost and yet day after day he took guard his position and time. However romantic, however eternal, the futility allowed him to slowly fade from my consciousness. Was it my interest which waned with my life’s turbulence’s washing me away from my window or his life’s turbulence that prized him from the bus stop, I can’t say when and how. The window was there, the bus stop was there, the stage was the same but his guard was lost.
I saw the fellow recently, nearly two decades since the last bus took him from the bus stop in front of my window. Much had changed in these years. For one, I had had enough of reading others miseries, since mine had replaced theirs and as if the gods so willed the bus-stop had been removed. But then I am to talk about our protagonist. His bread had greyed and hair had receded, but the smile was still conspicuous by its absence. I decided to use my curse for one last time and read into his inner thoughts, again to pry into his privacy and look for any remains of his “incomplete story”. As I waited for a faint cry from the innermost recesses of his memories, I was deafened by an immense cry of agony from all around me. As I looked around a busy city was striding by.