He walked the streets, feeling at home...at last. The moon slowly slid out from behind the dark clouds and cast streaks of light on his battered face. Bags under his heavy eyes, a scar down his cheek and a very prominent vein throbbing in his fore-head, he looked ahead. His weary eyes have a glad gleam. For perhaps the first time in ages, he feels safe. The ravines of the past show in his movement as he shuffled through the street, protecting his exposed skin from the harsh winter wind. He was literally dragging his feet, tired, in a painfully obvious way.

As he shuffled down the street, he passed a rolled up mass of wool and cotton, dirty and stinking, basking in the heat from an almost non-existent flame. The local begger eyed him with pure suspicion and spite. It could have only be the dress he was wearing, drapes hanging from every inch possible, crumpled beyond recognition, that caused the begger to eye him with suspicion for a rival. But he is not flattered by another man's jealousy. He shuffled on. The dogs in the street, catching his scent from a mile away, look up from inside the dumpster and snarl at him as he passes. They sure took him for their a scavenger after their dump. He lauged at the dogs and said "I got better stuff...U guyz eat". He kept shuffling down the streets.

He paused at a coffee shop on the way. He called for a coffee and added the magic word "PLEASE". This immediately raised the shopkeeper's eyebrows. He suddenly demanded to be paid before he made the coffee. He smiled slightly and drew out a 10 rupee note from one of his many pockets and waited for his change while the shopkeeper checked every inch of the note for its validity. The coffee came in a steel glass and he gladly extended his gnarled palms to pick it up. The shopkeeper put the glass on a plate, not wanting to put his hands anywhere near him. The heat from the glass was not felt on his thick palms. He slowly rolled his fingers, painfully slowly, around the glass. It did not help him find the heat. He noticed that the cuts in his palms and fingers were not stinging anymore. It was an improvement. The back of his palm was almost filled with cuts and bruises. He sure has been toiling. He held the glass close to his chest, in an attempt to gather the heat, from the coffee, to his chest. It was not worth it. He preferred a hot coffee to a cold one. So he just started sipping at the glass. The heat of the watery coffee, instantly making him feel better.

He left the shop with the change from the transaction, jingling in his pockets as he shuffled on. He heaved a sigh of relief as he found the door he had been watching out for. He was tired, hungry and had not exposed himself socially in over 3 months now. He was worried he might not be so welcome. It was too early in the winter morning for anyone to be up. He was used to it by now, both the winter and not being welcome. He had stooped lower than this before for food and water, so, this was going to be cake walk. Just wake up a house of 3 and shove himself on them and watch them squirm in sheer loathing.

He rang the bell next to the safely locked door. There was no movement on the other side of the door. He waited out another 5 minutes, shifting his weight from one leg to another. Still no movement. He tried his luck at knocking the door. He gave up after 10 minutes of constant banging. Was he not wanted? He did not care. He set his aching body down on the steps and rested his throbbing head on the door. The handle came in his way and he shifted. He clutched his clothes closer, hoping to feel less colder than he was. His eyes started rolling up into their sockets. They were more tired than he was. He started slipping in and out of slumber. He kept touching his pockets to feel the money. A habit he had recently picked. Soon he was asleep on the steps.

Well, it was an hour later, at 5.30 in the morning, that he was awakened by a voice that carried thro the cold air. "Why cant he plan his trips earlier? Its 5.30 and still no sign of him. Why does he never think we might be worried?". Now he is worried he might be discovered. He picks himself up and tries the bell again. This time he is rewarded by the appearance of a middle aged balding man. A smile on his face. He is not perturbed by the dress r the stench. "How was your trip?", he asks. He just smiles and waits for his dad to open the door. Glad to be home, for the first time in 3 months since he started living alone, 500 kilometers away.

1 comment:

Vivek said...

I'm sure the first 3 paras are just coz I asked you come pick me up!
Home sweet home huh?