and still, he smiles.

And as I was being pulled out of my college, by a friend, who dragged me across the road, to catch an Auto-rickshaw and stopped one, for our destination, I was thinking this is the most miserable day I could ever have.

No, I wasn’t drunk, but I recently had an anxiety attack. You see, not every day, I get three anonymous roses with attached messages. I should be jubilant, right? I wasn’t.
Actually, I thought these were from my girlfriend, with whom things were not going as they were supposed to go, but unfortunately, they weren’t. We’ll get to that some other day.

So I was all tired, mentally, physically and yes emotionally too. I wanted to stay at the college fest, so as to forget my melancholic pain for a while. But my friend kept on insisting me to leave.

I had taken the illegal front seat, beside the driver. He was quite old, perhaps of the age, most of the people would have retired. Brown, bulky spectacles, with the even bulkier lens, that made his freckled eyes look too awfully dramatic. I had heard a phrase in a song, “an ounce of pain”, I realized it today what it actually looked like, felt like. His face, had wrinkles, obviously, but they were deep, the epitome of the scars of time engraved on his skin. Lean, too lean, too lean to be called slim, slim fit? No.

I looked at his trousers, the first thing I had actually noticed about him. Those pants were burnt, there were holes, from waistline to pretty much down to his knees, his shirt appeared less wounded, though.

That then urged me to look at him, find his eyes, look for the answers, ’cause am a keen asshole. The little guy inside me wanted to know about him, feel about him, empathy or sympathy, that shall be decided later, but he pleaded me to know about his story.

Exceptionally curious me, asked him about his pants. “What happened?” in a voice that was clearly patronizing his misery, I regretted that instantly as he ignored me with a sigh. I then, rephrased, “What have you been up to?”, “Why the holes?”, moreover “how the holes?”.

He said “Bidi!”

I smiled again and asked, “Were you smoking 10 of those, at once?”. He smiled again and nodded a negative.

Then he told his story of how it had happened. Honestly, I couldn’t listen to him properly, you see the acoustics of an open vehicle is not apt for conversations. So, I figured out that apparently, some accident landed the burning bidi on his pants, and burnt holes, all over his thighs.
Now after writing that, I am starting to contemplate the chronology of such events that may have caused the holes. Sounds like a less sad facade to hide the real and may be the more hurtful tale, the tale of burnt pants.

The way he said the two syllable “NO”, even though dubious, was quite convincing, convinced me not to continue the interrogation.

“So, why don’t you change them?”, I already knew an answer to that question, but I had more than one, it could be the no-money musical or the lucky trousers tale.

He said, “I will soon.”

Now, that was more convincing than his “NO”. Maybe because, this time, against the driving ethics, he looked at me. I caught his smile, innocent like a child, selfless like a mother. His teeth were all red and marked by tobacco, at least the teeth which were still there.

I tried to talk to him, but I could not hear him talking, again due to the noncontributing Auto-rickshaw Acoustics. The wind was blowing in my ear, and his voice was directed in a direction perpendicular to mine. I didn’t want him to stop though, as his voice had too much commotion to be stopped or paid attention to. Stupid wind, I could not ask him to repeat or go back for the parts I couldn’t listen.

After he finished, at a turn I slightly got pulled away and got closer to the edge of the seat. (thank you centrifugal force, you had almost killed me today)

I told him, I would fall off the auto-rickshaw and he said, “I will grab you, won’t let anything happen to you.”

I interjected, “Is it better to risk the life of other passengers, five of them, including you for me, Me?”

To which he crouched himself allowing me a proper seat, and said, “I have quite less time anyway.”

He knows it, he knows everything and still he is quarreling against the fashionable young drivers with humongous stereo, in their auto rickshaws, still he is battling the hole-some life of lies, still, he smiles.


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