A bench, a bus stop and two buses

40 is not the age to break down and see yourself as a complete failure; especially when just an year ago you are counted amongst the young achievers. It was the exact same date: 15 October, but an year ago when I was awarded the best Employee of the Year Award amongst 25 branches and 50000 employees.  Why does life has to be so cruel and unpredictable? “Forget it man.  It’s just the mid-life crisis. It will get over soon…”; my friends, sorry, my colleagues used to tell me. Slowly they also stopped calling. Probably it was against their status to be seen as my friend now. When my beautiful wife could leave me in the middle of storm what’s the point in blaming my friends, I mean colleagues.  She always used to complain, that I am married first to my work. And when I had a lot of time after losing my job in the recession, she had no time or desire to “waste” her life with a “loser” like me. Yes that’s what she called me, exactly 8 months, 13 days and 9 hours after she had said that I am the most the bestest husband in the World. I dint know that success and love were so intimately related. I was one of the busiest of the persons in my firm, now today, sitting on this concrete bench, even the cattle look busier than me.

Old buddy

Yes it is the very same concrete bench, my old buddy, I was sitting on. I used to spend hours sitting on it thinking and dreaming about my life. And when I got successful, I turned my back on my old buddy. But like an old friend, he kept waiting for me in the same place. So today I decided to visit my old pal. Today like me it rather he is also broken.

It feels like the old days when I was fresh out of college and was searching for a job. Because I had so much free time, I used to come here and sit on this bench for hours. I told him every secret of mine. My dreams, my career plans, my crushes, my heartbreaks, my family problems, unexpected joys, and the night when I boarded the bus that took me towards my so called successful life. This is worth mentioning. It was the night my life took flight.

It was raining cats and mouse and dog, or whatever they call it. (It’s common to see all types of creatures roaming freely on streets of Mumbai).  I was waiting for bus number 507. I had to catch a flight at 3 am. And I was getting late. I was cursing both: the rain god and the state transport authority. It is our middle class mentality to see the big opportunity as some bad event. My middle class mind was thinking, is this rains a bad omen? Shut up. I told my 6th sense not to say such nonsense. And finally the bus arrived.

I got onto the board without much hassles. Two beautiful eyes welcomed me. Those were the most beautiful pair of eyes on the entire plane ever I have seen. (And I keep saying this every time!)  See? It was so simple and easy. Needlessly I was getting worried over trivial things. My company’s car came to receive me. Being Junior Analyst in IGM securities was BIG thing for me back then. And I made a fast progress. I never let the company or the clients down. Suddenly life became so simple and so happening. I spent money like water. And one night in a pub I met my soulmate. Beautiful is such a small adjective to describe her. We got along well. One thing led to another. And we were regularly dating together. She confessed that I was the best boyfriend she had ever had. She wanted to spend her entire life with me. Even though my mom never liked her,  decided to go ahead with my decision of marrying her. Those ten years spent with her feels like a dream. I fulfilled her every wish. For her I stayed late at office, worked on holidays. And when the things went south she suddenly came and announced that it was over. And that I was a Loser! What happened to being a soulmate and wanting to spend her entire life with me? Even though she dint say it I read it in her eyes: she had married my resume, my success, my bank balance. Now that they were dead, she had to find another soulmate. How could I not see the real her? In a way it’s good that she has gone from my life.

Today my life has come to a full stop. It’s all over. I have lost it all. I quit. I want to end ma…

And then suddenly I heard a deep heavy voice. A voice I have never heard before. I couldn’t look at him. He was too bright. Who the hell are you, I yelled at him.

How does it matter. For you I am the one who has solution to your problems.

What problems? Get lost. I don’t even know you. I was bit scared by now. Who could he be? My logical brain couldn’t come up with a logical explanation.

Let’s say I am your guardian angel. Believe it or not everyone has got one. He told me everything right from my childhood to my present day. Every single detail! Look you can spend your entire lifetime understanding me, or spend it correcting your mistake. If you agree, I can send you back in time.

He doesn’t look like a lunatic or a drunk. I don’t believe in such stuff. Am I hallucinating? But what if he is telling the truth? This world is full of thugs. But what is there to loose? Anyway I was thinking of ending my life a few moments ago.
I still wanted to test him.

If you claim to be my guardian angel, where were you for so many years? Why did you make my life miserable? I dint deserve it.

Yes you do. You deserve every moment of it. You never complained when you were on th top of the World. Then you never asked, why me? Then why now? This is one sorry tale of you humans which is repeated over and over and over again, but you arrogant creatures, simply refuse to learn from others’ mistakes. This is what happens to everyone who tries to live someone else’s life.

What do you mean by someone else’s? I have earned every bit of it through my sweat and soul.

Really? Then go back to the night when this all started, and tell me what happened on the bus stop.

It was raining. I was standing there, after a lot of cursing the bus came. And I went to the air port. What is there to remember?

Are you not missing something out on something?

No. I am pretty much sure. Yes I was bit scared and confused because of the rains. I thought it was a bad omen. But everything went well.

Are you sure that you are not hiding anything from yourself? Remember dear, your life depends on it. Why did you take the rains as a bad omen? You are not new to  rains? Think dear, think.

He had a point. Why was I so scared when everything was alright? What is that I am not telling myself ? Let me rewind and play the tape really slow: I got up in the bus. Before that I saw it coming and ran towards it. But why would I run? Oh ya, because there was already another bus on the stop. But still I could have simply walked behind. Think mate, why did you run why? What were you doing?

I remember wet rains, wet people, wet umbrellas, and a flash, and a ….wait. A Flash! HOW COULD I FORGET THAT FLASH ? It lasted for a second or two. And I saw those pair of beautiful eyes… no the most beautiful pair of eyes I have ever seen looking at me waiting for my reply. And then I got blinded by the head lamp of bus no.507.  I let her down, and closed my heart to those eyes. No wonder why I was noticing and trying to find out eyes more beautiful, more pure, more honest than those. I chose not to listen to my intuitions for more than 15 years! And I remembered everything very clearly for the first time.

I dint want any emotional show on the airport, so I decided to go alone. In the mid way it started dribbling. Then it turned into a heavy shower. Everyone came rushing towards the bus stop. Damn the rain! I said angrily. I was already restless. I heard a girl giggling. She told me that God doesn’t ask for anyone’s permission before he sends showers to the Earth. That was it. I wanted to give her a sharp reply and tell not not to poke her nose in others’ lives.

Why don’t you just mind….Wow! What beautiful eyes and what cute face! How could I say such thorny words to her? I mean do you mind if I see you camera? (Stupid what are you blabbering?) If her laugh was a stream before, it turned into amazon as soon as she heard my stupid request. She anyway gave me her digicam.

I was not a bad photographer myself, but there was something special about her pics. You know the sense you get when you meet someone better than you. Awe! It was something I was going through. Upon asking she said, just click with you heart, the photos will look beautiful automatically. So simple! She and her life was so simple. This is what I realized when I kept talking to her for the next half an hour.

See even the rains dint bother me, when I was talking to you. You possess some magical powers. Tell me honestly aren’t you a fairy sent by God to make amends with me?

Mr. Big Pocketer and bad clicker, let me tell you that your flirting is worse than your photography. Only a bad photographer will curse the rains. I love them.

She told me that she was going on a monsoon trek. She invited me too. Are you crazy? I am 12 hours away from starting a new life for myself.

So what? It’s your life. Live it on your own terms. She was careless as a flowing wind.

Look my priorities in life… She said cutting my sentence in between, speaking of priorities, tell me, we were together for more than 40 minutes. How minutes have you spent telling about your new job? I had no answer to that.

It was not practical. I told her that I would return in an year then we could plan something together. I really doubt how many days are going to be in that one year of yours. She said sarcastically. She kept trying to persuade me, she kept telling me to listen to my heart. I was adamant.

Finally her bus came: 524. She took the window seat. And looked at me with pleading eyes. I said forget the job I want to take that bus. I had hardly moved a feet when I saw 507 coming. That was the cruelest joke God was playing with me. I had to choose a bus. It was just the difference of 17 digits between 507 and 524.  But I never knew such a small difference could turn out to be such a life changer. And it flashed. And I clearly saw her eyes. And I got blinded by the headlight of 507. How symbolic was that!

She was right. I never returned back. But even she was egoistic. She never replied to any of my mails. Don’t I have any dignity?

The angel spoke up after a long time. Where was you dignity when your wife was walking all over you? She left you for someone else, exactly like she left someone else for you. Dint you see that coming? And do you even know what is the girl whom you met on that night doing right now?

Such nice girl, whose default mode is sweet, must have found someone better than me. Anyone would marry her without even second thought! she must be really happy…without me.

The only reason she never replied to your mails is because dead people do not use internet. She died on that trek. Her leg slipped and she fell into the valley.

Shit! Until now I was thinking that I was the unluckiest man on the Earth. I could have held her hand, I could have saved her. Life is the most precious gift God has given us. Don’t waste it. That was her simple philosophy. Isn’t it true that most beautiful things in the nature are the simplest of all? And I was going to throw away my life for people who do not even matter, who never cared for me!

It was all beyond me. I started weeping like a small kid. the angel came closer.

I could give you one chance, one last chance to take the right decision to go back and correct your mistake.

But how on the Earth is that possible?

You ask too many questions. Leave that to me. And yes you will have to payback to me. But you will know how you will pay back when the right time comes.

And I saw a 6 feet tall tunnel open in front of my eyes. I was reluctant to enter. It was simply out of question. And it was all childish to think about going “back”. I am gold medalist in Physics dude.

Your Science is too inadequate to explain all this. But you can go back in time, entering higher dimensions. However it is energy consuming, and I can’t hold it for long.

With a heart that was thumping against my ribcage, I entered the tunnel. I don’t remember what happened in between, but the next moment I saw myself standing at the bus stop, with heavy rains around me.

So are you sure you do not want to come? She asked me.

I looked around. It was unbelievable. It was exactly the same night. How could it be possible? Then her bus came. I saw her looking at me, pleading with her eyes. And suddenly I got blinded by the spotlight of 507. It was hard to save myself from the temptation of a successful life. But now I have seen it all.

Disappointed she got up to close the window as the rains were getting in.

I think I am still a better photographer than you. I said helping her close the window. I took the seat beside her. Again her eyes said it all.

That whole night belonged to us. We talked, then talked some more and then talked till we dropped. When I got up in the morning, it was cutest scene to see her delicate head on my left shoulder. It was too early to say, but I felt complete. The second day, on the trek, we were simply inseparable. She showed me her photography skills. I had my own tricks in my bag. We kept talking and wandering as if this whole World belonged to us. And while she tilted her body to take macro mode shot of a small wild flower, her leg slipped. I saw her going away from me. In a flash, quite instinctively I caught her hand. Accidentally her camera fell down on the ground and clicked the moment.

I scolded her for her carelessness. I was never so angry before. I was literally shouting at her at the top of my voice.

And then I do not exactly remember how it happened. Her lips were as sweet as her. That was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me so far in my life. Someone special like her had just trusted me and offered her tender lips to me.

Don’t you ever again take disadvantage of a girl in trouble. She said narrowing her eyes. Agreed your kiss is better than your photography, but why should I be with you, Mr. Shallow pocketer. You do not have the job with the fat paycheck anymore. I do not need you now.

She found it difficult to control her laughter. She ran away from me. What to call this girl man! Just a minute ago she nearly lost her life. She was full of life. And only I knew the importance of this moment. I looked up and thanked someone imaginary guy out there. I knew what I had to do, I too ran behind her.

——  X ——  X——  X——  X——  X ——-

Many years later:

I am sitting in my office. I see my lovely wife still in her deep sleep, smiling and dreaming (hopefully about me :D). Our office, cum room, cum our van is right now in the mid of a dense forest.  I learned later that she is a biologist. My computer and mathematics skills and her knowledge of biology has helped us form this NGO on wildlife conservation. We collect data, make models and predictions to understand and conserve the delicate balance of ecology. We got recognition for our work on an International forum. Standing from here, the “best employee of the year” award looks so small. Come over tea sometime, I will explain the rest there. Hopefully you will find the way to our home. 🙂

I am glad I listened to my heart in choosing the right bus.  I advice the same to you guys. Hope you find your best life and full potential to flourish. Before I snuggle up in the bed beside my wife, I remember these words from Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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