The sudden jerk awakened me from my sleep. Bus had stopped, stirring the passengers in its own cruel way. Fragrance of butter soaked Aloo Parantha* rushed towards my drowsy nostrils and blocked my air pipe without giving any prior information.
With continuously increasing noise of hawkers, running feet, murmuring and constant babble; I started losing my comfort.
Parantha’s smell kept increasing with the darkness of the dusk. Tired sun might have waited till I opened my eyes and then disappeared, leaving ink dipped imprints behind on the huge canvas.
On my third attempt of opening my eyes, I noticed the knock on my window. A dark outline had blocked the light. I found a pair of wide eyes peeping directly from my window; deep limpid eyes, thick eyebrows, short hooked nose as if designed hurriedly, face covered with dense lines as if all he got on his each birthday was nothing but lines, those uncountable lines on his face as a birthday present.
A man in his mid-70s was standing out, holding few packed water bottles.
Buy a bottle of water!
He shifted to the next window without waiting for my answer. His eyes moved from one face to another in a hope that someone will buy a bottle for sure. He shifted to my window again and said
This is the last stop. There isn’t any stop after this.
Do you want to buy a bottle of water?
The request in his eyes seemed irresistible. Without thinking for a moment, my hands reached for my wallet and I passed a 20 rupee note through the window. As he returned the change, he said -” My younger daughter is of the same age of yours, you must be a college student.”
In reply, I could only manage to smile.
His wide eyes brightened and it seemed more limpid in the yellow light coming straight away from the shops.
Bus had already given the horn. I took two sip of water from the bottle while the bus headed towards slowly. Murmurs and whispers dispersed with the flow of the wind. I opened the window a bit. It was now difficult to recognize the smell of parantha dissolved in the air.
To capture the momentary smile of those watery eyes, before they get vanished with the wind, I closed my eyes slowly.
** Dhaba – a roadside food stall