A Walk – Short Story
By: Sruti Nayani
Whether on a warm summers day, or on a chilly winter morning, or even in the dark, rainy season, he always made his way into the busy marketplace. He would be up early in the morning, and while the day was still deciding what it would shower upon us today, whether it was rainy or sunny, he would get up and quickly get dressed, ready to step out into the rather hazy, shadowy morning.
He wore his favourite white clothes, his staple fashion statement and walked out. As the red and yellow flowers greeted him with a shower, he walked onto the street. With coins jingling in his pocket, he looked up at the sky. The sky was still in its decision mode. Smiling, he moved on. He mentioned a polite ‘hello’ to the sweeper in the colony, and shouted at the beggars who came asking, to go find a job. Of course, he never shouted at the one who was limping or even the blind one. He had coins enough for them.
He met the morning walkers who were hobbling by with their walking sticks, he met the busy executive who lived in his colony, waiting for the bus. He met little street children who were running by, he met ladies and their children waiting for the school bus. He always was polite to everyone as he went on.
He wondered what the time was and sighed for the nth time, wondering if he would ever have a watch. So, he stopped a policeman and asked him the time. He made his way again. He made quick progress, when he reached the main road. He disliked the traffic, hated the dust, grime and smells of the road. But he had to go.
Walking past the bridge, avoiding the trash on the road, smiling at the cars and wondering how his car, the old Ford Prefect of 1949 would ever make out on these roads of 1989.
He remembered the trips in car. His children asking him various questions, on who and what or even how everything was. He loved taking them to the temples, to the homes of their aunts and uncles, or to even the stores. Nowadays, bereft of the car, he liked taking his grandchild on walks to the garden, or even to the park with swings or slides and she, in her tiny frock trotting up beside him talking of the sky and the stars, or even the sun. He thought of his wife, probably up and cooking the delicious meals, he loved every day.
He reached the busy market, and was immediately surprised at the noise. Every single horn, even single person shouting, every car screeching and every motorbike zooming, every single sound came to his ears and every single time, this surprised him.
He stopped by a temple on the road, and immediately went in. He did the usual rounds inside the temple, loved talking to the priest, fell into prayer, then taking his sweet prashaad, he walked out.
He came across the famous theatre. Quite an old theatre, but it had its regular customers. He saw a poster, on which the hero whose face was in close up, staring into space, whereas the heroine, was dancing with some fifty odd dancers on some cold mountain top wearing a dress which would never keep her warm. He gave an odd grin, while walking away.
Again, onto the street into the bright sunshine. Here, he was again. The sun glistened on every surface, non-discriminating it was and throwing up more light. The sides of the road were filled with shopkeepers who were here early, trying to set up shop before anybody else. He saw the boot polish guy, who asked to polish his shoes. He saw the book keepers, asking him to buy a second hand book or two. Refusing, he moved on.
He walked into a by lane, where he was surrounded by shops of all sizes, and shapes. He looked at the different stores he looked at the little grey cat, and the two dirty, brown street dogs. Dodging the young man going for an interview, he passed a lady in a burkha and the three students on their way to college and the young girls on their moped he managed to reach the end of the lane.
Here, he stopped and looked in. Still locked. Thinking he had walked rather early today, he was about to make his into another store, when the owner came running across the street. He smiled at him and the owner saluted him.
He watched the owner, come in take out a key and quickly go about his business. He watched him roll up the shutter and open the door. He watched the other workers come in. He disappeared into the store, and after paying the shopkeeper, came out, half an hour later.
He gave a sigh of relief. It was done for the month. Now, he could go home. It was a longer route, and the traffic would be worse. Still it could be much worse. He felt better, and lighter.
After all, this was his monthly time. After all, he did not miss it, come rain – come shine or come cold. Every month, he walked in here, the first customer of the day. And after all, he was going back short haired and well massaged. After all, it was the Majestic Hair Cutting Saloon.