“What if…” he said to himself and stopped suddenly realizing that the woman sitting next to him was looking at him sharply.
“Excuse me, did you say anything?” She was rather an assertive woman. He knew how to show a surprised look on his face on such occasions, it always confused the questioner. His reaction invariably created suspicion in the mind of that person. To make someone doubt him/herself is not an easy task in this overconfident world. But he had practiced it enough to gain mastery.
‘Young woman are not shy now a days’, he thought to himself. He anxiously looked at the woman to find out whether he had again talked loudly. But thankfully, the woman was engrossed into her cell phone.
In the mean time, he had lost the thread of his thought. He was struggling to regain that flow. What was he thinking about? What was he trying to do just when the woman interrupted him?
‘Ok, let me begin from the beginning’, he tried to calm down by repeating this usual line. But beginning of what? He was loosing patience. For a moment, he was angry with that woman, now fully smiling in the cell phone. He wanted to shout at her for breaking his thought process. She smiled back at him and he became nervous. His heart was now pounding. He closed his eyes and tried to take few deep breaths. Who was she? Why was she smiling to him? What was this trap?
The bus was moving like a snake through the crowded path. People were coming in and getting down. They were talking, they were laughing, some were sleeping, some were smiling, and some were lost in thought. The woman sitting next to him got down at one stop. Funnily, while leaving she said, “Take care, and don’t wander. You will reach within ten minutes and give me a call when you reach.”
He was surprised and shocked to listen to that woman. Why was she saying this to him? Who was she? What was she thinking of him? Where was he supposed to reach? How did she know where he was reaching? Why did she want to know it? Why did she think that he had her number? He got frightened.
The bus stopped. Everyone got down. The driver and conductor of the bus looked at each other knowingly. The conductor spoke to him, “Last stop. Uncle go straight to your house, do not wander.” Did the conductor know him? How? He could not understand the conductor’s statement. The landmarks looked familiar but the road was not known to him. He did not know anything around. He felt very lonely. He felt like a lost child. Whom to call? If someone responds to his call, what would he say?
He moved away. The cool breeze from the sea shore made him feel sleepy. He still was not able to recall anything. The blankness of the mind was frightening. Who was he? Why was he here? What did he want to do? Where was he going? Why was he not able to remember anything?
He went on walking, in search of something which he knew, which he could recall easily. He went on and on, tired, hungry, thirsty, frightened, desperately trying to relate to the world around. Something in his pocket was ringing constantly. He was more frightened. Was it a black magic? At the first garbage bin, he threw away that ringing machine. Minutes passed. Hours passed.
He was attracted by the smell of Vada-Pav. His mind calmed down. He was smiling like a child. He felt free. He rushed to the stall. He was happy to find something with which he could associate.
The young man at the Vada-Pav stall was making a routine call while the old man was enjoying his Vada-Pav. “Madam, don’t worry. Your father is here again. I will take him to your home. Why do you leave him alone even in the bus? Good that he comes here when he is lost. Cell phone? I am sure he must have thrown it away like last time,” Within minutes the old man would be safely entrusted to his family.
The young man thought to himself, half smiling, half frustrated, ‘What if someone like me would have met my mother and brought her home when she was suffering from memory loss!”
He sighed. Every time this old man turned to him, his hope of his mother’s return ignited in him. “What if…” he thought and tears rolled down.