Tale of a Penniless Evening
If a copy of ‘Mrs. Funnybones’ in my bag was the cake then my colleague offering me a lift was the cherry on it. This very colleague cum a forgetful friend, finally, lend me this book after quite a number of reminders. Better late than never! Finally the much awaited ‘thing’ was in my possession. I was eagerly waiting to reach home, pounce on the bed, adorn my polka-dotted blanket and absorb the book.
So, when my colleague offered me lift I was more than happy. Though, we set out together from office, I decided to bid her farewell from chandmari (My destination was Panbazar) after she offered tea and samosa. Of course, I didn’t decline to the chai samosa offer. However, after that I chose to take a ride of my usual mode of transportation- City Bus!
I walked till the bus stand. Found myself alone with no roadside Romeos to bother me or other must-get-the-seat aspirants to race with. The sight of more vacant seats and less heads, gradually approaching towards me, brightened my face in the dark winter evening.
I got on the bus and occupied a vacant window seat. Yes! I got a window seat! The seats were damn comfortable. Something one can rarely expect from the city buses of Guwahati. “Everything was so perfect. Something must be wrong”, I wondered.
Just when I was beginning to believe that everything was true and I was settling down on the comfortable seat, the ringtone of my phone interrupted my ‘utopian’ moment. On the screen it flashed ‘Maa Calling’. A sight that can give chills even to the bravest. And here I was, just an average soul. I recieved the call and immediately got a command from the other side. I had to buy some snacks for my brother whose appetite can be fuelled with only ‘baahar ka khana’.
I got down at the next stop. The bus stopped exactly in front of Mirch Masala, Uzanbazar; which happened to be my destination for my snack shopping. The moment I stepped into Mirch Masala, it dawned to me that I had just Rs 30 in cash with me apart from the Rs 5 coin that I got back from the bus conductor. I was trying to do the math and before I could come to a solution the boy on the other side of the counter uttered “Bhonti, ki lagibo?” Of course his use of the pronoun ‘bhonti’ did please me as most of the conductors and shopkeepers often use ‘baideo’ for me nowadays. However, I was still not done with my calculation. You could guess how poor I was in Maths. Without much thinking I replied “eta Singra diyok. Packing!”. I could tell by his look that the quantity of my order somehow bothered him. I couldn’t dare ask for the chutney. Gave him a Rs. 10 note and rushed out. Now I was left with Rs. 20 plus that Rs 5 coin. Bought a packet of chips to add some quantity for my brother’s fuel. Now I was left with Rs 15. I felt proud to have saved Rs 10. (An extra 5 for my bus fare). But my nose and tummy had other plans. A hypnotic aroma of chopped onion, chilies and coriander pulled me towards a jhaalmuri wala. A cold war was taking place between my brain and tummy. Literally, it was a cold one. After some ‘to be or not to be’ I decided to part with my sole Rs 10 note as even after spending it I would be left with my bus fare. So my tummy won the battle, instigated by my nose.
Once again, I stood at the bus stop but surrounded my many this time. I was very conscious about the Rs5 coin as it was the only monetary possession left with me. I would check for its existence every now and then. As the endless wait for the bus was going on, an old man in shabby clothes and a tattered blanket approached asking for alms. His sunken eyes and shaky empty hand made me feel helpless. “If I give him the last penny I had, how would I go home? But how can I leave him empty handed”, I was confused. Just then I remembered my lender of last resort- the back pocket of my bag. I rummaged in the pocket and to my relief I found a one rupee coin. I felt like I had found some kind of treasure. I gave the coin to the old man and he murmured something which I believe were words of gratitude. I didn’t send him back empty handed. It indeed felt like a ‘treasure moment’.
Finally, my ‘antaheen apekkha’ was over and the bus arrived. Thankfully I got a seat, not the window one though. I took a sigh of relief after giving the fare, my last penny, to the conductor.