His gaze was fixed at the dying dog. The poor creature was writhing in pain. Oblivious to the dog’s suffering, the people around him were busy discussing the upcoming elections. “Lal salaam dewar jonno aar ektu wait kortei hobe,” said the old man who looked like a living caricature because of his pointy ears and hooked nose. Others agreed with him. “Sheta toh theek bolechen dada. Kintu aei election ta didi’r jonnoeasy hobe na,” the fat lady added, before walking towards the bus that had just arrived.
One by one, they all got into the bus. The ancient vehicle was overflowing with people, limbs dangling dangerously out of the doors and windows. The smell of sweat threatened to suffocate people to death. But the brave Kolkatans rode on to their destinations.
He had forgotten about the dying dog as soon as he got onto the bus. The journey to his office would be long and he was feeling uneasy since morning. So the immediate concern was to get a seat for himself. Had it not been for his ten-year-old daughter, he wouldn’t have even left home that day. Though her birthday was due next week, he decided to manage an early present by replacing her worn-out school shoes. The little doll’s embarrassment broke his heart every time he watched her hide the whites of her socks by curling her toes inside her shoes. Fortunately for him, the old shoe store near his office was closing down. Hence, the store-owners were offering great discounts. So he had to get those shoes before the stock ran out. He pictured his daughter dancing around in her little shoes and that made him smile. If the little joys of life demanded efforts, so be it.
His eyes scanned the bus and rested dejectedly. Again. No empty seats. He slightly cursed his luck and turned his face towards the driver. Unable to see the road ahead due to the sea of heads around him, he rested his head on his left arm. From where he stood, he could see an old couple watching a video on a cellphone. The wrinkled fingers of the old lady held on to the phone as if it were dear life. The smile on her face so innocent. The wonder on the old man’s face so bewitching. And he pondered, would he ever be able to afford such contentment? Would his marriage survive the current troubles? Hell. Would he even live long enough to be so old and frail? The questions could never be answered by mere mortals. The uncertainty of life had always amazed him for it had the power to both provide and steal. It was just a matter of who and when.
The bus stopped. Passengers got off, passengers got in. Life functioned in a similar way, he thought to himself. Everyday people across the globe were ‘getting off’ this world. New members were being added. Everybody was inching closer towards their destination. He looked at the kid in school uniform who had just hopped on to the bus along with his mother. Pushing through the throngs of people, the woman dashed for the ladies seat and made her son sit there. All the comforts in the world were for her son. She could manage the entire journey without having a place for herself.
He had just raised his hand to check the time on his watch when he felt the sky collapse on him. He felt a heavy weight crushing him. The college student standing next to him had also collapsed. Her head was bent in an awkward manner. Confusion and terror etched all over her face. He was falling short of breath himself. He could hear people screaming around him. He could smell blood. He could feel a thick liquid pouring down his face. A sharp metal object was piercing his back, just above his waist, but he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t understand what had happened. He couldn’t move his head to look for answers. All he could manage was a cursory glance towards the twisted window pane. And he could see swirls of dust rising skyward. More shrieks of terror, more pain, smell of blood. His head was spinning fast now. He was choking. He knew his time had come. A cellphone was ringing at a distance. He could hear faint strains of gayatri mantra. His eyelids gave up after a few seconds. The image of the dying dog floated back into his mind. He thought of God, his family, his daughter and more. With every single image, he felt himself being drifted away. He pictured his daughter dancing in the new shoes and couldn’t see anything else after that. A second later, he breathed his last.
After the debris has settled,
think of what we lost..
Shoes, people or stories
or everything that could be
Blame each other later
mourn now, pledge now
to all those you wronged
Never let this happen again
Let no daughter be without her new shoes
PS: This is purely a work of fiction.
By: Kainat Sarfaraz