Men of Shades!

I see them every day…stacked like bees in a comb…but the fatal difference is only few are buzzing most of the time. I see the road outside through the grimy glass of the red Volvo bus. The sun rays blinding my eyes and making the existence of A/C questionable. The signal turns red and I silently cry inside. Traffic jams…the clock continues to tick and then I notice them again.

I find him cuddling a bag, branded with the logo of the tech company he works for…the music rambling so loud from his Sony headphones…I could almost judge him based on the choices of the songs he had in his playlist…a leather-cover-draped kindle lies in his hand, fingers scrolling across some pages of literary classic…classic that he never wanted to read but was the bestseller on Amazon, so he had to read it somehow.

I eye his worn-out woodland shoes and wonder how many treks it witnessed. Places with his friends, with family, hill-stations, home-town……Few seats ahead, I find a middle-aged guy flashing a Timex on his wrist. His phone rings “Aati rahengi Baharen” of R. D. Burman, and he picks up the gadget so huge that it covers the entire left side of his baby-pink, wrinkled face adorned with few puffs of silver white beard. Seconds after a polite “Hello”, he bellows to the person on the other side of the receiver: “Please reschedule the meeting…some fucker parked a truck right in the middle of the road and abandoned it…I am stuck here…HELLO…CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??… RESCHEDULE!” He spits near the microphone and pockets it back in his Levis jeans. I chuckled thinking if Burman sir’s soul was floating around and witnessing the scene.

Next, my eyes travel to a group of recently-outta-college guys. Tousled head, ID cards of major corporates dangling on their casual t-shirts mostly…or few formal shirts, creased. I could almost picture the early morning scene…Monday blues, hangover, skipped breakfast, no time to iron clothes or comb the hair but not a fuss. I envy the aura…they hi-five over a recently started gossip about a colleague they find amusing or sexy or are curious about…and laugh in their croaky adolescent voices…their talks drift from work pressure to college days and friends and families…and cribs about start-ups…

And then I see another. These men had already seen their grandchildren…A lappy bag on their back with other responsibilities burdening along and cylindrical tiffin Tupperware held in the wedding ring-embedded fingers. “Aaj kya healthy laye ho?” A man, failed to buckle his enlarged tummy, asked.

“Kya bataaon? Bhabiji ne pure family ke liye diet plan kiya hain, net se padhke! Aaj se yahi ghaas-phus” Another one replied.

“Aur aapki gudiya Meghna kab aa rahi hain LA se?”

“Christmas mein! Iss baar new year Goa mein!”

“Arey yaar! Family ke saath Goa? Grandpa ban chuke ho tum! Ab Goa tere liye nahi hain!” Apparently, under the belief that he had cracked city’s best joke, he laughed shaking his belly and the other bellies joined. I sighed. Being a Goan, at the moment, I could only do that!

Then I notice them…neatly ironed, striped, Peter England shirt tucked  in a cotton pant,  tightened by a shiny leather belt, and matched with the jet-black footwear recently stamped by the crowd…he must have cursed million times, and promised in his mind to book a cab the next day which probably never happens…little sweat drops trickle down and a carefully-folded handkerchief comes out of their pockets, cleans their fair brow and goes back in the pocket…and then there are few breathtakingly handsome ones yet unaccompanied by a swarm of giggling chicks…gay, broken-hearted or both or with a deep, dark past I certainly would like to know about…I couldn’t tell…I couldn’t tell whether they were real-young or young as the faces masked their real age…and I see him few seats ahead, the “Times of India” spread so wide that the person sitting next to him also had to read it forcefully…oh boy! And when he sneezed, the swarm of bacteria just drizzled on everyone around. He isn’t even sorry about the whole thing; I notice his paan-stained red mouth as he yawned, cursing IT industry in Kannada which was, according to him, the root cause for the halts.

The signal turns green and the driver sets the vehicle in first gear. A quick jolt and the bus moves. “Late again” I roll my eyes and find one staring at me. I look outside and smile…which shade does he think I belong to?

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