I never bunked. Be it school, college or any job. I was quite a loser to be honest. I never had the guts to just take an off and vegetate at home. I would die of guilt and boredom if I ever did that. If I ever took leave, it would mean a dozen pending bills, electricity, phone and water and forever impending bank work. But that day I got lucky. Few days are so simple yet so special that they are etched into your minds forever.
It was some day in November. I was working at Archies greetings and gifts ltd. The office was in Naraina industrial area, some 18 odd kilometres, three blue line buses and ninety minutes away from my home. I reached office well in time. There was a crowd that had gathered outside the office. I usually don’t care so I went upstairs to my office. Murmurs around whispered that the office had been raided. The top notch bosses were in the accounts department. Nobody had started work in hope of getting a day off. We waited for half an hour and were told to go back home. For the first time in my life, I felt nice working in a country that pays tax and takes it seriously too.
I stepped out of the office and instead of catching a bus; I caught a quick cycle rickshaw to the bus stop. The sun was delicious. November suns are usually delicious. I quickly boarded a mudrika, special buses that run on Delhi’s ring road. A ride back home at 11 am meant less traffic, both on roads and in the bus. I comforted myself on a seat and opened my lunch box to munch on alloo ka parathas that mum had packed for lunch. It felt like an early off from school due to heavy downpour or some other emergency. Parathas tasted better in the bus. When I looked out, the city buzzed with activities. I could smell petrol at traffic signals and see lamp posts flashing by.
I also saw effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath in some distance. I could only see their heads behind some buildings. It was such a festive reminder of Dusshera and Diwali. The sun filtered through the bus’s window and I basked in it, feeling rich in vitamin D.
I got down at my stop from where I could either catch another bus or take a rickshaw to my place. I decided to walk. On my way I saw a road side food vendor who had then started making fresh kachoris. Interestingly he had two burners on his cart, one in which he fried kachoris and the other, hot gulab jamuns. The man had figured his commerce pretty well. Hot, sweet gulab jamuns served after hot kachoris dipped in spicy aloo ki sabzi. I devoured both. As I walked ahead, I passed by DAV school. It was lunch time. The school reverberated with children’s carefree laughter. Recess time in school was so much fun. It taught us time management. We could do so much in those 20 minutes- polish lunch, quick trips to canteen, a short game of cricket, copy Maths homework, buy maps from stationary shop and cover our notebooks with brown paper. I stood there reminiscing my good old school days. I then delved into those narrow streets that run behind our homes. The sweeper was late. His broom kicked up a dust making clouds of fine dry particles.
There were aunties perched on little moodas suitably parked in that patch of sunshine that flooded one corner of the street. Their hands ran in an effortless rhythm to knit sweaters for their families, some of them peeled oranges and pea nuts, some of them haggled with sabzi walas over the price of coriander and some of them complained of approaching winters as they dried clothes on the clothing line. Old uncles had huddled in a park either on charpoys or on chatais. In sharp contrast to aunties, the uncles were very silent. I wonder if it was just a game of cards or their basic nature.
A little walk ahead, I passed by a festive house. I could see a lot of ladies sitting in its veranda, their heads covered and their hands folded. There were double the number of shoes and chappals outside the house. Suddenly the mike shrieked, some fingers ran on a harmonium, someone started beating the dhol and everyone started chanting prayers in praise of Sherawali Mata. It was the sixth day of navratras. Navratras are the most festive days in Delhi. These are the nine days before Dusshera when women observe fast and end up eating more than on a regular day. There are rich elaborate treats of fruits, vegetables and pakoras made of alloo dipped in different flours. Markets are dolled with up different kind of potato chips and red dupattas that mark the celebrations in every house hold. I love these days.
I reached home and surprised mom. She was cleaning the house. The floor was wet and smelled of fresh phenyl. The sunshine reflected from a little poodle on the floor and made fluid images on the wall. Mum had switched on the fan to dry the floor and I suddenly felt cold. We stood in the balcony for some time, chatted over cups of tea and soon I retired to my room with a PG Wodehouse and before I knew, I had buried myself under a comforter, hugging my pillow and my knees and slept like a baby.