I rushed out of the house. I was already late and my mom was on the brink of rage. Mom has been nagging me to go to my cousin’s house from past one month and today was the day. I had to keep up my promise of spending a day with my ‘reticent cousin’- as I call him and get a package that my aunt is supposed to give. He stays in the outskirts of the town and I was about to miss the last auto-rickshaw of the day to get there. Travelling with the fellow beings of the planet can’t get much more interesting.
I have met him just thrice since my childhood days and this makes the situation much narrow. I avoid being around people who hardly spill out any words. The chances of I liking his company seems like the amount of bitterness in sugar crystals.
Counting this as a day wasted, I managed my way through the narrow and shadowy street and I found the last vehicle just about to leave. I saw the black smoke it left so I shouted at the driver and waved my hand to stop it. The screech sound confirmed that it stopped and I consoled myself. I got on the auto and adjusted myself amidst the unknown humans and found myself panting. An old man, quite aged, extended a bottle of water. The bottle’s base was distorted and was covered with dirt. I did not accept his offer and told that to him in a kind manner. I was pleased by his nature though.
There was something different in this journey. Looking at other people I felt as if each had a story to say, each had a lesson to teach and each possessed a life experience that I should grasp.
I would reach there in an hour so I had enough time to enjoy the journey. We were eight passengers in all. The thick plastic sheet above our heads safeguarded us against the morning summer heat. The three passengers facing me were all below their forties. One was a fair toned girl in her mid twenties probably. Her rose cheeks and dreamy eyes can never fail to attract anyone, especially a person like me. Her kurta was pale and had patchworks all over but her eyes longed to reach distances. She smiled at me and her tender lips quivered displaying the innocence. I smiled back as if it is contagious. The old man who sat near me had a walking stick. ‘His each wrinkle has a story behind’ – I smiled at the thought of this and a man who was sitting diagonal to me noticed this. I turned away my head in embarrassment – what would he think of a girl who is smiling without a visible reason. After sometime when I found him peeking out of the window, I looked at him. His enticing features gave me butterflies in my stomach. The dark-skin toned man, thick eyebrows, deep manly eyes – I couldn’t understand what was happening with me that day. My thoughts broke as his phone bell sang a desi song. He informed his sister that he will reach in five minutes and that was enough to shatter my heart into tiny pieces. I could do nothing else but admire his handsomeness until he got down. After paying the auto wala he left. Two small boys who were fast asleep in the state of euphoria woke up when they dashed on the old man’s hand as the auto stopped with a jerk. One had a cotton candy in his hands which was about to fall any moment. I was fascinated by their love when one boy made the other lay on his lap and no sooner both fell asleep again. I smiled.
Two ladies, clad in sarees of the local fashion boarded the auto and got adjusted in the empty place. The auto now got crammed. They seemed too funny. Probably they were vendors because they had the big bamboo baskets which had few mangoes left. They bent down and fit the baskets under the seats. Speaking in loud voices, funny dialects, they managed to bring in a lively environment. Their conversations were so humorous that the girl with rose cheeks smiled looking at me, I smiled back. Strangers have a unique language- the language of serenity. ‘I could understand this girl more than my cousin’, I thought. A pool of questions flooded my mind suddenly.
‘Did I always ignore my cousin that makes me hate him?’
‘Have I ever tried to respect his calmness?’
‘Does he not talk because he simply is not used to it?’
‘He must like me in fact. Why not?!’
‘Have I misunderstood that all reticent people are rude?’
I can’t think anymore. I felt as if I was doing a big mistake these many years by mistaking him to be rude. ‘When I can like almost all the strangers with whom I spent just an hour, why can’t I enjoy the company of my cousin?’
The auto bumped and stopped and the driver announced the arrival of destination. I bought the remaining mangoes from the cheeky ladies to give it to my cousin. Their smiles refilled my drained heart with more faith and happiness. I helped the pallid faced old man to get down safely and he blessed me.
I paid the ladies and turned and was surprised to find my cousin.
“Hey”, he said.
Strangers teach things- in a unique language that only our hearts can understand – universal language of hearts that has no translations.