It was after two whole months of traveling with him that I finally saw his face when I thanked him for the night and wished him good bye. For in the past, all I could see of his face in those last moments of the ride was his long sparkling teeth that shone through the darkness all around. I would see a perfunctory nod before I slam the door and turn away. Today, for the first time, I could see him, his eyes, and I knew how much this little gesture meant to him.
I got down and started wading through the two wheelers and the autos zig zagging all over the wide junction before touching the pavement on Dickenson road. Over the last one year, I have taken this road ever so often that I can close my eyes and find my way; I could even tell you the exact number of steps you need to take to reach the lone, old tree right in the middle of the school play ground; I could recognize voices on the road for I hear them everyday in the same place, at the sametime continuing with their little fights and amusing anectodes - their lives like daily episodes of my favorite soap opera (like my life is for them) - nameless, faceless strangers I know so much about.
Not that I had the time to stand and stare. The shuttle leaves me in the middle of Dickenson road at seven twenty. I have to cross commercial street, make my way through the street vendors near Safina plaza and open the rusted blue doors of Tunbridge high school in ten minutes. So, space and time is a blur and people are three dimensional shadows gliding on rolling wheels. In the middle of running and panting - I catch snatches of conversations, laughs, a after thought of a probable glance and a trail of sleek zooming cars. A blurred snapshot.
But today was different - It was six in the evening. It wasn't night yet and the day was just begining to wind. The pall of darkness had been lifted off the entire scene and all that was black and white was painted in a dull, pleasing dusky hue. It's amazing to watch nature set the pace of life so subtly that it's barely noticeable. Dim the lights, blow the breeze, scatter the autumn leaves on those concrete roads, hint a shower, glide the clouds and paint them with a touch of gray. And soon the flowers will shower, the birds shall sing and men shall stop and stare.
Dickenson road is no boulevard. It is yet another narrow road in bangalore that no one ever believed would be used so often. It has an assortment of buildings right from a military store to a deteriorating green edifice used for something it was not meant for and a few deserted huts with a courtyard that serves the garbage bin for the entire road. Nothing about the road would hint a presence of something that's been there and watched history. No impressive buildings, no Victorian statues nor a mention in any book. That is until you see the trees.
The branches jut out of walls, extend from one end to the other providing a thick green roof over the entire road. The bark is filled with lines of old age and the leaves are an interesting collection of green shades sparsed occasionally with orchid-like flowers. But the most beautiful of them all is the tree inside the century old school campus named after a rai bahadur gentleman. It's a lone survivor in a deserted playground, a dull brown bark arching to its right standing before a off-white colonial sandstone building. There are no leaves left on the aging branches. But the whole tree is full of violet flowers, densely packed all over the tree. And on the ground beneath her feet, is a violet flower bed like an image of the tree on a pond. And if you stand there long enough, you can watch a flower gliding from one of the branches down to the flower bed, playing with the wind till it finally settles in the bed, unrecognizable from the rest of them, making you forget in the beauty of it all that it's actually death that you are admiring.
And soon the sun disappears, the shadows continue to lengthen till they fill the entire sky and I slowly make my way to the theater session. Just as I am about press my foot on the pavement, I see a violet flower praying for life. I step back, pick it up and place it carefully inside my bag and continue walking. For many, changing the shuttle timings to five in the evening is a decision of convenience. For me, it's a little more life, I never realized I missed.