He wakes up in the morning, still tucked under his blanket, he thinks what the day has in store for him. The Sun is just growing out of a nascent orange and has plans to brighten the day for all the world (his world atleast) . He showers, parades around in his towel and smelling of a mixture of lemon flavoured soap and menthol shampoo. Breakfast is decent, he doesn't ever stuff himself.
He walks out and a gust of breeze hits him, displacing his neatly combed locks. He picks up his bag which is lying on the marble floored porch adjacent to the huge swing that reminded one of the swings of in a huge mansion in the villages of South India. " Grandmother's gift ! ", he would beamingly exclaim when his friends asked him about the swing. After adjusting the bag on his back, he turns toward his bike. He doesn't like cars, for reasons which only his closest friends from college knew apart from himelf. He owns a snazzy Royal Enfield Bullet Electra. I remember how he would religiously spend a litre of water and shine it every evening. It was something that was almost like a part of him.
Bag on back, aviators on eyes, helmet on head... he chugs away from home on his ride. This was what I would see of him almost everyday.
He was away for most of the day, once or twice I remember him coming home during the afternoon.
In the evenings, he was always sporting shorts and a t- shirt. There was something about these t-shirts, they were always those freebies that you got when you attended an event organised by some big organisation/institution. That seemed funny, because he was only dressed in crisp shirts and matching trousers every morning. So much for alter egos. He was liked for his calm, easy going and friendly nature. He would always let those devilish 7 yr olds play cricket on his lawn, he would even join them sometimes bowling underarm and trying to be as slow as he possibly so the kids could actually score off him.
He never spoke much to anyone. An occasional smile from him would be all that we would get. He loved his TV and you could hear the constant groan of the Idiot box throughout the night. He had one of those amazing flat screen televisions with extra dimensions which made one feel like one was in a mini cinema theatre. A few hazards of living by oneself are that inanimate objects like the television, the cellphone and the internet become family. He had friends, a group of 5 if memory serves right, they had dinners at his place often. They were always the silent intimate kind of dinners. No loud music for him.
Never could he be seen reading a book, but you could know that he was a deeply insightful person. No one ever knew what he did. Some said, he worked for one of them Software Giants, a few others said he was a journalist, a few others thought his attire was that of a financial analyst, one person who had seen with a famous actor once even went around telling people that he was a famour director. But no one ever knew what he did or for that matter anything about his past or present.
I will always remember that day, January the 13th. This day was the first time, he wasn't doing the usual routine that I had seen him do day after day, he was dressed in a smart white striped collared T shirt and blue jeans. He was walking towards my gate. I sat up with coffee mug in hand, wondering whether he had noticed me observing him and was getting annoyed, and that he was coming this way to give me a piece of his mind. "Ah ! Well, atleast I would hear him talk", I thought. But he didn't seem like the type who would care for nosey neighbours.
He came up to my gate, looked me straight in the eye and smiled. I signalled him to come on in. He kept the stare going as he strode towards me and fidgeted with his pocket. He shook hands and sat himself down. The first words escaped his mouth, he said, " Hi, I know we haven't spoken much." I smiled. He went on, " I'll be going away for a while, and I'd really like it if you would take care of my Bullet, wash it once in a while, and in return you can drive her around for a bit." I was delighted, that was a like a dream come true. I assured him that I would love to and promised to be careful. He nodded a thanks and started to leave. I interrupted, " Where are you going and when will you be back ?". Decreasing the pace of his step, he turned around and said -
" I'm going in search of the meaning of life and I will be a while. " I did not quite understand his cryptic talk then, but I smiled and waved goodbye.
A month later, I heard his gate creaking open. I ran outside. I saw his friends driving into the driveway. I could sense, that things weren't in order. A girl, probably in her late 20's saw me and signalled me to come and join them. I went as quickly as I could. She enquired in a low voice, "You're Aditya right ?". I nodded. She forced a smile onto her pale face and said - "He wanted you to have the bike. ". I did not quite understand and stared back at her perplexed. She ushered me into the porch and we sat on the swing as the other four friends went into the house. She explained to me that my neighbour was one of India's foremost writers. He had travelled to the war stricken areas of the Rajasthan border to write about the life of people who lived there. He had planned to name the book, THE MEANING OF LIFE. One night as he was on one of his walks on the sand dunes, he was fired upon by a few militants. The villagers who he was studying for his book, found his unconscious body 3 hours later. He was on his deathbed when his friends went to see him at the hospital in Jaisalmer. She told me that he looked like someone else and that they were inconsolable, but he still smiled and spoke to them for half an hour before he suddenly rested into his eternal slumber.
She said that what he said during those thirty odd minutes were profound. "He never had family and he always was close to us. But he loved the kids in his neighbourhood and especially the boy who unknowingly waved goodbye to him with his eyes every morning", she quivered, almost in tears. I felt a shiver crawl down my spine, and lump in my throat. I stood up and froze. The girl put her arm around me and said "Thanks". For what, I did not know and did not care to ask. I just looked back at her walked out of the house and headed straight for my room.
He went in search of The Meaning of Life,but went so far away from Life that he could never return. Sometimes bonds are formed without even saying a word.
My first fictional work. Do comment