Saturday, September 03, 2005


“Smile is the curve that sets everything straight”,
“smile is infectious, it makes others smile too”,
“A smile will take you miles”…. And so many other set of words about the actually infectious “SMILE”.

It was by sheer coincidence, that Abhi’s distant memory was rekindled. If I am not exaggerating,he felt as if, he himself is living the part of his favourite story. The connection was, the very loveable,Ruskin Bond. Abhi had been in the mad rush called Mumbai for some 4 years before this happened.2 years of junior college and later a job,prevented him from getting indulged into all kinds of knowledge attaining acts,his best time pass, was eating and sleeping.

This went on until, one fine Sunday morning,when,he took a fresh copy of The Times of India,and read an article on his favourite author,Ruskin Bond. It seemed to him as if knew about him and his works though, he had not read him. That article drove him like an uneasy,restless soul,until the day when he laid his hand on two of Bond’s books. “ A scene from a writer’s life” and “ Delhi is not far”, he read them both cover to cover within no time, and was very happy as he was reliving his good’ol childhood “Doordarshan” days, when, Sigma,Stoneboy,Ramayan,Gayab Aaya and “ Ek tha Rusty” were an instant hit. He grew up,dreaming about,once going to place where Rusty grew up,Dehradoon. Shining brooklets,lush greenery,several chai ki tapirs,lots of rabbits around,and intermittant drizzle now and then,was all he wanted to enjoy. But, destiny had some other plans.

Abhi’s father retired before he actually should have,and that invariably created conditions that, he had to take up a job. Fortunately, he got a job with Railways,but…then it was a big struggle for him. Juggling between sub-human working conditions,corrupt colleagues and nagging customers,he always managed to find joy out of whatever he had, and had learnt,and when he would do nothing, Rusty was always there. He would dream about him, and thus would be happy again. Time passed just like a “laal dabba” BEST bus whizzes past you,spewing that dark cloud of smoke around. Changes occurred and Abhi was now destined to work on the same counter everyday. Occassional brawls,short of money,new lessons,new people and new strategies,largely made his day.
Mumbai never sleeps,as the city proclaims,for me its already dead. Out of hundreds of irritating passengers Abhi would handle,a couple of cheerful ones would pep him up, to do well at his work. One such day,when he was working a quintessential girl-next-door came on his window and asked for a ticket, “ agar pass jama karna ho to nikaal ke dijiye?”. Abhi asked her in clear voice,in hindi. And for no reason apparent to Abhi, she smiled and said no,she didn’t want to surrender her ticket. But something left Abhi scratching his head. What was that something,her smile,her face, or something else. Abhi went on, before another month passed,and the girl appeared again, this time too,she smiled after Abhi asked,he too smiled. This went on for couple of months. Abhi by now was bugged up with the city, and decided to move out. He got the transfer order, and now the wait began. For all these months that smile had meant a lot to him, a reason to smile,in itself, and whenever he came to think of that girl, he would smile.
On his last working day in Borivali Season Ticket Office, he was tense to finish off the day as early as possible,for he never wanted the demons on his counters to emerge,he hated the brawls, the petty strategies he used to defeat his mammoth enemy,the public,his frequently spoken words were, I behave like what they have made me to,I was never like this before? Fine, but I think he knew how to remember,who is how? As the day closed to its end, Abhi grew further restless, and wished only once could he see her, smile, for no apparent reason. Time ticked away fast, and it was raining too, there was a crowd outside his window, and there was chaos, and there she emerges running towards him,(the window), their eyes meet and before he could say anything,she said, thank god,you’re (here),today was last day of my ticket,and before Abhi could repeat his oft-asked question, she herself said with that enchanting smile on her face, nahin hame pass jama nahin karana he! Abhi mustered enough courage to ask her name,despite of having her i-card and told her that he was leaving,leaving to some unknown destination,where,he will have to lookout for more smiles.Aarati,she told, and asked,why he was leaving,he smiled and just said, “ DESTINY”.

Abhi is now in a town called Navsari,happy with his job,and the people around, and these days he smiles a lot……….

Now what’s the Ruskin connection to this stupid story, for that you will have to read, “Time stops at Shamli”. Happy reading,folks.