Values Lost…and Found

Posted: February 19, 2011 by Jinkchak in RVCE, Short Stories

It was an extremely bright and sultry afternoon. The air was highly polluted, and the sound of blaring horns and idling engines filled the air. An apt word to describe the entire scene would be…uhmmm…“Active”. I examined my surroundings from the auto, which was anything but beautiful, and this is what I saw with my own two eyes.

Under the unforgiving heat of the afternoon Sun, men and women were rushing in various directions, with faces contorted into ones of purpose. People walked and ran alongside vehicles that were moving at a snail’s pace – in fact, all traffic was almost at a standstill. To make matters worse, the bus drivers were honking frequently, as if it was the end of the world. How honking would help them progress any faster is really something I need to figure out! In all this hustle and bustle, autos (of all colors and sizes) were weaving their way through any gap they could find (even if it was only a few centimeters in width); though some of them weren’t quite successful, including the Auto that Roger and I were seated in.

Coming to the conclusion that walking would serve our purpose better, Roger and I decided to give our legs some much needed exercise. So, I informed the driver of our great decision, and he, without any further ado, brought his Auto to a halt, in the middle of the road.

The meter displayed Indian Rupee ₹ 52.5 as the total fare. I alighted from the Auto, while my friend, Roger, counted the exact change he had to present to the Auto driver. This was the first time that day that my feet established contact with a road near the Majestic Bus Stand. What a feeling! Indescribable!

Just as Roger was alighting from the Auto, he received a phone call. It was an unknown caller. He answered the call, only to be greeted by that good-for-nothing digital lady who has no other work but to inform everyone about Ring tones. He cancelled the call amidst a whole lot of swearing and cursing.

“Don’t they have better work to do?” he asked.

Considering that Roger asks rhetorical questions frequently, I didn’t bother to answer.

We continued on our mission, which was: To reach Platform No. 19 and catch a bus to RVCE.

If you’ve ever been to the Majestic Bus Stand, you’ll know that staying alert is of utmost importance, lest you get run over (by buses or by people) or pick-pocketed by Fagin’s Gang and the likes of the Artful Dodger.

It was an extremely long walk to Platform No. 19, but after pushing and wading our way through human traffic, we finally made it in a record 4 minutes. Now came the tough part – waiting for the right bus to come. Lots of buses stopped in front of us, but none of them were heading our way.

Since I had no other better work to do, I made a few observations. It’s funny how certain seemingly unrelated things are, in fact, related. For instance, when a bus arrives, all the people waiting for that bus rush to it as if it’s a matter of life or death. It’s as if those people are electrons that have some kind of affinity for the bus, and are drawn towards it. The doors of the bus are like resistors that limit the number of people that can enter the bus at one time. And if the bus has only one door…– Brrrr….I shudder when I think of that. One wrong move and you might be crushed into pulp. So, better watch your step. It all boils down to this: “Survival of the Fittest”!

(I also clarified what my good friend, Ruskin Bond had told me earlier, about how people “booked” seats in the bus by throwing their bags onto vacant seats through the windows! You were right!)

Around twenty minutes had passed by the time our bus finally arrived. Now, it was our (Roger’s and my) turn to jump into the rat race. And guess what?! The bus had only one door…I was bracing myself for this task, when Roger’s face turned panic-stricken.

“Don’t worry! We’ll get a seat,” said I, in a consoling tone.

“I’m not worried about that, you idiot! I can’t seem to find my mobile phone,” he replied, while turning his pockets inside-out. “I think I’ve been pick-pocketed.”

“Check properly,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

After a few seconds, he said, “I must have dropped it in that auto, because of that stupid ringtone advertisement. Let’s go back.”

We turned to retrace our steps, knowing in our hearts, that the auto would be long gone, and the probability of retrieving the phone was almost zero. I was following Roger, when he suddenly turned around, and asked, “Phone!! Where’s your phone? Did you bring your phone?”

“Yeah…Yeah…Yeah!” I replied. “Why?”

“Give it to me. I’ll ring up my phone and see what happens. Let’s give it a try.”

Oops! Why hadn’t I thought of that? It’s funny how one’s mind fails to function when one needs it the most.

I took out my phone from my pocket, and handed it to him. He grabbed it and dialed his number. While he waited for the ring tone, his facial expression didn’t change.

We stood there, in the middle of the Bus stand, waiting for someone (I don’t know who) to pick up Roger’s phone. I was thinking to myself: “The phone’s as good as lost. It’ll be a miracle if we find it. Who knows how many crooks walk around here?”

Thirty seconds had elapsed.

“No one’s picking up,” said Roger, with a sad expression on his face.

“Try again,” I coaxed, knowing that it was useless. (The crooks would have begun opening the back-lid of the phone to remove the SIM card – assuming that the phone had been pick-pocketed, of course. Or maybe they’ll remove the battery first, or maybe… – There were endless possibilities.)

He redialed, and waited, pressing the phone to his ear. Nothing happened. A few passers-by glanced in our direction once in a while, for reasons I couldn’t comprehend, but most of them were oblivious to our plight.

“I guess it’s gone. I’m a fool. I don’t know why this happened. It must have fallen of, or maybe I got pick pocketed. If I ever catch that…” His swearing was cut short.

“Hello! HELLO! HELLO,” shouted Roger, into my phone, his voice a bit shaky. “Hello! Is that you? It’s me.” – (I still don’t understand the meaning of this particular portion of the conversation)

“Do you have my phone?” Roger asked, slowly. Roger paused, while he listened, nodding to me. He then started moving towards the place we had left the auto.

I followed.

(A thought flashed across my mind that the person Roger was speaking to, might be the Auto Driver.)

“I’m Roger here. Where are you? Can you return my phone?” he asked slowly, fearing that the person would cut off the call.

“Yes. Yes,” he continued. “Uhmm…Santhosh Theater. Ok. Santhosh. Santhosh Theatre. I’ll be there in 2 minutes.” – We were still in the bus stand. Unless we suddenly sprouted wings and took to flying, we’d never make it in two minutes, but I kept these crazy thoughts to myself.

When you don’t visit an area often, you tend to get disoriented, and one-ways (with respect to roads) lead to further disorientation. And it was the same case with us. We had no idea in what direction our target lay. But, the old adage, “When in doubt, Ask” came to our rescue.

So, we asked loads of passersby how to go to Santhosh theater. Now, when you’re in a hurry, you don’t waste time with salutations and the like. So, the only phrase Roger and I used, was, “Santhosh Theater?”, and we got replies most of the time, in the form of fingers pointing in the direction of Santhosh Theater.

We finally reached the main road outside the Bus Stand. According to the information we had received, Santhosh Theater should have been right in front of us. But it wasn’t.

We continued asking for directions. I took up the task of locating the theater while Roger proceeded to ring up the faceless person.

According to the information we had gathered, we were supposed to cross to the other side of the busy road. Since we were in a hurry, we ran across the road, narrowly escaping a collision with an auto – Fate (if such a thing exists) was kind to us!

As I asked for directions using the method described before, I could hear Roger talking behind me. “Please wait. We are almost there. Please don’t leave…” and then, my eyes saw the sign. Those letters brightened up the whole situation. I suddenly felt like a Pirate who had discovered a huge treasure.

I turned around, and beckoned Roger to look. His line of vision took the path my finger was pointing to, and in a moment he realized that he was staring at the very letters that constituted the word “Santhosh”. We had reached our final destination!

A spark of relief momentarily crossed Roger’s face.

He screamed into my phone, “Wait! Wait! Wait! I’m here. I’m there. I’m here. I’m there.” – Even in this grave situation, this seemed hilarious.

“Where are you? I can see the Theater….(pause)…What do I see? Wait….ahhhh….yeah….I can see an ice-cream parlour…(pause)…Oh…..you’re there….Who are you….wait…..I’m raising my left hand,” said Roger, lifting his free arm in the air.

I looked around. The situation here was similar to the one near the Majestic Bus Stand – there was a hustle and bustle of activity and traffic, albeit on the footpath. I wondered….Wait! Now was not the time to day-dream. What was I thinking? Coming back to reality…

“Can you see me…(pause)…great….where…?” Roger’s question was cut short by two women of average height who came up to us, with one of them holding Roger’s phone, and before I could say “Jack Robinson”, she handed the phone to Roger.

Roger gripped the phone in his hands as he thanked them profusely.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you,” Roger’s happiness knew no bounds. He turned his phone round and round, and examined it thoroughly. Everything seemed fine. One moment he had been panic-stricken, and now, he was all smiles.

“Thank you. But where did you find the phone?” he enquired.

“We found it in the middle of the road, at the entrance of the Majestic Bus Stand,” said the lady who had handed the phone to Roger. She continued: “I didn’t want the phone to get crushed by oncoming vehicles, so I picked it up. But I didn’t know what else to do? I didn’t know who it belonged to or whom I should ring up…and so, we walked to this ice-cream parlour here, to have some ice-cream before we left for C______. And that was when we received your call. And well, you know the rest.”

“Thank you! You don’t know how much this means to me. Getting this phone back was one chance in a million. I know loads of people who’ve never retrieved their lost phones. There must be some way I can repay your kindness,” said Roger.

“No. No. Not at all,” replied the other lady, who hadn’t spoken yet.

“Isn’t there some way to repay you?” Roger persisted. After a moment’s pause, he exclaimed, “Wait! You said you’re heading for C______. That’s a long way off. There was no reason for you to stay. You would have been on your way already, had it not been for us.”

Roger drew out his wallet. The women immediately started moving away, saying, “We did the right thing, and we’re happy. You got back your phone and you’re happy. That’s all that matters, isn’t it? Let’s leave it at that.”

Roger reluctantly kept back his wallet, with tears welling up in his eyes.

As they left, Roger said, “I’m glad that people like you still exist in this world.”

They just smiled and continued on their way.

Everything had happened so quickly that I hadn’t had time to collect my thoughts together. For this reason, I hadn’t uttered a word during all this time.

As Roger and I walked away, I promised myself that I would immortalize this incident one day, in the form of a story about those two people – those two nameless people; two strangers out of thousands of strangers. I doubt I shall ever meet them again, but their good deed, however small or big, will always be remembered…

-Based on a true story.

Written by

Me…yeah ME!

an extremely bright and sultry afternoon. The air was highly polluted, and the sound of blaring horns and
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