Thursday, December 27, 2012

The old man and the bike

I had the craziest dream of my life just now... Thank God! I realised that soon enough, and woke up in what I can call a not-so-panicky condition... A dirty old fellow covered in rags, chases me while I'm running away from him. Actually,I'm riding a bike, trying to get away from him. Strange! I don't ride a bike! Not even in my dreams. And how was it possible for that guy to chase me all that long while he's on foot?? Barefoot, to be more accurate!

I look at my mobile, which lay silently beside me. It says 2:06 am. And most certainly I look at the battery level. You see, that's the problem with Android phones. You need to worry about them, like they're your biological babies. You need to feed them constantly, before they run out of juice. And that will happen only when you need them the most. Fair enough. The battery is quite on the bright side of 50%, and I don't need to get up from my bed to quench its thirst for power [or energy. Whatever! I'm too sleepy to be arguing with you right now] till dawn.

I wake up at 5, brush, pee, bath, dress myself up, drink a glass of water, put my shoes on, and RUN! Run! Run! Run! Running is a practise I picked up in college. In school, I had a bicycle. So, I didn't have to run. In college I maintained the strict rules of the Japanese- Just In Time for everything. So I had to run... To classes, to labs, to bathrooms, to catch trains. Here, it's a different game. Either I run 1400 metres in 7 minutes to catch my bus that takes me 35 kms far a place, where I can work, or I have to take 2 trains, 1 bus and possibly a piggyback ride to the same place of work, reaching 2 hours late risking the loss of a day's pay. Run Forrest! Run!!

I get to the bus with impeccable timing. Beside my bus stop, is the police booth of Chennai Traffic police, that says 'Use your head, Wear a helmet'. It's there everyday. It's not new. But I read it everyday, like it's the first time I'm reading it. The bus starts. I travel. I reach my job. I eat, I play and of course, work. In the evening, I start off from work on the same bus. After the dusty villages of the northernmost point of TN, getting back to the city will feel good. But after the lonely roads of the same villages, the roads of the city will be scary. The day's work is taking it's toll on me, and I'm defeated by the uncontrollable forces of slumber. I've not slept like this in the bus. Head bent at an awkward pose, mouth wide open, ID card hanging from my neck. My bus companion will have taken a photo of me, definitely.

But inside the mutilated ID card lies the face of a man, whose head is tilted awkwardly, and on that head is a mouth open wide, and deep within, is a huge deposit of fat, people call brain. And on one particular speed breaker, the bus jerks, the body jumps, the head is thrown to the opposite side and a wrong electrical connection is made in the brain [metaphor].

Yes, there he is. The guy in rags. The face looks familiar now. But I can't point out exactly. I pinch myself. Yes,  this is definitely a dream. Now to see if that guy can scare me again. Once you know you're in a dream, you don't get scared if you think you can take care of your surroundings. It's just like we're not scared of a question paper when the questions are already out. He goes and sits in his regular place. People throw coins on his aluminium plate, and sometimes rupee notes. There was one 10-rupee note on the plate then. And as I move forward to him, he sees me and smiles. Shit!! His front teeth are missing! He is spitting saliva all over. And suddenly, there comes the bike... FUCK! Nobody is riding it! The bike is haunted!!

Just another speed breaker is enough to wake me up from the unusually small, unusually deep sleep. I wake up and clean my mouth of the running saliva-lines down my cheek. It's almost my bus stop, and I have to get down. I'm now scared of the bike more than I was of the old man. What could be wrong? I've never had dreams that repeat! At least not the dreams that do not involve poorly-clad women... I get down only to see a man-shaped marking in chalk, right on the highway, blood marks on the road.

I see the police guy sitting at the spot, almost everyday, so I gather up courage to ask him what happened. He says there has been a bike accident in the place. A biker has disobeyed a signal and his speed has joined hands with merging traffic to cause this freakshow. And then? And then the biker has lost control and he has fallen off the bike. The bike has slid on near the pavement hitting the beggar by surprise. The guy who rode the bike is admitted to a hospital.

I turn around to see the body in the stretcher. The body of an old man, covered in rags, and front teeth missing. Holy crap! That is the exact same guy from my dreams! I'm getting goosebumps!! There, at the exact spot where he sits and begs for money, are scattered coins. And in that mess, is a single 10-rupee note! Blood-stained! The police guy chuckles, while I tremble nervously. He says, do you know what the fishy part is, in this case??

Adding fire to the already roaring forest-fire of fear in my heart, he says, the road was quite empty when the accident took place. The guy who saw the accident has phoned him. While the guy who rode the bike is now in hospital, the guy who informed the police of this, nor the police could find the bike that caused the accident!!

Oh God No!! Please no!! Please let this be a dream!

I pinch myself. It hurts...