Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What it takes

When one day, about three years back, my two-wheeler refused to start when the traffic lights changed from red to green (I always turn off the ignition at the red light to save petrol), I knew I was in a soup. I pulled the vehicle to one corner of the street and began kicking the starter, but to no avail. People passed by, and smiled a mocking smile, as I turned beetroot red in embarrassment and frustration. I was almost home after a long day out with my friends, and I was desperate to get back to relax. But it looked like I was destined to do otherwise.

It was then that a young guy (I won’t call him ‘young man’, he was too young even for that) who worked as a helper in an adjoining sweet shop saw my predicament and came over to see what the matter was. He looked into my petrol tank, and told me that my scooter was out of fuel! How silly of me, I had not even thought of that possibility! Despair struck me as I realized that there was no fuel station in a one kilometer radius. Besides, I had spent all my money with my buddies that day! Tears brimmed in my eyes as I contemplated my next move. Realizing my problem, the ‘sweet shop guy’ smiled a reassuring smile at me as he asked me to wait while he got me help. As I just stood there stupefied, wondering what on earth was going to happen now; the guy reappeared with his own little moped, and drew out some petrol from it and poured it into my vehicle! Thanking him profusely, I rode home safely. It was soon a forgotten incident.
Just a couple of days later, one evening, as I was relaxing on my balcony with my mother, I spotted a familiar face on the road. In recognition, the owner of the face smiled a wonderfully radiant smile at me. I knew the smile only too well- it was the ‘sweet shop guy’. I shot a look at my mother, who had noticed him too. Fearing her curiosity and a volley of questions about smiling strangers, I pretended not to recognize the guy who’d only lately helped me so much. Guilt filled my heart as I saw him look astonished and disappointed.
A month or two later, I had moved on. My guilt had been wiped away by excitement at starting college. I often stayed back in college till late in the evening to take part in extra-curricular activities. It was on such a day that I was returning home long after dusk, alone. As I walked on a dark street two lanes away from home, I was chased by a pack of stray dogs- animals I’m mortally afraid of. I broke into a cold sweat and did the only thing I could- pray to God to send me an angel. Running away, I knew, was a bad idea- the dogs always manage to catch up, and the consequences are usually disastrous. My prayers were answered as I heard a voice shoo away the dogs. The pack retreated. As I went forward to thank my savior, I recognized his voice- it was the same ‘sweet shop guy’. He’d seen me in trouble while he was crossing the adjacent road, and he’d rushed over to help me for a second time. I thanked him yet again, and I also apologized for not smiling at hi the other day. I had recognized him only after he had passed by, I said. A blatant lie that he very obviously saw through, but decided not to make a fuss out of. He gave me another of his beautiful smiles and said goodbye.
These days I do spot him in my neighbourhood occasionally. Our communication is limited to a smile- but we’ve formed a bond over it. I now refer to him as the ‘sweet guy’, rather than the sweet ‘shop’ guy. We’ve moved on from being strangers to friends- all it took was some petrol, a pack of stray dogs; and a smile…


  1. Loved it,especially the last line !Did this really happen? :) YOur writing never fails to tug at the heartstrings. really.