Again I saw the time in my watch wondering what time ill reach my pg. With the heavy traffic moving in the road, traffic constable yelling at bike riders I thought it will be late. Cursing the BBMP people who shifted the bus stop 3 miles away from the old bus stop i increased my walking speed. In the past when my back had constantly reminded me of my back pain I had traveled by auto agreeing 10rs extra on meter. After the increment in the auto price I think twice before waving at a rick. How lucky are the auto drivers I thought at least yearly hike is definite. On other hand we techies have to count the stars on the sky. If we are lucky we get some peanuts or else we have to manage with the same old lame salary. With my head filled with my own thoughts I got into bus which was forced to stop in the single. This time I thanked my dead grandparents.
When my eyes fell on the un-empty seats I thought it gone be long day. Standing in the crowded bus and guarding yourself against the pushy and touchy conductor is a challenging job. I held my bag against my chest as a barrier and prepared myself for the short journey ahead of me. Unexpected break every now and then from the driver and I wonder whether ill reach my pg or heaven. Tired people were dozing in their seat with their head phones on. If the next person dies with heart attack they wouldn’t even know. I always get weird feeling when my ears are blocked from outside world because of which my head phones were resting in my bag. As the bus stop was approaching I looked around hoping that someone will get down and Its then my eyes fell on this small gal sitting with her mother. Both were sharing the same seat. The gal, instead of sitting on her mother’s lap was sitting next to her. The way they sat was telling clearly both were uncomfortable. But they were talking giggling, un-comfort was the last thing on their mind I thought.
Head covered with red shining scarf, strand of curly hair trying to come out of the scarf, moon-shaped-henna colored nails , faded henna on those small palms, cute little eyes. That one look was enough for me to remember her forever. She reminded me of the small Muslim kids who used to go to mosque for their daily classes. Every evening without fail accompanied by their brother, head covered with white veil with a small book in their hand they used to talk and walk in the road leading to mosque.
With her fast movements of her hands, neck and eyes I thought she may be around 7. Dressed in traditional black burqa her mother looked anything but beauty to me. With her lips scared from the paan and a small roadside rolled gold nose piercing I thought may be for a decent two times meal she has to work hard. She was trying to tell the small gal something while she was looking out of the window. Slowly the small gal turned and pulled her mother’s ear and smiled. With the million dollar smile on her face I thought nothing in the world will look prettier than this. As her mother got call she was busy talking over the phone. While she kept on pulling her mother nose, and peeping inside the veil which covered her mother’s face. When her mother didn’t give her any attention the small gal continued doing what she was doing before. I thought if I was in her mother place I would have spanked her long back for disturbing me. But her mother being blessed with lots of patience sat there talking over the phone and bearing her daughter mild torture. When her mother disconnected the call she said “it’s your father Noorbhi, he wanted to know where we reached”.”Noorbhi” what a pretty name for pretty gal. I was sure as her name tells even she was Noor of her parents eye.
Noorbhi smiled and pulled her mother’s ears and said “so what did my ammi say han?”. Her mother went on saying while without controlling myself I bent and touched Noorbhi’s head. She was curious to know who touched her head covered with read glittery scarf. I tried to smile and make friendship but Noorbhi sat there glaring at me with her innocent eyes. She tried to pretend to listen to her mother while watching my hands clever me knowing her game I didn’t touch her instead I stood there watching her. When I saw the disappointment on her face I smiled and touched her head again. I was thinking how I can lure the Noorbhi when I remembered untouched chocolate in my bag. When my eyes fell on the Munch I wondered why people still give munch on their birthdays. Cant they just grow up and give what grownups give like gulab jamun or peda. I held the chocolate in my hand in front of Noorbhi . She looked at me and then at chocolate and then back at her ammi. Like other parents even her parents must have warned her from taking chocolate from total strangers. Even though she didn’t touch the chocolate I saw the spark in her eyes. Her ammi said “take Noorbhi”. She slowly took the chocolate from my outstretched hand and said “Thank you”. Saying welcome I touch her cheek and said a prayer in my mind “good save her from all evil eyes”. As we Superstitious Indians believe that we have to touch wood or the person to save them from bad or evil eyes. I had touched her because of my blind belief. I smiled at her again and she returned my smile.
As my stop came I said “bye, take care”. She sat there with chocolate in her hand and eyes focused on me. I was sure I am never gonna meet Noorbhi again. My eyes on Noorbhi I waited the bus to stop. As I anticipated driver was destined to send some of us back to our creator. It took me whole 15 minutes it was not me but somebody else.
.I was standing near the door closing my eyes not knowing it wont be the same when I open them again. To save the speeding bus hitting the bike, driver had applied the brakes suddenly. Result of which bus had collided with one more bus standing in front and bus was rolled over due to the impact.one minute all were sleeping and next minute I know people screaming, crying, some were saying their god’s name.
Somebody was putting water on my face. With the blood taste in my mouth and aching ankle in knew I was still alive. This time I thanked god and try to sit. Severe pain in my back and I knew it my back is screwed totally. I stood with all my will and reaming strength I gathered my bag and broken glasses. When I realized my salwar pant was torn near the knee and was bleeding I thought my bones wont be the same again. I took few steps, when I remembered Noorbhi and her mother I looked around in search of them. People were helping the wounded one. Its then I saw a crowd and started walking towards it. Cries from the woman was heart throbbing. Slowly I made my way towards the crying woman and stood there watching her with tears in my eyes. With Noorbhi’s dead body in her arms her mother was crying, yelling, trying to wake eternally sleeping Noorbhi. Noorbhi’s blood was all over her face, body but she didn’t care. She hugged Noorbhi more closely and said “open your eyes Noorbhi, open it for your ammi. My Noor open your eyes, how I can live without you..”
When I couldn’t take it I started to walk away but before that I took a final look at lifeless Norrbhi’s body. With red glittery scarf still wrapped around her bleeding head, with one eye half closed. A faded smile or calmness I don’t know what It was on her face her final journey looked peaceful to me. I said a prayer in my mind and started to walk when I saw it. The Munch which I had given her was still there in her hand, tightly held in her feast.
Next day I read the newspaper and got to know that many were injured in the bus accident but Noorbhi was the only one who died in the mishap. As she was sitting near the window she was thrown out of the bus. The impact was so much that she died on the spot.
I looked out of the window and wondered whether it was my evil eye or it was her destiny who called her back before her time