It is again one of those frequently familiar days that just pass by without touching his life in any way. It is a day which he doesn’t live, he doesn’t remember. He just exists or even worse persists to exist. Bound by commitments, weighed down by expectations, held captive by fear of failure, accentuated by languor and marooned by his own conviction, he lives an ordinary life of real misery and virtual happiness. He seeks a heroic life, but only in the eyes of others. He yearns for a poetic death but dreads its reality every single moment. Everyone sees him as a successful and happy young man. Does he? Well, he has stopped looking into the mirror for good!
He goes through the torturous grind of the week in great expectation of a dull and uneventful weekend. Come this weekend, he will be busy mourning the dreadful week ahead. It is Friday and he is almost there. He walks out of his apartment in a dreary slumber. He wonders if he had a dream last night. That’s right. He stopped dreaming when he became a practical man. The snow flakes falling on his body can’t kindle any emotion in him. Not any more! He has forgotten the pleasure they had in each other’s company. It was a long time ago!
His laborious stroll is brought to a screeching halt by a small boy who rams into him at breakneck speed. The boy was chasing a butterfly which has disappeared into oblivion now. The boy has a grin on his face and he, a frown.
“Watch it son. You don’t have wings like butterflies do.” There is a hint of sarcasm in his tone which camouflages a pain deep inside.
“But I want to have wings. I want to fly with butterflies and play hide and seek with birds.” The boy has a big smile on his face which irks him even further. It is not fair.
“You ain’t getting them. Now off you go! And don’t run! Go home and study.” He feels the boy lacks discipline.
“No. I am going to play in the rain!” The boy jumps in excitement. “What rain? Are you mad?” He looks to see if there are any clouds. All he sees is white smoke.
“No, you are. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” The boy runs away into the woods. The boy’s face troubles him. It looks strangely familiar.
He shrugs off the boy’s image from his mind and continues the journey to his daily misery. All of a sudden, snow flakes seem to have changed form to tiny droplets of rain which are kissing the earth and mud and stirring up a refreshing aroma that has filled up the air with magic. He pinches himself to confirm his sanity. A young man is standing in front him, watching him eagerly with a smirk on his face.
“What are you laughing at, pal? Do I look funny?” He barks at the young man in anger.
“No. You look sad. Like you don’t have a life!” The young man’s remark pricks a wound that has been kept concealed for years.
“You don’t know what life is all about. Wait for a few more years and it will teach you all the lessons you need to learn. By the way, where are you going with that cricket bat in hand?” It was his turn to mock at the young man.
“Well, I prefer to learn the life lessons my way. And they can wait. You want to join us for cricket. Do you know how to play?” The smirk is still there in the young man’s face which infuriates him even more.
“Of course I know to play. I was the best at it. But I don’t play anymore. Anyways it is raining now and you want to play cricket?” Meanwhile, his mind had taken a small trip down memory lane and for one long minute, he relived those memorable cricket days of his youth. And the next moment, he came crashing back to reality.
“What is wrong with you? It is bright and sunny.” The young man gives him a “you must be insane” look. He wipes the water droplets from his glasses in disbelief. “Where is the sun? You must be crazy?”
“No, you are. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” The young man walks off cursing him for wasting 5 minutes of his life.
He is not able to get the young man’s words out of his mind. There is something uniquely familiar about his voice. He looks at his watch. He is getting late and tired. This walk doesn’t seem to end. There is no sign of rain around and he can no more feel the scent of the earth’s freshness in the air. A black smoke fills his nostrils and chokes him. He gasps for breath and settles down in a bench outside a park. An old man sees his misery and offers him water.
“Thank you very much. You look very familiar Sir. Have I seen you before?” He still feels nauseous.
“No. You couldn’t have. Not yet! I have seen you though, long time ago!” The old man’s words leave him bamboozled.
“I don’t quite understand Sir. Anyways... where are you off to? You don’t look very sprite early in the morning!”
“Well, I am probably the only one you have met today who is more miserable than you. But you will get there. I will pray you don’t. I am off to my grave which is just a few paces down the street. Would you like to join me?”
The old man’s words send a shudder through his spine. “You carry on, Sir. I will rest for some more time!”
“Well, in that case, can you lend me an umbrella? It is raining heavily!” The old man’s eyes have seen something in him which makes him feel very uncomfortable.
“What rain? You are crazy. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” He yells irately. The old man smiles and walks away. He sits there for a while wondering about the strange conversation with the old man. He then gets up and sets off again.
He saunters along carelessly for another 10 minutes uninterrupted and untroubled by any more familiar faces or voices and finally reaches his destination. His office is no longer there. Instead he sees an abandoned graveyard which has a single grave that is yet to be occupied. He looks around for the old man but there is no sight of him anywhere. He looks at the tombstone erected over the grave. He sees his name engraved on it!