I have seen him before. Not once or twice but on several occasions but at different places on the same street. Near the temple, under the enormous banyan tree, scavenging food in the garbage bin at the tea stall, sleeping on road, walking aimlessly muttering inaudible words, laughing maniacally. People call him a lunatic. I think he is a happy man in his own world.
I’m one of those lucky people who does not have to get into over-crowded, suffocating buses to reach work. I walk leisurely, at my own pace, stop at a local tea stall for breakfast, and in about 5 minutes, get to office. It is a straight road bustling with school kids, techies, daily wage workers, women collecting garbage from houses, devotees coming to the temples, vehicles of all sorts, people shopping for groceries, and all other activities of life.
One can see him striding from a distance, swinging his ugly big sack, his frail shoulders, leaning side to side as he walks. I always wanted to know what was in that bag. Some times he growls at the street dogs as if to mock their barks, other times he yells at people walking past him. He is seen near the garbage dumping area, looking for food. I have seen him laughing at a spinning top with the innocence of a child. I could never amass the courage to look at his face. Some strange phobia. I would cross to the other side of the street the moment I see him from far. As soon as I spot him, an induction motor starts slowly in my chest. It gets louder than the helicopter wings until I reach few meters ahead of him. At times he would stand in the center of the road and watch which side of the road I cross to. But never did he say anything to me.
Its eerie to watch him as he talks to himself or to the wall in some language of which I cannot make any sense, dances merrily in circles, curl up in the pavement like a bundle. Sometimes I wonder, at what point did he lose it?? “It” referring to sanity. But isn’t sanity relative? I may look insane to you where as I feel I’m on the top of the world. Or has he really lost it. May be this was his ultimate escapade from reality. Some odd trick in his book.
A cold and cloudy morning. It began to slightly drizzle the moment I got out of my home. As I approached the tea stall, I could hear a loud bawl. It was not a child’s cry but a grown up’s. The whimpering grew louder as I walked further ahead, I see him, crouching on the steps of the temple. His voice strained as he was trying to say something. I ordered my Idly and stood at the corner with my plate, keeping an eye on him. For the first time, I grasped his features. I cannot quite predict his age, may be mid fifties or forties, with deep set eyes and bushy eyebrows. This hair was a like a jungle and one look can tell you, he has not had a bath for years. His eyes kept flooding but it got washed away in the rain. I wondered if he was hungry. He seemed to be in intense pain. As if realization gave him a blow. an awareness of what he had become. He babbled non stop though I could not catch a word, waving his hand and fiddling with his clothes. I was witnessing the worst moment in somebody’s life. The pain, the anguish, a burst of emotions of a man. I wanted to empathize with him, but what could I do? Nothing. Watch it wash over him. Irony, that you see a lunatic, crying, at the step of God’s house.
I walked past him with out even casting a glance. But the face of this desperate man flashed through my mind all day. It was disturbing. I stayed at office, longer than usual, trying to get engrossed in work. By the time I got out, the night had fallen. I moved fast so as to walk past that stretch of road which had no street lights. There was no sign of him. May be he had moved else where. As I pass the tea stall, I hear a small sob. Panic !! My pace quickened, I caught a glimpse of his shadow, crouched just a few meters ahead of the tea stall. I walk past him, he did not move. I felt the weight of his eyes behind me. The adrenaline rush subsides. I made sure, I was away ahead of him, enough gap for me to run in case he changes his mind, then I turn back. I saw him in the dim light, looking gravely with sore eyes, like a tired soldier who waged a futile battle against reality. A fleeting moment when he got crushed by our villan, may be a moment when he returned to what we refer to as “sanity” only to realize there is so much that he had lost, or worse, forgotten.
I fled into my apartment.
As the day ends and I fall into slumber, my thoughts get fuzzy. I picture the same old lunatic back into his world, happily chasing dogs, spinning his top, laughing his heart out about something which we may never know.
A happy man in his own world. .