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A shadow in the crowd (II)

In our day-to-day busy schedule, we get so involved that we often fail to notice the person sitting next to us in the metro. We have no idea of them- their life, their dreams, their nightmares. But there are several amazing people around us in the crowd. I prefer calling them “Shadows in the crowd”. This story is about one such shadow…..like our previous Huna.

 

Bookstores are the best places in the world. How can the human mind who is so adapted to the racing-car speed of modern life, even have the idea of places so heavenly like that, I wonder! The moment you step into a bookstore, you can feel it. It is as if time slows down here; the sudden smell of freshly printed pages hitting your nose; the dim light that does not allow you to guess the time of the day accurately; the soft music that’s just loud enough to mask the screams in your head; swirl around a bit (no one would notice trust me and even if they do, they will probably toss you a smile!). On the shelves, sitting silently, are the many characters waiting to be read. It’s like a secret little world inside the real world, swarming with characters saying everything that authors could not as themselves!

In one such little world, you might find him, not exactly reading a book; it’s more like scanning to find the perfect one. Things really find it hard to get his attention; he has just seen too much of the world in just over two decades of his time on earth. His face isn’t exactly something you will fail to notice in the crowd. In fact, you will notice him; not just for his perfect jaw shape, the prominent cheekbones (thanks to the creator of navy cut!), or the weirdly huge nose covering 0ne-fourth of his face; you will notice him for the distinct glow on the face and spark in his eyes. Maturity. Unlike others, he would just tell you that the garden is beautiful without fantasizing that there are fairies at the bottom of it. Let’s call him Brandus (Lithuanian for ‘maturity’).

So, apparently, his life is perfect. Perfect grades. Decent job offers. Sufficient luxury. Sufficient people in every circle of life, selected and sorted intelligently. People are easily drawn towards him, he has this amazing vibe; it will definitely make you feel at home, I promise. He will go out of his way to help you without asking why! He’ll push you up the ladder. Tell you that life is not a trip to Disneyland but it is worth a try. His smile, probably a fake one, I‘m not sure, can really make your day. However, you will never get a positive reply from him but he’s the person you will need to get your job done ultimately. He won’t praise you when you are up but he’ll definitely push you to run that extra mile when you are down and exhausted. There’s nothing much positive about him except the will to live and find answers. But then what’s more positive than that?

But somewhere something is missing. And his eyes, they are always searching for it. Maybe someone, something, somewhere. So, don’t let him fool you with his tough exterior; he’s a child inside and he tries to lock it up as deep as possible. He didn’t kill the child; he could have easily but he didn’t. He knew he needed the kid to go on in life. So he just hid him deep; for his own protection. He had tried putting the kid out for people; but he was trodden over, crushed, until he came to his own rescue. You can’t see any sign of the kid anymore. Just the glow of maturity now.

Only sometimes, if you are lucky, like the luckiest, you will see the kid smiling, a real one. Give him a bubble blower! O my, you should just see him then. The curve on his face extends to almost his ears. The kid does fight his way out then. Or maybe, he allows it out, for a stroll, tired of faking adulthood, tired of carrying the heavy layers of masks. Maybe he had to mature before time. Obviously, he had to; he needed someone to watch his back! So the kid couldn’t really have his time; just a few figments of memory left- a grandpa, books, algebra, a wagging tail, a secret bronze medal in shooting, a graphite-blue racquet and tennis shoes that still have clay on its sole. And he makes sure he holds onto them tightly.

But soon he will become conscious of his vulnerability; the child would soon be pushed into the locker room inside; and cigarette smokes would cover the vanishing act.

He has people in his life, lots of them. And every time he meets someone, he becomes vulnerable. Maybe it’s the kid; it bangs the door, screams to make his way out. But slowly, Brandus would successfully shut him, put him back to sleep, saying, ‘This is not the right time, buddy. Just not the right one’. He becomes conscious and again the vanishing act! He just detaches himself. He is just afraid they will leave him. So he spares them the labor; slowly distances himself, closes the door, cries within. And one fine day, the door opens, out comes Brandus; all masks intact, gears and shield in place, walking into the warzone. He might come back if you wait, but most people won’t have the patience and they move on. And Brandus? Well, he just puts all the unspoken words in a file and stacks them in the “LOST and NEVER FOUND’ cabinet!

Projects- on time. Assignments- on time. All responsibilities settled. But sometimes at night, when silence takes over, he sits on the roof, smoking, cherishing his nightmares. It’s not like they don’t allow him to sleep. It’s his choice. He doesn’t have to fight them. They sit beside him, staring into the void, smiling at each other (a crooked Scofield type!). You can join him. Just sit behind them and DO NOT TALK! Just hear them discuss their struggles. You might catch them humming a tune, too!

So I guess now you know what he is searching for! Someone, something, somewhere, to let free the kid without having to put his conscious radar on. A forest, a tent, his old rifle, a German shepherd, his camera, a packet of smokes, whiskey and him. That would settle the mess within. Unless his angel arrives; someone who would make him believe in magic again. So, till then he will walk around wearing his masks, helping people, capturing moments and living in the past.

But don’t worry about him. He’ll make it out alive. He doesn’t stumble anymore. Hakuna Matata.

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