Saturday, August 15, 2015

A moment

It was a national holiday. His feet beat a rhythm on the moist streets. The waves of the Arabian Sea rushed in and out, misting over the man as he ran at a steady pace along the promenade. This was his worship, once a week. A break from sitting in meetings, in cabs, in the office. He was mindful of all around him. Music poured into his ears and through his body, and he upped or eased his pace in sync with each song as it surprised him. The sky held on to traces of the dark, but the sun was ribboning through the dark clouds. Birds flew in flocks, formations intact as they dipped, rose, turned, following tunes of their own.

A rumble of thunder warned him too late of sudden rain. The white noise of the downpour cocooned him. The houses of the rich hazed over to his right, and the waves took on the deep grey of the clouds that had, temporarily, won over the tentative sunshine. He was disappointed at the intrusion. He was in his stride, running at the right pace so it hardly seemed an effort - his feet flying off the concrete in turns, small drops of water flecking his calves as he continued despite the rain.

But he had to stop to protect his phone. Needed shelter as he paused to put it away from the rain. He was on a naked promenade, with stingy palm trees his only hope. And then he saw, through the rain, a Maruti Van with the hatch of its boot open. That would do, he thought, and sped up.

He drew closer and ducked under the hood - hunching over to wipe his face and hands before reaching for his phone. In that brief moment he saw the elderly driver of the van. He was working his prayer beads, his lips moving and his eyes fixed on the distance. The drenched breeze surged in toward both the men. The runner felt like he was intruding on a deeply private moment. As the thought crossed his mind, the driver opened his eyes and motioned, "sit".

The runner refused with thanks but the rain probably drowned out his words. He had, with the ease of practice, moved his phone from his wet pocket into the pouch wrapped like a belt at his waist. The wires still connected to his earphones. He was ready to go on. The driver inclined his head and prayed on. The runner left him and jogged off. As he ran, he turned back to see the van growing smaller in the distance, and the man himself barely visible. He looked ahead. The music changed. And he picked up speed to match. The moment had passed. 

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