I stood there waiting for the opportunity. My eyes tried to glance but our eyes didn't meet. The bus was crowded like every other 5:30 city bus, showing the perfect sign of the nation's greatest planning: overpopulation. Heaven for any beast; a perfect place to touch some skin!
She fearfully looked at me. I noticed. I was standing beside her, waiting. The right seat to her was occupied by the feast, wearing a sleeveless frock. My mind calculator sent me the report: 6-7 year old. I thought of smiling at her but stopped my execution. She looked back with vague innocence and then turned to look outside through the window. On the other hand, her mother beside whom I was standing kept her eyes glued on me. My eyes never glanced but I felt it. I sensed it from the air.
Two stoppages were passed. I could read her mind that was continuously trying to judge my character. Did I touch her arm or shoulder? Was I staring at her cleavage that her blouse couldn’t hid from the angle I was standing? And the worst were if I had an eye on her little angel. Angel or feast, I wondered.
After two stoppages, she looked at me and said, "Bhaiya, you can seat here. I'm already occupying two male seats for long. She can adjust in the middle. The next stop is mine anyway." I looked back at her and smiled while accepting her offer. She allowed me the window seat and made her little daughter to seat in between. I thanked her. Though the seats left no room, we both adjusted to make her daughter comfortable in the middle. I gave her a little smile this time and without much looking, fixed my eyes at the window view. After some 8 minutes away, they got down.
In these eight minutes, I never voiced my questions but my inner self answered them for me. Eight years back, maybe I would have had some rhyming play, shared school-time jokes, or play thumb fight against her as I played with my little niece. Maybe eight years back her mother would have not felt the need to screen me to decide if it was safe to offer a seat beside her. Maybe eight years back skin touched but happened less with bad intention and resulted much lesser negativity. Maybe, it did back then too but I was unknown and the numbers were less. Maybe, journeys had a chance to make friends a little more than now. Maybe it was little less of an animal and a little more like a human family. Maybe we were a little more into smiles and little less into skin!
- Debashis Sarmah