It was the first morning of 2018 and most of the companies were off unlike mine so both Bengaluru roads and buses were empty. Since I had to go to work, I boarded 201 and looked for a window seat so that I could lean my head and sleep. My bad, all the window seats were occupied and all on the isle were empty. There was no choice but still, I had to choose. I saw an old man looking towards window and mumbling something in Urdu which felt quite strange in Bengaluru where native people speak Kannada and I can only speak “Kannada gotilla” (I can’t speak Kannada). I sat next to him. Most of his face was covered by a white dull beard and the rest by the round glasses with wooden frame and perfect aperture. I always fantasized to have spectacles like that. He had a thick grey hair with hairline almost touching his eyebrows.
He was mumbling still, but now I could make out that he was singing the famous ghazal by Momin
“Woh Jo Hum Mein Tum Mein Qaraar Tha, Tumhe Yaad Ho Ke Naa Yaad Ho“
(That steadiness we had between us, you might remember or you might not).
It took me down the memory lane where Jamey and Ruvi used to listen to this on their secret (from Dady) small Chinese kchibo radio. That was the first time I had listened to the ghazal. He went on singing the whole ghazal in a voice that was blur like Delhi fog, only a few words were clear, rest I was making out from my memory. he suddenly stopped and caught me gazing at him when he reached
“jise aap kehte the baavafaa jise aap ginte the aashna.”
(whom you called loyal, whom you counted as your friend).
It was awkward and I made it worse by my usual smile.I smiled, He didn’t smile, instead looked at me head to toe as if I was going through a security check back in my valley.
He asked, what do u do? I replied quickly, I am a software developer. What does that mean? It was a little shocker for me, someone in Bengaluru not knowing what software developer means. I did not want such a layman to fall in the intricacies of my job. I did not want to tell him that I analyze logs, code and sometimes fix what software developers have missed, I told him I write code. You write, he replied, means you are a writer, he concluded. I was lost in the isle and had no answers for his unquestioned question. What do you write about? Thank God he didn’t give me a chance to reply. He said, oh you are young. You will be writing about love only. So what is love? I was totally at halt like the traffic at Sony signal (dreaded one in Bengaluru). I had discussed this topic with my peers multiple times when any of my friends had a breakup or their girlfriends got married to someone else. This time I was empty, anyway he didn’t wait for me to reply. He said I too don’t know maybe no one knows. I will tell you what I know. You tell me what you know and he started on his own. Love is to lose. If you are not losing you are not loving. If you are being loved in return of loving, it’s not love. He paused and smiled for the first time and said, it’s a barter system. My phone beeped with a new message on Whatsapp, he said love is to keep on messaging with just hope of reply but no replies. Once you get the reply it’s not love anymore, its an argument. Love is to pray when your prayers are not being answered.
“mundina nildana KFC”
(The next stop is KFC).
He said your stop. It was nice talking to you. I said Thanks, I got up from the seat, walked through the isle, he followed me till the door and said in crystal clear Urdu.
woh kahan chup beathti thi kabhi,
kuch na kuch kehti rehti thi,
kahan ho tum, kaise ho tum
itne deer tak kyun soye hu tum
She never used to keep mum
She used to tell anything
Where are you, How are you
Why are you sleeping till so late?
That was love, my writer.
I kept on repeating his words. I forgot to ask him his name or anything about him. We both deboarded. I couldn’t keep track of him