Aman had come to station to escort his childhood friend, home. The train was supposed to arrive at 10 in the night. But due to some technical issues the train got delayed by 6 hours, that is, from 10 in the night to 4 o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t a pleasant surprise certainly. But, as they put it, SHIT HAPPENS!!
However, being one of the busiest and always traveling Architect, this phenomena was not a surprise for Aman! It was 9:30 into the night. He still had to wait for another 6 and a half hour. Exhaling a deep breath, he went to look for an empty bench to sit on, as going home and coming back again in the morning didn’t make sense.
There wasn’t much crowd on the platform. Just a few coolies sitting by the side of the staircase and few shops on both sides of the bench, he was sitting on. Aman was busy with observing the ambience around, when someone tapped on his shoulder.
“Hi!” The guy said with a slight smile.
“Ye..ah. Hello!” Aman turned to the guy who was carrying a bag on his right shoulder and bottle of water in left hand, with a confused look on his face.
“You mind if I sit here?” The guy asked Aman pointing towards the unoccupied space on the bench.
“Uh-huh! No no. Please sit!” Aman said shifting to one side of the bench, with a slight smile still on.
“Hi! My name is Kunal. Kunal Devgan!” The guy introduced himself to Aman, and stretched out his hand towards him, post sitting down.
“Aman Arora” He shook it.
“So? Why here so late?” Kunal initiated a small talk.
“Waiting for a friend. You?” Aman replied almost instantly.
“Wandering around.” Kunal replied leaning back on the bench, his eyes closed, voice soft.
“You are kidding, right?” Aman thought Kunal was fooling him around.
“See, I am here because my friend is coming back from far off after so long, having completed his studies. You must be here for some reason too, right? Pick up someone? Board a train?” Aman replied, clarifying himself with the question he put. After all, it wasn’t a bad idea to talk when one had enough time.
“Being a wanderer doesn’t count as a ‘reason’?” Kunal asked Aman, still leaned back, his eyes closed, but lips curved upwards. Aman was perplexed now. He thought Kunal must be drunk, or high on drugs or just simply be someone who doesn’t talk to strangers. Aman turned his face, got up and was about to leave the bench to find a place to sit somewhere else.
“Mind talking?” Kunal smiled at him and asked in a friendly tone.
“I thought you are trying to rest. That’s why I was just leaving.” Aman sat down yet again.
“Yeah? Is it? Or you thought that I might be high on drugs or drunk or just simply be disinterested to have a small talk? Huh?” Kunal asked him, with a straight face, without any expression, except for the raised eyebrows. Aman could feel his mouth open and eyes widen with surprise and confusion, after what he just heard Kunal say. Kunal burst out laughing aloud, seeing Aman so surprised.
“No my friend, I can’t read minds. I am just a normal person. I just guessed it. Relax!” Kunal said, gesturing with his hands, with a smile.
“What the..” He was more shocked now.
In a couple of minutes there was eye-widening, forehead-shrinking, head shaking and they laughed out together.
“I actually am a little impressed by the timing of your sarcasm.” Aman said while drinking water after realizing how Kunal had him confused and shocked simultaneously without even trying.
“Haha! So, now that you are impressed. How about talking for a while, which ofcourse won’t be a ‘while’ since you’re here till 4 in the morning, right?” Kunal asked him, smilingly.
“Not really.” Aman understood how he figured out the time he was going to stay at the station.
“So, what do you do?” Kunal asked Aman.
“I am an architect and a photographer. What about you?” Aman replied and asked Kunal.
“Wanderer.” Kunal replied.
“You talk weird, man!” Aman made a face, this time.
“Do you?” Kunal questioned Aman almost instantly.
“Do I what? Talk weird? I talk limited, mostly less.” Aman said while lighting a cigarette.
“Do you live?” Kunal asked him.
“Excuse me? What do you think, I am dead?” Aman replied with an annoyed expression this time. His forehead was getting wrinkles now. In his head he kicked himself for thinking to talk to Kunal in the first place.
“I didn’t say that.” Kunal replied softly. “Lost or something?”
“Huh? Nah, I am not.” Aman slapped himself in his head.
“So, what else? Tell me more?” Kunal asked.
“Life’s good. Architecture, photography, family, friends and love of my life, keeps me occupied.” Aman replied, this time with a wide smile on his face.
“Sounds pretty good.” Kunal said, winked and smiled.
The next hour passed by, in the history-talk of their respective lives. Aman belonged to higher-middle class family, whereas Kunal belonged to a middle-class one. Both of them went to convent schools.
The weird feeling Aman was having around Kunal faded away within a couple of hours. It was 12, when they decided to go, grab some tea or coffee and resume talking.
“One should love life to the core. I do. Do you?” Kunal told and asked him.
“Indeed. Though it does screw up at times, but it still is lovely.” Aman smiled, not realizing that this time, Kunal was looking at him, all plain-faced.
“Bhaai, no offence! Look, you love life and it is indeed brilliant. But then, everybody loves their own lives. I didn’t say that life is not beautiful but life screws over sometimes and it’s something even you’ll not deny.” Aman clarified himself.
“Oh yeah! Is it? Well, life doesn’t screw up itself, we do. Life is blamed by us for what is done by us, in the first place.” Kunal ‘red-lined’ the explanation, given by Aman.
“Mere bhaai, it’s because nobody always know what’s right and wrong. We all are humans after all. Hota hai, chill!” Aman replied with an easy expression, lighting a cigarette.
“Who decides what’s right and wrong? You are into parameter-game, as well? I am not. Fact is there’s nothing right and wrong. Yes, we are all humans who behave like puppets. Hota nahi hai, mere bhaai, jaanke kiya jaata hai.” Kunal wasn’t weird, he was just straight-forward and sorted. And, Aman found himself appreciating that about him.
“But, you cannot change that, can you?” It was more of a question than anything else.
“I don’t want to. Why would I change anything? No, correction, who am I to change anything? But, I can atleast be a bit honest to myself if nothing more and else. I can do that, isn’t it? So I am.” Kunal said.
“You do have spunk.” Aman wowed.
“I don’t. I just have a clear head. Plus, I am out of ‘blame-game-thing’. That stinks, you know?” Kunal sighed but it was more of a relieved one than exhausted.
“I don’t judge. But that doesn’t mean I can stop people all around to do the same. I don’t need that. Nobody does. People just never realize that and choose to crib. Yeah, agreed, sometimes there are situations where we feel locked up, directionless, useless, everything dark and bad. But, then again, ‘there’s always a way out’.” Kunal went on saying without even a second thought to let it all out in front of someone he knew not much about.
“There’s always a ‘but’ too.” Aman laughed a little.
“Like I said, it’s still a choice. See, you just chose!” Kunaal shook his head, however smilingly.
“You should be a saint.” Aman slapped on Kunal’s back.
“It has been a long time that I made a choice over life and suffering. I wanted to live, hence, I am. Suffering is still there but then I tell myself that I have to detach myself before it starts rotting me in a way that it gets beyond mending. I smile at everything. I still am, if you can notice, because that is all I have with me. I just have this one chance of living life. One life, my life.” Kunal said stressing on the word Life, and Aman noticed the honesty in his eyes.
Meanwhile, when Kunal was saying so many things about life and living, Aman was thinking about his own. Everything he thought he owned, every person he has had ever known, all those 22 years that he has had went through, living, crying, laughing, swearing etc. He never quite thought this way, the way Kunal was making him think now.
“Aman?” Kunal shook him out of his daze of thoughts.
“Uh! Yeah, yeah!” Aman came out of his head, totally moved.
“I am not saying that I am right or you are wrong or anything of that sort. I am just saying that we make choices. All of us. So, when things go wrong we blame life. No point doing that.” Kunal looked at Aman for a miniscule second and then looked ahead of him. It was 2 already. It was strange of Aman to say these things to anyone let alone Kunal.
“Ah! Talking about my life, it was a roller-coaster ride all throughout, this far. I was molested and tortured by my tutor when I was 8. My parents died in a bomb blast. They ranted upon me for being an average scorer while I was in school. I was an orphan by the time I entered high school.. I was beaten to a pulp by senior section in the convent hostel when I was 15 for hurting their ego. The girl I fallen in love with and still love is, I don’t know where. I still am here. Wandering, interacting with people, smiling, living and wishing to die peacefully.” Kunal’s smile was still as radiant as it was when he saw him for the first time!
Aman saw he had stitch-marks on his left eyebrow, his earlobe had a cut-mark on it, too as if it had been injured in some accident. His life must have been a little rough, it was visible, but he was untouched of any harshness over himself.
“I am sorry!” Aman actually meant it.
“Arreh! Chill. I am not sorry for anything, don’t you be, either. I am a normal human being too. I breath, eat, cry, laugh, sigh, blink, think, drink, smoke and I feel everything just as much as any other person can. There are times when I feel like, as if, I am as good as being dead, but that fades away in minutes. I can’t and don’t want to stop living. I have had and I want to keep up with LIFE through everything, always. I have nothing to call my own, but now who wants to own anything? Atleast I know I don’t. To add, I just have this urge of living and smiling as much as I am capable of. The capability only magnifies every other day!” This sort of optimistic viewpoint to be heard was first-time experience in life for Aman.
“Kya hua?” Kunal asked Aman, when he saw him all lost in some other world except for the observant eyes. “How can he be so forgiving after going through so much?” Aman was wondering, troubled.
Kunal looked at Aman understanding his state of mind and smiled softly. He asked him to roll his palm into a fist. Aman did. Further, Kunal asked him to tighten his fist as much as he could and not ease out. He did the same, while Kunal only smiled. For a fine five minutes, Aman tightened his fist and let go off the grip when he couldn’t hold it any longer.
Blood immediately rushed in a flashing second and his palm-face turned reddish. He sighed. It felt good. He looked at Kunal and found him grinning this time. He smiled back.
“Kuchh samajh aayaa?” Kunal asked, grinning.
“What was there to be understood?” Aman thought, feeling stumped.
“Yaar! What? I tightened my palm into a fist as you asked me to. I did as much as I could and I let go when it begun hurting me. I simply let go as I couldn’t control it. Isme samajhne jaisa kya thaa?” Aman shook his head.
“I told you!” Kunal grinned hard.
Aman was about to say something but stopped before letting a word out. Of course he got it. It was so clear.
One: You cannot control things, even if you think you own them, let alone people.
Two: When you try controlling something too much, too hard, you end up hurting yourself the worst way both ignorantly and knowingly. Irony!
Three: Letting go is the best choice but we only make it after getting hurt more by ourselves than that of others.
How simple these things were to be understood, and how fool one made out of themselves all their lives thinking that they have to rule everything and they will soon.
Aman was moved.
Kunal tapped on his shoulder. “Yeah! I understood what you were trying to make me. It’s weird but true.” Aman said, and saw kunal nodding in agreement.
“But, you know what? Practically, it is not possible to stay in check all time. I mean, people cannot behave all sane, everytime. Take my example. I talk less, but there are people with whom I talk like hell. I am very calm and composed all the time, but even I go mad at myself and others, sometimes.” Aman tried explaining something which always disturbed him amidst just anything.
“Life is a circle. No matter, how far we go and run fast, there’s nothing that can satisfy the restlessness inside, unless we confront ourselves. I did. I am no saint. It took me a lot of time and so many efforts to do so. Eventually, I helped myself to pull through. Why? Because I chose to fight it, to let go and when I was done, I was at peace.” Kunal smiled and exhaled a long relieving breath. Aman smiled back at him.
It was 2 already. The darkness was fading away and dawn was peeping in. Kunal asked Aman if he liked sunsets or not. He nodded. Kunal asked him to specify what exactly he liked about Sunrises.
“The colors, effect in the sky is always a good thing to admire while sitting somewhere alone. What about you?” Aman asked back.
Kunal laughed. “I admire the same, so serene of a sight, to witness. Life circle is the same. Things go down to rise up eventually, over and over again.” He added.
“True! You think way too much, don’t you think?” Aman asked.
“Mah life, Mah choice, mahn!” Kunal said in fake accent and they laughed out yet again.
“So? You really are a wanderer?” Aman asked to know about him more.
“I write actually. Learning dance styles too nowadays. That is about leisure activities. Else, when you talk about working I am a software engineer who also holds a diploma in architecture and interior designing.” Kunal told him.
Aman almost dropped his jaw when Kunal further added that he is a passionate photographer and a born painter. His eyes were shimmering with appreciation and amazement towards Kunal.
“You are so bloody awesome!” Aman could feel his heart swelling and eyes sparkling. He was feeling so proud. He even thought, if they had been girls he would have hugged him a hundred times by now.
“What do you write? Stories? The way you talk, seems like you are one hell of a brilliant writer, brother!” Aman said cheerily slappin’ on Kunal’s back.
“Poetry.” Kunal replied.
“WOW! Perfect! I want to read it. No, wait, I am going to read it.” Aman thumped up and was visibly glad. “Life is literally very good.”
“I told you!” Kunal said. They high-fived and got up.
It was almost about to 4. Numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged. They got up and took their way towards exit. Both of them knew, the few hours that passed by, they discussed about ‘life’ where Aman was the pragmatic view-point having one and Kunal being philosophical perception. Aman had a life which is considered and looked at as a ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ life. But was it one?
Aman hugged him for the time and talking while they exited. Kunal smiled in return. “See you soon, mate.” Aman smiled, shook hands, put a pat on his shoulders and bid him bye.
The night, the whole talk, Kunal changed something in him. Aman wanted to live a little better now than he has had. He wanted to smile more warmly. He witnessed the sunrise feeling at his best.
It was 4:10 when he reached back at the platform to find his friend Saarthak already there. They hugged each other and taking the luggage, headed towards the exit. Both of them got into the car, but before putting his hands on steering and accelerating the car into action, he texted up Kunal which said:
“I am going to read your book for sure, comes what may. And yes, answer to your question is I’ll be trying to live better than I ever had so far. Take care, Bhaai! Milte hain dubaara jaldi.”
He smiled, put his phone in pocket and drove away.