My friend Rustam

He wakes up at 6 every morning. Keeps company with the stray canines on the street. Peeks into the one-room apartments and runs amok when found. He loves to travel w/t on the CST local, to walk along the marine drive, to travel in buses. These are the times when the proximity of people gives him space to breathe. These are times when he is one with rich and poor alike.

He gazes silently and endlessly at the expanse of the sea and is irked to stop at the sprawling landscape. Has never known a parent, has never tasted a cake, has never traveled on a car and has not once been to a theater. He does not intend to anyways. He has chosen his path and his destiny and would stop not before he is one with it.

He is different from the crowd that he is termed a part of.

He harbors no ill-will towards anyone to blame his misfortune. During times of the meter-jam, he is in his elements. He takes care to free himself of his vocations and travel. Travel he does within the confines of the city. From Kandivali to Colaba he trespasses at them all. On foot or by Best, he sure knows his way around. Mumbai is his world, his world is Mumbai.

Pastonjee Uncle likes this reticent observant lad. He reminds him of his late son Rustam, who left the world after a deadly overdose of ganja satiated his thirst for life. They have never spoken to each other but a friendly, familiar glance his way works wonders to the old man’s moods. From an irritable snob he becomes a warm octaagenarian. Then starts a verbiage of recent happenings, local, national or international he is privy to them all. From Tuffail Muttoo to Suresh Kalmadi and Co, we are influxed with a daily dose of Manorama, twenty feet over, from where his armchair rocks and creaks.

He is tall at about 6’2″ above the ground. Lanky with a body weight of 60 kilograms. With a gaunt face and hollowed eyes, he is stoned for good. He opines seldom but does well when he does.

There has been a change lately though. The passive emotions that were the punchers to his intellectual moorings have turned didactic and intended. He speaks now not with the harmless intentions of a young-adult but with the directed insinuations of a die-hard cynic. It has the same flavors of deep observation and careful elucidation but appear to be more of a focussed approach than an aimless banter.

He has stopped his aimless drifting altogether. Yesterday, he did not stop to wish Uncle hello with his trademark wink and nod. Today, he missed his 1 am appointment with the destitute on the sidewalk at Sector 3, Friends Colony and has even forgotten his date with Ganpati Bappa. Not that its that of a big deal had it been any other man. With him, such things do not ever happen! We are worried now. We are worried if the demons of misfortune has finally caught up with him. They say people change but its not a rapid fire shotgun round that shift gears in a jiffy. With life, its a gradual process. With him, such changes can only imply one thing which I am not at this point of time in a position to disclose.

Something is definitely turning a page here. Hold your horses while I turn the page myself in a while. Till then, pray for him and for me. I need it more badly than he does.


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