Giving back happiness

Before the monsoons hit Kolkata in early June, it is too hot and humid. All eagerly wait for the nor’westers – a phenomenon peculiar to eastern India – which bring in their wake sudden sharp showers, accompanied with gushing wind.  The temperature drops by a few degrees. 
Thanks to a cloudburst  during the night, the weather had become delightfully pleasant. Just then my friend Debu rang up and invited me for a drive to Diamond Harbour, some  50 km away. from his humble two-wheeler he had graduated  to  a sparingly used big car and was itching for a long drive on the highway, all agog to test the mettle of  his new acquisition.
 From North Kolkata, we negotiated the Sunday traffic through the arterial roads of the city. Then passing by the side of Fort William and Victoria Memorial, we finally reached  the northern end of Diamond Harbour Road for a straight 40 km drive  to our destination. Debu accelerated and his wife drummed a popular Rabindra sangeet tune on the dashboard.

We overtook a number of cars and buses full of holidaymakers. A little ahead was a Baby Austin in immaculate shape with an old Anglo-Indian couple. We exchanged smiles with the couple and waved as Debu drove past the little wonder.
A little later, we found ourselves behind a school bus full of children going to Diamond Harbour for picnic. They were singing and bouncing. There was a burst of applause whenever the bus overtook another vehicle. Debu honked and the bus driver swerved a little, giving us passage to overtake.  The children’s enthusiasm dampened and for a while they were silent. With dismal expressions writ large on their faces, they felt humbled.

After driving for a while, Debu suddenly stopped his car.  With some tools in hand, he  opened the bonnet and started tinkering with spark plugs and the fan-belt. Just then the school bus overtook us. The children were overjoyed and we could hear  the merrymaking and catcalls till the bus disappeared in clouds of dust.
So smooth and vibration-free drive coming to an abrupt end was a cause of worry. But Debu closed the bonnet gently, restarted the engine as if nothing had happened and said casually, “Oh, I just wanted to give back to those children the happiness we took away from them!”

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