All in a night

All in a night

Alighting from the state transport bus well past midnight, my heart sank when there was not a soul in sight at the Chromepet bus stand, at least to give me company in that moment of solitude.

The bus had sped away to its terminus. I looked around for a moment to take a call on whether I should sit on my baggage and spend the night there or carry it on my head, treading the three kilometre-odd distance to my house, braving the stray dogs barking at me.

Rather philosophically, I chose to stand there for few minutes to see if any auto rickshaw could be sighted or some good samaritan in a two- or four-wheeler passed that way, who could be ‘thumbed’ for a lift.

Nothing like that happened for the next half-an-hour. I lost hope and decided to walk with my head-load just like the porters at the railway stations.

I had barely walked some distance, entering a narrow lane that was a shortcut to my house, when I sensed that I was being stalked.

With the weight on my head, it was not possible to turn around abruptly. Large globules of sweat flowed profusely down my forehead and arms. Suddenly, I noticed a shadow lengthening by my side which soon caught up with me. I stopped dead in my tracks, lowered the luggage onto the ground and turned around bracing myself for an attack.

It was a shabbily dressed young man who appeared to have tripped and fallen into a filthy pond, for his hands were drenched till the elbow and some stinking watery paste kept dripping from his hands. He stopped near me and got down from his bicycle.

What unnerved me more was his offer to help me carry my luggage, as he too was passing that way. Even before I could respond, he picked up my suitcase and placed it on the bicycle seat, asking me to place a hand on it for support. We walked along in silence, stopping at more than half-a-dozen places en route where, upon sighting a compound wall, he would promptly deface it before moving ahead, till we stopped at the gates of my house.

By the time I could offload my baggage, he was through with his ‘act.’ Before I could react, my friend wheeled away with two buckets full of the watery paste used for applying on the posters, one each hanging on either side of the handle bar and a huge stack of printed material tied to the carrier. He murmured that he had to complete his ‘assignment’ before daybreak, for some premises owners just did not approve of his ‘work’!
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