It was a dilapidated bus-stop off the dusty main road. Noisy trucks invaded what little remained of the tar on the road, while the whir and hum of electric trains from tracks afar adorned the otherwise mundane setting.
The sun shone down indelibly, in what could only be an expression of its immense love for the few people braving the road. It was two in the afternoon on a Saturday, smack in the middle of May.
He stood at the bus stop, oblivious of the time, the trucks whizzing past him, the trains’ whirring through the station, and above all, the sun’s persistence.
The day had started reasonably well, with his favorite puttu and sweetened tea at Nayar’s. The tea could never meet the standards of what he used to have at home, his land the mecca of the world’s tea. However, he had no time to reminiscence these days, of home and tea, of beaches and forests.
Packing was well underway for his trip to the Queen’s land. Uncle had asked him to carry only the bare essentials, for the stores there had good supplies of hand-me-downs for the migrant populace. It wasn’t as if he had anything more than bare essentials, having migrated to this interim land with not so much as a plan in place, let alone a bag of clothes. A few irreparable trousers, given to him by kind neighbors from his homeland, with dreams in their hearts and sorrow in their eyes, were all he could manage to stuff into a sorry looking suitcase.
That is when he heard that loud rapping on the door. His uncle was on call at Nayar’s, the only shop in that building blessed with a functional phone. He tumbled down the stairs, dismay writ large on his face.
Perhaps, his uncle had changed his mind, he worried. He was after all a menial with no culinary skill, let alone the expertise to help run a samosa counter in a movie hall in foreign land, desi-frequented as it may be. Perhaps, his uncle would be kind enough to postpone the trip and not cancel it, he consoled himself as he rushed to Nayar’s, tightening the once-white-now-brown dhoti around his hip. By the time he reached Nayar’s, he was heaving and panting, his heart skipping a beat more than it did when he thought of his family back home.
The conversation was short, to the point and clear. It did not change anything between them, his uncle promised him.
As if in a trance, he placed back the receiver and walked out of Nayar’s. He did not know how long he stood at that bus stop, disoriented and distraught.
A piece of newspaper seemed to be nudging him out of the stupor. Perhaps, its life’s purpose had been to fly to his rescue before he was irredeemably lost. He clutched that newspaper and read through the article on a hunger strike planned in support of his people back in his homeland.
The news he had received over phone sunk in finally. His entire family had been taken into custody the night before, and banished to an unknown and unidentified war camp. For the first time that day, he cried aloud, not because he had lost everything he had ever known, but because he was a refugee far away from home, incapable of doing anything to save his family.