About 12 years ago, when I was a kid and was travelling to school by bus, I had a long way to go and no direct buses to get me there. I would change buses at a weirdly pleasant neighborhood.
A tea shop where there are puppies and old men for friends. A tiny shop that cannot be categorized as any specific kind of a shop, selling sweets, to fresh juice, to cigarettes, to stationery, to condoms. Yes, this is where I first saw a condom packet. Seeing a condom itself would take some more years. The bus stand I had to wait at was indefinitely under construction and was never a concern to anyone. Everyone using the vicinity regularly, knew which slab of stone was loose and shaky and needed to be dodged. Everyone else was a source of sadistic entertainment.
For me to get out of my first bus and get to my second bus stop there is a distance of about 200-400 meters that I need to walk depending on where I was able to jump off the moving bus. I practiced jumping off buses like it was a talent that I needed to hone for the future like my life would depend on it.
All this has been a routine of mine for some time now with variations depending on when I need to be at school. There is also another person in this story with a routine and his routine is what matters to us.
I have never really seen his face fully. Will I be able to recognize him if I saw him in other clothes? I do not think so. He always wore grey cotton sweat pants, a matching sweat shirt and a checkered towel wrapped around his neck, covering his face and head and just leaving his face open enough for him to see where he is going and to breathe well. What was he doing all the time I saw him? He was always running, pacing himself depending on the terrain. He always had a consistent sweat pattern on his clothes. I never saw him pant for breath or look exhausted. He went like his life depended on it.
As a much younger child I had watched Rocky. My father had made me watch it even though I was too young to understand anything that I saw in the movie, all I found amusing was that two people were allowed to beat each other up in public. I think my father had conspired to lay down suppressed memories of a man’s conquests to achieve his desire, so that when I grew up and watched this movie again in desperation, all of it would come back to me and I would lay down my struggles.
This man reminded me of that very same rocky. Grey for grey, the skull cap replaced by a truly suspicious checkered towel. If I managed to wake up early for some reason, I would hear from my friends from the second bus about his location and speed. If I got late which was mostly because I was too lazy to wake up, I would see him chugging along the side of the road when my second bus was reaching its destination. I never found out his full running route, where he started or ended. But I saw him in so many different sections of that part of the city. I saw him for three years doing this, everyday I managed to see him, he was at it. After I left school and did indeed catch Rocky as a grown up to find a way to lay me troubles to rest, I was immediately reminded of the man in grey I saw around Malleshwaram. When I tried narrating this story to someone, I never had a name to refer him by, perhaps his name was Krishna.