The Red-light

At the traffic signal, a man used to count the time in his mind along with the displayed countdown, waiting eagerly for it to turn Green again.

Read on to find out why he used to count the time along with the timer and why once he wanted the time to stop there.

… …

He turned the accelerator knob towards himself, and trying to turn it more and more, wishing the bike to run faster. But it didn’t. By the time he could cross the puzzle of other confused newbie drivers, the traffic signal had turned yellow and the traffic police had raised his hand signaling the vehicles to stop. He was diligent towards the law and so he slowed the bike to stop at the red-light.

He was the first one at the signal. All before him had somehow got past the police and had rushed past the cross roads, some even breaking the red-light. Slowly the empty spaces around his vehicle and the crossing in front of him started to fill up with more vehicles. He hated those drivers who went past the stopped vehicles, only to stop ahead of them, blocking the pedestrian crossing area.

He started whistling. It took him away from all the noise of horns (which made no sense as the signal was red, no one was gonna fly out of their way), heated engines of cars (which made no sense either, the signal was gonna stay red till a few minutes), the cries of the kids in someone’s lap, sitting pillion to the rider (which made no sense to him, the kids, they are just stupid to cry all the time without any cause, he thought).

His whistle soon took over his mind and him away from all these noise. He enjoyed the ups and downs, the variations on the scale of the song, the beautiful tune that several sounds made when joined together, the words that he spoke in his mind while whistling. It all was beautiful, the music was.

This was his routine. But that day, someone else was also listening to him at that time. He didn’t notice. But a girl on her bike, standing right next to him, was listening to him with her full attention. She had even removed her helmet to hear it clearly. She enjoyed music too. And this was something different, yet musical and amazingly beautiful. There was a smile on her face all the time she listened to him.

The countdown was still twenty more seconds, and people had already started inching past the yellow line. Only he waited till it actually turned zero before starting his bike. He ignored the people around him, punching their horns at him, giving him angry looks. He started moving and looked to his left in surprise, someone was staring at him. He gestured her to move and went on with his way. But in his mind he thought about her all day.

The next day, the scene was repeated. But this time, he saw her while whistling and had stopped instantly. The girl gestured him to continue whistling and he had continued. He loved whistling and she loved him doing it. They met every day at that same signal at the very same hour of the day, where for one-two whole minutes they would share a musical moment.

From watching the countdown, waiting to race away from the traffic signal, he started counting the timer in his head, wanting it to run slower, wanting the time to stop. He wanted to just whitle and watch that girl give him the most amazing smile he has ever seen in this world. There were people who loved his whistle, but he had never felt the way he felt for her and her love for him whistling.

As the timer in his head reached the last few seconds, he would gracefully end his song and bade goodbye with his eyes, to which the girl would reply similarly with her eyes. They spoke nothing, yet it felt to both of them that they had an amazing conversation with each other. They went on with their opposite paths from that signal, with a smile on their faces, a rare sight for that crossing.

From loathing the signals on that road, he started loving the red-light and the traffic. He wanted the rush to stay. He wanted it to be like this forever. And the day when they didn’t meet, he felt very bad that he didn’t whistle at all that day. Those two minutes at the red-light made or broke his day, all depending on if he meets her or not.

And a similar day came once when he couldn’t see her. He was late, and would surely miss her if he didn’t drive fast. So, he went past several shortcuts, didn’t wait for pedestrians and dodged his way past confused newbie drivers to reach there on time. He was just a crossroad away from that signal. But there was a lot of traffic at that signal. People were gathered on the middle of the road and there was total chaos of vehicles.

He took a detour, and reached his signal, ditching that jam-packed crossroad. He checked on his clock, for a hundredth time now, and sighed a breath of relief that he had reached on time. But she wasn’t there yet. So, he waited for another red-light, probably she was late too. But she didn’t come, probably had taken a day off. He left for his routine, restless to meet her tomorrow. He was finally gonna ask her out, tomorrow for sure.

The next day, it was raining. He reached the spot on time. The traffic was less, and signals were empty, but she was not there. Probably she would’ve gone early today due to the rains, he thought.

The day after that, he reached the signal again on time. But he couldn’t meet her. And it was the same news the next day, and the day after that too. He felt sad and wanted to find her. But he didn’t even know her name or contact number. His days went sore and in distress, as he was helpless, unable to find the mystery girl whom he wanted to share his life with.

One such time, he was restlessly looking around at the red-light for a sign of her. He didn’t even count the timer in his mind this time. All he wanted was to see her again. An old man came riding a bike and stood right where she used to. He was bothered that now even if she comes, she won’t be able to stand right next to him. He looked at the old man in anger. He saw that the old man had a sad face and probably, tears out of his eyes. Or may be it was just due to the wind while driving.

He looked at his bike. And for a moment, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was hers. May be he was mistaken. But that same rusty chocolate color, that lightning sticker on the side, that broken leg-guard and a golden cloth tied up at the mirror clamp. There was a newly formed dent on the front body and the side-light was broken, mirrors skewed. But it was definitely the same bike. He wished he could remember the license plate number.

He looked at the old man and couldn’t resist asking “Umm… Sir? Morning sir. If you don’t mind, may I ask if this is your bike or borrowed? A friend of mine owns a similar colored one and I am a little confused about it…” He couldn’t complete his sentence. The old man broke down and started crying right there at the signal.

The red-light had turned green and there were several horns blowing around them, telling them to move, but he was more interested in something else. He asked the old man “What happened, sir? Are you alright?” and slowly patted the old man’s shoulders.

The signal turned red again. And there were several curse-words being thrown at the pair from surrounding drivers.

“The… The bike is… was of my d… my daughter…” the old man uttered with great difficulty.

It was the old man crying, but he felt a choke in his throat. He couldn’t speak anything. He understood what had happened. He was stupid enough to not realize this earlier. The dents, the broken side light and the new scratches told him the story and reminded him of the day it happened. He knew what had happened, but he wished it hadn’t.

“It was my daughter’s. She recently met with an accident and she… she died. I am taking it to the broker… Brings too many painful memories. You knew her?” The old man asked him.

With some resistance at first, he shook his head, unable to speak anything.

The signal turned green and the old man slowly rode away. But he didn’t move. He couldn’t. He stood there, waiting for the red-light to turn back on, counting the timer in his head, and tears from his eyes…

Now he goes past the same traffic signal everyday, waits at the red-light, sees fellow riders around him, but doesn’t count the timer in his head anymore… Doesn’t whistle anymore.

Advertisements