One Last Breath


The luggage was quite heavy, something I hadn’t quiet expected. But then I wasn’t quite travelling, I was leaving. 3 bags full of clothes and things I might need to start afresh in a city of millions, thousands of kilometres away. But then it’s not just the bags that you carry when you leave your home. 

I have been travelling all my life, perks of being a military brat. But then other than leaving my buddies, nothing pained about the transfers. A new place, new people always made me happy, with the prospective of probably trying to be a better kid. When you are reduced to a walking, talking Water Hyacinth, you sort of prepare yourself for the eventuality called life.

But this was different, I wasn’t shifting to a new city with 2-3 of my people, I was going there alone with probably a laughable local knowledge, sarcastic bank balance and people whom I knew in my “past” down to single digits. Not that I was complaining. But you know how it feels when you have an itch but can’t figure out where? That.

It was intriguing, this shift, not fearsome, like one of my midnight runs by the lake. The cold, embracing darkness of the night, with its sweeping silence broken intermittently by cars wheezing past made me feel small and large at the same time. It was uplifting, the run. This shift was challenging, afterall, I didn’t know how long this night I was about to step into might last. But I might as well be my own light than wait for a miracle.

The crowd of good-byes and farewells greeted me when I arrived at the station. The city that feasted on me desperately crowded me with happy faces in a desperate attempt to keep me from going. I had opportunities, yes I am sure, but that final push 2 weeks back had paralysed me into any action otherwise. I had been thrust into a game where I didn’t have any say. 

The luggage felt a li’l heavier with every step to my seat. Avoidable exchange of greetings with fellow passengers ensued. I was back at the platform, trying to breathe in the last of a life I was about to throw into the air. The air seemed heavy, a li’l too much for my cold body but then it had the same burning effect as it did a few weeks back, the same effect it had I was pushed into the compartment when I was 7 years old, bidding good-bye to those hands that had brought me to the world. The hands were there tonight as well, a little wrinkled, a li’l heavier, a li’l withered. Those hands were again shaking today, those eyes were shining a bit, the face tried to keep that smile, words were trying desperately to sound motivating. But then the eventuality of letting your son go away once again grows on you. At least he was happy this time.

One last breath as the train started to move, after the final good-bye to him was said, I looked at the darkened sky and reminded myself of the purpose I was going to the new city - to not just become a man of reason, but a man of purpose. As closed eyes brought in the cacophony of the city that was struck in a timewarp, I was reminded of my school days when we used to play through the periods and into the lunch breaks. There, I could see the audience clapping wildly when I finished singing. Oh! There was the laughable tour to Inter-School Volleyball competition and then there was my endless bicycle rides in the evening; the shimmering light breaking through the mahogany trees neatly lined up in the Army cantonment warming my sweaty face as I headed back from my martial class. There, there is my grandma making me sit down with a bowl full of milk, there is that first kiss behind the school, that first walk in the rain with her back home. Do you see? That name on that list of selected candidates in the University? There is sadness, happiness, dejection, hope, smiles, faces, fights, tears, anger, like a pianist angrily keying his piano to belt out that near-perfect tune called life. 

I opened my eyes, something escaped. I turned around and didn’t look back at the dead anymore. Night-sky ushered me as I saw the guy who stared back at me through the reflective pane. A new life. A blank slate. 

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