He was halfway there and in no real hurry, so Raman walked as he had for the last few kilometers – leisurely and easily. It had been a bumpy start to the day, what with his vehicle’s engine seizing on the way to work and needing to be dropped off at the service center and his tripping on a loose brick on the pavement on his way home and landing face down with his palm attempting and failing to break his fall. He’d taken the day off, rested and on receiving a call from the service center a few hours later, decided he’d walk back and fetch his vehicle. Things were looking up now. And as he continued on his way, so did he. But the clear sky that had welcomed him out the door was now a shade of grey. He quickened his pace, but he could not outrun the clouds that seemingly instantaneously, growled and burst into lightning, thunder and a downpour that had seemed impossible just a few minutes ago. Raman was flat out running now. Had he paused to think, he might have taken shelter at a nearby shop or under a bus stand. But in his mind, all he wanted to do was reach the service center. So he ran, taking care to jump over puddles and loose stones, not wanting to trip a second time that day.
In his urgency however, he didn’t notice that he’d run off the pavement and was now running on the side of the road. Bikes and cars sped past him, just as eager to get to wherever they were going. After about a kilometer of running, he stopped and panted for breath. The weight of the wet clothes coupled with the stress of running left him gasping a little and he waited to regain his composure, still unmistakably getting drenched however. Just then a car, a blue sedan came speeding past him and mindless of the puddle next to him, splashed into and out of it, leaving an extremely brown pair of pants and shoes and an extremely angry wearer of said attire. He yelled pointlessly at the car that was long gone and then stopped, disappointment and rage lingering on his face. When he’d regained his composure, he wondered if he should just return home, change into some dry clothes and come back for the vehicle later. But he was almost there and he’d have to get drenched to go back anyway. Might as well power through and complete the mission at hand, he told himself and forged on. Soon he found himself at the mechanic’s shop where a burly man and a young boy were hard at work, tightening screws and fixing things that probably never fixing. At the sight of this dripping, disheveled man, the owner immediately dropped his screwdriver and beckoned Raman to sit on the stool he’d just gotten off of. Looking at his state, he whispered something to the little boy and the latter ran off into a small room in the shop. It took the owner a few more seconds to recognize the customer that had dropped off his vehicle in the morning. He listened to Raman’s day of woes, entries that had come pouring out the man with very little poking and meanwhile the little boy had returned, two hot cups of tea in his small hands that he offered both the men gingerly, but with a wide smile. It was only when the kid sat down on the floor next to him that Raman noticed the kid had a prosthetic leg. He looked at the mechanic, questioningly and was told about the accident at the shop a few years ago that had left the child maimed. They’d explored a few options before deciding the child needed to have a way to walk again and found a sympathetic doctor who had treated the child free of charge. The once ever-cheerful boy had spent months in pain and teary struggle, adapting to this new appendage. Raman listened to it all in silence, his eyes locked on the boy who had now resumed tightening a few smaller screws on a part of a vehicle, humming a tune from a familiar song.
Once they’d finished drinking their hot beverages, the mechanic took Raman to his vehicle, showed him the estimate and gave him the sign off. Raman was only half listening now, his mind still on the cheerful disposition of the boy who had apparently gone through so much at such a young age and had somehow managed to find a way to smile despite it all.
Before he left the shop, he shook the owner’s hand and then went over to the boy and thanked him for the best tea he’d ever had. The boy gave him a glowing smile and Raman patted him on the head.
As he rode back, the clouds having cleared up, he was still full of thoughts, a mixed bag of shame, pride, gratitude and contentment. The roads were still a mess though, he noted amid these thoughts, and slowed down as he saw an old man walking off the pavement by the side of the road and in the opposite direction.
He gently rode into and out of the puddle directly next to the old man, taking care not to splash on him even a little.