The Man Under The Bridge
Three years ago, I saw him under the bridge on my way to work. I don’t remember what he was wearing; only that he never changed his clothes. And that he had a brown(ish) rug.
The first time I saw him I thought he was a pile of garbage bunched together by the sweepers in the morning to be burnt later in the day. I then saw his bald head and kept staring. This was a busy (illegal) turning I was in the middle of. Some angry honks and choice tamil-cusswords later, I moved on.
Now, in case this has traveled across the world and you have a sexy sounding name that’s not made-in-India, and you’re reading this from a long way away, this is happening in Chennai. Chennai is a not-so-humble-but-really-colorful seaside metro in South India. We drink lots of coffee, say ‘Dey!(Yo)’ and ‘Machan!(Dude)’ a lot, even if it doesn’t suit us and we enjoy summer in varying degrees of intensity for 13 months a year.
So bald guy, sleeping under the bridge, 10am in the morning, full traffic is ok. Covered from neck to toe in heavy, dark, dirty, woolen rug is strange!
Two weeks later, it was my turn to edit something my team shat. I mean, shot. I had to go through a couple of hours of visuals, make sense of it and sell it to the boss as something that’s experimental and almost there and would he please consider approving another 1.5lakhs for the next shoot.
Edits start by 7am. Despite the really pleasant breeze and the lack of honking laced with any kind of mood, I was trying to find reasons to be pissed off as I rode to work.
I decided on:
‘my back is hurting’.
I’m thirty years old and my back is already hurting. What am I doing with my life? Is this all? What about time for myself? What about my spirit self? When do I get to actually turn into a shining, effulgent yogi (without a paunch) who’s always chilled out? Nobody understands. Life sucks…..
And so on.
I take the same illegal turn under the bridge.
I look to my right(by now a habit), to the corner under the bridge for sleeping bald guy in a rug.
Bald guy is not sleeping bald guy anymore. His eyes are still closed, but he is seated in ‘Padmasana’. Hands between legs, back ramrod straight. And there’s a piece of paper, rolled into a thin cylinder, bent in the middle, and the two ends, inserted in his nostrils. The overall effect is like he’s wearing some futuristic miniature breathing apparatus.
The guy was still dirty, but there was this little smile on his face and as I crossed him, the light from the sun traveled across his bald head.
It was beautiful!
I’d like to say the day went great from then on, but honestly, I don’t remember.