The bus halted with a shrieking sound. I looked around to see why there was delay. Some vehicles parking on both sides of the road had well nigh blocked the road. I alighted from the bus as I thought it would take some time to extricate the stagnant motor flow. The house on the right side of the road had a gathering of a couple of dozen people. The cars on the road outnumbered the people in the house. I was agitated to know that a small private function in a house had caused all the havoc. For us it has been a matter of pride to cause traffic blockade even for the silliest event. I was itching to speak out my pent up feelings against the people who had assembled there. Mustering up courage I went into the gate, reached out the courtyard where men and women were partying.
I wanted to shout at them….but there I saw a girl, nay a woman, clad like a bride sitting there amidst others in royal elegance. I could not believe my eyes….I shuddered back in utter disbelief. It was that girl who was for me once more than my life. She sat there in her celestial, blissful innocence, sans raising her countenance. I stood there for a while in a nonplussed condition. Within moments of uneasiness of giddiness I regained my senses to recognize that the girl was about to step foot into the new phase+ of her life. I was both happy and unhappy to see her getting married. Happy because after all her bitter experience from me she had come to the right decision; unhappy that she is losing for good. I was already married, still I did not like to see her married to another man.
In spite of all the sea of commotion waving in my mind I was able to remain unnoticed by others. Nobody could feel the presence of a stranger, though it was a small gathering. As the girl still remained motionless in her royal coyness, there arrived the Prince of the day. He alighted from his posh car with his mom and dad. The very sight of the man had suffocated my whole being. He was my class mate, nay, our classmate. We three were together in our P.G. classes. He was with her from her school days. He had got such a lng standing relationship with her, which had now consummated into a wedlock. I ws an exasperated man to see all this, rather unexpectedly. I am an uninvited person, a lone traveler waiting at the periphery to view the heartbreaking nuptial ceremony.
I was to him an invader to his dreams right from the word go. There was venom in his mind reserved for me. He was about to avenge me by marrying the girl I once had deeper relationship. If he saw me what would happen, I had no idea. The lady, the first love of my love, in the mean time, cast a glance ith the corner of her eyes, besieging me to go away without creating a scene. I was a mad man by then, did not heed to her earnest appeals. My friend, the groom sat near my erstwhile love. They exchanged lovely, glances; they smiled; they almost caressed. I was boiling with passion to see all this. For a while, I forgot everything about myself, that I was married…that I had been a liar and a cheat to her…. And that again I was poking my head to make her life worse.
I looked around to see whether there were any one who could recognize me. I was shocked to see a few of my classmates standing around me, as if to get hold of me if I acted foolishly. At this juncture I took the decision to retract. While I was about to do so I saw my bridegroom friend giving some instructions to a confidant classmate of his. No sooner than that a few strong men got hold of me forcefully. I began to shake them off with all might…in the process I almost gave out a wild roar of anguish and anger.
By then I heard the coarse voice of someone who has been there with me for quite a long time. She had come out of her sound sleep… Nay, she was awakened by my loud roar of anguish and anger. I was found myself lying flat on the floor, sweating feverishly. My wife was upset to hear me roar and see me taking a wild plunge from the cot to the flat floor. She asked me in agony, “what was that dear? What had really happened? She almost had a fear that I was about to have a massive cardiac arrest. The night was longer as there was no more sleep possible for me. I hugged her closer to me and almost wept.
In the morning freshness I tried to rethink what had really happened last night… Was it a dream? Was there a speck of reality behind that. Not in my memory, not in this life of mine. Then why such a nightmare now, I wondered. As usual I set out to my office through the same place where the drama dream sequence had taken place. There I saw a house, but a bigger one. There was a huge gathering. A marriage is going to be solemnized there soon. Good sense advised me not to get down, but emotion prevailed over wisdom. I got down, went into the courtyard. There I saw a middle-aged woman standing there with her husband. Their daughter was getting married. I was ushered into the reception like a V.I.P. Who was that woman? The girl of yesterday’s nightmare had turned a middle-aged woman? I stared at her husband…Was he my my villai, the classmate…… I was totally confused. I wanted to get out and to get lost into the crowd bustling to enter into the feast hall.



I was in a languor thanks to afternoon bus journey. The bus halted abruptly and two Ticket Examiners hurried into the bus. Leaving the drowsiness I quietly asked the bus conductor for a ticket as otherwise I would be caught red handed for being a ticketless traveler. The ordeal of fine and public insult would be too injurious to bear. While handing over the ticket, the conductor stared at me with a taunt. Actually I had no intention of unjust enrichment. Conversely the afternoon drowsiness was conducive to the recklessness.
The ticket examiners wasted no time in commencing their job. The dark fellow started checking tickets from the rear side and the fellow with the fair complexion from the front. I was sitting in the middle and both the men were converging on me. Everyone had to be shaken from the afternoon snooze. The woman of middle ages sitting on the right of me was still enjoying the sound sleep. The ticket examiner with the fair complexion had to raise his voice to rouse her from the doze. The poor woman seemed to have no idea about anything. Quickly the woman regained her composure. She tendered her ticket to the ticket examiner. He had had a stringent and indepth examination of the ticket. Soon he delivered his judgment, ‘This ticket is only upto Pala. Now it is Ettumanoor. You have not taken tickets from Pala for the onward journey. You have to pay the fine of Rupees 500 immediately.’
The woman was totally nonplussed. The woman searched for the amount in her purse. Somehow she could find a currency note of Rupees 500/- She passed the note to the examiner with tears in her eyes. It appeared to me that she had no more money left with her. The other passengers were curious to see the face of the culprit. Some of them had stood up to see her countenance. An offender is always the focus point of public attention. He is haunted as if all the onlookers were epitome of innocence. Here it was a woman and every one of both sexes was curious to see her. There were murmurs in the air from every quarter. The responses were of too many versions. Most of them seemed unsympathetic as they had reached the conclusion that her omission was deliberate. On the other hand I personally thought that she was innocent in the omission as incidentally I too was on the verge of the same offence of being a ticketless traveler.
The ticket examiners looked like CID’s. They interrogated her beyond what was necessary. When the victim is a woman there would be the patriarchal, chauvinistic touch in every trait of investigation and verification. The onlookers, both men and women pounce upon her as if she alone were the culprit and they themselves, embodiments of virtue. The Ticket examiners then turned their bile to the bus conductor who had failed in doing his duty. They accused him saying that he had failed to verify and find if there were ticketless travelers in the bus. The conductor replied that he had taken all the steps and precaution to prevent the incidence of ticket-less traveling. He cannot be blamed for what the white lie he had told since he was facing punitive action for dereliction of duty. Everyone is ensuring his/her safety with no one showing sympathy to anyone.
The dark complexioned ticket examiner agreed to list the case in the name of the other examiner because he had already got more than the required number of cases and that the other one needed one more case of ticket-less traveling for the month. The two examiners had their prospects of promotion as their priority. The conductor wanted exoneration from punitive action. The poor woman stood helpless and hopeless via-à-vis these priorities.
Seeing her penniless predicament I wanted really to extend a helping hand to her. I tried to speak, but words got stuck in the throat and sound did not come out. I wanted to do good still I did not or could not do good. The tears of the woman still haunt me since she might be going then to the hospital to join her spouse who was admitted in the ICU…she might not have any amount with her either to go on or to go home…again she would have to travel without tickets…last time she traveled ticket-less unawares but now… she may be traveling ticket-less consciously to reach her destination.
She alighted, the bus moved on and everybody was still looking back at her with jeers, dirty comments…. I saw her standing helplessly covering her head with saree so that others may not notice her face….I was thoughtful and morose due to the overreacting, incongruous human response to such incidence of omissions (innocence). People have lost the faculty to discriminate between the right and the wrong. The corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, terrorists, etc, go scot-free and the persons ride bikes helmetless, people unintentionally traveled ticket-less are punished on the spot without verifying the circumstances and the intentions. The police and the ticket examiners are in a hectic hurry to reach the required quota of the month.