Saturday, August 28, 2010

Voice of a Pedestrian

The sun was setting by the time I reached Nugegoda. The people waiting to board the bus were polite enough to allow me to step down first. I hurried down, seeing their impatient faces to get in. The people waiting for the bus together with the teenage boys hanging around, watching the young girls pass by made me think of a beehive buzzing around. I worked my way through the crowd and finally reached the pavement.

It had been a long day at work and I was tired. All I wanted was to get home and take a relaxing bath. As usual, I took the bus back from work and that journey made me more exhausted.

Of course, travelling in a bus during the rush hour is not a cinch. Stepping into the bus itself needs so much energy. Finally, wiggling our way in, one has to struggle further to move through the crowd. With the conductor’s yelling Passata yanna (move backward) or issarahata yanna (move forward), you dare not pretend you did not hear him, else, he will shout out clues for the others to recognise who he is referring to.

The honking of cars, vans, and buses, hustle and bustle of the people and from screaming to greetings signalled the end of another eventful day. I felt the dust sticking to my face. I felt unpleasant, and unclean. I felt the heat, which bounced off the tarmac as if it could not take any more from the blazing sun.

Polluted air and the heat made me walk faster away from this tired city. Not only I, many pedestrians around me, felt the same. They did not want to spare a second to raise their head and offer a smile. “They too have their own quota of problems in life,” I thought. I walked faster as fast as my exhausted body could manage.

All of a sudden, I realised that someone had stepped on my slipper from behind. “Oops”, I looked back. “Sorry,” said a woman with a carelessly wrapped saree around her and with a sheepish smile on her face. “That’s okay.” I made it simple. I did not want to continue with the incident. After all, it was a mistake. I gained my pace again. I had no time to spare since I had a long walk home.

The traffic on the pavement was intense. Men and women wearing elegant office wear were racing against one another. With a blank thought, I followed them. Occasionally turning my head to the right and left, I looked at what hangs on the shop-windows, and then lazily changed the idea of shopping.

Lost in my thoughts, I realised that my ‘autopilot’ had stopped my walk. There was a couple walking in front of me deeply sunk in their world. Their speed almost stopped my run home. The girl was wearing tight blue denims with a purple top and matching hoop earrings while the boy wore a black T-shirt and grey denims. Both of them had books in their hands and the girl had a black bag on her left shoulder.

I tried to overtake them from the right but failed. Then I tried to overtake from the left, and I failed again. I had no choice but to tap the girl and ask “Excuse me, can I pass?” Exchanging puzzled looks with each other, they moved aside. They looked annoyed. Not wanting to be rude to them, I smiled a little while passing. They did not even bother to look at me!

The sunshine was fading faster than I thought. Even the vendors were getting ready to go home. While my eyes wandered around them, I faintly heard a whisper, “Lassanai,” (Beautiful).
Realising that someone had commented on my looks, I did not know whether to take it as a compliment or as a useless comment from a loafer. After a seconds thought, I decided to ignore that. 

The honking continued and all the vehicles were lined up at the traffic lights. I stood facing the pedestrians’ light. Vehicles were racing in and out to every direction of the junction. While waiting until light turned green, I could not resist watching the people who risked their life to save a minute or two by crossing before the right time. Are those timesavings worth as much as their lives?
I failed to think of an answer. I desperately wished if one of those people could give me the reason. Why do they risk their lives without choosing to wait for two minutes? It puzzled me so much. Without confusing myself further, I looked at the blank sky, wondering how long I will take to go home!

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