If you have read earlier edition of this story , you may have some idea about which stranger I am referring to. If not then you may go through it @ https://justcasualthought.com/2020/11/22/a-chance-encounter-with-a-stranger/
So, lady was happy and went back home peacefully in the month of November, 2020. Shopkeeper also slept peacefully at his home and even dreamt about getting his money back the next day. But, alas, things didn’t pan out as per his wish. Next day was one of the longest ever day of his life. He waited and waited more…..some more….
Coming back to circa April, 2022.
Nothing was amiss during this long gap of more than 16 months. Shopkeeper was going about his job religiously in the same colony and lady was also happy in her life. But, he never forgot her. Not a single day went without thinking about her.
No one talked about money during this long period. It was strange as lady had promised to pay back very next day. But, she didn’t and shopkeeper also didn’t took steps to recover his amount. Though, amount of money the lady owed to him wasn’t very large but still small shops runs on small profits. He wasn’t operating a charity organization and lady wasn’t a poor soul.
His shop was also located in the middle of a small junction sort of neighbourhood in the middle of a tony colony. All kinds of people including poor people used to visit this prominent location and street hawkers were also in abundance at the spot. His shop was visible from all angles at this small junction so there was no chance that if that lady visited this spot, he wouldn’t have missed her for heaven.
He also seemed to have developed a strange sort of feelings for her. He was even unable to define it ? Some wounds are better left festering …… time is a great healer. But what to heal ,was unclear to this shopkeeper.
So, why he didn’t tried to find her ?
Yes, lady was beautiful and shopkeeper was also handsome , a young strapping lad.
Then, suddenly one day, a normal boring day in life of a shopkeeper during month of April when weather was getting a little hotter than usual and sun was nearer to this small town, he spotted lady walking alone on the road near his shop. Some street dogs were also barking in immediate vicinity and were trying to find respite from increasing temperature and looking for some unknown objects may be food for dog soul.
He jumped from his chair and wanted to say something. But lady walked nonchalantly and didn’t notice him.
There was a glow on her face but it seemed to carry a tinge of sadness noticeable through her large eyes.
Shopkeeper hesitated to utter a word, as if he was afraid of something. His tongue-tied face was a treat to watch for passersby. Some people even laughed in the background without a rhyme or reason. Lady also stopped near his shop and saw him. She seemed to have not recognized him and there wasn’t even a trace of friendliness in her body language.
Now, the shopkeeper was crestfallen.
Oh god, she didn’t recognized me !!
She seemed to have forgotten her promise of paying back my debt !!
He decided to refresh her memory and took out the item lady had bought on that fateful cold night of November which was still dangling from his shop. He waved this item meaninglessly as if to attract her attention. But, no, nothing happened.
It seems that either this lady has a short-term memory or she is very shrewd and cunning lady who has a habit of cheating small shopkeepers.
Thousands of emotions floated inside the head of shopkeeper but still he was unable to utter a single word to that lady.
Then , suddenly a bright light sparkled in front of him and that lady smiled towards him.
Oh my goodness…she had an amazing smile . He felt at peace with himself. He felt like getting lighter and floating in air. A smile has the power to energize and save a soul. He felt like the most luckiest man on this small junction.
All kinds of suspicious thoughts evaporated from his mind and he also smiled, not at the lady but thinking about his own foolish and awkward behaviour.
Then, lightning stuck again and magic happened.
When he looked back on the other side of road, that lady was nowhere to be seen. He tried to trace her footprints in all possible directions and scanned whole area in few seconds. But, the lady wasn’t anywhere. She had vanished in thin air !
He tried to think coherently that if what he saw was real or was it a mirage in bright sun light ? He thought about asking passersby but restrained himself.
He thought about all possible scenarios but it looked like he had lost it.
He seemed to have forgotten difference between reality and fantasy .
Was he dreaming during the day ?
What was it ? How could the lady vanish in front of his eyes ? He was unable to forget her mysterious smile ? He was perplexed ?
This smile episode happened in bright daylight in front of whole neighbourhood. Even street dogs who were scouting for food saw her. Should he ask dogs about him ? But, he didn’t had the courage to ask from dogs.
But, the question was still puzzling him.
How could she vanish in a jiffy ?
What happened ?
To be continued………………
Hills are a natural feature which is located at a higher pedestal than surrounding ground. It rises above the surrounding area and provides a bird’s eye view. Don’t get confused between hills and mountains. Both are same land features having varying heights. In fact , mountains are even more charming than hills but they are hard to conquer.
But, why I am talking about hills ?
Reason is that hills are intriguing feature for people living in plains of big rivers who loves to climb it and enjoy the view from top.
As someone has rightly said that it is easier to go down a hill than up but the view is much better at the top.
So, climbing hills is tough but once you reach the top , you realize that effort was worth every penny. Soaking the fresh air of hills is especially beneficial for people living in fast-paced life of metros.
Few days back , I saw the viral video of long and serpentine queues of big and burly 04-wheelers on a hilly road trying to enter a north Indian mountainous state. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand provides the perfect getaway locations for people living in nearby States of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. Everyone wishes to get away from scorching heat of plains and soak into pleasant climes of hill states.
A new term, revenge tourism , was coined for the people speeding towards scenic and cool locations of these hilly state.
So, why are affluent people heading in towards Himalayas ?
One reason I can fathom is the forest cover enjoyed by these states.
Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand boasts of a forest cover of more than 66 % and 71 % respectively.
Now, compare it with nearly 06 % forest cover for Punjab as well as Haryana.
The purpose of above-mentioned data is not to bamboozle you with statistics but get a reality check about our priorities in life.
Once you get your basic needs fulfilled by any means. You need to live life. How will you live ?
Long time back , when I drank water from a packaged drinking water bottle , I laughed about the irony of situation that how will humans survive if free water (available abundantly in nature to our predecessors ) has become a precious commodity.
I have not read in any history books about the need of packaged drinking water for any ancient civilization.
So, how come we reach at this destination about packaged water system ?
Same way , I got a deja vu about Oxygen during the ongoing pandemic.
Is oxygen also going the same way as water ?
If water isn’t available, air isn’t available , then how will 07 billion people survive on planet earth ?
We need to search another Planet desperately now, if our civilization wishes to survive for foreseeable future.
I am not talking about distant future. I am talking about a time span of 30-50 years from now.
So, people going uphill for getting oxygen is a phenomenon which must remind us about our vulnerable civilization.
Anyway , hills are literally abode of gods for us. Every hill boasts of a mandatory installation of some deity. If hills are so pristine and pure, it means that gods must be living amidst sylvan green cover. Sometimes, I feel that hills get scary during night time and that’s why people remember gods fervently and construct religious places at tough spots to remind them of protective umbrella of almighty.
Since earlier times, kings and rich people used to have long vacations in Himalayas. Entourage of kings used to visit hills for several months whiling away time amidst godly forests.
So, the concept of revenge tourism is not a recent phenomenon.
English people formally established the tradition of going to hills for ruling class in India as they got tired of sultry and irritating summer in plains of India. Lord Curzon (viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905) even named his youngest daughter after Naldhera, a charming hill town in Himachal Pradesh.
So, the hills have always been a fascinating site for powerful people.
I remember an interesting story about people in large private automobiles wishing to use scarce resources of government of the day to get away from a hilly state in times of war during the tumultuous years of 19th Century. People wanted planes for their Cars to get away from hills.
What they were doing in the hills in times of war ?
May be, it was an earlier version of revenge tourism !
But, hills have an intrinsic quality of making you fit.
Walking on hills is a task in itself and people tend to get fit just by living among hills. It is a fact that native hilly people are stronger and hardy people. They live in harmony with their surroundings and are normally happy as compared to city people. That’s why many well-off people after spending their youth in mundane tasks in city tend to go towards hills to get near to god in their sunset years.
Now think about living in hills in your prime youth ?
Not as nomads ? Though, nomadic life is not a bad choice but how will you get Internet to read this blog in distant hills ?
So, live in a habitable area in harmony with nature and take life easy.
Nothing happens without a reason. Slow down your pace of life and go towards hills.
Nothing matters more than your happiness.
But, remember prophetic words of Nelson Madela :
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
It’s not the name of a book. It’s just about a boy who arrived in a town.
But, how do you arrive in a town ?
Majority of people shift to a new town in search of livelihood. Some people do it for fun or living life in a better place.
There is something called push factor & pull factor which explains that why people migrate to any place. It literally means that people are pushed from their comfort zone and pulled by the mirage of a better life in an unknown place.
It’s not that shifting to a new town is a recent phenomenon , it is believed that few million years ago people from Africa moved to Europe , Asia and later on to Americas.
So, our history is replete with movement of new boys moving into new towns or whatever they used to call towns at that time (02 million years ago).
But, the process always involves uprooting some trees of friendship or bonding with the place (both living as well as non-living entities). Nevertheless, it hurts when you leave a well-established home and move out in a jiffy.
You may have tonnes of memories of the place but it just becomes a folder in your flash drive.
That’s why every religion talks about renunciation.
Leaving a town without a promise to come back again is truly the highest form of renunciation. When you are well-off and belong to moneyed class, you sometimes think that if you leave the town , the town will go to dogs.
But, life plays games and you realize that not even a dog is bothered about your departure.
People come and go……every town resembles a railway station which only houses travellers for a specific period of journey.
I vividly recall the words said by a wise man long time ago –
The cemeteries are full of people who thought the world couldn’t get along without them.
So, a new boy arrives in a big town and first thing he realizes that the town is polluted. All sorts of pollution, be it air, water, soil or may be human psyche.
Living in towns is not a cake walk. The days of drinking water from fresh river and plucking fruits from trees are not feasible in a town. Even vegetable and flowers are grown in labs in towns.
How do people eat vegetables grown in unhealthy soil ?
Does it taste any good ?
New boy noticed a giant guava weighing nearly 01 Kg. each in a shopping mall. He learned that these guavas are sourced from Thailand and salesman informed that guava is tropical tree. It can be eaten as a fruit or used as an ingredient in drinks, smoothies as well as desserts. He told that guava tree is a highly attractive tree. Leaves and flowers are both mildly fragrant and attractive. New boy became happy to learn so many new things about guava, felt like a novice about fruit trees. He realized that the day is not far when ubiquitous guava trees in our villages will become extinct and our youngsters won’t recognize it. May be some exotic garden in big towns will preserve it for prosperity.
Think about it. If our fruit trees vanish , what will we eat ?
If we keep expending our natural resources at such a fast pace, the day is not far when such situations will become the norm and food items will become scarce.
What will happen after that ?
Artificial intelligence can’t manufacture fruits. What will we do with all our modern gadgets if there are no fruits to eat for anyone ?
It is projected that population of India will stabilize around 1.70 billion by the year 2101 (AD).
So , now imagine the amount of guavas needed for feeding that many stomachs ? I am just talking about 01 fruit and 01 country. You can multiply it with thousands of eatable fruits and more than 200 countries on the planet.
Big guavas are okay , they even taste like a potato, but can we produce enough to feed everyone ?
So, new boy in the town thinks about just 01 issue and is worried what will he eat in the town as there are no farmlands in the town.
Town is like a jungle but not made of trees. It is made of concrete and metal in abundant quantities.
It is devoid of trees and fresh water bodies which sustain our life.
Rich people living in glittering towers of towns go to mountains to find trees and fresh air.
The irony can’t be starker ?
Why can’t they make a town in midst of trees and co-exist with them ?
They drive gasoline-guzzling big & ugly SUVs. They take immense pleasure in pollute serene environs of small hamlets in mountains.
Trees and animals have the first right on natural resources.
We have to give them their share. Or else , doomsday is not far away.
So, new boy just thinks about the difference between living near bank of a river where dolphins swim in crystal clear water and on the bank of a foul-smelling, black and chemically- polluted thick river water.
That’s is the difference between Ganga and Yamuna.
What will new boy think about other issues in the town ?
That’s hidden in the belly of future and you will have to wait for a new blog.
Till then, keep reading.