“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
The names and numbers scrolled down. The glare from the screen made the words fuzzy, the tips and ends of the letters blurred. I had tried to make sense and order of the list, manually deleting unimportant contacts. “Krishna” it read. My fingers tapped on the screen. “Nine one nine-nine eight- eight four…”
“Baba!?” Krishna would holler as he banged on our gate. His raspy voice carried through the dusty screened office window. It was a form of endearment in India and something needed getting used to. After the move, Manila seemed a million miles away. Kismat (fate) brought me to a small town in Punjab to run a family business. The household more so a manor had a staff of twenty four- running circles around me. Like a headless chicken I entered this Masala infused contract for the next seven years. A bad curry waiting to happen with little grasp for the language and culture.
In Hinduism, Krishna is the supreme deity, worshipped and acknowledged as the eighth incarnation of the Lord Vishnu. He is often portrayed as an infant, a playful young boy with a flute or an elder giving direction and guidance.
Direction was something I lacked in India or anywhere else for that matter. If you can’t make sense of it all, a good companion should do in the meantime. Someone to at least lead you down the right path, no pun intended.
Krishna lived up to his name and was my way around town, literally. He owned a black auto rickshaw which remained parked outside our house for most parts of the day and night.
An auto rickshaw is also known as a tempo, tuk-tuk or bajaj. A motorized version of the traditional pulled or cycle rickshaw. It is an essential form of city transport in different parts of Asia and Europe and was my main mode of transportation in India.
Krishna’s auto had s sheet-metal body that was painted black- mostly chipped, its orange stripes worn out. The canvas roof and drop-down side curtains were torn. The space in the rear had imitation leather seats, ripped with exposed springs. When he started the engine, fumes of smoke billowed across the road. The front mirror was adorned with small stickers of goofy Indian gods. The tape deck played vintage Bollywood music that blared loudly in the background. Our auto-wallah was a modern day Indian gopher. From fruits, vegetables, train tickets, smokes, booze, to deliveries, he was our man. Apparently the staff tasked him with errands and I in turn was also part of his new project.
“Samajhana?” “Understand?” Krishna pointed at a rather large Melon from Afghanistan.
“Kharrrr-bu-ja? I said with uncertainty. If you’re willing to make a fool of yourself learning a new language it may be easier than you think. He was no high end mentor but got the job done. His big toothless grin was infectious, gums stained from years of chewing beetle nut. His laugh was highly pitched for such a large portly man. The round bald head wobbled and bobbled from left to right vigorously. Oh the confusion. Sometimes it would tilt at an uncomfortable angle. It was the Indian gesture of acknowledgment, encouragement or even used in place of saying “No”.
Krishna buzzed through the busy bazaars like The Toad of Toad Hall, a chubby eccentric behind the wheel. Funny hand signals whilst in traffic. For close to a decade I sat behind his dilapidated contraption- in it for the reckless ride of freedom. A peculiar friendship; we were quite the odd pair. Each day filled with laughter as we travelled through the dusty and colourful streets. Through his eyes one understood the beauty and the madness of India.
I had not been home more than a year and ironically missed the small town life immensely.
An impersonal message was sent to me about his passing. Krishna had died in the summer. His boredom brought him to the bottle. Or was it our separation that caused it?
Fate’s tragic joke that I just couldn’t get.
Now, I look blankly at the same flickering screen- in despair, undecided what to do with the numbers. Frustrating how we hold on to the past; to people we know we can never speak to again. Will just have to leave it for a little while longer.
In no certainty did I ever figure out the right path to a successful life, still looking; but in hindsight Krishna mapped out a few interesting roads along the way.