Unheard Tales From The Backseat of Sumo

By Saqib Manzoor

In surging tumult and turmoil, I succeeded in occupying the back seat of a Sumo. The front and the middle had been already occupied by other passengers. Now, only three seats in the back were empty and waiting for passengers. People, sitting in the front and middle, were engrossed in hogwash of talks. Someone informed others about his stolen cow and others left a deep and remorseful sigh on it. Another seemed exasperated by the management of LD hospital. He displayed too much outrage against them. He had been disappointed. Upon being asked what disappointed him, he gave a reply that startled everyone,

yemov be-adboo dyotni mai vatis manz shongnai kuni doh, basa shongus parki manz’ (These ill-mannered people didn’t let me sleep in the corridor. I had to sleep in a park).

Another person, seemingly in his 70s, interrupted him and went on reminiscing old good times when people would be allowed to sit and shit in the corridors of LD and any other hospital. Soon, he recalled the stolen cow and went on venting about times when cows would roam around the fields of anyone, and no one, being pious and honest, would steal them or their calves. He scorned the contemporary times of fine carpets and lamented over the times of rags and tatters.

The man, who was already disappointed and angered by the management, found this unanticipated interruption despicable. He turned towards the old man, sitting In the middle seat, and frowned upon him.

Tohibiddi chu bidith breath gasan. Tehzeebi chuina kahn. Kathi gosni thor dyun,’ (You old people get spoiled when you reach your old age. You don’t have any manners. You should not interrupt when anyone is talking) hollered the man while looking directly into the weak eyes of the old man.

This was the moment things turned ugly inside the scorching sumo which was still looking out for two passengers. These words of a young man riled up the old man. Soon, the tone of the voices increased and became too sharp to handle. It pierced through our sensitive ears. An exchange of words; obscene, judgmental, lewd, and full of prejudice took place. Talking about the prejudice, it came into existence when it turned out that the old man was from a remote village and the young man was from town. Words like ‘ koli gamkiii, koli kaeak,’  were shared. I don’t want to translate these terms. So, yes many things and characteristics got exposed. Meanwhile, two passengers, apparently couples arrived and brought ephemeral cessation to this altercation. Driver, who seemed uncomfortable with what was happening inside his vehicle, hopped on the steering and accelerated. The sudden surge in acceleration made us all wobble and strike against the shoulders of each other and our seats. That showed how much annoyed he had become by this untimely and unexpected hap.

Now, fearing the continuation of the argument and emergence of a terrible fight, he turned on the vehicle audio and played the romantic songs from the times of Dilip Kumar, then Amitabh Bachan. Soon, he played a song from a movie by Salman Khan. While the young were enjoying it, the old man again seemed irritated by the lyrics and fast music.

Ba sa dimai naar athtayfes, karsa ye band hey karsa band’ ( I will set it on fire. Stop it! Stop it!) shouted the old man, looking at the driver but addressing the other  young man, with whom he had an exchange of words before. Now, there was clamour and tumult about the songs. It was too much to handle for me. I took a deep sigh and turned my attention towards the other side having fewer people, accurately three; the husband and wife who were deeply involved in their talks and some beautiful smiles, and a teenager who had plugged in earphones the moment he sat there. I envied him because he didn’t know about this chaos and seemed too comfortable listening to his favourite songs or Naats (maybe). Then, all of a sudden, I remembered that I too had carried a wired earphone from home. I fumbled through the torn pockets of the vest. Eventually found it in the inside pocket of my vest. My grandfather would wear this vest. Obviously, didn’t carry earphone back then but a bewitching watch bought from Saudi Arabia. It still smells the scent he would use. Some other day I would love to tell you about this vest or smells or smiles or just about my generous grandfather.

Ok, I should stop fudging around. Soon I plugged in the earphones and played songs from the KGF movie. While listening to these energetic songs, I was looking at the unstoppable and unstable mouths of quarrelsome old man and young man. Other mouths had also joined now. Surprisingly and unfortunately, they easily ruined these songs for me. Their ugly actions, which I wholeheartedly detested, synced with the beats of the songs. I abruptly stopped the Spotify and cupped my head with both hands. They were still fighting; whether Salman Khan was best or Amir Khan. All of a sudden a kid rose from his seat and declared Akshay Khanna was best. He received a hard slap(s). First from his father, then the old man, and eventually, from the enraged young man. Poor kid thumped back in his seat. I saw the perspiration emerging and drying on his mellow cheeks and broad forehead. I fear he peed in his pants. Again I started listening to the songs. This time from SRK’s movies. Yes, romantic songs. I turned my eyes toward the couple sitting next to me. A beautiful couple, I should say. The adjective ‘beautiful’ was used only after observing them closely and keenly. As I had plugged earphones into my ears, I was unable to hear what they were saying to each other, but actions speak/spoke louder. They were laughing, giggling, and tickling each other’s hands. Soon, the husband opened the chain of the tote and got out a packet of  ‘Nut crackers’. He didn’t rapidly but slowly pick it up, got it out, and showed it to his wife who was desperately waiting to be surprised by what would come out of it. Her eyes glistened with utmost bliss. I doubt even if a treasure would have come out of it she wouldn’t have been this much happy but a tiny packet of nuts made her happy(iest). Her husband ripped the top of the packet and poured more portion on the palm of his wife. They both, at the same time, savoured it. It brought a broad smile to their visages. What an intriguing exhibition of affection and love having scrumptious snacks together.

Then, the woman repeated the same thing. She put her hand inside the bag and picked out a packet of lays. They both laughed hard.  While picking and eating the tomato flavour of lays, they were also sharing smiles and hand touches. Now, it was time for roasted chickpeas. They poured all of them into one palm and started counting these. One by one, they started eating them until there was the last one left. The husband picked it up and broke it into two parts, giving half of it to his wife. It seemed they were having the best date of their life in the back seat of chaotic Sumo. And here, despondent, dumb, and numb I was loving this scene. The most fascinating thing was how they showed affection through hand touches, winks, blinks, tickles, smiles, silence and sharing the orange. They didn’t talk much as I could tell you from their still lips. And they seemed unbothered about the chaos and noise going on. By this, they made the lyrics of the song Tere liye from Veer-Zaraa unforgettable for me. They added a memory to it. Soon they reached their destination, home. After the couples alighted the vehicle, the same seat was again occupied by two persons, mother-daughter duo. Mother occupied the seat and gestured at her daughter to sit in her lap. Yes, usually, or say all the time people do it__ saving 10 or 20 rupees by carrying their child/children in their lap. So, this girl, approximately 7 years old, obeyed her. Again, there was a unique display of affection, care, and kindness. The mother moved her hand through the strands of hair of her little daughter. Mother seemed to love it and so did daughter. Soon, she made a braid of her hair and let it fall on the soft back of her daughter, eventually into her warm lap. We often trivialize the significance of these little things that make our life beautiful and happy. The smiles, the laugh, the jokes, the generous gestures, etc. These are beautiful but alas, we, deadpans, are snubbing them without even thinking what could be the dire consequences if these got vanished all of a sudden. I didn’t hear anything since I  told you I was still listening to music, but I could see the display of pure emotions of both. What an eccentric concurrence! This time it was a song about mother.

Little daughter held the rough hands, apparently only soft and safe hands left for a daughter in current world, and started knuckling them. She would pull the fingers, grip the thumb, hold the wrist. These hands appeared too important for her. Hands that held tiny her after she was born. Hands that bathed her for the first time. Hands that slapped her and then wiped tears of her cheeks. Hands that lulled her to calm sleep. Hands that saved her from stumbling. Hands that helped her learn to walk and run. Hands that would wipe tears off her cheeks at the time of departure on her wedding night. This scene was so subtle yet so profound and hard hitting.

So much love, kindness and care was dripping from the walls, mirrors, screens, and corners. Everything.

Soon, we were nearing our destination, Newa. I stopped the song and to my surprise there was complete silence. It was so soothing yet seemed evil since people are meant to be noisy and chaotic. Exhausted driver stopped and asked us to pay the fare. I did. I was about to get down when I again heard familiar sharp noises coming from the front. I rushed towards the bonnet of the Sumo. I was left downright surprised by two men who were having a banter and were not letting other pay the fare. They were same people, THE GODDAMNED OLD MAN AND YOUNG GUY! Everyone burst into laughter when old man got irritated and said, ‘dev cxeiyaara dev cxei te tull mai thaff’ ( Give it my friend, give it and let me go.) shouted the old man while leaving and waving at the young man. Everyone left in silence amid the racking rattle of gigantic vehicles plying on road. I left, mulling over what I had seen.

I see love, kindness, care are not missing, but present here and there, and ignored openly. We just have to realize these are everywhere and make these  palpable.



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