Mr. Rama Reddy is a man of habits and punctuality. He is the village head or commonly referred as the Sarpanch of his village named Pulluru. His village is one of the hundred villages surrounding the town, YS Gate, which is again 15 KM away from Chittoor.
Mr. Rama Reddy is about 6 feet in height, stout, and no extra flab. Years of working in field helps later in the age. His sun brunt dark skin is the testimony for that. He has very prominent wrinkles on his forehead. May be, he thinks too much.
Like all mornings, Mr. Reddy again woke up today at sharp 6 AM. With his years of discipline and will power, he no longer needs an alarm to wake him up. His eyes would open exactly at 6 AM. This morning was no different.
He unlocked his gate first, took a round of his small garden in the courtyard. Filled the water buckets and kept them in front of cattle. This took exactly 15 minutes.
At 6.15 AM sharp, he was in his bathroom. Singing religious hymns, he poured two buckets of cold water. He uses clay instead of soap. He was able to afford soaps after his teenage years, but then couldn’t change. Old habits die hard.
At 6.30 AM, he was back in his room. He wore a well laundered and ironed Kurta and Dhoti.
Every day after taking a bath, he cycles to the town YS Gate, which is 4 kms away from Pulluro, where all other Village Heads congregate for chit-chats and discussions. It was held at exact 7.30 AM every morning. For the last 15 years, since Mr. Reddy became the Village Head, he has never been late and in fact, never reached beyond 7.20 A.M. Punctuality was religious to him. During the meeting they would drink strong filter coffee from the nearby stall. After 45 minutes, the meeting is over and without further ado; everyone proceeds to their respective homes.
Today, the morning air had that chill which bore a bit of moisture in it. By the time Mr. Reddy reached Gate, it was already cloudy. The clouds were darkish and a downpour was on the cards.
Mr. Reddy was so engrossed in the discussion; he was unaware that showers had already begun outside. After the meeting, everyone huddled under the coffee stall.
It was already 10 minutes and there was no sign of rain abating. It has started thundering also. Every one present started getting calls from their homes checking for their whereabouts, except Mr. Rama Reddy. He gets very conscious of this fact and starts fidgeting with his phone in his pocket. He also wanted his wife to call him. He again checked; no vibration, no ring. Finally buckling under the peer pressure, he takes out the phone and fakes a call to his wife, reassuring her that he was on his way.
The coffee stall vendor pointed out this to others with his eyes. Everyone feels for him.
Reddy was furiously pedaling. His dhoti was splattered with mud. He didn't want to be late. His wife always has breakfast with him. It was a sort of tradition.
Earlier when there were no phones, his wife used to ask the people coming from that road whether they had seen her husband. Someone may have seen him on the way, talking to somebody or stopping by. Hearing this, she would still wait standing at the door till she saw him.
Then the telephones came. She would call him at the meeting hall just when the meeting was over. Now these bloody mobile phones.
“She doesn't bother at all; the old woman wants me to call all the time, why can’t she call?” He was nodding his head while cycling. At the same time, his one hand went to his chest pocket checking for vibrations. He still wanted a call from her asking anxiously about his whereabouts. He was mentally preparing answers to her questions; that it was heavily raining or someone offered him coffee blah blah.
Even after 50 years of marriage, these things matter.
Now he is just 1 KM away from his home, completely drenched, rain has almost stopped. But still the scowl was there on his face. “Today I will skip breakfast and not speak to her for the whole day. That should teach her”, he was mumbling to himself.
Ahead of him is a funeral procession He had to get down and walk besides his bicycle.
The constant and loud chanting’s of ‘RAM NAAM SATYA HAI’ irritated him. “Why is Lord’s name irritating me”, he ponders.
Suddenly, he has a sort of Déjà vu. He quickens his pace lest someone sees him. He moves ahead of the procession and pedals very fast. Rain starts again from where it left. He is no longer hearing the chants. He stops at the road side. The whole stretch of road is empty. This loneliness engulfs him.
He breaks down into tears. He buries his face in his hands and cries his heart out.
His wife died two months back.