It was 1:00 am and as I travelled in my perfectly air conditioned cab, along with a friend, I felt blank. No conversation, nothing to say. The silence was only filled by the soft humming of the air conditioner and I wondered how I felt several minutes ago waiting for the cab to arrive and pick us up.
Cold as Antarctica, the movie hall gave me laughs and entertainment that lasted for two hours and a little more. I walked out with Someone discussing the movie and as we did, he ordered a cab back home. It was a hot night, as is characteristic of a city witnessing sub-tropical climate, every year. As I noticed beads of sweat trickling through his forehead onto the sides of his cheek, I reached out to wipe it off. He stopped my hand midway and said, “Don’t do that! It’s icky. I’ll do it on my own.”
I chuckled and let him be. Of course, he was conscious but the heat was not. It did not care about how it mercilessly made all the people in the city – the heart of the nation – sweat and cringe and sometimes die, even. It was plain torture for us, every year!
None of the people, who walked out of the comfortable and chilly movie hall, felt happy about the temperature outside. Everyone seemed to scurry into their cars or autos and head home. Obviously, home is where you find peace and comfort in carefully adjusted cold temperatures set in your bedroom.
I walked around with Someone for a while as we waited for the cab to arrive. He lit a cigarette, despite the horrible heat, and told me that the cab would arrive in another five minutes. The heat made me uncomfortable, it almost made me sick. I did not like having to wipe the sweat off my upper lip every other minute. I never got around to adjusting with the Delhi heat and weather. I, personally, hate summers in Delhi.
It was hot, not humid, and so it was a little suffocating. I wished I had a personal cooling fan within my body and by the time I finished my theory on the fan, the cab had arrived. We hopped into it and thanked our stars for its timely arrival.
As we rode in the cab in utter silence, with nothing interesting to talk about, I continued to look outside the window.
Someone ended the silence in the next five minutes, “You know there is a metro station, somewhere here in the city which has people sleeping on the pavements every day.”
I looked at him puzzled. I did not know why he brought that up all of a sudden. He went on, “I had once seen a horde of people sleeping all over the pavement and beyond near that metro. They looked fine but imagine their situation. In this heat, they come all the way from their remote villages to have their check up done at the famous hospital nearby.”
“Yes, that’s true. But I have never seen that – people sleeping outside the metro station like that,” I replied. I wondered, that for most part of my time at a media house that required me to travel past that metro station, I never saw these people sleep out on the street.
“I did see them and I guess if we travel past that station right now, we might see them again,” he confidently told me.
As we zoomed past closed shops and glided through empty roads, the picture that he painted for me got stuck in my head. I looked at the road, trying to identify it but could not. I was bad at navigating through roads, be it day or night. As we swooped over a flyover, Someone pointed out at the metro station and exclaimed, “Look! That’s the station! There, No-one, look, those people sleeping – can you see?” I looked and it looked like so many dead bodies were dumped on one another. So many of those sleeping souls had curled up, just so they could make the most of the space on the narrow pavement at the exit of the metro. Some of them had their belongings bundled up in makeshift bags hanging on the railing of the metro. Some others found space on the small lane right next to the metro where I caught the glimpse of a little boy lying down, sleeping, with not a bead of sweat on his face.
As Someone rambled on, I took my time to absorb that sweet, innocent, dirt stained face. “So much for being the best hospital in the nation! They can’t even provide decent accommodation for these people. They come from far and wide, waiting for their turn to be treated, to have their family members, children, wives treated and this is how they have to sleep. They are already ailing and, to add to that, they are sleeping on the roads…they…” His voice drowned as I thought to myself how that wonderfully calm face flashed in front of my eyes. Of course, it was sad, they had nowhere to go. But, the fact that they all looked so calm and soundly asleep brought back to me the feeling of suffocation felt some time ago while waiting for our cab to arrive. Five minutes of taking that heat and I had thought to myself that had the cab not arrived on time, I would have melted.
I could still hear Someone’s monologue, but it could not interrupt with that picture of pure tranquility that that young little face had. I wanted that, longed for that but never had that. At every point of pressure, I felt myself cursing something or someone, losing my cool at the drop of a hat. But here were so many others, who made a summer night what it should actually feel like – pleasant.
Maybe it was the thought of having the opportunity to be treated at the best hospital or maybe the harshness of weather could not penetrate into their already trouble-filled lives, maybe it was nothing at all, maybe it was just life as they always knew it. Life with its cold, harsh tones made these people averse to the mere harshness of climate. While we “suffered,” they slept with calm. While our hot summer night made us despise the city, their hot summer night was their night of hopes, a night where they dreamt of living a better life after being treated by the best in the country.
Of course, the summer night was pleasant; it was sweet as nectar for them, because tomorrow they would find a better life. The brutal heat had no effect on them because they had something else to look forward to. On the other hand, people like me battled with the heat from the comforts of my home and office and recreational outings, all of which were blanketed with cold temperatures.
“Hello, No-one? What is wrong with you? You haven’t responded to what I said all through the cab ride and you look dazed, still. What’s up?” Someone quizzed me. I looked at him, smiled, looked at the sweat trickling down his forehead to the side of his cheek again and said, “It’s summers, it’ll pass.”