It was a cold and rainy evening in Libertyville, not later than 5.30 pm but dark as night. I had finished working for the day and was about to step out, when the security guard told me, Careful young lady! It is really slippery today. I did not think much of it, and proceeded on my way out, and then I understood what he meant. If I took one step forward, I moved three steps sideways! It was slippery, unlike anything I have encountered. The rain was falling in big, fat drops, and something which resembled shards of ice. I was wearing my fleece, a waterproof jacket over that, my all weather boots, and I was having a miserable time. I tried to call a taxi, but the weather was not cooperative enough for a taxi to come to my rescue. I decided to walk to the bus stop, not very far at all; but on that day, it took me twenty minutes and what seemed like a balancing act worthy of a trapeze artist.
I was angry with myself. I had been meaning to buy an umbrella, but never got around to it. Two umbrellas had broken on account of the wind and I was reluctant to buy another one just to have it break again. I pulled the hood tighter around my head, and stood huddled at the bus stop. which was a pole on the road. I was feeling colder by the minute.
The cars kept whizzing past me. I was hoping that the water wouldn’t splash on me. Suddenly, a car came to a halt right next to me. The window went down, a lady peeped out and said to me, I can’t give you a ride now, but here you go, take it take it, don’t say anything, just take it. And then she thrust an umbrella at me. She drove away almost as soon as she stopped. I was a little taken aback, I don’t remember her face, and I am still not sure if I even mumbled a thank you. She had given me a big, sturdy, beautiful Coach umbrella. What made her stop and give me that umbrella? She must have paid a handsome price for it, but she gave it to a stranger without hesitation. Numerous other cars drove by, but nobody stopped, not even an empty taxi I tried to hail.
The bus finally arrived, and I got in, grateful for the heating and relieved that I wasn’t standing in the rain anymore. As the bus was nearing my stop, which was two streets away from my apartment, the bus driver stopped one street ahead, and looked at me. The signal was green, but he chose to stop anyway. He said to me: Wouldn’t this be easier for you? You don’t have to walk that much. And he opened the door, at an intersection that was not a designated stop. How did he know what I was wishing for? I did not recall having seen him before, I usually recognized the bus drivers for there was only one route in Libertyville and I was a regular. How did he know this would be closer to where I lived?
I got down and walked, a shorter walk than usual, and reached home. I didn’t slip anywhere, I was dry, and I was left wondering. Something came to my mind then: Kadavul irukkuraaru Kumaru.*
Half a year has passed since, and I have moved back to India. I brought the umbrella with me. It reminds me of the kindness of strangers, and the magic that hides in mundane events.
* – God exists, Kumar. As said by Kokki Kumar’s friend to him, in Pudhupettai.