It was getting warmer as the clock was ticking away. He wiped his forehead more than he remembered now. The road was sort of empty with only a couple of buses or cars passing at long intervals.
The eagle cried loud like it was making a landing move on the ground. He used his hand to shade his eyes and looked up; a couple of them were flying in circles. His throat was parched. There was only one bottle he could accommodate in his small trunk between all the other stuff, and it was getting almost half.
He opened the cap and gulped down some, but the feeling of relief was quite subtle by now. It was hot already, yet not a sign of someone he could count on.
Finally he opened the jerry-can and poured water in the old aluminum kettle that his father gave about four years ago when he started, and filled it only halfway. Then he lit the stove and placed the kettle on it to boil.
He pulled a polythene bag out of his trunk and opened its knot. A cloud of disappointment covered his face to see a drying ginger, with brown wrinkles all over its body. He sighed and took it out to peel off the cover, and then grated it over a saucepan for any remains of its essence.
He switched the kettle with the saucepan on the stove and poured the boiling water to it. There was one car that passed but stopped and reversed back to him. A smile crept on his face to see them approach near.
He hurried and took out a box of tea leaves from inside the trunk along with a packet of milk powder and a set of small cups. The car stopped and one of the doors opened.
‘Two? Maybe three… could be four too, but maybe three’ he started guessing.
A guy got down the car and came running towards him.
His face lit up and he greeted him with a Namaste.
“Bhaiyya… View Point kis taraf hain? (which way is the view point?)”, the guy asked.
His face froze with the smile intact, but he managed to speak, “sidhe bhaiyya, fir baaye le lijiye (straight and then left)”.
The guy thanked him and went back running inside his car.
Watching him go, he sat on his stool and took another breath of hopelessness and turned off the stove. All he wanted to do was leave for the day. He was tired and without anticipation. The day was coming to an end in a couple of hours; it would be dangerous to go back home in the dark, through the woods.
He looked at the chapatis his wife packed for him. They weren’t soft anymore. With the chopped onions placed in the middle of a chapati, he rolled it and chewed on it with disinterest.
He lit the stove one more time, set the water to boil, added sugar and tea leaves, prepared milk from the ready-to-mix powder and poured down both, in a cup.
A sip… and then a smile… ‘There will be many coming tomorrow’ he told himself.
After he was done, he packed his stuff and walked down the road as the sun gradually drowned in the bed of a starry night.