Another bus arrived. For the second time within the three hours of enduring the rowdy crowd, he convinced himself that his characteristic calm demeanor would only serve to delay his departure. In a moment of lunacy, the urge to push through the crowd gripped his heart. But that’s all it was, a moment of insanity; a moment of clarity. After which, his conscience crippled him. The bus rumbled off.

He scanned the multitude for nursing mothers, or elderly persons in hope to rationalized his hesitation. Spotting none, he argued with himself, ‘It must be that the crowd is too unruly for them.’ It is convenient at this point to mention that for him, gender is not a determining factor for vulnerability. Vulnerability itself is. For, for every chauvinistically twisted tale of human triumph over calamity, there are countless untold stories of selfless female warriors. It greatly disgusts him, whenever during disaster, the ignorance that women belong to the defenseless group gets into everyone’s head.

Minutes after he had arrived at the bus station, the sun that had mercilessly scorched the earth dipped into the horizon. It causes a great vexation to the spirit to report that the late evening atmosphere, hours after sun set, remained uncomfortably hot. Exhaust fumes darkened the sky. Petrol smell mixed with sweat stench chocked him. Horns blared. Sticky bodies bumped into him, and every inch of his skin started to itch. His mood became irritable, and he felt nauseated.

Private vehicles, most with single passengers jammed the road. No bus had arrived since the last one. He had to push his way out of the crowd. He had to get away. Blindly, he forced his way through the wall of bodies, stepping on toes and bumping into soft bosoms. He never turned to apologize. His every being craved one desire, fresh air. The obscenities hurled as he shoved his way out never registered with him. He kept pushing. Both his elbows raised to his face, covering his bowed head, he pushed.

He had barely broken free from the crowd, when above the noisy confusion of city bustles, a horn blared. Another bus had arrived. The violent struggle to board leaped to a frenzy. Strong arms shoved him aside, he stumbled forward towards the ground. Instinctively, he withdrew his arms from his forehead and held onto the nearest person for support. His desperate support turned out to be an elderly woman, and they both crumbled to the pavement.

A painful groan escaped the woman. He heard muffled laughs, beyond which, except for the stares and the jeers from the idle motorcyclists nearby, nobody seemed particularly interested in the two bodies lying a meter apart. Embarrassment boiled in his stomach, but like in all his endeavors, he restrained his focus from entertaining humiliating thoughts. Through the throbbing headache, he strained his mind to recite over and over again the words that over the years had become part of his philosophy, ‘It is okay to stumble, it is okay to miss a step, it is okay to fall.’

The woman remained stiff. He lifted himself up and rushed to her side, aches searing through her thigh muscles and apologies tumbling uncontrollably from his mouth. Despite the pain, he bent over her to give her a hand. Blood! In the instance, he felt everything and nothing. Dread ripped his heart. His head throbbed harder. He tried to focus and failed. He felt people gather around him. Some accusingly staring. Then he felt buoyant. Like a single shred of a feather, he lifted himself up. Towards the sky. Away from everything.

Stay tuned for the next part…