The Traffic Signal

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Ragini was facing a difficult time. At a time when she was battling depression, her brother lost his battle with life. Sumit was a brilliant child but as an adult he grew up to be the irresponsible son of the family. Having been unemployed for half a...

Ragini was facing a difficult time. At a time when she was battling depression, her brother lost his battle with life. Sumit was a brilliant child but as an adult he grew up to be the irresponsible son of the family. Having been unemployed for half a decade, Sumit saw no way out except to kill himself and release his family. Ragini knew her troubles had manifested themselves in her sorrowful existence.

It was a day like another day, the soul troubled and life passing through. Ragini was too sorry for herself to feel any pity for women, men and children begging on the road for daily sustenance. She could not count herself fortunate to be able to afford food, clothing and housing. Her deplorable state of mind did not allow herself to think of her life being more fortunate than others. She couldn’t explain it but that is just how it was.

As she rode her scooter to the local municipality office to collect her brother’s death certificate she wished she could trade her life with the actress peeping out from the huge movie hoarding. Her deep sorrow could not differentiate between what was and what can’t be. From the corner of her eye she could see a shabbily dressed young man begging at the traffic signal. Ragini thought of him as just another listless soul begging holding something that looked like a certificate.

When he approached her, she realised he was holding his college degree and begging for a job. She ignored him as she ignored the other random beggars but watched him in the rear view mirror refusing money from others but asking for a job. Something about this young man broke the mournful silence of her heart and she kept looking at him as she rode away. She thought of the death certificate in her bag and worried that the degree certificate this young man was holding would be a death certificate too.

The paleness of the situation consumed Ragini’s heart and she turned back to traffic signal. She did not know what she was going to say but when the young man approached her again her eyes welled up with hot tears and she could only muster the courage to say that will help him if she could. She wished someone had helped her brother too.

This was Sumit too, a different, less desperate and more hopeful Sumit. Ragini used the tools at her disposal to advertise the skills of this young man. His being a graduate helped and she wished Sumit had also completed his graduation instead of becoming a heroin addict at the age of 17.

The young man’s hopes for the future and his cheerfulness despite his circumstances had begun to influence Ragini’s heart and mind. No, she was not falling in love with him, but she was awaking from a darkness that had engulfed her with sorrow and pain. Ragini began to think there was more to life than everyday existence; more to life than drowning in self-pity and wishing she was someone else.

Ragini had almost adopted the young man by giving him a place to stay. One morning he was gone and she found herself questioning her efforts. She saw the young man as another disappointment, a disappointment like Sumit. Ragini found herself sick in her heart the entire day, believing she would never wake up if she went to sleep that night. She had given up too. She had lost the battle of life like Sumit had. Was it time for her exit too?

A knock on the door late in the night woke her up from her dreamless sleep and she found the young man at the door with a wide smile and jubilant eyes. He was holding a huge envelope which he slowly opened to show her what looked like an appointment letter. Ragini’s heart beat again when she read the letter. She succeeded! She did something she could be proud of! Her heart was proud and she felt joyful and suddenly the life she was living had more value than the life she thought she was about to lose. 

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