Mr Pratap is a quiet man.
Or so I assumed because he never talked to anyone. This in itself wasn’t that surprising, nobody really talks to each other on a bus ride. When everybody on the bus was busy Mr Pratap always seemed peaceful in his own little space. Mr Pratap didn’t carry a newspaper like the gentleman beside him, he didn’t have earphones plugged in like the girl two seats ahead. He didn’t even nap, like the guy three seats back. There’s a hint of a smile on his face as he looks out the window.
Every day is a different view. Mr Pratap enjoys the view, every day.
Mr Pratap always carries an attaché. A small one. He keeps it on his lap, his arms neatly folded over them. He wears spectacles, two pieces of glass suspended over his nose. He always dresses smartly. Pressed black trousers, a bluish-gray shirt, dark chocolate waistcoat. He always dresses the same. Hair neatly combed and remarkably still even with the wind from the window. Mr Pratap, it would seem, uses hair gel.
Mr Pratap always gets on one stop after me. The bus is relatively empty so he gets to pick his place. He always picks the same place, right in front of the door, window side. He has a traveler’s pass, which he promptly pulls out of his attaché and shows to the conductor. The conductor recognizes Mr Pratap, greets him. He doesn’t have to show the pass but Mr Pratap does it anyway.
I know Mr Pratap. I sit in the seat behind him. I once peeked at his attaché. It was an old-fashioned leather attaché, with a name tag. Mr Pratap. I found it weird because it said Mr Pratap. He turned a bit, smiled at me. I smile back. Mr Pratap liked me, he is my friend now.
Mr Pratap travels every day, Monday to Friday. I don’t know about the weekends because I don’t commute on weekends. He never misses the bus, never takes a day off. Every morning he takes the seat in front of me, but before he does that he always smiles at me. We don’t talk, Mr Pratap and I. Our conversations begin, is comprised of, and end at that particular moment. The smile.
Today is Monday. Mr Pratap didn’t get on the bus.