THE TRUCK STAND

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By: Dr Dhrubajyoti Borah

Every truck has a tale to tell – of challenges and survival. One of the truck stands of the town was situated about three kilometres away from the district court. The national highway divided at an acute angle, one road led to the town, the other bypassed it, and at the commencement of the bypass, on the left side, there was a grassy, slightly uneven field about the size of a football ground. A number of pan stalls, tea stalls, makeshift bamboo dhabas were scattered in the vicinity, and the customers usually were drivers and handymen from the truck stand. At night, when electricity went out, the whole place submerged in pitch black darkness, and from a distance, the place looked like a dark sky on the earth, being twinkled by the fluttering flames of the lanterns and candle lights emanating from those small shops. Boloram was the first trucker to discover this place. Most of the truckers and handymen were many years junior to him. And his brethren regarded him as their friend, philosopher, and guide. There was ample reason to his accolade. He was the man who could guide them nicely in their personal life, and was always ready to help them in their distressful period.

Though he was beyond sixty, his muscular body possessed the strength of a youth. He was always jovial. But today, the scene was different. He was in no mood to crack any naughty joke. Not a smile had been rippled over his face since morning; he was pensive about an incident. In the morning, when he reached here with his handyman, Jitendra, he was informed that a group of boys had visited this place the previous evening, and demanded hafta for no apparent reason. They’d told they would come back today evening. Boloram warned everybody that not a single penny would be wasted upon those brainless antisocial elements. “I’ll face them,” Boloram assured. But he knew, perhaps, after this evening, he would not come to this place again. He would retire from his active life. His daughter’s marriage was approaching, so after her marriage, his wife would be lonely without him. What is the logic of a marriage if one partner doesn’t support the other in the later part of life? Though everybody of this truck stand would get an invitation, it wasn’t the right time to disclose it. The boys might feel down at the thought of losing a fatherly figure. He didn’t want a tearful farewell. Now it was the time to act tough. This place carried a tale. About fifteen years ago, when Boloram had stopped by for the first time here, he was awakened by a metallic sound of hammering at the back of his truck, in the middle of the night. Handyman Sameer, who was only thirteen then, almost fainted in fear. Boloram took an iron rod from under his seat, waited for his dark vision to adapt, then jumped out of the truck like a gust of wind, and spun his rod blindly.

In the dark, a blow from one of the thieves hit him on his forehead. But Boloram didn’t stop. Boloram tried to grab and pull down one of them to the ground, but he slipped away. His rod hit two of them, and they yelled in pain, before surrendering and running away. When they left, Boloram felt his split flesh on his forehead. Blood streamed down his face and neck, staining his shirt. He tied his gamosa around his forehead tightly and left it for three days; the red flesh took many days to come to the skin surface, and ultimately it left Boloram with a sizeable scar just above his right eye. Thereafter, Boloram hadn’t encountered any such incident. Jintendra had replaced Sameer since last five years. Boloram was sitting on the driver’s seat of his truck. The other truckers and handymen assembled in small groups, discussing about the possible hullabaloo that was going to follow if the hooligans came as they’d said the previous evening. No one can survive in fear, there has to be a way out of that emotional disaster. Boloram stipulated something in his mind, and then he shouted at his fellows to join him.

He said, “Boys, this is your chance to prove your worth. You’re not cowards. It’s unjustifiable to hand over your hard earned money without a valid reason. I want all of you to act bravely and chase them away like stray dogs. Do you understand?” The boys nodded and exchanged their glances with each other. Today, their hero, Boloram was with them. His words had logic. He continued, “Don’t think about the consequences if you’re right. Otherwise, you’ll be under constant threat. Remember, united we stand, divided we fall. In terms of mindset, the same rule applies. Everybody should act like a lion, I want to mean that.” After some time, when the sun appeared like a red ball in the west sky and the sunrays felt smooth on the skin, a few bikes entered the field; the roar of their engines filled the air. One bike almost came to the gathering; a hefty boy got down swiftly, and approached the mass casually, twirling his bike key in his right index finger.

Everybody waited in attention. The boy said, “I don’t have time. Hand over the collection to me.” “Why? Who are you?”Boloram approached the boy. The boy glared at Boloram and said, “I didn’t meet you yesterday. Perhaps you don’t know me.” He stopped playing with the key, grasped it firmly in his palm, said, “It was explained yesterday.” “You’ve time to collect hafta, but you don’t have time to work hard and earn money,” Boloram roared. The boy tightened his fist; the other boys accompanying him also took an attacking position, as if in no time they would spring on Boloram and tear him to bits! Boloram smiled, looked back. Jitendra came running with a rod in his hand, shouting, “I’ll break your bones if you don’t leave this place immediately.” Seeing Jitendra, all the drivers and handymen gathered their courage, and marched forward, with their heads high, teeth clenching, fists tightening. In the anticipation of a grave danger, the front boy retreated a few steps back.

A wave of fear passed over his face. He didn’t expect such a confrontation. He got frightened at the furious face of Jitendra. He hurriedly jumped onto his bike, ignited its engine, and rode back to the street; his bike swayed a number of times left and right before resuming its speed. The other four bikes immediately followed their hero and disappeared within seconds, leaving behind a swirling cloud of dust in the air. Jitendra breathed heavily, his face congested. He waited still for some time, then threw his rod to the ground, and sat down on the ground. He looked at his friends. Everybody looked at each other’s face, and then a chorus of laughter filled the entire field and everybody praised Jitendra for his heroic act. Boloram left that night. Now he occupied the handyman’s seat. Jitendra was behind the wheel, his face illuminated bright. Boloram had already made Jitendra an adept driver. Everybody waved them bye. Jitendra would come back, but this was the last day for Boloram in this truck stand.

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