The chaotic innumerous screeching visuals rushing out the window bars blurred his vision. He was looking at a cat attempting to cross a busy street, a kite trying to soar high in the sky, and a fruit seller making all efforts to lure the customers in the market.
A feeling of longing connects them all, he thought. After establishing this superior connection with the visuals his window had to offer this evening, he rested his head on his arm and stared at the fruit seller. Every evening he would look out of his room’s window, try to read the minds of people on the street, and speculate the many meanings of life. It had become his habit now to weave stories in his mind around these sights.
Storytelling had always fascinated him; he enjoyed doing this in every form – through words, images, and sounds. Shifting his gaze from the blur, he now looked at the pencil kept besides him and began to sketch in a scrapbook that his grandson had gifted to him. He moved the pencil from one point to another, trying to hold it firmly between his fingers and drew the shape of a raindrop emerging from the ground. It gave the impression of “an upsurge of rain”, which he then signified by a crooked line in the center of the page. He drew three more drops. Under the crooked line, he drew the face of a man. When he finished sketching, he gave the crooked line a cursory glance, nodded, and kept the sketch aside.
He then picked up another piece of paper and started to look around for inspiration. It seemed like the window was screaming for his attention. His neighbour was fighting with the fruit seller. The cat was now trying to reach onto the roof of his neighbour's house by climbing onto the fruit seller's bicycle. She got distracted by the noise of the kite getting entangled in the branches of a tree nearby, and ran off to a place where no one could find her. Amidst this chaos, the old man's eyes rested on the fruit seller’s bicycle. The old-fashioned bicycle was shining like an undeterred warrior that had fought its way through the brief roadside confusion.
The old man, known as an artist in his young days, reminisced about the bicycle he once owned; the bicycle that used to wake the residents of Sapna Nagar up every morning with its sweet, chiming bells. The bicycle that could seat four small kids at once and let them rejoice with the artist in selling newspapers to every household. This bicycle made him a newspaper wallah by the day, and a dream merchant by the night, taking him to places far and wide that few dared to explore. It granted him the freedom to do what he wanted to do. It was a friend, in good times and bad times.
His adventurous nature, however, caused much worry to his parents, who, on one particularly gloomy evening, thought him to have died. He had decided to take a trip to a haunted haveli 4 hours away from his house. The same morning, he had overheard the Panchayat of his village talking about it. He quickly ran home, packed a bottle of water and a torch in his bag, and left to seek a new adventure on his bicycle. He pedaled with great enthusiasm and finally reached his destination. On the haveli’s gate, there hung an old, tattered signboard saying “Do Not Entarr”. He opened the main gate that surprisingly opened without a creak. He tiptoed inside while holding on to his bag. He gulped heavily and looked around. The ground was covered with dead leaves that had fallen off the trees in the adjoining garden–trees that were now dead and resembled a witch’s hands. Without a care in the world, he ran straight and opened the door, which again opened without a single creak. It seemed that the haveli was inviting him and that there were actually people residing inside.
He peeped inside and saw a lit fireplace, a huge dining table full of all kinds of rich people’s food, and an incessantly creaking chandelier hanging atop the dining table. He took a nervous step in the house and impulsively walked to the dining table. The food looked delicious and he was hungry after this long journey. There was no one around, so he started to hog on the food. Suddenly, there was a loud booming voice that shook up the haveli and also him. He quickly put some food in his bag and turned around. A middle-aged security guard was staring angrily at him. The man asked, “Where are your manners?” He replied, “Where are your manners, Baba? Why are you lurking around in this haveli as if it is yours?”
It was not the security guard but his village Panchayat’s head, who had donned a fake security uniform, and spread rumours in the village to keep people away from his “unofficial” abode. He took some more food from the table and smirked. Casually, he then walked out of the haveli, sat on his bicycle, and headed for home, oblivious of what was waiting at his home – his parents having already killed him in their “adventurous” minds.
As a “dream merchant”, his adventures continued, though much smaller in measure. As a newspaper wallah, his daily routine was set until the afternoon. One girl had become a special friend of his, and every day, he would get one chocolate for her. Their mutual love for bicycles brought them together and both enjoyed each other’s company. She would often ride with him on the bicycle in the afternoons. One day, both of them decided to take their bicycles to the main road expecting it to be empty and clear of traffic. He was keeping his bicycle to the road’s side and urged the girl to do the same. However, the girl ignored him and her adventurous streak steered her in the centre of the road’s. He once again politely told her to come back to the side, but she laughed off his advice and said she won’t. He got angry and shouted, but she didn’t budge and started zigzagging. He got off his bicycle and started to walk up to her. Suddenly, he saw a truck rushing towards them. With all his strength, he took control of her bicycle’s handles and successfully moved her to a side. While he attempted to run for his life as well, he couldn’t run fast enough. He fell on the road and the truck ran over his legs, as well as his bicycle on the side. Lying still on the road, he cried in immense pain. The girl looked at his legs in horror and then at his bicycle. Both had been damaged for life.
Five years later, the dream merchant started to live alone in a small house with a window that provided impetus to his imagination. His family visited him twice a year and brought him gifts and sweets. A nurse visited him twice a day to care for him. Young kids from his colony often came to his house to hear his stories. They used to lovingly call him “Kahaani uncle”. He was popular for one more thing: a bicycle parked outside his house. He could never ride the bicycle now, but his wheelchair held more adventures for the rest of his life.