We all have at some point in time, left things, some precious, some expensive, and some not so dear things in public places, only to lament about it later on. Well, life goes on after all and we forget about it. But I always think about the object that got left behind. Who would be using it now? Would it have sat unnoticed for a few days till somebody noticed and picked it up? I like to use my mental camera and zoom in on that lone object. And I think, if it had life, would it also lament about its owner in the same way?
I say this because something weird happened years ago, which I will never forget.
I had just graduated, and come down to Bangalore for a trainee job in an ad agency. I had made the trip on my scooter, much to my mother’s dissent, but anyway…it was great fun. Since I had a week at hand before joining for work, I and my friends planned on riding out to the countryside, make a few trips to some undiscovered locations, and generally do a road trip of sorts. We packed our bags, myself and couple of other friends on another bike, and off we went. The trip itself was great – we covered more than 1500 kilometers over a period of three days and were returning to Bangalore on the third day. It was around 8.30 pm, we decided to have supper at a roadside Dhaba. Since we were already tired and wanted to hit the sack before midnight, we had a light supper and decided to hit the road.
But when I went to my scooter, I saw somebody had stolen my helmet. In those days, helmet wasn’t mandatory in the state, but I always wore it while riding. I wasn’t emotionally attached to it or anything, but that night, I felt something tug at my heart strings. I’d worn the helmet for more than three years. It was my very first one; my father had bought it for me when I started riding the scooter. I’d not felt anything for it until now. I bought another one a couple of days later and life moved on.
A couple of years later, as I was riding home from work, it started pouring, and to top it, I had a flat tyre. I had no choice but to somehow drag it to a side and take shelter under one of the sun shades of a closed shop. There were a few others huddled in the same spot. I jostled for some space and stood like the rest, waiting for the rain to subside. An elderly person standing next to me, started making small talk, generally offered his sympathies for my flat tyre, and informed me about a guy who fixed tyres round the bend. ‘Go there as soon as it stops raining,’ the old man said. I smiled and thanked him. In the meantime I’d taken off my helmet and placed it on an elevated cement block to my left. Around the same time, another biker ran in from the rain and stood beside me. I didn’t even look at him properly. A half hour later, when the rain had reduced to a drizzle, most of the guys ventured out, but I and the old man continued talking as we had discovered some common interests, and I was in no hurry to go. He was narrating an anecdote and I was listening intently.
Soon, it was time for us to leave. We shook hands, he left, and I turned to my side to pick up my helmet.
It was gone. My jaw dropped. ‘Not again,’ I groaned. But surprise of all surprises, there was another in its place. Clearly a case of mistaken ‘helmet’ identity. The guy who ran in from the rain had taken off with my helmet, and left his. I shook my head and smiled. With no other choice left to me, I picked up the old helmet and walked to my scooter.
My tyre was fixed a few minutes later. I paid the guy and was about to slip the helmet over my head, when something on the helmet caught my eye. I did a double take and then looked at it closely.
‘SM’. My initials. Like the one on my old helmet that was stolen. I had absently scratched the letters at the back when it was still new. My sister had even teased me about it. Surely, it was just a coincidence, I thought. But upon closer inspection, I realized it was indeed the same inscription. And the same helmet. I had never noticed it until now. Maybe because it had a new visor and inner padding. But it was unmistakable. My helmet had 'returned' to me.
I laughed out loud in disbelief. Passers-by looked on amused.
I looked at the scratchy old thing one last time and put it on, still shaking my head. I’d heard about lost children returning to their parents; even lost pets returning home.
I think I still have it, stashed away somewhere at my Mysore home. Some day, I'll pull it out, dust it carefully and tell about it to Aayu's kids.