Raman stared earnestly at the conveyor belt, his face, a clear reflection of anxiety. A resident of the rural town of Mannpur, this was the first time Raman left his town, and travelled to the city on a plane. Dressed in a spotless white dhoti, Raman slowly and carefully went through each procedure until he got into the plane.
Sitting stiffly with his seatbelt on and eyes closed, Raman somehow spent two hours and hurried outside as soon as the flight landed. With a lot of help from the ground forces, he found the conveyor belt. He was awed at the mechanism of the flat, moving belt carrying everyone’s luggage. He decided that collecting his stuff from the conveyor belt would certainly be the most fascinating part of his journey. After missing his luggage, and mistaking another’s for his own a few times, Raman finally gathered his bags after half an hour. The place was almost empty. But he soon realised that he didn’t collect his box of mangoes. He frantically started looking for his box around him. It was nowhere to be seen. The empty belt kept moving in a single direction. He tried looking for the flight staff, but he was the only person standing around the moving belt. Raman walked all the way to the other side, then back. Didnt find his box of mangoes. Frustrated, he even tried peeping inside through the rubber strips. In a moment of wild despair he considered climbing on the belt and take a look inside, but decided otherwise. They must’ve stolen it- Raman thought. But he had heard that airport authorities take special care of passengers’ luggages. But what else could’ve happened to his mangoes? After waiting for ten whole minutes before the mesmerising belt, he turned around walked towards the exit with a heavy heart. He was convinced that his box was stolen. Raman was almost at the exit, when a solitary cardboard box came up through the rubber curtain. The lonesome box took a full round and a second one and came up for the third. Raman was already on a taxi, on his way to his hotel.
It was an unusual day. He, with a torn towel on his shoulder, zealously swept the floor and wiped the glass windows. It was a big day for the small roadside eatery. A film scene was to be shot at the place. The hero and Miss Priya would be shown drinking coffee. So he also polished the cups till they shone. Actually, he was more excited about the actress than anything else. He never missed her movies. She was beautiful. She danced well. Her voice was that of a nightingale. She was his secret fantasy.
He was cleaning tables when the crew arrived. Within moments the eatery was crowded with people, with cameras, large lights, microphones. Some people were carrying clothes. The actors were surrounded by security. He earnestly tried to look for Miss Priya. But there were too many people. His master welcomed a few important looking people inside and tried shooing him away, who was eagerly waiting for a glimpse of his favourite actress. As he turned to retreat into the kitchen, looking crestfallen, a man with a beard called out to him. The man wanted him to casually clean the tables in the background when the actors would drink coffee. For a second he couldn’t believe his ears. He would be shot too. He would be sharing a screen with his favourite actress. He couldn’t contain his happiness. Vigorously shaking his head, he responded in agreement. Later, during the shoot, he was lost in his effort in cleaning tables. Never in these five years had he cleaned that surface with such determination. His trance was broken by a fellow, who approached him and handed out two hundred rupee notes. When he looked up, he saw the crew packing up. The actors were nowhere in sight. None of the other important looking people were around. The boy handed him the money and left without a word.
Quickly shaking off the vague feeling of sadness, his imagination took flight. Probably it was his start, he would slowly become famous, directors would notice his hard work and his fearless presence before the camera. And they’d call him. And someday, he too, would sing and dance with the lady of his dreams. He would hold her hands on mountain tops and near waterfalls, walk on white sand beaches, in ornate gardens, or on American streets. Twisting and turning in his small bed at one end of the eatery, he didn’t realise when he had drifted off to sleep, smiling to himself.
But on all the following mornings, he woke up to the yells of an angry master and carried on with work, the torn towel on his shoulder.