I was on my way to attend a meeting with a few artists from North East at the office of Northern Rock Foundation, situated at a place called Gosforth in Newcastle. Even though the exact address was safe in hand - written so neatly on a piece of paper - true to my cranky intelligence I took the exact opposite direction immediately after getting down from the Metro train at South Gosforth station. Again ‘true to my nature’ I was pretty sure inside that the direction could be wrong and I had to reach the meeting arena fast. I showed the address to a lot of people whom I met on the roadside but nobody seemed to have an idea about it. It was at this point I met Eric again.
I saw that middle-aged white man in his shabby overcoat and torn out shorts, knelt down at the footpath on roadside - busy picking up waste papers and plastic covers, filling the sack kept on his side. I didn’t see him carefully when I actually called him for his attention. As he turned back and looked at me with a blank face and an almost ‘cruel-drunken’ eye, an alarm rang on my head and I felt I was doing a mistake. May be, all those words Charles Dickens used to describe Fagin of ‘Oliver Twist’, could suit him well. Instead of walking back I looked deep into his eyes and repeated my question. He nodded his head as if he didn’t hear me and I repeated. He kept doing the same action for 3 more times freaking me out as if making a fool of me and all the 3 times I kept looking more seriously, repeating my question. The fifth time he just caught my hand so rudely and pulled me across the road. In a rough shivering voice he said, “I don’t know anything. But I will take you to someone who knows.”
As we were crossing the road, he did something yet more strange and mad. Right in the middle of road he stopped and bent down without even bothering the fast moving cars, just to pick up a chocolate cover and throw it in his sack. Four-five cars had to wait for us and the drivers kept looking out so rudely. Though I had no idea on things, I was clear something interesting going to happen. He dragged me towards the nearby street and straight to a place where I saw the notice board- ‘Meditation Centre’. The moment he pushed open the door, the guy who was in charge of the space came running shouting ‘Out, out…Go out please…” My friend very politely passed the sheet of paper to him and said, “Please help him. He is in a hurry.” That man invited me alone into the meditation centre, shutting the door in front of my friend and whispered with a 'polite' smile, “So sorry, Eric is a trouble.” He carefully looked into the address and explained me the direction as I walked around the meditation space.
When I came out Eric was there on the roadside, in the same posture busy in his own world. With some authority I patted on his shoulder, smiled and said load, “Thanks Eric, I got my direction right.” Eric turned his eyes up so seriously and replied in a rough tone, “Good…good…but, are you sure? Do u want me to come.” (As if he knows the way). As I nodded ‘no’ he blabbered something. I sat beside him and asked, “What did you say?” He said so seriously, “You are not smiling. This is not smile.” and bent down continuing what he was doing. I became more curious. Disturbing his job I asked again, “How do you know?”. He said, “coz…..it makes me sad.”. The way he said that like a little boy made me laugh again. I gave him a tight hug on his shoulder and shouted in his ears, “Thankkkkk uuuu soo much Mate… You are smart.”
For my surprise Eric was equally surprised and smiled at me opening his mouth wide open showing his teeth. He said, “People are idiots. They dirty this place. I need to clean it all alone. Okaay… You go… Now you knows right way.”
While walking away, I turned back to have a quick look at him. He was in his own world, blabbering something to himself… may be busy cleaning the world...
That was not the first time I met Eric. He was always been there through out my life, popping up at all confusing corners. He always puts me a state of dilemma - at the same time, sharing a sense of divinity. I don’t know whether any of you have ever met Eric. In my childhood Eric saved me from drowning in a pond. Eric invited me to Hyderabad and study there. Eric was an auto driver once, who picked me up in the middle of riots during the time of a festival in North India. He came as a wave, bounced over an unexpected sand barrier and touched my feet at Marina Beech giving me a new life. Here in Newcastle he hugged me as a young girl who calls me ‘Dad’ and a young boy becoming my brother, giving me new relatives. Eric was always been my alter ego at another corner of world.
Eric is someone who dares to hold my hand with an authority, like my parents, sister or that best friend from MCC. They never use to care what I think or the world think, but intrude into my life with a sense of authority. Not many people had shown such an authority on me. I remember liking my girl so much while we were video chatting, when she suddenly asked me whether the bag hanging behind me was a lady’s bag. That was her way of saying, “Hey, you are mine.” I care for that friend form MCC who disturbed me while I was doing an urgent graphic design. I then shouted at her. But immediately after getting out of the computer lab I held her hand in my hand, silently promising to be her best friend for lifetime. It is actually a secret pleasure when someone shows that authority; it means they do care for you a lot. Those people do leave a mark in life. You may even shout back at them, or hurt them… but cannot ignore them when they need you. Life is all about living it happily, knowing and forgetting some nightmares. Eric told me.
Eric is not that selfish someone who just walks with you like a tourist guide all the time showing you directions to all that is beautiful, but he is some one who appears only at crucial points and show you the real path forward, or at least take you to those safer hands who can show you the path forward. He never bothers to look at what you might think or what the world thinks when he grab your hand without your permission. He might rudely push you across many roads of life not even looking you or the fast moving cars… and the fake people inside and around. I felt bad for not taking a photograph of Eric with my mobile cam, but then I imagined him framed on the walls or hanging on the cross. It was annoying…
The last word Eric told me as I walked in my assured ‘right’ path was his 'silence'.