Two tickets to Compassion Station, please by Journalism student Poojaraj Maniyeri

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Payyanur bus station, source: foursquare.com

The bus rolled into the station, screeching to a halt in a fashion typical of Indian buses. As I jumped down onto the station, I felt the blazing heat of the sun. The smell of fresh samosas, mixed with the odor of smoke from the buses, wafted through the air. The station was lined with colorful stalls stretching as far as the eye could see; jam-packed crowds gathered, filling every inch of space they could find. However, a lone stall stood empty and desolate, a lottery stall. 

The man at the stall was sunburnt and had a look of weariness about him, one that told a story of a soul worn down with years of toiling and hard work. The man was dressed in a simple white shirt and dhoti. With a wavering smile, he quickly tried to cover the sadness and desperation in his eyes. As people passed by, he kept calling out, “Lottery ticket, 100 rupees only. Buy a ticket and be tomorrow’s lucky winner!” Some spent him pitying glances; some rudely refused; yet, others simply ignored him.  As people snubbed him, he got more and more dejected. All the potential customers rushing by without so much as a side glance seemed to cast an atmosphere of gloom over him. 

My mother suddenly yanked me, yelling, “Where are you looking? The bus was about to hit you!” 

So concentrated had I been on his distant figure that I had noticed nothing else. In the light air, the lottery tickets fluttered in the stall as if beckoning me. Something stirred in my heart and I could no longer bear standing idle. After informing my mother, I began walking across the station to the lone spot where the lottery stall stood.

He looked at my approaching figure hopefully and repeated the same line, “Lottery ticket, 100 rupees only. Buy a ticket and be tomorrow’s lucky winner!” 

I was now increasingly aware of the money rustling in my pocket. 

A pang in my heart, I approached. “How much for a lottery ticket, uncle?” said I, upon which he replied “100 rupees only.” 

I put my hand in my pocket, took out two 100-rupee notes and extended it to him. He looked up at me, with something akin almost to disbelief. Upon taking it from me in exchange for two lottery tickets, a glimmer of hope began to sparkle in his eyes. Hesitant at first, a smile began to gradually extend across his face until it became a genuine, wide grin. 

There was no numerical value to explain how I felt; for the warmth that spread across my heart held no equal. The smile on his face reflected mine. The feeling that I had given happiness to another through my action, albeit small, was immeasurable. As with all other vendors, he too loved to talk. After conversing about the climate, the buses and everything happening in the station, he let me take my leave. His readiness to talk made him seem familiar, just another person trying to make ends meet in this world; a world where stepping on each other’s needs and happiness to ensure one’s own success was routine in this rat race called life.