Raju welcomed the intrusion — something to relieve the loneli-ness of the place. The man stood gazing reverentially on his face. Raju felt amused and embarrassed. “Sit down if you like,” Raju said, to break the spell. The other accepted the suggestion with a grateful nod and went down the river steps to wash his feet and face, came up wiping himself dry with the end of
a checkered yellow towel on his shoulder, and took his seat two steps below the granite slab on which Raju was sitting cross-legged as if it were a throne, beside an ancient shrine. The branches of the trees canopying the river course rustled and trembled with the agitation of birds and monkeys settling down for the night. Upstream beyond the hills the sun was setting. Raju waited for the other to say something. But he was too polite to open a conversation.
Raju asked, “Where are you from?” dreading lest the other should turn around and ask the same question.
The man replied, “Fm from Mangal — “
“Where is Mangal?”
Around evening, monkeys and birds played on the branches of a tree that stood on a river’s bank. Under it Raju sat cross-legged on a stone slab. On being asked by Raju to sit down, the stranger politely sat two steps below after washing his face in the river’s water. He told Raju falteringly that he hailed from Mangal. [59 WORDS]