Hari struggled with the large beige shutters. With a mighty heave he pulled it down. The clash of steel against cement shook him. He had heard the sound a thousand times before; each signifying the end of a day and the beginning of the arduous journey from Opera House. Today, however he felt nervous and slightly giddy. He hated this part of the day, the gut-wrenching uncertainty.
To the untrained eye his gait was a sedentary stroll. On closer inspection it could be noticed that each step was measured and each swing of the arm calculated. It was the walk of a man who knew he was being watched.
The motorcycle was an old one. Stuffing spilled out of the seat, the handlebars were rusted, and the tyres were worn out. Yet Shamir loved the bike. He had bought it with his first salary. The owner seemed almost eager to get rid of it. He patted the seat affectionately. This was probably the last time he would see it. Asif had promised him diamonds as payment.
“Brother this economy is going to meltdown someday. When that happens you’ll thank me. This ‘money’ will soon be redundant!”
Shamir didn’t care about diamonds. He saw them with the bemused air of a man lost to the intricacies of the world. Maybe he could exchange the diamonds for a bike! A good one! He spent several minutes trying to start the vehicle. But this was normal. Maybe this was the last time he would do so. His new bike would start so quickly that he wouldn’t have time to think! Asif had promised that.
Hari felt sweat collect in his clenched palm. The velvet case enclosed by his hand felt heavier. He felt his skin crawl. Something felt wrong. He felt the world close in and draw back, the cold bands of claustrophobia. The pavement swam in his eyes. His breath came in short gasps. There were too many people.
He spotted an alley, dark and desolate. He staggered to it. There was a cool breeze drenched with the stench of rotting garbage and faeces. He felt better.
Hari suddenly spotted a young man pushing a bike, coming closer and closer. His eyes darted to the white skull cap on the man’s head.
’He will kill me! Kill me with his filthy hands! These people, they’re a violent breed! Everybody knows that! To deny so is political correctness gone mad!’
Hari could now see the bike. It was old and woebegone. Somehow, inexplicably, he felt a wave of sympathy for the young man pushing the bike. He suddenly felt ashamed for his behaviour. He had to do something!
‘Brother! Where are you going’ he said.
‘To the Opera House. Asif said I should be there now. ‘
‘I’m going there too!’ he said, lying glibly.
‘What does it matter, I will reach home a bit late’ he thought to himself, guiltly.
He felt much better now. He had made his amends. He loosened his grip on the velvet bag. He felt the contents move ever so slightly.
“You know Asif promised me diamonds.” said the young man, “he said I could buy a new bike with it.’
“What are you doing with this one?” Hari replied jovially, “leaving it for the beggars?”
“Diamonds… how much will get me a new bike?”
Hari laughed, thinking the boy was joking. He suddenly stopped when he saw a look of resentment on the boy’s face.
“ I’m a merchant myself. That’s why I laughed. A single diamond can get you a good bike!” he said quickly, instantly regretting it.
‘Now he’ll want a discount!’.Hari felt the sound before he heard it. He saw a hand, a leg. The velvet bag, he had so treasured seemed meaningless now. The skull cap was a ruby red. Hari felt his body hit the pavement. The last sight he saw was thousands and thousands of diamonds descend from the sky, falling over him, over the young man, over them all.