150 Minutes of Freedom Mr. Bose could feel the weight of the wallet from the pockets of his kurta. His feeble joints allowed him a pretty limited motion. Yet Mr Bose was determined to make a day out of today’s special occasion. The sun was slowly beginning to rise over the horizon and soon it would drench the surroundings with its golden glow. The snore of the watchmen echoed in the air as Bose made his way through the malicious iron gates. It was a difficult job for a man of 75. Getting hold of a taxi at the break of dawn without running after those quintessential yellow vehicles proved to be a daunting task. But the weighty wallet of Mr. Bose was indeed an efficient problem solver. ‘Remember, this was the place where we had our first date’, recalled Mr. Bose, as the taxi drew up near the bank of the Ganges. The water shimmered under the sunlight and shined like diamonds. ‘You were looking stunning in a sky blue sari. From that day onwards, blue became my favorite colour you know!’ Mr. Bose laughed. He blushed as he remembered those old romantic days. The ’70s were the epitome of romance in Calcutta! Ooh! The city teeming with the voice of rebels, the heat and the pop culture. And in the middle of all that, a young accountant student, Mr. Bose fell for his wife – a curious and inquisitive student of political science, with luscious black hair smelling of fresh flowers and eyes as innocent as a dove. ‘Do you remember that boat ride we took?’ It was as if the universe read his mind. Mr. Bose heard the cry of the boatmen calling out for passengers. ‘Today is a day I will let myself loose.’ With this vigor, Mr. Bose got up from the park bench and made his way down the stairs of the ghat. The boatmen were slightly surprised at the enthusiasm of this old man. Usually, they ferried love-struck couples across the river. Mr. Bose couldn’t care less. He sat back and stretched his legs as the fragrant morning breeze grazed past his ears. He kept his eyes fixed on the banks. The city had woken up from its slumber and people had already begun their daily struggle of survival. Shopkeepers voiced their trade cries, buses honked their way down the roads carrying passengers dressed in crisp clothes, to their workplaces. And here was Mr. Bose, enjoying the entire conundrum from the middle of the river. ‘Nah! I mustn’t waste too much time here. They will soon find out!’ Mr. Bose thought out aloud. The boat ride, though relaxing and fulfilling, made his stomach growl with hunger. Since today was the day for breaking all rules, Mr. Bose thought, why not indulge in some forbidden favorites! He made his next stop at the nearby food station. The hot and kachoris and the spicy potato curry filled up his senses with nostalgia. ‘I used to bring them every Sunday from the shop next door. It was your favorite breakfast, remember? And not to forget those jalebis! How you used to gobble two in a heartbeat!’ After finishing his hearty food, Mr. Bose speculated for a while. He knew his time was limited. By now, they must have started searching. He walked down the bustling streets with no particular destination in his mind. The colors of everyday life fascinated him! The vibrant girl selling balloons by the sidewalk, the yellow and orange-colored fruits, the fancy shops lit by ceiling lights; it was so different in our days. Yet the essence remains the same! Mr. Bose dwelled even deeper into his long preserved nostalgia. He stopped at all the different roadside stalls and inhaled their fragrance. He even bought a second-hand book from a bookstall that carefully conserved all the flavors of the city in its numerous brown pages. Eventually, Mr. Bose stopped in his tracks. A street play was about to start in the middle of a five-point crossing! How exciting! ‘Do you recall how often we used to bunk classes and head over to the nearby theatre for those movie dates? The fear of getting caught mixed with the foot-tapping rhythm of 70’s Bollywood made for one hell of a date!’ As the participants of the street play gathered up their props to begin the show, Mr. Bose felt the sun over his head. It was not the soft light of the morning. But the harsh heat now began to mess with him. As the street play picked up its tempo, so did Mr. Bose’s discomfort. The screeching dialogues of the play echoed painfully in his ear. He started panting and his grip began to loosen. The book that he bought fell on the dirty concrete with a thud. And within a few moments, Mr. Bose saw a black veil over his eyes and his senses went numb, as he dropped on the floor in the middle of the crowd. The harsh light of the sick room hit his eyes as Mr. Bose looked around him. The angry faces stared at him with seething annoyance. He looked at the clock hanging from the wall. He had been gone for almost exactly 150 minutes. Aah! 150 minutes of life! Mr. Bose knew he would receive a good bashing from the authorities of the place and a virtual lecture from his son sitting multiple time zones away. He took it all without any protest. For he knew he had done something wrong indeed. After all the drama, as Mr. Bose retreated to his four-walled luxury prison, his neighbor Mr. Sharma enquired, “Why did you run away Bose? I know an old age home can feel claustrophobic but at least this one is filled with all the privileges anyone can ask for! What more do you want?” “Freedom”, replied Bose. “You know Sharma, today is my 50th wedding anniversary. Had she been alive today, we would be living in our own little paradise. But her absence and my limited capacity to fend for myself made my son force me into this privileged imprisonment. I had been saving some money from my pension to indulge on this day. And I did! I went to the Ghats where we had our first date, I had our favorite breakfast and roamed around the lively city; except this time her hand was not intertwined in mine!” sighed Mr. Bose. “But what’s the use, Bose?” said a confused Sharma. “It’s not like you could escape forever! In fact, you succumbed to old age and fainted in the middle of the street! Thank God people reported immediately and our officers rescued you from further danger. And those kachoris will give you a hard time now, ha-ha!” sneered Sharma. “Forever pessimist you are! Those 150 minutes of freedom, those 150 minutes of liberation from the mundane has given me enough life force to last for some time now!” said an overjoyed Bose. “Does that mean that you’ll run away again after your life force is exhausted?” Sharma asked. “If I were to break free again, then this time it would be infinite minutes of freedom!” commented Bose as he retreated to his lavishly decorated, four-walled cell.