Maybe he did look like a murderer or a hardcore criminal, the type of face that was too ordinary and ugly but radiated threats of harm and death. His mirror was cracked through the center and it divided his face into two halves, the right side slightly heavier than the left. His mother had always called him – chand ka tukda – a piece of the moon. But she didn’t know that the moon was a plain rock pitted with craters. Only the sun made it look beautiful, that too from afar.
He was an underpaid bus driver, and the sun never did him any favors especially in the summertime. It made the inside of the bus heat up and the overcrowding of passengers added to the sweltering discomfort. He was always bathed in his own sweat and his face wore a perpetual shine, his gray uniform a wet, stinking mess. Most of his wages were spent on his mother’s medicines. Her son, her piece of moon, had no sun to support him.
But this was before he had agreed to join police lineups for a nominal fee. Police Constable Inder Singh, a regular on the bus, had been the sun that had shone his light upon him, and the policeman’s offer often echoed in his ears.
Want extra money? Come to Khakhra police station tomorrow evening.
Several evenings had passed since then, and the bus driver had joined other men, lined up against a patchy wall in a dank room of Khakhra police station, waiting to be dismissed by the nervous eyes of a victim or witness while the actual culprit was identified.
Constable Inder Singh had often joked about the lineups, insisting that most eyes returned to the bus driver twice or thrice, his face a tempting target to point at. This had bothered the man, and he had promised himself that this would be his final lineup. He stood third from the right just beneath a flickering light bulb. It was taking longer than usual.
Finally, the lights dimmed, and a door opened, the men walked in single file out of the room. The bus driver had barely exited, when two hands grabbed him by the arm and pulled.