"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

The lads were about to light the serpentine garland of crackers laid out in a neat line on the street when someone shouted them to stop. An ambulance was approaching and it was human to make way. The entire crowd of kids and immature adults stepped aside to let the shrieking vehicle pass along. Inside the ambulance, Nath craned his neck from his stretcher to catch a glimpse of the festive atmosphere outside, but the oxygen pipe they stuck on his face made it tough for him.

Nevertheless, he was able to sit up.
There was no one accompanying him, so he took the liberty to remove the pipe from his face, even going to the extent of pushing the cylinder for a better view. The driver and physician were busy chatting in the front, and did not care to notice.
On the outside, he could see houses lighted up by the excited faces of its people. While most children stood with bated breath, waiting for the fuse to be lit, some - mostly the girls - had their ears covered and eyes shut, in fearful anticipation. Nobody really was noticing the ambulance at all. It seemed like the ambulance, while still in front of their eyes, was already a thing of the past for them.
Nath wondered if there would be anybody in that crowd - at least some old ones hidden here and there - who would watch the ambulance with sympathy, feeling sorry for Nath who was on his way to the hospital, probably with a surgery waiting, while all of them celebrated noise, light, freedom, and happiness. He tried to search for such faces, people who may be watching the ambulance with kind eyes. He felt, if not good wishes, it would be nice if someone at least noticed his pain. But all he saw was fun and frolic, kids running to proud parents, families exchanging pleasant expressions, an air lit up with celebration.
He looked up at the sky, in thought, probably in an involuntary action of questioning the heavens up above, but the sky was lit up too - with fiery trails of rockets and trail-blazers bursting into an umbrella of colourful lights.
"Fair enough," he thought, "when I was celebrating joyous moments of my life, I did not think of others' suffering too. Same applies here. That's okay"
But the nature of pain is such that it pinches the heart of the human spirit, driving us to a point where we end up either questioning the very essence of life or using the stupidest means to escape the cold abyss of that harsh reality. The more we try to avoid pain, the more it pulls us into its grip - kinda like quicksand. Nath slipped into that abyss for a moment too, "Oh God! Did I do something so bad that you seem to be celebrating my suffering?" But the life of pondering that Nath had led helped him escape that folly. He quickly reconciled, "Or maybe I should thank you God! I led a life of loneliness, and now, maybe this is your way to show that people are with me. Else why would they all be on the streets while I am being ferried across?"
It is said that a human being truly lives only at two moments of his life - once when born, and once when just about to die. In Nath's case, he felt the jibe of life, in that ironic interplay of pain and celebration on two sides of his window.

It was like the light of knowledge was shining upon the window of his mind, but the shades of human-ness were blocking him from seeing it clearly.
As the ambulance drove through the city roads, with its blares competing with the crackers, Nath watched with mixed emotions at the madness outside. People were celebrating noise, and worshipping the unleashing of fire into the silence of civilized lanes. Everyone seemed so captivated at the sight of fireworks, that Nath was confused if man had captured fire or if it was actually fire that had captured man. He imagined how the night would be spent in tribal fashion - with gory scenes of people dancing around blazing bonfires - and then he pondered upon the following morning when tired souls would retrace back to their mundane lives fighting with heaps of garbage and scurrying through littered streets.
The pain inside him magnified, imagining returning to that world of the next day.
The ambulance slowed down, turned off its siren, and entered the hospital gates. The operation theatre would be ready for him. Doctors with scalpels, waiting to exercise their so-called knowledge of the working of the human body. Nath wondered if our bodies were any different from the crackers bursting outside - one moment all decked up, waiting to shine and be glorified, and burning away in pursuit of that glory.
Nath got back on the stretcher, watching a loaded rocket whizz up to the sky. From its trail, he knew it was one of those that exploded into many colours. As he watched it, something exploded inside him. He closed his eyes, hoping to witness a heavenly explosion of colours.