At times, a stranger enters our life and changes it all. It becomes hard to imagine a life without those strangers being present. However, at times, some stranger enters our life, changes us and yet remains strangers for ever. This is one of those story. Originally published on The Fiction Project.
Do you remember me? I hope you do. When do I come to you? Like a fleeting thought, one of many, I hope. Having said that, you paved the way to build my wings of imagination and through you, and only through you, could fly high away from my restricted and boundary drawn teenage years. We couldn’t have survived the hottest weather of restrictions if we had not sought the shadow in each other. What do we know then? We were pretty naïve and so innocent in our behavior. We could give the holy cow a run for its money.
Every morning, I adjust my lock of hair, put on kohl on my eyes and get ready for the train. The train as usual gets late. The engine screams out and rushes like a dragon. I recall the Phyllis from ‘The Railway Children’ and how she named the train as dragon. The train makes a screeching sound when it slows down to take in the pressure of humanity. I am glad that it finally came but to my despair, it comes on the opposite platform. And in that very instant, I see you. I notice a change. The hair cut probably. Or the blue stripes. I never saw you in that shirt. You look crazy. Someone should have said that blue doesn’t suit you. Yet in all the chaos, the thronging crowds heading towards the local, I wish I could come and stand next to you. I wish that you would look at me and whisper that you look good too. I run into my friend and try to strike a conversation. I face her direction and talk animatedly on some topic. She is my train friend and always have listened to my woes and happy times. A good listener I must say. And Here I am. I stood there talking to her pretending to be gleefully interested in whatever she says. I said I face her direction but talking about eyes, it happens to be a traitor. They cheat on me as well as my dear friend and looks straight at you. And at fleeting second, you look at me. You, the guy in blue stripes which doesn’t suit at all, look at me. Heaven did not break loose but the much awaited train comes mocking me. The crowd stares at me and pushes me. I do not know why everyone are snarling at me. And I get the reason. I am standing so close to train. It is as good as hugging the train’s door.
That day when I was rushing and running to catch the train, my hair was bizarre and all over the places. I had washed and scrunched it definitely but still it did not stay where it should be. You saw me and I saw you. What was it? You tried to smile I guess or just your lips quivered a tiny bit. Even the artist would have not done a good job when asked to draw your sketch that moment. Only because he couldn’t have captured that emotion which your face wore. I failed and definitely he must have too. I saw that your beard looked well groomed. You and your beard, a match made in heaven to say the least. That was the soul connection you had with it. Isn’t it? The look in your eyes meant something. Did it mean that you were interested in me? Or did it mean that I looked attractive to you or what was it? Why did I not understand the language that eyes spoke? I suddenly felt like Chitrangada who was attracted with Arjuna pursues Madana, for she is facing an internal conflict on how to deal with her love interest. She says that her hands are strong enough to bend the bow but she has never learnt Cupid’s archery, the play of eyes. And that instant I felt like Chitrangada. Like her, I too did not excel in eye archery. Like her even I did not know the feminine wiles to win the heart.
My first ever job interview. I was so tensed and rehearsing the answers in my head. I did not see you pass through me. I dug my head on the stash of papers that I was holding. The interview questions, the newspapers, and what not. The crowd was increasing minute my minute in the platform. So was my heartbeat. And you were there. With an intense gaze, you were right there in front of me. The pile of papers stared at me. I did not lift my eyes to see you though I secretly wished to sit with you for a minute to cool my wretched nerves. Yet I was focused on my affairs. The affair with my own self. I tried not to act like a stupid before you. What if you would be my lucky charm? I thought for a while but rejected that thought then and there. Sometimes, you are just not in a mood. You want to speak to the person. Like actually sit down and speak about whatever circle of emotions you are going through. You couldn’t do it. That was bothering me. Like a wasp, it hurt me. So I resigned to see you that day. I was wholeheartedly focused on my own direction or path which will give me a ticket to new prospects in future. The present that was at that time, my day where no one existed. No soul get to steal my thunder. Still you were there, your gaze fixed on me like a bullet aiming on its bull’s eye. Bull’s eye being my eye. May be this is where the saying comes. An eye for an eye. Not for destruction but knitting a yarn called relationship. Some relationship unknown, unaware yet a warmth of its own.
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Did I tell you that despite forgetting everything I read or studied for my interview, because I ran into my man, yes he was my man that time, I still got the job offer. The interviewer either got pity on me or I looked hopelessly needy enough to get this job. So yes I got the job. I got the job and I was very happy. Just 21 and ready to enter through corporate door was something for me. The key which will open many doors and help in chasing my multiple dreams.
Friday arrived. New movie released. Weekend came. And I dashed off to the store to purchase the cassette. RHTDM it was. (Here is the link to Zaraa Zaraa bit.ly/3iIRKRN). So that day, everything was in order. Bag check, Oh, I did not own a cell that time so that one is ruled out. Other than that, my Walkman, my must have accessory, check. Tiffin box check and sundry things check. So coming back to Walkman, I put it on to listen to RHTDM songs and what better place than a train to listen such heart melting tunes. With every song, my thought transported to the land where you and me, only us, are present. The tune and the lyrics that lyricist belted out with much precision, mesmerized me and at that instant, I could only think of you. The sea of humanity in the train did not matter. Their push, the expletives that they spew, the mad race to get the seat and instant despair when they did not find one were all meant small. The large scheme of things involved you, me and the beautiful song. “The first line “Kehna hai kehna hai” ending with “Rehna hai tere dil mein on a soft tender note was only heard amidst all the white noise. Ah! Only I could understand the feeling and may be you too. May be you too because even you had Walkman in your hand and I saw you carefully pressing those earphones in your ears. The grin when you pressed the button ‘play’, I saw that and you looked handsome in that instant. Whichever song you were listening to, made you think of me. I understood as after you clicked the play button, you looked at me. And that gaze I never understood. I couldn’t decipher that signal. I loathed me for being so clueless. Was it meant that you are awfully as interested in me as I was? It was like I was pushed inside a castle with a cloth tied over my eyes. As much as I loved to play blind man’s buff in my childhood, I never thought that I will arrive at the same game with you. So clueless my state was! Anyways I slowly tilted the cassette of RHTDM for you to have a good look. What seemed like an effort to make you understand was broken by the fast wheeling express train that came right like a nosy relative who pulls every stop to get into your business.
Those days, we attached a great value to family functions, reunion and weddings. The preparations that went into it were inexplicable. That day it was the wedding of cousin’s cousin. So she became my cousin too. Actually she was not my cousin as I was the other side cousin. Oh, enough with the cousin saga. Those days we had right to be sister or brother of anyone’s cousin. We could hang out with them, spend the days after school and go to their grandma’s elder sister’s son’s 60th birthday. The canopy was laid on the bamboo sticks and it was adorned with fresh white marigold. The Ladies of the house were clad with colorful saris, quaint jewelry and fresh Chrysanthemums. I was looking at them with a longing eyes to dress up like them. The holy fire was burning and pundits were chanting mantras in high decibels. So when chanting of mantras by the pundits were hitting the peak, the younger cousins were busy eating laddus and appams, and we the older and wiser as we named ourselves, were sulking and labelling the Mamis and Mamas. The names went on motor mouth, rendu mookuthi(nose piercing done on both sides of the nose) mami, the sottai (half bald) thatha, and Oh my god he was there. I went numb, speechless and my eyes were literally not blinking. Generally when Pundits harmoniously say samarpayaami, our lives become golden enough to nod and smile at pundit in devotion. That day my life turned to sparkling gold much early. My cousins were laughing at something and I couldn’t hear. There was a drone of mantras and the smoke of incense sticks but everything looked meaningless in front of him. The holy water sprinkling wakes everyone but I was alarmed, startled and shocked all at the same time. It was you. The stranger who left me in a dreamland was here. The one who secretly stole my glance was here, diagonally opposite me. And you were looking like million bucks. The hair was neatly ruled, the red shirt looked exquisite, and the vibhuti smeared forehead looked quite befitting to his innocuous grin. I was in a trance and a hurried violent shake of my cousin broke my reverie. How many times have I transported myself in the imaginary world? But that day it came as a blessing with the shlokas exponentially increasing with every minute and we, left behind with our own devices. For me the device was my imagination. And it worked. I longed to see you but secretly I wished I didn’t as I would be not myself in front of you. But things don’t go as we wished isn’t it? Atleast it didn’t on that day. The minute I wished to not see you mocked me and patted me on my back, directing my eyes to see in the entrance of the flower adorned hall. My heart skipped a beat. I bit my lip only to turn the orange shade on my lips to bloody red. And my cousins who were plotting behind me entered the scene and in a concerted fashion shouted “ Damiiiiiiiiiiiiii” . It was an alarm to remember.
Okay so you looked nothing like my imagination except for the grin which was plastered on his lips. I was dumbfounded for nearly 10 minutes. I withdrew myself from that place and went out to take in some fresh air. The smoke from the holy fire and incense filled the room and for me, my senses were overwhelmed by his smoky presence. I dashed off to the girls’ room and saw my image in the mirror. Thankfully I had brought my bag. I quickly rummaged through the numerous items and found a thin pencil. Lip liner it was! I wore it on my lips and put some gloss over it. The kajal was all okay and my eyes looked pretty. Even if we look impeccable and our hair acts in a disciplined way, we rush to the mirror to check ourselves. Blame it on age or blame it on the stranger who admires us silently. That day you the bespectacled fellow made my head and entire body spin. Apparently you are one of the relative from bride’s side. So the function went ahead with the chaos and running around everywhere. The bride and groom were happy that they are through with prostrating to numerous relatives and also to the ones which they both never have heard and met. In all these chaos, you stood silently stealing my glance from time to time. We were stupidly grinning towards each other and it became a fodder to my already gossip-monger cousins.
So when I had to take a mandatory leave, I got excited. 15 days. 15 long days that I will be removed from the files, virtual files and folders, the vault doors, the corporate elevators which throws a cold stare and snarls at you because you are late, the canteens that smelt like heaven but never exuded warmth that mom’s hand carried, the people conversing secretly inside the cubicles and throwing glance to their bosses’ cubicles every second, from the toil that I had to put from dealing room to back office and so many endless things. 15 days would be heaven for me but every second I thought that it will not only remove me from the mundane office diary but also it will put me at a distance from you, sent me cold shudders all through my body. My stranger. My silent admirer.
Fast forward to 16th day
The stranger who I ardently waited to turn up at the railway platform vanished. Vanished from my life forever. I don’t know what happened to him. How did you manage to stay removed from my appearance for those 15 days? And where did you go? So many questions clouded my mind that time and I couldn’t gain my equilibrium. The train in the other platform left with a rage but it couldn’t match up to the rage that my heart was going through. I still couldn’t fathom what happened of you. Did you relocate to other city or your own native? Did you marry someone? Or you just keeping unwell and you will turn up the following day? My questions still left unanswered by universe but I made peace with it. Not in the past but after so many years of reflecting my thoughts.
Written by a stranger with a heart filled with unknown emotions,
P.S: My Reflections:
There were few strangers who came into my life apart after you. They came, conquered my life and left with no forewarning.
So you, along with many, must have encountered so many admiring strangers in our lives. They leave a deep impact on us. The equation that we share is only we are privy of. Such a private life that we coexist yet we have no clue about what that life is or does it have any meaning attached to it.
So many letters we write with our hearts in order to exchange with them leaves unposted yet these strangers need more than a passing mention. After all, it is they who be like a wind beneath our wings, making us rise with our imagination. Making our hearts glitter like gold. Adding meaning and purpose to our nascent vanity.
Now we live happily without both of us interfering in our respective lives. Removed from each other’s lives forever. But those shared moments that depicted our secret and clueless saga give a soft ache even now pinching our hearts and caressing us tenderly.
Those moments will shine through the spinning wheel of our life. And it will find a safe place somewhere. The line in one of the Tamil song goes “Illadha uril, illatha peril, Nam kadhal vazhume” when translated says “In an anonymous land with an anonymous name, our love will thrive and live forever”.
Some emotions are carefully tucked between certainty and uncertainty. We may say that there are only two things mentioned above in our life. But there is one strange emotion which binds these two. It is that emotion that leaves us with tension yet there is some relief knowing that it exists somewhere within us. No black, no white and definitely no obvious but words that often left unsaid are precisely tucked between certainty and uncertainty.
Ruskin Bond’s words ring the bell
“After a long dry spell, raindrops on a dusty road and after a summer shower, Raindrops on a sunflower.”Ruskin Bond
Such are those emotions. No raindrops in the sunflower and no raindrops washing away the dust on the roads. It is everything else in between. And sometimes the between something is gorgeous too.
It is veiled in the corners of the heart shedding its light away from the society but as every night is followed with a sun, somewhere lurking in the corners of our hearts, it looms large. Why? There is no rhyme or reason to it and it is okay not to find one. The reason only our heart knows. So let it be. Let us not give any name or meaning to it but just feel it like the tender waves caressing our feet or like the blade of grass beneath our bare feet. Feel!
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