I distinctly remember the day I met her for the first time. It was a busy morning, just like every other day in my life. I got into the bus, with much struggle, as I reach the bus station just a second before the bus leaves. It was my habit to smile with relief, after I get on the bus. As always, I sat in my favourite window seat. I never imagined that, I would be yearning for the journey like I never did, after that day.
I was enjoying the morning hours of a busy day, when, a red dupatta hindered my sight of the bus nearby. The dupatta flew back as an expertised, bangle worn hands adjusted it just in time. I didn’t know what happened next, whether the traffic signal showed green light or the bus driver shouted at the passers-by.....all I knew, all I saw, was the hands with the black glass bangles. It only lasted for a moment or so, but, even after years and years, I remember that moment ever so distinctly. The day went boring and busy, with bosses shouting and colleagues gossiping. In the hustle and bustle that surrounded me, the glass bangles vanished like smoke.
The next day, to my surprise, the same bus was caught in the traffic signal just like mine, and that too, nearby my bus. The black glass bangles were there again. I didn’t know why, but my heart skipped a beat. Deep down, I had been awaiting those slender hands. By the looks of it, she was chatting animatedly with her friend sitting near her. Her face was turned to the opposite side so I couldn’t get a glimpse of it. So, in the following days, I waited eagerly for my otherwise boring bus journey. My day depended on whether I saw her in the morning or not.
Leaves turned brown, seasons flew by. My days were, but always expecting the bus journey. I never once saw her full face, as only a part of it was visible. Nevertheless, I was breath taken. Even the chimes of her bangles, the sweetness of her voice, the pleasantness which embraces me when she smiles....everything about her was beautiful, not just beautiful-the most beautiful pictures imprinted on my mind.
It was after a few months that Mohith, an old friend of mine came to live with me. He got a job in the city and had relocated. As he was new, (and especially due to his ‘good’ conducts), his mom advised him to stay with me.
When I reach my home after the office, it would almost always be late and Mohith would be waiting for me with dinner prepared. One evening, I came exceptionally early and saw that Mohith was still inside the house. I was surprised to find him panic-stricken. When I asked him had he not gone to office that day, he guiltily answered ‘no’. I also enquired whether he was not well but he told he was fine. Embarrassed, he went back to his work of making dinner and me, to my bathroom. During dinner, he was quiet unlike the other days. It was as if, he was in a mental conflict. I, being the coward I was, did not do much help. I kept to myself, sitting and eating quietly. Later, we watched TV together and chatted about some channel programmes and hot actresses, but most of his replies were ‘mms’ and ‘aahs’. When I got up to leave to bed, he called me.
He said, ”Arjun, I have something to tell you”
The best reply for his sudden blabber, which came up in my mind was, ‘You moron! That was what I was expecting all this time..Yet, you tell me your story when I am about to sleep?’. But that dialogue delivery didn’t come as I planned. All I asked was, “What is it?”.
And there fell a love story. Mohith actually relocated to this city because the girl he loved relocated to here. He didn’t get any job as everyone believed (or he made everyone believe). He told me that he was attending interviews almost every day (and so I got an answer to where my ‘classifieds’ pages of the newspaper went). He also made me promise not to tell anything to his mom. I wished him good luck, teased him about the girl and went back to my room to sleep.
I dreamt about my girl that night. I could see her running towards me from a distance. I couldn’t see her face properly, because there were dupattas flying everywhere. Still I had a little hope. ‘Let she come nearer..., then I shall see her face’ my subconscious mind thought. When my dream girl was just a feet away, I heard her calling my name. But, Wait a moment! Was it ‘she’? Wasn’t it a ‘him’?
It was indeed a ‘him’!!, as it was Mohith who called me to wake me up. I woke up in anger. At breakfast, he told me that he had an interview to attend in the morning and that later he will go to meet his lady love. When he told goodbye and left the room in a hurry, I was both angry and envious towards him.
On the way to the bus station, I day-dreamed me and her, holding hands, walking through the sun soaked woods. I was startled by the blaring horn of my bus. A second later, I was running after the bus. Somehow, I pulled myself in the bus by climbing the last rails of it and quickly took my favourite window seat.
“Saheb! You nearly missed your bus today. Did you hurt anywhere while climbing up?” , the conductor asked me.
I smiled and shook my head. While I was taking out my ticket money, he asked again,
“Is this your favourite seat? You always sit here”
I smiled and told him that it was indeed my favourite seat and turned to look back through the window. Those days, whenever the traffic signal reached, my stomach gave me dangerous flips and my pulse accelerated like I was afraid or tensed about something.
But then, I was... I was afraid of losing her... I was tensed whether I could see her. And she was there.. always for me..Yet again chatting, yet again laughing...the princess I saw running towards me in the morning..
I might have ogled her with such intensity because after a while, her friend said something to her, looking in my direction. Just then, she turned back to look at me and the signal turned green.. I was sure that she saw a part of me, smiling at her. As for me, for the first time, I saw her full face, at least a glimpse. That was indeed my luckiest day!!!
I didn’t know how I finished all my works that day. When I went home, another surprise awaited me. Mohith got a job! His ecstasy knew no bounds and he persuaded me to have a booze night with him. We bought beer bottles and drank like pigs. We both were sitting in the first floor terrace; and when I lay back, all I could see was the face which mesmerized me. Mohith would have called me many times, but I didn’t hear him. Only when he shouted ,”ARRRRRJUUUN”, did I respond back.
“What were you thinking? You seemed out of the planet”, he said. I smiled at him.
“Hey, Arjun,” He said again, “Have you experienced love? The bitter sweetness of it? Of having someone in your mind, everytime, everywhere, every moment, even when they are quite far away? That feeling is..is really really..Oh! what shall I say? How can I put it into words? There are no words to describe that feel..it can only be felt within the depths of heart.....”
He was in a dreamy state, unaware of his surroundings. Then he ran to take his mobile phone.
“I should call Varsha, now” , he said, and started dialling her number.
“Yes. It is. Indeed...” I retorted, a dreamy smile still in my face.
It seemed to me that Mohith woke up from his trance state. He cut the phone line and came nearer to me.
“What!?? What did you tell?”, he asked. I turned my head to smile at him again.
“Being in love is a great feeling” , I muttered.
“What? Does that mean...”, Mohith was confused. “You lier! How come I never got to know? Why didn’t you tell me?” , and began hitting me in all my body parts with his bare hands(He’s so childish, if you ask me).
“Come on now Mr. Perfect Actor, tell me all about her”, he concluded
And then, it was my turn to narrate the story. The story of how, an otherwise uneventful and boring journey changed my life over.
To my distress, Mohith laughed after I ended my story. I glared at him, so he kept quiet.
“Hello, see Mr. Dumb Arjun, this is not what you call a love story. From what you told me, I understand that the love you feel for that girl is sincere. But tell me, do you know her name? Her place? Any basic information about her? What if she is married? If she has two children?”, and he stared back at me questioningly.
I was devastated. What if she was married? In my dreams, she was always mine. But in real life, she may not even have seen me fully atleast once. I was the least important person for her. A stranger. One face among a million faces whom you see walking through the pathway. Will any of us remember such a face? Nobody does.
Mohith was talking again. He might have seen my crestfallen looks and he continued, “That’s why I give you an idea. You go and propose her. I will help you with that” I smiled. “lets hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Now off you go.Goodnight. See you in the morning.”
I felt relieved. God has given me a lifesaver! And here he was, drinking an empty beer bottle!!!
The next morning saw me and Mohith climbing into my usual bus. Unlike most of the days, we were (ahem..I was!) so early when we reached the bus station. My heart was beating as though someone put an extra battery to it. I could even feel palpitations. Mohith was chattering away, mostly to me, partly to the man sitting opposite him. But I was completely under awe. Seriously, I didn’t even hear a word of him. Finally, I’m gonna know her. Her name, her place..everything..and whether she will be mine, as I had always dreamed of. I smiled myself at the thought.
Our plan was, for Mohith to get down at the traffic signal and board her bus, to collect as much information as he could about her. He was free for another few days before joining the workplace he was hired for. Later when he had enquired all the details, I can go myself and propose my love to her.
Finally, the much awaited moment came. My bus halted at the traffic signal. Just then, her bus too came to a halt nearby our bus. I was searching through the crowd to see her.She was not there in her usual seat. It was empty. Her friend sat by the side
“Where’s she? “, Mohith asked beside me. I frantically searched her among the unfamiliar faces.
“Hey, Mohith”- Somebody called out from her bus. I saw Mohith waving and calling, ”Hey, Varsha” to a girl. Wait a sec.It was her friend. Yes, she was sitting in the same seat they always do.The friend who had shown me to her the other day. I was overjoyed. The emptiness which swallowed me when I found my girl was not there in the bus was gone. Atleast, I now have a connection with her. She was my friend’s girlfriend’s friend. I laughed at the thought, much to the displeasure of Mohith. He was yelling at me at first, but, when I explained to him about why I laughed, he was also surprised.
“But she never told me about this bus-friend of her’s”, Mohith mused. “Or may be I would have seen her once or twice with her.”
That evening, Mohith and myself went to meet Varsha. “ Are you speaking about Meera?” , she asked, surprised.
“See baby, he doesn’t know her name or place or anything. He sees her everyday through the window of his bus, and he fell in love with her.How cute, na?” Mohith chuckled.
Varsha smiled feebly and turned to me. “ Are you serious? How can you fall in love with somebody whom you have seen from a distance, without even knowing a thing about her? See,I know her. She is my friend. I don’t want to hurt her. I cannot support this rubbish. But if you insist, I will introduce her to you. But, I am warning you...I can’t make her sad and I don’t think you will accept her if you know her fully”
“Varsha, you may think I’m insane. But you have to believe me. Never in my life have I felt attracted to any other girl. The way she makes me happy, I cannot tell you how. I don’t care anything at all. I want her to be mine. Forever.”I don’t know how I told this. I saw Varsha and Mohith exchanging glances.
“Fine then”, Varsha told. “Tomorrow morning at 8, meet me at the East bazaar bus stop. I’ll be there with her” and she departed. My joy was beyond words. I embraced Mohith and jumped up.
I didn’t sleep that night. I was anticipating tomorrow’s meeting with her. No, its not 'her' again. Its Meera. My Meera. And somewhere in the middle of my dreaming, alarm sounded. I switched it off , went on to bath and put on my favourite blue shirt. When Mohith woke up, he was surprised to see me all dressed up and ready, and laughed all-knowingly. I was sure that my cheeks coloured up a bit!!
We, Mohith and I, reached the East bazaar Bus stop at 7:45 am sharp. After 10 minutes, I saw Varsha walking towards us. She checked her watch and smiled.
“So early?” , she asked.
“It’s not everyday”, I replied.
“Meera comes here at 8 in a bus.We both go together from here” , She told.
Mohith and Varsha started their own private conversations and I was left alone to dream again. When buses after buses fled by, I hoped her to get down from any of them.
It was 8:10 am and yet she didnot turn up. When Varsha saw me checking my watch, she reassured me, saying,” Don’t worry. She’ll be here any moment now. When I called her yesterday, she told she will come. Anyways, our bus takes off only at 8:25 am. Usually we sit and chat until then”. Just then, a bus came to halt nearby. “There she is”, Varsha told and hopped down to meet her friend. Meera was there in the window seat. She smiled my favourite smile, when she saw Varsha. She leant upon something to straighten herself, and then...What I saw was beyond comprehension. Meera was leaning on two crutches. Varsha helped her get down from the bus and to come near us. She made Meera sit where she was sitting and placed the crutches nearby.Yes, she was crippled.
“Meera, I have someone who wanted so desperately to meet you”, Varsha’s voice echoed in my head. Meera raised her head and smiled questioningly at me.” Is that you, Sir”, her melodious voice asked. I was aghast. Mohith was equally dumbfounded. Her voice brought me back from my deep reverie.
“I know Mohith from Varsha’s photos. But I have not seen you in those. Besides, I believe you were the one who was constantly eyeing me at that traffic signal” she laughed,” Varsha told me all about you yesterday when she called. So, here’s your dream bird...Only her wings are cut” and she laughed again.
Both the girls went off when their bus came.
“Dont worry, Mr. Arjun”, Meera told at last. “You’ll get a good girl. I’ll pray for you” and we departed.
Years have passed since the incident took place but I remember it as if it happened yesterday. Mohith and Varsha got hitched after fighting a long battle with both of their families. As for me, I don’t have a family to ask or expect. I was an orphan. But not now. Now that I have got my dear sweet little one and a beautiful wife, I believe that my life is complete with happiness..Gone are the days of disappointments....
As I turned to one side in my sleep, smiling, Meera tapped on my hand gently, and said quietly, “Don’t disturb the baby”...