Long journey cut short

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She was not bothered, unlike most girls…Girls who would feel annoyed by stares at them. Maybe she was used to the attention she was receiving, in that train bogey.
She sat in front of me with her head tilted, facing the window.
She pursed her lips together as she put her arms behind to untie her hair. With the hairclip sliding out smoothly off her hair, they fell on her shoulders like a silk cloth dropping down the smooth skin.
Her deep brown eyes caught mine looking at her. I looked elsewhere with an embarrassment. She kept her eyes fixed, though. And then looked at two other people sitting next to me and then back at me.

“So what’s on your mind? Wondering if I’m single? If I’m missing someone, every time I look outside the window? Or judging me if I’m a student or journalist or simply traveling alone?”
“No, I’m…am not. I was just you know…
“What? Staring at me like a creepy guy?”
“No. No.” I said, I wanted to tell her that I was indeed trying to read her mind, know her past. But people are taken aback when they realize that we might just be looking at them as a character for our next storyline. Being a writer is tough after all.

“Hey, chill! Don’t think so much. I was just kidding” she spoke watching me lost in my thoughts.
“Hmm…thank god…I didn’t want to be the creepy guy freaking out a pretty girl.”
“Pretty girl? You’re fast, mister. I hope you know that” she laughed and my heart skipped a beat watching her play with her hair & her smile.

“Huh yeah. Well, I’m Neil.” I put forward my hand.
“Jia..” she shook them with an ease.

“So what’s your story, Neil? Travelling alone? Going home or working hard for your long distance relationship? Or is it an impromptu journey to get some nice snaps with that camera in your lap?”
“Wow. You really do put people into categories, don’t you?” I said with a smirk.
“Well…kind of. But then I’m usually right. Although I do get blamed for it, yes…”She went on speaking before turning the topic back at me,
“You did not answer my question. So where are you headed?”
“Mussoorie. I am working on something. So going there for some research.”
“Woh! Pretty impressive, indeed. A secret project, hmm.”
“Yeah you can say that,” I said in a Jason Bourne style. It did not impress her much.
“Anyway, so I’m guessing it has something to with the town, and your camera right? Your project?” She raised one of her eyebrows and asked.
“Yes…you are close” I lied to the pretty girl. Because ‘telling some girl that you are a writer’ in the first meeting sounds desperate, was what my friend had advised. Although I always secretly wished to find a girl who loved writing and literature as much as I did.

“So, I’m guessing you chose Mussoorie for its setting.”
“Yes Jia, And I’m impressed. You are like an FBI interrogator.” I laughed as I said that.
“Thank you Neil, but I’m not done yet. So, I believe you are traveling there for the first time. Looking at your bag-pack I am saying so.”
“Yes, Miss secret agent. Yup, I am going there for the first time.”
She smiled and leaned back again. Maybe she felt she was talking too much to this stranger.

Honestly, I had already liked her. She was smart and charming. She knew what makes her look good. Her eyes, the way she blinked them as she smiled, her knowing what exactly was she talking about…all that made her stunningly attractive.

‘’You know what, it’s nice how we all do our own kind of special work, move from town to town and come across as strangers, like this.’’ She said playing with her hair.

‘’So, after this long round of interrogation, I’m still the creepy stranger?’’
‘’Haha, no you are not. I meant that it’s very unlikely to come across like-minded people.  Probability is too less, isn’t it?’’
‘’It is, sadly. But I think it isn’t less enough for us stop believing in it’’ I said.
“It?” her aqua brown eyes waited for an answer.
‘’Well, you know. The faith…the belief that like-minded two do exist.’’
‘’Agree. I do” she said before continuing, “But Neil it is not easy to find that like-minded when you be so secretive about your project” she wore a smirk on her face now.
‘’Nothing secretive Jia, it is simply that I’m…’’
‘’I’m…I’ve got to get down. This is my stop” she said picking up her bag.
I got up feeling a bit disappointed that our long journey ended so fast.

I watched her walk away. Carrying her bag…all the way till she got down from the train and disappeared behind the crowd walking briskly on the platform.

I returned to my bogey which now wore a deserted look on its face in spite of 3 people sitting in it.

“Wow, strange it is! Why would such a pretty girl travel all alone inside this train? I mean, all that did really happen right?” I said to the girl passenger sitting next to me all this while.

“Yes, it did. And yes it is strange. But then writers are eccentric anyway.”

“What?’’ I exclaimed.

“Don’t you know her? Jia Shah! She was the author of the best-selling novel last year. I’ve heard she travels in these trains to get her stories. And congratulations, you might just feature in her next novel.’’

The train whistled as I gave out a sigh & looked outside the window. The train had gained speed again & I could see the platform fading away in distance.

I knew I had some unfinished business on my way back.

I smiled.

(To be continued…)

”Hello dad, I am fine.”

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“Dhaker Taale Komor Dole,Khusite Nache Mon,
Aj Baja Kasor Jama Asor,Thakbe Ma Ar Katakhan”

Durga puja song resonated along with the beat of drums being played in front of the idol and a huge crowd. I stood there amongst 40-50 odd people, taking a break from my work nearby this Durga puja exhibition. The Bengali girl in her traditional white saari & a prominent red bindi on her forehead now gave me a stern look…yes the same girl who had smiled at me when I entered the pandaal. She clearly envied me now, for being tall enough to clearly view past several followers crowding in front of us. Well she wasn’t alone. A small kid standing close to us looked all the way up at me, then at the crowd in front and back at me again. But before his tiny heart could learn any more about being envious, he was off his feet in air in arms of his father.

The little boy kept his eyes fixed at mine while his father made him sit over his shoulders. Watching me notice him, the boy finally gave a smile as the father moved his face towards idol and pointed in the direction asking him to enjoy the aerial view. And he did so.

Something reminded me of myself looking at the kid. I did envy tall people, when I was small. I remember walking down the streets of Garihat hand in hand with my father. I remember him putting me over his shoulders the same way every time we went to watch a circus. Yes, there used to be regular shows of circus back then. He would make me sit up on his shoulders & I would stretch out my little jaw as wide as possible, watching motorcycle rider doing stunts in the so called death-well. I recently realised how far the walk to Gol-Park really was from the place where we used to stay, when my vehicle couldn’t start and I had to walk all the way down. Back then he would carry me in his hands and then we would walk the streets of Kolkata down during Navratra. Only difference being, my feet were off the ground in the air even before my tiny heart could learn any more about being tired.

Here, I kept my eyes glued onto the little kid at Durga puja exhibition and I could tell there wasn’t anything as naive and pure around that place as his heart. He kept giggling and smiling as his father continued to brief him over the story of Maa Durga and how she fought off bad powers. I wondered how much the boy would really grasp from that long detailed conversation. But I guess his father did not care much about that logic. He simply did his job.

And he would most certainly continue to do so, even when the boy gets on his own feet, grows tall enough to see the world on his own. His father I am sure, would still brief him over things ‘the boy then turned into a grown up’ would think he already knows. Because fathers do that. They ask you, if everything is alright, if you are fine after breaking up with your first girlfriend in junior high. They ask you if you have reached home and suggest you not to drink and drive. Well but the boy has grown up now. He makes his own set of wrong decisions and keeps the conversations short.
“I am fine dad” he says and cuts the call. Lot goes unsaid on both the sides. Unless he becomes a man & asks his father sharing a drink with him about the first time they went to the circus together.

“What? Yes yes, I will do’’ father with impaired hearing makes a random guess to the conversation.

And the son still continues to share with him, the talks about their long lost friendship. Because, he does not really care much about the logic. He simply does his job.

Runaways

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The wind that stopped roaring,

Has finally let the dust storm it had begun.

Take your hands off your face dear,

And face the orange Sun.

Chasing the boundaries of desert,

You’ve been oblivious to the only truth.

A shimmer in blue water afar caught your eye,

And you ran with all the strength in your heart.

A pursuit of desert rose somewhere ahead,

With years of your youth drenched in sweat.

Youth that’s now been gently slipping away,

Searching for an end to this race, just like your weary legs.

I see you standing at the edge of goodbyes,

Still searching for answers & hoping for rewards.

In return to all your teenage hopes & dreams,

That you once traded with gods to achieve bigger things.

With a cloak of dust storm wrapped around you,

You built a prison so strong to hold yourself in.

A prison you’d rather call an escape from an outside world.

An exit from heartbreaks you no longer intend to be with.

Here you are wondering now,

If the long walk has at all been the right thing.

Introspecting your past & judging me if I was any real.

I ran along as you shared your tales & shed your teary dreams.

Hoping I was indeed real, you slowed down a bit.

We shared a piece of life around the corner together,

While you emphasised on our discordant lives,

And how we are not meant to be.

But belies the strong person you may seem,

Of the innocent belief in momentary pleasures lurking in.

Below the disguise of indifference,

I see a child with a folded note in one hand.

A note saying – I cannot walk any further on my own,

With you, please carry me…