Most days of the year are ordinary. Most days of the year have no major impact whatsoever on your life.
December 26th was not one of these days.
I hustled through the crowd at Indira Gandhi International Airport to reach gate no. 9. I was welcomed there by the screen displaying a notice that – Flight 179 from Delhi to Pune was delayed by half an hour from its scheduled time.
I did not say ‘crap’ or any of its synonyms. I could already see too many tired and frustrated faces around. Maybe the place needed somebody with a smile. And then I spotted one.
Sitting far behind.
Holding a plastic coffee mug in one hand and turning pages of the novel in her lap with the other. The other hand was also given the task of moving hair off her face every second minute as they slid down her forehead smoothly, blocking her eyes.
It must have been two to three minutes that I was staring at her like a fool. But a fool I would be even if I were not staring. She was just too good looking not to be distracted by.
And then I saw a tiny, minuscule window of opportunity. An empty seat next to her.
I studied the surrounding with the blink of an eye.
The fat bald guy with a suitcase was walking towards her direction and so was a dude with a pony-tail, eyeing the same seat and walking towards it.
I used all of my superpowers to get past 15-20 random, unimportant human beings on my way to her…jumping over the security ropes and avoiding small kids, trying to get kicked high. And I grabbed the seat. Hell yes! The seat was mine.
She turned her face up to see me sitting next to her. I pretended to look in front and then at my phone.
But ‘the corner of the eye’ guys, ‘corner of the eye’. It is what makes us yield to temptations.
“The trouble is I did not want to wish her goodbye. I wanted to kiss her goodnight. And there’s whole lot of difference in that…”
I sneakily read few lines from the novel she was engrossed in. And that was enough for me to understand what was making her smile.
“Have you read Fiesta?” I asked her.
“I said, I mean I saw you reading Hemmingway. So I was asking if you have read the story he wrote – Fiesta’’.
“Not really. But I have heard it is a really good read. You like Hemmingway?’’ she asked me back turning her face slightly towards me.
‘’ Yeah. He is definitely…one of my all time favourites.
And what about you? Looks like this is the first Hemmingway book that you are reading.’’
‘’Well, sort of. I plan to read. I always do. I buy books and don’t end up reading them’’ she said and I replied in a hurry,
“Same here. I do the same, all the time. Unless some flight gets delayed or someone makes you wait for long and then you thank yourself for carrying the novel in your bag.’’
‘’I know right!’’ she smiled wide and I felt happy inside as I watched her closing the book and turning all the attention to our conversation.
No rings on fingers. Hair tied up in a hurry. United Colours of Benetton sports jacket. Not staring into the cellphone screen. Single? Committed? Or even worse, maybe Married as well? Maybe yes. Maybe not. I was trying not to be judgmental. But this girl was just too cute not to notice her.
‘’So what do you…what do you do other than reading books?” I asked. I knew there was not much time left for boarding to start.
‘’Apart from reading books or carrying them along, I work as an HR Manager for an IT company.’’ She spoke.
‘’Hmm…That is not even remotely close to what I had imagined.’’ I said before thinking anything.
‘’Haha, and what did you exactly imagine me to be?” she raised her eyebrows and curved her lips at the same time.
“You know, I thought you would be a media planner for a company or an anchor for some TV channel…you know something like that” I said smiling back.
‘’Wow, your imagination was rather close to what I had imagined myself to be, once upon a time. An Anchor. Didn’t happen though. You know, scored well in graduation finals. Got a job through campus. Good salary….and kept going with the flow.
What about you? What did you see yourself becoming in future when you were in college or school?”
‘’Hmm…’’ I thought for a second as I answered that, ‘’I always wanted to be a football player. Play for some big club you see. At an international level. Something like that’’ I said scratching my head.
‘’And did the reality come any close to your dream?’’ she relaxed her chin into her right palm and waited for my answer.
‘’Well, I once got substituted in 60th minute for my school team. We lost the match. And apart from that, I became a die-hard supporter of Arsenal Football club which I have a strong feeling, might just win something this season. I certainly hope so.
Yeah, that‘s as close to my dream as I could get…hahaha’’ we both laughed.
‘’That’s okay. I think what matters is, that you try. At least once, wake up and tell yourself – Hey what the hell! Let me at least give it a shot. Maybe the dream might come true.’’
“True. True that’’ I agreed to her. “So you are going to Pune for a vacation or you work there?’’
‘’I work there. I’m from Delhi. And you?’’ she asked me.
‘’I’m from Pune. Although I work elsewhere.’’
“Cool’’ she said as we both looked at each other to know if there was anything more to this meeting.
Boarding had already started five minutes back. It was time to go.
I suddenly realised that I had not even asked her for her number. Not even her name.
‘’Hey, I do hope you get a shot at becoming an anchor someday’’ I said as I got up holding my bag.
‘’Thank you. That is really sweet of you to say that. But I’m gonna have to tell you to postpone your dream a bit. Because Arsenal is not going to win a trophy this time either.’’
‘’What…?’’ I smiled a bit with a puzzled face.
‘’Yeah, you heard me!’’ her eyes twinkled as she said that putting her laptop bag over her shoulder, displaying a big Manchester United logo over it.
“Take care’’ she waved me goodbye.
I stood there for half a minute, wondering how fast the half an hour had passed.
Should I have asked her for her number? Would she say yes? Would she deny? Would we see each other again? Maybe. There were just so many possibilities.
I moved to the boarding counter and saw her walking ahead, her hair swinging from side to side as she walked.
I kept looking at her to see if she looks behind.
She did not.
But I could tell that we both shared a something during next two hours of that journey.
Our faces wore a smile knowing that, some stories are better left incomplete.