It was an early December morning and I was waiting for my train to Jaipur which was running late for almost an hour. Everything was freezing early in the morning and I was desperately looking for a tea stall, where I could sip some hot and sweet tea to keep myself warm as well as to kill some time.
I got one tea stall near the waiting hall and while sipping tea I started walking on the platform which was almost vacant. Most of the people who were visible through the dense fog were either the vendors or coolies or beggars, who were all busy with their respective chores. Just next to the police booth, I found one Bookstall cum Pharmacy store. The vendor was busy cleaning the books with a little cloth, which were neatly classified slant-wise, on the basis of their genre. The paper magazines were hanging on the rope above with the help of plastic clips.
I started flipping pages of a book, which was a collection of Dicken’s work to pass time. I didn’t even realize that when I started reading that book in a flow, which helped me kill ten more minutes. Finally, I decided to buy that book. I took out 200 bucks to buy it when I saw the bookseller, who was covering himself with a red and black blanket, was lighting incense sticks for Puja. I decided to wait and continued with reading.
“Ye Gareeb Rath kaun se platform pe aaegi Uncle?” I heard a girl of about my age asking the bookseller, who gestured her to wait, maybe because there was still some time in the arrival of the train or maybe he couldn’t speak before finishing his Puja.
“It will be on this platform in half an hour, provided, everything goes well, Ma’am.” I replied to her.
“Everything will go well Sir, Don’t worry.” She smiled and winked at me.
Her voice has that comfortability that soothes one’s soul.
As a person, I’ve never believed in Love at first sight. I think that a boy falling for a girl in mere a glance can be lust, but it can’t be love. For me, love can’t be caged between the walls of physical appearance. It is deeper and it can’t happen just by looking at someone.
The people I’ve been genuinely attracted to in my life made me more comfortable with their presence. They accepted me the way I’m. They let me run free into the wilds of ideas and my imagination, understood my point of view and made me feel that I’m important for them, no matter how minutely, but I’m important for them.
“Are you travelling to Jaipur?” I asked her, not because I wanted to ask, but because I wanted to hear her voice once more. I loved her voice.
“Yes Sir, I’m travelling back to my home. And I’m badly missing My Mom.” She replied keeping both her hands on her lower back. She was wearing a Green, fluffed up jacket with blue denim and a black stole hanging around her neck.
I smiled and she smiled back. I couldn’t think any more questions so I decided to get back to read Mr Dicken’s work.
“I came here for an Art Exhibition. I make sketches.” She said with enthusiasm.
“Wow” I replied and cursed myself for not asking that question.
“Are you too travelling to Jaipur, Sir?” She asked.
“Yes Ma’am, I’m going for a book launch event. A friend of mine wrote a book and invited me to visit the event..” I said.
“Interesting Yaar.” She replied with excitement.
I only managed to smile. I realized that I didn’t give money to the bookseller so I handed him the money, who was done with his Puja by then.
When I turned, I saw her sitting comfortably on her bag, with her sketchbook open and her pencil was moving almost mechanically. I smiled and got back to reading the new book I purchased, Provided, I had two more books in my back-pack.
A little kid was roaming with a kettle in his hand and by then I was ready for the second round of tea.
“Would you like to have some tea Ma’am?” I asked holding that little disposable cup between my thumb and forefinger.
“Hell Yeah, nothing can be better than this. Thank you so much.” And the boy handed her another cup who was greeted with her smile too. She kept the cup on the floor and went into what she probably love the most, that is sketching and I carried on with what I love the most, that is reading.
‘May I have your Attention please. 12911 Jaipur Gareeb Rath Express is arriving shortly on platform no. 6.’ We heard the announcement and saw some moment on that much-animated railway platform.
She was still busy with her sketching but I closed my book, after folding the topmost corner of the page I was reading.
After about 5 Minutes, the train was at the platform and both of us boarded the same bogie.
“Hey what’s your seat no.?” She asked.
“24 and yours?”
The bogie was not much occupied. I kept my back-pack on the seat next to me and sat near the window. There was only one gentleman in the compartment who removed his shoes and went straight to the upper berth. And I took out my book.
“There’s no one there in my compartment, man, literally no one. Would you mind if I sit here sir?” She sat on the berth in front of me, before even completing her question. I didn’t reply, I just smiled and sat straight, after closing my book. I had a company now.
I adjusted her bag under the seat and she removed her shoes and sat cross-legged. She was rubbing her palms and keeping them on her cheeks to keep herself warm.
“So, What’s up?” She asked raising her brows. It seemed that she was all prepared for a good chit-chat session for the rest of the journey.
“Uncle I suppose.” I smiled.
She dramatically looked upwards and saw that gentleman snoring softly. She giggled.
“So, what do you do, except for reading books, sir?” She asked.
“umm… I work in a BPO based in Gurgaon, And you?” I asked.
“Sketching and only Sketching.” She smiled and stretched her arms.
“Sounds interesting, All The best.” I was looking outside through the window or maybe I was trying to hide something, I really don’t know.
“Hey, Why are you sitting like this? It seems like you are not comfortable. Are you feeling like running from here, Sir? And I really hope that I’m not bothering you with my chitter-chatter?” She giggled again.
“Nothing like that Ma’am. I’m very much comfortable.” I bent a little backwards and joined my hands against my belly. I was trying hard to show that I was comfortable. But, honestly, I wasn’t.
“No, Sir. you aren’t comfortable. I can see that you are feeling a bit conscious. I don’t know whether it’s my presence or something else. See, it will take 4 more hours to reach Jaipur and I’m not in a mood to sleep at all. So it’s better to have a conversation, I mean not a shallow one but a deep one. Now come on, share what’s going on deep inside you, My stranger friend?” She was looking directly in my eyes. Her voice, it was creating some magic. I somehow felt a bit courage to actually share certain silly things which often disturbs me. I couldn’t look any more in her eyes. I looked downwards and gave a slight smile.
“You know what’s a benefit of communicating with a stranger? You can share anything you want and I can’t share it with anyone because it won’t make any sense, you see. I don’t know anyone in your contacts. And there’s an old saying – What happens in a journey, remains in that journey.” She continued with her mesmerizing voice.
I took a deep breath and it took me a moment to think about what I wanted to share from so long. Unfortunately, I never met anyone who could understand the kind of environment I have deep inside me. I decided to give a try with that girl.
“Ma’am, I don’t feel comfortable with my physical Appearance” I said. My voice was merely a whisper and It was enough to make her listen. My eyes, they were little moist, they were tired of holding pain inside them.
“Why? you have a very pleasing personality Sir. The way you talk is extremely pleasing. What’s the problem?”
“Umm… I don’t know. A couple of months back I was all jacked-up, lean and fit. But then, I met with a bike crash and my right arm got fractured. The result, I couldn’t work out and slowly I became weaker. I came into the shape I never wanted to have. And you know what, you lost that significance among your colleagues. It hurts. It actually hurts. Your physicality defines you. No one gives a damn about your thoughts, your Intentions. Everyone judges you from your appearance.” I was looking outside the window. My voice was breaking. I don’t want her to see me crying like little kids. “What I was trying to hide with my hands while sitting was my loosened up belly.”
She was still trying to look in my eyes. I wiped my tears.
“Sir, you know what? whatever you said is so painful and I’ve experienced it myself. It is painful when people judge you with how you look. They measure your abilities, your skills with your physicality. But, What I’ve experienced is, this is transitory. It ends when your skills become bigger than you. Getting attached to your physical appearance will always make you afraid of failure in each situation what all you’ll care about is your appearance.” She paused for a moment and I was listening to her very attentively. Her voice was a balm for my injured soul. She Continued “Though I have no intention to flirt at all Sir, you look handsome. Your eyes, they speak more than your lips. You have that charm which only a few people have.”
She smiled but I couldn’t. I was now sobbing and desperately avoiding eye contact with her.
“Look here, sir. There’s no harm in crying. It’s good for you as well as for everyone around you.” She held my left hand with both her hands. Her tiny hands were creating magic, not over my body but over my heart. I felt secured. I felt loved. I felt like, I was recovering from any kind of life-taking illness.
But my tears, I had no control over them. That day, I realized that I’m not very good at accepting anyone’s appreciation. At that moment, I also realized that to accept other’s appreciation, you have to appreciate yourself first. To accept another person’s love, you have to love yourself first. But, since my childhood, I thought that I’m unacceptable, unlovable and don’t deserve any kind of appreciation. What meant for me is sympathy. She showed me the mirror. What a moment it was – Magical.
“And crying isn’t a sign of weakness, on the contrary, it shows your strength. ” She said and smiled.
Now I looked directly in her eyes. The long silence was soothing. She was still holding my hand and me, I was feeling complete. Every moment with her was relaxing. At that time, even the aggressive noise of Train’s Engine was making me relaxed.
She Left my hand when the Ticket checker appeared out of nowhere to see our tickets. (Damn you TC!)
“So, Do you Enjoy your Job?” She asked directly bending a little forward, keeping both her hands on the seat. She wasn’t looking into my eyes, she was peeping into my soul, beyond my physical appearance.
“umm… No! I mean I used to enjoy it in my initial days. But now everything is just too monotonous. And most importantly, I can’t impress others. It gives me immense pain when I have to become someone else to impress my superiors. And politics, office politics is really not my cup of tea. At the end of the day, I come back exhausted, without any time for my self. I can’t write. I can’t read.” I said more frankly. It was like puking out all my frustration. “I like being alone. I feel that I’m not apt for human companionship.”
“Do you write? Show me something na?” She jumped out of her seat.
I was hesitant. No one has ever read my write-ups. I never wanted anyone to read it. I created my own stories, sketched my own characters.
“Arrey! come on. I promise I won’t judge you.” She requested again.
I slowly took out my old blue journal from my Back-pack and handed over to her.
For the next 45 minutes, she was engrossed into my journal. I was looking outside through the window. I heard her laughing once or twice while reading. Most of the times, She was serious. And after 45 minutes, I saw her eyes moist.
She kept her cellphone between the pages of the journal as a bookmark to continue reading from where she left.
“You know what, Everyone of us is born with a talent. Each one of us born with creativity imbibed in them, which helps us to express what’s there inside us. I was going through your journal, and trust me I was totally into it. Very Few people can find the right words to express what’s there inside them. You have that, you have that skill to connect amazingly well with your readers. And the Characters in your stories, You don’t define them, They define You. If one Advice I could give you will be – Share it with the world. Let these characters rock the world. I can bet on you that you are one of the most amazing storytellers I’ve ever read.” Her eyes were still moist and I could feel my vision getting blurred now.
“Wish I could keep your Journal always with me.” She said holding her jo-
-urnal close to her heart. I felt Good. I felt Glad. I felt like never before.
“Keep it.” I said without thinking much.
“No Sir, I want you to type it and submit it with publication houses. I’m sure that a great opportunity is about to knock at your door.” She extended her hand to gave my journal back.
I folded the page till where she read and gave that journal back to her “Keep it. I don’t need this to type my stories. Keep It.” I said.
She smiled and wiped her sparkly tears. I wanted to hold her hands now, but I couldn’t. She kept the journal in her handbag. Jaipur was about to arrive. (or rather we were about to arrive at Jaipur.)
“So before this journey comes to an end, I would like to say a big thanks to you. This was one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve ever had. And I have two things for you. First will be here in a couple of seconds.” She gestured someone to come to us and a little boy again came and served us two hot cups of tea. I laughed when he handed me a cup of tea.
“And I have one more thing to show you.” She took out her sketchbook and flipped some pages. I was awestruck when she showed me that sketch.
It was my sketch when I was reading the book on the platform. I didn’t have words to praise that. I kept looking at that sketch when the train halted. It was so realistic. It was amazing. A fine piece of artwork.
“You are Outstanding Ma’am.” I managed to say. She smiled and kept her sketchbook back in her handbag, after having a last glance at her own work.
I had a lot of gratitude, but I couldn’t express it. I didn’t want that journey to end.
“You know what Sir when I first saw you. I saw myself in you. A bit comfortable alone. A keen observant. When our conversation started, I realized that you also face the same roadblocks I used to face a few years back. But, I’m sure it won’t affect you for too long. At last, what all we have is this journey called life” She said. I want to rewind the moments I spent with her. People won’t treat me the way she did. I want her to spend some more time with her. The bad thing about time is that – It passes. and that’s the great thing too.
I picked up her bag and we both went to the platform. Her Mother was waiting for her at the gate on the other side of the exit (she got a call from her.)
When I placed her bag on the platform and turned to her she looked into my eyes (for the last time). I wasn’t expecting this but she hugged me. I couldn’t understand what was happening and then I hugged her back. Her Hug was tight, mine was gentle which covered her tiny body. Both of us were crying. I felt lighter than ever.
“By the way, myself Harshit.” I extended my hand and felt stupid that both of us didn’t even introduce ourselves in the last 5 hours.
She told me her name, without looking into my eyes, and dragged her bag towards the exit. She didn’t turn back.
That journey taught me the most important lesson of my life. I learnt that expressing oneself truly and honestly is the most beautiful thing in the world. When you express yourself, you don’t care about other’s expectations or other’s appreciation. We just move with the flow.
That journey was just like a cup of tea- warm, sweet, Smooth, Refreshing and Lovable.
I still don’t believe in love at First Sight, but I think, She was a firm believer in that concept. Her Love, at first Sight, was more Compassionate than Passionate. It was Pure, sacred and Inexpressible in words. It can be felt.
And I’m Still Feeling it…