A Shifting

Shifting: n. To move from one position to another.

“Oh no, not now!”, Mrs. Pandey exclaimed as rain splattered heavily on the kitchen’s window-panes on a cloudy day. She hurried upstairs to the terrace after reducing the stove’s flame. The rain had just begun but the damage was already done. She had just come barely a few minutes before to check if the clothes had dried. They had still been a bit damp. A couple of more minutes in the sun would have been enough. The sky was overcast at that time too. But it was normal for Bhadav month and even more normal for Kolkata. Instead of taking clothes safely back with her to dry them under the fan, she changed the clothes’ sides exposed to sun and decided to come back after cooking the spinach. She was then feeling a bit confident in her decision due to the high winds blowing. And now her clothes, with water dripping from them, lay loose and damp on the ropes. She stared at them cursing the winds which had deserted her and calculating how much work had increased. She would have to now spread them inside her home under the fan on chairs and tables during the night so that they could dry before tomorrow morning.

Her husband was in a government service. Due to his frequent transfers, they never lived at any place for more than four years. Many a times they even shifted within the same city from one rented house to another.  Each shifting took the same effort as it took for a tree when re-planted at a place different from where it had germinated. She was supposed to be good at it and making new friends quickly. But with age, her willingness and ability at this were reducing gradually.

Kolkata didn’t suit her much. With incessant rains, not only the weather remained damp but her mood as well. Part of it could be attributed to her loneliness. In the mornings, it was busy like hell. After her morning chores were done, with her daughter and husband on their way to school and office respectively, solitude embraced her like an old friend. Kolkata being still new to her offered no other friend. Everything -neighbours, Bengali language, her house, the trees around- appeared alien. But strangely enough, outside the government colony, some parts of Kolkata appeared familiar. No, not the parts of Kolkata such as places around City Mall which had been invaded by the forces of the thing called modernity. These places could have belonged to any city. They were impersonal, nothing humane.

Roadside stalls selling food; wet roads where buildings (some of which had been painted red to hide their age) came quite close, standing just next to the pavements; hand-pulled rickshaws running past. For her, they looked like the pieces of original Kolkata peeking from the folds of the past. She felt quite close and distant to them, both at the same time. Close because she sensed she had been to those streets, walking amidst those slow-moving yellow taxis, although she was quite sure she had never been to Kolkata before. And distant because she was quite sure these things no longer belonged to her. Somebody had snatched those things away from her.

****
“They are on the top rack near the bed”, she almost shouted spreading clothes on ropes tied just outside her door. Her home was on the first-floor of a two-storied government building, situated next to the road. The building was sub-divided into two parts — each part housing the four families on the two floors. On the first floor, there was a passage connecting these two parts. The same passage also served as the common balcony for the four families staying on the first floor. It was a bit open there, where its one side faced road and the other faced the pavement which connected with other buildings nearby. Below the former side, there were stairs that led to the first floor. While on the latter side, there were ropes tied for the clothes, where they were safe, at least, from the drizzles. After her previous experience with Kolkata rain-gods, she had started using them. Though she didn’t prefer them to the terrace, where she could run her eyes all over the neighbourhood in the open air when she went there for drying clothes, her clothes were safer on the balcony. She could also keep an eye on her clothes from her kitchen window.

It was morning. Her husband had left for duty leaving her alone for her day’s most difficult assignment – preparing her daughter for school in time. After hurriedly putting clips on her clothes, she went inside to find her daughter, Bubly, still struggling to locate her socks. She quickly retrieved the socks for her and making her sit on the bed, she pulled out her shoes from below the bed and helped her in wearing them. Then she fed her breakfast and taking her bag and an umbrella, escorted her to the school.

On her way back, she was accompanied by other women who had also gone to drop their children to the school. She had gradually started exchanging smiles and a bit of gossip with them. The sky was today clear with breeze blowing. On the neem tree near her home, a flock of crows was cawing happily.

Unlocking her door, she found her home as if they had shifted to this house today. Wet towel thrown on the bed, empty plates left over on the table and newspaper spread flat on the chair. The scene robbed her off any sense of accomplishment for the day. There was only one difference compared to early morning when she was busy getting her daughter and husband ready. There was not much urgency now. She could catch some rest. But she knew better than to let herself indulge. When she was young, she never had to fight these compulsions. Then neighbors around her forced her to be always on her toes, lest they finish their work before she. As she had matured, she stopped bothering about this petty competition and had tried taking some break after sending off her spouse and child. However, on those days, house-work appeared more boring, excruciatingly long. Thinking about those days, she sighed and tucked her pallu in the sari preparing herself for the assault  After about an hour, she was ready to go to the kitchen. Today she was going to prepare masala dosa. She checked the paste kept in the aluminium vessel. It wasn’t ready yet. She added some baking powder to it so it would ferment before noon. She took the utensil outside. Shooing away a crow sitting on the rope, she kept it on the parapet. The sky was still clear. Hopefully it would be sufficient for the dosa paste. Then she went back to clear off her morning mess from the kitchen.

She liked to have some tea after her morning chores; it acted as a break, getting her ready for lunch preparation  While keeping the tea-pan on the flame, she reminisced on how she used to struggle while preparing masala dosa. Her South Indian neighbour at Chandigarh helped her in learning what was the right mixture for the paste. But the tricky part was something else, which could not be simply told. It was to turn over the dosa on the pan without breaking it, when its one side was done. In her over-earnest attempt to do it right, all – the walls, her saree, utensils around – used to taste the paste when she turned over the dosa in a jiffy. She smiled and her eyes strayed through the kitchen window to look at the dosa paste container. The crow was still sitting over her clothes. An insolent crow! Apparently it was its favorite spot. Realising that she was seeing, it bent forward, ready for flight anytime. Both were looking straight, unblinking, as if playing who-would-blink-first. Then she said,”Shoo!” and it flew away.

****
Today she was feeling a bit cheerful. It looked as if for a few days the rain-clouds had gone on a vacation. She was not complaining. Her work got completed a little earlier. She chose to wear her Bengali cotton black saree with traditional circular red bindi. Combing her hair, she looked in the mirror at herself. She was looking good. Her mother-in-law had disliked the black color but she had shrugged off her opinion.

“Cham-cham!”

She shouted, “Baba, wait.”

There was an old man who used to come in the campus every alternate day to sell sweets and curd. His style of carrying his stuff was like that of Shravan Kumar carrying his parents. On his shoulder, he carried a stick with containers kept safely in the knotted ropes hanging from each side.

She planned to surprise Bubly by giving her sweets in lunch. She found her money-bag and bolted her door. As she was passing through the balcony, somebody landed on her head and flew away the very next instant. She looked at it to find it was a crow flying towards the neem. She kept looking in that direction. She didn’t understand. ” Ma’am! Come faster.” “Yes, coming”.  She got down hurriedly pushing her questions away.
****

With one hand holding the bedsheet, she was extending her broom-hand as much as possible to reach the dust sitting lazily beneath the bed. It had gone dark. She believed it inauspicious to use the broom after sunset. If it were not for the guests coming home shortly, she would have postponed it to the morrow. Usually, she completed this before she went to bring milk from the tabela. But today she got a bit late and had to hurry off because of the milkman’s habit of mixing water into milk. Seeing her running for milk in the evenings, her husband had asked her so many times to start taking milk-packets instead. However, she never got used to taking milk-packets. Wherever she shifted throughout the country, she always found locales selling fresh milk of cow or buffalo. It was an excuse for her to get some outside air during the evenings. Along with it, she used to get good-quality milk. Tezpur got her used to buffalo milk as a lot more ghee, could be extracted from it, compared to that of a cow.

“Bubly! bring the new bedsheet and how many times do I have to tell you to hide this rag behind the almirah? Be fast. They will arrive any minute.”

And surely enough as she put on the new bedsheet, somebody knocked on the door.

“Pandeyji! Now, it’s too late for you to run and hide in someone else’s home.”

“Yes, Mishraji. Now I have no option but to be your host for the evening. I had banked upon the rain-gods to ruin your plans but I should have known better”, Mr. Pandey replied, opening the door with his family standing behind him.

Both of them started laughing. Mr. Mishra followed by his wife and daughter entered the home.

After greetings were exchanged, the children went to the bedroom for playing their games, while the elders cracked jokes and laughed loudly in the drawing room. After some time, the ladies went to the kitchen to prepare pakoda and tea.

“So, how’s life out there among the civilians?”, Mrs.Pandey asked. The Mishras lived outside the campus. They had not been given government quarters as they had just arrived at Kolkata. Only after waiting for six months, would they be allotted one.

“It’s not that bad. After the usual initial hiccups, it has gotten fine. But they charge you for everything, even for bricks.”

“What? Seriously, for bricks?”

“You would not believe it. We needed some for keeping them under boxes. There were some bricks in the park in front of our home. But the land-lady didn’t allow me to take them when I asked her. She said she might have use for them in the future.”

“Hmmm…I have an idea. When it’s dark, go out with a empty bag pretending that you are going outside for shopping. And then come back with the bricks in those bags.”

“Nice, dear. Never in my life, have I gone shopping for bricks!”

Their laughter was disrupted when Mr. Pandey called his wife from the drawing room, “Arre! Bubly’s mother, are you planning on serving tea only after dinner is done?”

“Oh, yes…”

“What?”

“Uff..I meant, no!  it is almost ready.”

The ladies lighted the stove and put the tea pan on it hurriedly. Mrs. Pandey said, “Mrs. Mishra! Why don’t you go and chat there? At least, enjoy some rest while you are a guest”
Even though Mrs. Mishra would have complained of not getting enough rest back at her home a countless number of times, she said, “Come on! How much effort would it take? Let’s do it together.”

Because of their combined effort, within minutes tea and hot crispy pakoda entered the drawing room. Kids were called and asked to join in. After half-an-hour, Mr. Mishra begged leave of Mr. Pandey, which was promptly refused.

“No, Mishraji. You have come with your choice but you will leave by mine.”

The ladies went to the kitchen for the second time to prepare dinner while the men switched on the TV for some news.

Mrs. Pandey gave Mrs.Mishra some vegetables to chop while she herself washed the utensils.

“Mrs. Pandey! What happened to that crow you were talking about?”

“Mrs. Mishra! it’s a raven. I had mistaken it for an innocent crow. It often comes from nowhere, lands on my head for a moment before flying away.”

“Oh, does it do this to everyone?”

“No, strange enough it does this only to me. The first time this happened, I thought it targeted me because on that particular day, I was wearing a black saree. But no, it teases me everyday, no matter what is the colour of my clothes. As it stands, it’s not much of a problem. But you know Mrs. Mishra, how irritating it can get when this happens to you everyday.”

“Mrs. Pandey, I feel it is not a simple problem. Arrey, don’t you read newspaper? It was in the news last week I remember. There was a South Indian with whom similar incident happened. A raven always dropped shit on his head whenever he left for work. You won’t believe, Mrs. pandey, but this gentleman became so distressed at it that he committed suicide. Ravens don’t bring good luck. So, you better do something about it.”

“Oh, that’s too much! These South Indians are like this only. Very superstitious  It’s nothing serious over here. I think it likes to play with me. For me the only problem is, it always wins.”

*********
As soon as the school-bell rang to mark the end of the day, Bubly ran with the other kids to be among the first one to get outside the school compound. Parents thronged the gate waiting for their children. Stalls selling ice-cream and gol-guppa were attempting hard to get the kids’ attention. Bubly’s father had told her that he might get late today. She was waiting for him under the Peepal tree, which stood just outside the gate. With nothing interesting happening around  she looked up towards its trunk. There were some monkeys resting on the branches. A few of them, especially young ones, were in no mood to allow the adults any rest. They chased around one another and created quite a ruckus in the process. She was looking at their world and tried to see the similarity with her own family.

As she was busy staring at the monkeys playing, somebody from the other side threw a stone up towards them. The stone flew towards the top of the tree, missed it’s target and landed directly on her left eye with a soft sound. Everything went dark. She didn’t feel anything. It simply got numb. Everything seemed alright except the people surrounding her. She thought she might still somehow get away with it without telling anything to her mom. She opened her left eye to see how bad it was.
“I am not able to see anything”, she cried out loud and then dejectedly sat on the road.

*****

Bubly lay in bed, with her left eye bandaged. Distant sounds from her mother were reaching her ears. Her mother was in the kitchen. While preparing tea, she was talking to the ladies who had come to see Bubly.

She didn’t feel like sleeping but still she closed her eyes. She had become impatient with all the people turning up at home recently. All asked her the same question – how you are feeling, Beta? Quite unlike the uncle who had taken her to the hospital. He didn’t ask any question. He simply pulled her up and forced her to sit on the scooter. A few minutes later, she found herself being attended by a doctor. By the time her parents reached there, she had gotten her injured eye bandaged heavily. When they saw her first, they thought their daughter had lost one of her eyes. Now they would have to live with that forever. Her mother held her tightly and wouldn’t stop crying. The doctor asked her not to worry much and wait for the results of her Reading Test. After half an hour or so, Bubly was asked by the doctor to slowly open her eyes. Everything appeared hazy at first but it wasn’t that bad. After a while, she was well enough to actually pass the tests!

After all the visitors left, Mrs. Pandey tidied the chairs and took the plates and cups to the sink. Then she lay next to Bubly who was asleep again. She brought her close and stroked her forehead softly with her hand. The doctor had said it would take at least fifteen more days before her bandage could be taken away permanently.

‘caw-caw…’

She looked up at the window but couldn’t locate the source. She thought it must be the raven, who must be watching them now and gloating. She looked back at Bubly and her muscles tightened.

*****
She couldn’t understand how she convinced herself for doing it. She decided against telling her husband. She was sure he wouldn’t understand. At around 10 o’clock, with her husband and Bubly sent off, she got ready in her black saree. Then she took out the roti. While holding it in one hand, she locked the door with her other hand. As she passed through the balcony, she saw the flock of crows cawing and sitting on the neem tree. ‘It must be there.’ She went down the building and approached the tree. The birds became silent on seeing her. All of them were looking at her as if they knew. She too was staring at them. She had planned to keep the roti and come back. But the crows were not that dumb. She waved her roti expecting for some response. She did get one. One of them took a flight towards her. This time she was prepared for it. As the raven neared her head, she ducked down at the right time. On looking back, she was surprised to see it continuing on its original trajectory. Apparently, it had taken a bad aim. She needn’t even have ducked to save herself. It went on flying till it got dangerously close to the surface. It didn’t stop before it hit the ground. It lay there, crumpled in a heap.

She decided to go closer to have a look at the dead raven. Its wings were spread flat with its beak open and black plumage shining in the sunlight.

She threw the roti away in a drain, and took the raven tenderly and deposited it near the trunk. She did turn back once to look there from the balcony before she entered her home.

na, na, na…not a love story

When he saw the reservation chart declaring his allotted seat as RAC B6 31, he had only one word for it, ‘yuk!’. Already he was in a bad temper. The bus conductor had charged him extra for his apparently small luggage. If only the conductor had told him before, he would never have boarded that bus.

‘Now, where the hell is the platform 5?’ He was standing on platform 3. On the other side, there was platform 4. After which, there were only railway lines and with good-carriage trains on them. This was an ideal situation to ask for local help. The tea vendor told him it was at the backside of platform 4.’ Huh, backward?’ And as he moved in the specified direction, suddenly the platform took a little turn and a railway line started. Sure enough, a sign on the pole declared ‘platform 5’. Ingenious way of working in a limited space!

http://ourdailyfred.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/slow-train.jpg?w=426&h=283

When the train arrived on the platform, dragging his suitcase and ruck-sack, which had testimonies of his mom’s affections, he reached his RAC seat. He swiftly placed his luggage beneath the berth so as to occupy the maximum space and then waited for the other person with whom he was going to share the seat. Already it was a side-lower berth meaning it had less space compared to the opposite ones. It was sure that he wouldn’t be able to sleep. He just prayed for a good company. If the person wouldn’t delight him, at least he shouldn’t disturb him. Deep in these thoughts, he plugged earphones into his ears and plunged into music. After a while, he felt train moving. “Good, so he couldn’t catch it. He must be a bit too late.” Happy with his conclusion, he increased the volume of his music player.

***

He felt a soft pat on his shoulder. He moved around to see that a girl, wearing orange kurti over a black salwar with her shoulder-length hair untied, was saying something to him. She was carrying a back-pack. In one hand, she had her hand-bag while the other one was busy in holding her hair in place. He took out his earphones and asked rudely, “What?”

“Is this B6 31?”

“Yes, it is. Can’t you read it?”

“Yes, I can. But I am not sure about the coach. As I was bit late, I had to board into the coach, whichever came first to me.”

“Okay. Yes, it is B6 31…uhh… sorry, bit of bad temper.” he said,realizing he was talking to a girl who didn’t come across your eyes often. She was a thing of beauty. Despite her repeated efforts, her hair kept on coming in front of her face. When she tried to move them away from her face, she looked more beautiful.

“It’s alright.”, saying this, she smiled and then started arranging her back-pack in whatever space was left beneath the berth.

“Oh, I can help you with that”, saying this, he rearranged his luggage in a less aggressive manner. “umm…and what’s your name?”

“Jwala”, saying this, she continued to arrange her luggage carrying female paraphernalia.

He had expected that she would ask his name.  After her arrangements done, he hadn’t expected her to take out a book from her bag either. She chose the opposite corner, sat there with one leg beneath her and the other one folded. She started reading her book ‘When you can’t stop talking’ as the train moved on. He threw himself to the other corner. He took out one book and pretended to read it. “What does she think of herself? What if she is beautiful? If she gives a smile, all boys would start licking her feet. Go to hell!”He again plugged his earphone and started listening to the song ‘Mora piya mose bolat nahi‘ (My beloved is not talking to me) in the repeat mode of the player.

***

A few hours later, over the sound of the song playing, he heard the unusual loud sound of somebody clapping. He knew eunuchs were coming and therefore, lowered the volume. He now pretended to sleep. He heard them approaching nearer. He thought, “Jwala, being a girl, would not worry about them. She would be surely seeing my response. I don’t know what to do. Should I quietly give them a 10-rupee note? No, no, I would just pretend that I am in deep sleep.”

Somebody started caressing his cheeks. It was the second human contact for him during the day. It wasn’t soft. It was repulsive. He was just bidding his time. The eunuch said, ‘ Aey uth na, janu. Abey de na.

He didn’t move. Now the hand drifted towards his chest, opening his shirt-button. He had to do something. But what? Now, Jwala stopped pretending that she could continue reading when something interesting was going to happen.

Opening his eye, he quickly sat upright and said, ‘ aey de na, de na! kab se intzaar kar raha hun ki ab degi, ab degi. deti kyun nahi?’

‘ oh! toh tu bhi wahi hai.

haan, main bhi wahi hun‘, putting one finger on the chin, he answered in a womanish voice.

Hearing this, the eunuch blushed. Other passengers laughed. Jwala smiled. And with that, ice between them did break.
***

Despite the train rocking passengers in its way towards destination, people had made themselves comfortable. It didn’t look like they had just boarded the train. Some had taken out snacks from their bags, while some were just talking. Children had started playing their games which grown-ups  didn’t bother to understand. And there were vendors selling different stuff like tea, coffee, samosa, biscuits.

On one of the side lower-berths, a strong undercurrent of emotions was flowing.

“A sunny day with patches of clouds in the sky. Today’s weather is just perfect, don’t you think?”, he said, looking outside through the window.

“hmm… right.” , buried in the book, she mumbled.

“I know it would make anybody angry the way I talked to you.”

na, na, na… I wasn’t angry.”

“hmm…oh, but you should have been!”, he said facing her. However, all he could see was the book’s cover.

“I don’t get angry that easily.”

“Had anybody else been in your place, she would have fought with me. Already you must be in bad mood as you got late, right? “

na, na, na… I wasn’t in a bad mood either.”

“ah, good…your book looks like a novel. Murder mystery?”

na, na, na…”, still buried in the book, she mumbled.

“Fanatsy?”

na, na, na…”

“Romantic? I suppose that should have been my first guess.”

na,na, na..”

He went back to gazing fields outside through the window. For how long could he stare at the cover of a book?

He was not liking the repeated usage of ‘na, na, na…’ a bit. In fact, he was getting irritated. Already she wasn’t going easy on him.

https://i1.wp.com/ak1.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/888724/preview/stock-footage-view-of-passing-landscape-from-a-train-window.jpg

Just then a TTE arrived in the coach carrying the reservation chart with him. When he reached berth no. 31, checking their tickets, he said, “So, you two people are sharing this RAC berth. Okay, what’s your name, girl?… yes, Jwala! it’s my duty to ask you if there is any problem here?”

“Not yet.”, she said putting down her book.

“Good. In case, if there is any problem, I can arrange for a different seat. In the previous coach, we do have a similar pair. An elderly lady with a high-school student. So, we if you want to shift, both of you ladies can be together.”

“No, thank you, sir. It’s alright here.”

“Have a good day.”

“Oh, I thought you would go to the other seat”, he said to her as soon as the TTE left.

“And why would you think that?”,she asked back. This time her face was not hidden behind the book.

“As I was boring you so much with my stupid questions.”

na, na, na…on the contrary, I was boring you. The book was at such a critical juncture that I couldn’t resist it. And then who wants to go and sit with an old hag?”

This time he liked and enjoyed every bit of her ‘na, na,na…’. He couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

“okay…tell me about the book.”

“Oh, it’s nothing great. Just a usual romantic story.”

“But you said no when I asked if it was romantic.”

“Did I say that? Sorry. Must be deeply engrossed in…. Oh, no!”

Some tea vendor was pouring tea in a cup when a child came running and hit him. Child fell. Tea spilled on her kurti. The child started crying as soon as he fell. Children are quite good at knowing when to cry. Nearby passengers attention was on the child while his was on her.

“Can’t you see properly?”, he said in a raised voice to the tea-vendor.

“But, Saheb…”

“What is his fault? He was busy pouring tea in the moving train. He couldn’t see the child coming.”, she said while rubbing her kurti clean with a tissue paper that had just sprang out of nowhere.

“These parents also don’t take care of their children. Children keep on doing some nuisance or the other.”

Arrey, now if children wouldn’t do nuisance, who would?”

He couldn’t say anything further. She then went to the wash-basin.

“How could somebody be like this? I would not have been surprised if she had paid the tea-vendor for his loss. “, he grumbled to himself.

With nothing great to do, he took out his mobile and started looking through his SMS Inbox. After a few minutes, she came back. Seeing him busy with his mobile, she again started reading her book.

“Hi, I didn’t notice you came back.”

“Ya, you were sort of busy with your mobile.”

“hmm..was writing a poem.”

“Where? In the mobile?”

“Yes. Would you like to read it?”

“Do I have an option?”, saying this she gave a smile and started reading his poem.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Sure, but what is it for itself?
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Sure, but would you like to be one yourself?

It’s natural to desire for everyone’s attention
Sure, but sometime won’t you like to parade around unnoticed
It’s natural to desire to be everyone’s sensation
Sure, but sometime won’t you like to hide behind shadows

You see your success in the eyes of others
Sure, but what if they speak of only their success
You see your success from the eyes of others
Sure, but what if they glorify your only success

Complaining lets off some desperation
Sure, but what if it takes away your divinity
Complaining lets off some frustration
Sure, but what if it doesn’t fit your description

Ya, a thing of beauty is a joy forever
Sure, but some things you want only as a souvenir.”

“It’s good… really good, especially considering that you wrote it within 15 minutes. Although somebody else might say that it’s negative about beautiful things. But anyway, it’s nice.”

“Leave about others. What do you think?”

“I already said. It’s good. Now don’t tell that you literally wrote it for me.”, sensing something she said it while looking into his eyes.

“Okay…not for you, but yes inspired by you.”

“In that case, are you complimenting or demeaning me?”

“Neither. Just thought this is how you… I mean, a thing of beauty feels like. “

“So, this is the title of your poem- How it feels like to be a thing of beauty.”

“Yes exactly, how do you know?”, he said astonished.

“I happen to know many other things. I also know that this poem is written by you.”, she said as if revealing a secret and started laughing.

“Okay, got it. Dumb question to ask. Now stop leg pulling. Tell me why don’t you complain?”

“About what?”

“About anything.”

“Simply because I don’t like complaining.”

“But there is nothing wrong in complaining.”

“There is. I don’t know if this is true for boys but certainly this is true about girls. My room-mate and I used to often discuss about it. If you complain about something, it takes away your positive energy. One doesn’t feel good after that. It affects us literally in a certain way.”

“Do you think that on the next morning of you complaining about anything, you would find a pimple on your cute face?”

“Ha,ha…Not that but still…”

“Strange.”

“But not stranger than this- today the train is on time. Looks like my station is just going to come. I’ll better hurry up.”, she said sitting upright suddenly. Leaving the book on the seat, she started pulling out her ruck-sack and placed it to on the berth. She took out a comb and mirror from her hand-bag and started combing.

As he knew he would not able to stop himself from staring her, while she combed her hair, he decided to go towards the toilet. Girls looked their best to him, when their one hand hold a comb while the other hold their hair in place. In the back of his mind, something else was going. Just when he thought it was going good, Indian Railways had ruined it for him. Whenever he wanted desperately to reach on time, trains were consistently late. But not this time.

He wanted some more time with her. Now how could he ask for her mobile number?  She hadn’t known him for long enough. If only, he hadn’t lost time because of her romantic book, which had turned totally unromantic for him, it could have been better. But what to do now? He was thinking hard.

He felt train slowing down. He could see train mocking at him, “What do you think trains are for-romance?”

He went back to the seat so that he could at least bid her adieu  She had tied her hair into a ponytail and looked like was just going to leave. She held her hand-bag and carried her ruck-sack on her back, and started moving towards the door.

“Hey, Jwala, wait! Your book”, he just noticed she had forgotten her book on the seat. When he picked up the book to give it to her, a small piece of paper, with something scribbled on it, dropped out of it.

“Oh, see, you are also leaving somebody’s number.”,saying this, he gave book along with the note to her.

“It’s for you, dumbo.”, giving him back the note.

“Oh…” He couldn’t believe his ears… “thanks…ah,can I call you then?”, he said as if proposing to her.

na, na, na…just keep on staring at it.”

Was she pink?

On that day, even in the evening, I was not getting customers frequently. I had to wait longer as compared to other days. On other days, market usually bustled with women bargaining for goods, children chit-chatting excitedly and couples taking a walk. But on that day, market wore a deserted look.

It had been raining all day. Not heavily, just a drizzle. It was one of those days when you like to rest cozily at home. I also felt that way and in the afternoon, I wanted to take my auto-rickshaw back home. But I couldn’t afford this. Looked like I was going to earn little less, but I continued to stay there on main road waiting for customers. I thought something is better than nothing.

It was only recently that I had migrated to this city and started my job.  My job was not very exciting but I got to travel a large part of the city. While I drove my Dhanno, I felt good. The most boring part of my job used to come when I had to do nothing but wait for customers. My friends also felt the same way. At those times, the whole of auto-stand looked like as if there was no one. But as soon as any customer came, the auto-stand became alive. Every one of us fought to see who gets his customer first. We all vied to get their attention. But ultimately it all depended on them to choose which auto for traveling.

I was lost in my thoughts when I saw a girl coming outside market and approaching the auto-stand. As I had seen her first, I quickly accelerated my Dhanno before anybody could. She was wearing pink shoes, pink top, and carrying a pink mobile and pink purse in her hand. Even her earrings were pink. At first glance, she looked a typical ‘pink’ girl.  But her black jeans gave her a smart look that somehow set her apart from those pink girls. She must be in her early twenties. When I reached near to her and asked where she wanted to go. She pretended not to see me and continued to look for an auto. It was a signal for me that she was not going to travel on my Dhanno. Now I had to look for another customer. Just then another auto-rickshaw came and she boarded it without asking anything. After she told where she wanted to go, the other auto driver started the meter and proceeded.

Why did she choose the other auto? The only difference between my auto and the other one was that the the latter was driven by an old man and I was a young man. As she was traveling alone, she apparently didn’t feel safe to travel with a young person and that too when it was getting dark. She gave another indication that she was not one of those pink girls. As I was pondering on this, I found myself facing an octogenarian who was asking me if I would go to M.G Road. I said, “Sure, sir!”

My destination was also in the same direction in which the girl had gone. I got curious to see where she was going. She didn’t look like the usual shoppers who carried shopping bags. She carried only her pink purse. It was also possible that she might be carrying her stuff in her purse. But she looked more like somebody who had a home nearby and was going to meet someone. I wanted to know if I was right. And more importantly, I wanted to see her again. For me, she was a species who wore pink, but was not pink.

After driving for about fifteen minutes, her auto took a left turn which didn’t lie in my route. If I followed her to that route, it would have taken me a bit longer to reach M.G Road. Usually, I didn’t follow this tactics, which was used by my friends to earn more money from the same customer. However, my curiosity got better of me. Also, the old man wasn’t paying much attention to the route. I took a left turn and continued to follow her auto. We were now in an residential area. So, it looked like I was right she was going to meet somebody.

 Although she had offended my Dhanno, now she didn’t keep me waiting long and only after a few minutes, her auto stopped in front of a building. As I was little behind her auto, by the time I passed the building, I couldn’t see her face but only watched her callipygian figure entering the ground floor which carried the hording declaring “Homemakers Training Institute” as its name.

So, she was pink, after all.

I just wished she should be logical

It all started when I decided to tell her that I like her. Well, the answer was understandable. She was not in the same college and who now believes in distance-relationship. It sounds like retro-style romance! Doesn’t it remind you of the era when wives of the kings would wait sincerely for their husbands to return from battle-field? So, she said no to me. Initially, I felt sad but soon realized she meant good for both of us.

This could have been the end of my story had we not met again in a restaurant. It was totally unexpected. I had gone there to order food for home . I was not much happy to carry out this responsibility. But when I saw her, I realized there is something good in everything.

Wearing bright yellow top on a Denim jeans, she was smiling and talking with her friends. Committed friends had told me that restaurants are the places which are best for break-ups. Obviously, they were wrong in my case.

I slowly went to her and said, “Hi! Remember me?” I expected that her smile would fade away on seeing me.
But no, she said, “Oh, I don’t believe it. It’s you! How are you?”

I said, “Great! How are you doing?”

She said, “mast!” And then she introduced me to her friends. I ate together with her friends (Luckily, I had no friends at that time.). After dinner, she bid her friends adieu and decided to go with me. I had started feeling good about that night. By that time, we had told each other about the present status of our lives. I knew she was going to ask that question now.
Her first question came out, “Tell me, when you proposed to me what things you found in me attractive?”

“I wanted to be with you because A) You are beautiful. B) You appear to me a logical person.
(I thought I had come up with one of the most romantic lines.)
“A logical person?”

“Ya, you try to understand everything using logic. That means I can argue comfortably with you. You can’t expect to win an argument if it’s not logically argued.”

“So, you think you are logically better than me and therefore, win an argument easily.”

“No, no, I meant if I even lose, I can justify logically to me why I lost the argument.”

“Did you want to be in a relationship with me just because you could argue well with me? Thank God! I said no. Bye!”

Sometimes, you want to just eat back your words. It was one of those moments.

But where did I go wrong? Is it illogical to want a logical girlfriend? No. I guess it’ wrong to tell her why you want such a girlfriend.

Still, I would say that restaurants are not that bad for love, but places outside restaurants might be.

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