A beautiful & fascinating short love story
The Anonymous Girl is a short love story that is as crisp as to accompany your evening tea, as brief as to fit in your lunch break, and as calming as to relax your pre-sleep discomfort.
22 August 2015
“Aditya Kashyap, Berth Number 17” I read from the chart stuck outside coach number seven of Kranti Express, a train from Bhopal to Pune.
I went inside the train carrying a rucksack, sublimely stuffed by the books and clothes.
“11… 14… and yes… here it is… 17…” I burbled, flumping the husky bag on my berth.
Thumbing the switches all at once, I budged the window sheet of my as well as of the opposite berth.
Eh… These long solitary journeys… I hate them… I piqued while groping in the topmost pocket of my rucksack for the headphones. I settled down, stretching legs to the opposite berth and closed my eyes after plugging in the headphones.
For me, it was a tiresome day. I was pursuing M.Tech from a private college of Bhopal. A tight class schedule of seven hours sucked all my zeal of going home. After getting free at four in the evening, I rushed to my hostel. Packing my luggage in hugger-mugger, I somehow muddled through catching the train on time.
I used to wanna be
Living like there’s only me
And now I spend my time
Thinking ‘bout a way to get you off my mind…
A famous song of the four boys’ band – The Vamps drifted through my ears, while my mind boggled about passing the whole journey alone.
“Excuse me…” A mellifluous voice wrecked my rumination, compelling me to look up and see the face of that voice promptly.
My jaded eyes could not have seen anything more rattling than that angel in the name of beauty. I kept beholding her while she pointed to my feet, which were perhaps resting on her berth. I, like a biddable kid, followed her signals and squatted my legs.
She was beautiful.
Looking at her was a treat to my eyes. Innocence was dribbling from her silvery face. Her long black hairs, loosely tied in plaits were dangling on her back. Her eyebrows were perfectly shaped; might be threaded just a day before, for that journey.
Her brown eyes, covered with a thin layer of kohl, were deep enough to hypnotize anyone. Her beautiful lips were shining like the petals of roses, ornamented by her greeting smile. The tiny jhumkaas that swung with her every move were complimenting her red and blue churidaar perfectly.
Now I feel this journey is going to be exciting and memorable. A flicker of hope twinkled through my eyes.
“Beta… Are these our berths?” A raucous voice baffled my blowing mind. A gluttonous man seeming to be in his late forties, hosting thick mustache questioned the girl. An equal aged lady having furrows on her face followed him.
“Yes, Papa…” She replied, pointing the berth opposite to mine.
Papa…? Err… Why do their parents always accompany pretty girls? My head yelped, paling my excitement. The upside facing arc of my lips turned down. The crestfallen I concentrated back on the music, which was still blaring in my ears and turned my gaze to the people gadding over the platform.
Look at me now, I’m falling
I can’t even talk, st-stuttering
This ground of mine keeps shaking
Oh oh oh, now!
All I waana be, yeah all I ever waana be, yeah, yeah
Is somebody to you
All I waana be, yeah all I ever waana be, yeah, yeah
Is somebody to you
The beautiful girl and her silhouette parents were carrying four huge luggage bags. They stuffed and locked three bags under their berth while the fourth still strove to get a place.
“Paa… Let’s adjust it under the opposite berth…” the girl said, stepping a few steps nearer to me and recuperating my satyriasis.
There is the best thing when you share your train compartment with a goodly girl; she lives in the five to six steps for the entire journey.
As she proceeded to my berth for adjusting the left bag, I nuzzled the tempting fragrance of her perfume. The aroma she had was so enthralling that I closed my eyes and took a few seconds long deep breath to sniff her odor inside.
What nastiness are you showing? I reprimanded myself for that sneakiness.
While she locked the bag under my berth, her little finger accidentally touched mine, and she immediately pulled it back, ignoring the shivering that that giddy little finger caused inside me.
That’s rude ma’am… You should feel sorry for this mischievous act of your finger… I thought while she did not even notice the incident.
She moved back to her berth and sat opposite me, grabbing the window seat.
Next to her, set her mother and father. For more than a couple of hours, the three of them gossiped about their whole clan.
I pretended to read ‘Half Girlfriend’, one of the famous novels of Chetan Bhagat, while eavesdropping their conversation. After all, unhearing the side voices in a few meters space is unobtainable.
By then, I knew almost everything about her family and friends. The sons of her Delhi wale Mama Ji were having property conflicts, her cousin shifted to San Francisco with his wife, her neighbor bought Wagon R, changing his car for the fourth time, and her Mumbai wali friend got engaged last week.
I also learned some Indian recipes which her mother explained to her reading from the cookery book she was carrying. I finally knew why my Idli lacked that softness; I did not add Eno to the batter.
Three hours passed, and I didn’t exchange a single word with the girl, I wished to have a journey-long conversation, and maybe even longer than that. A few times, my eyes collided with hers, which she immediately shifted.
Time seemed to sprint like never before. It was already ten-thirty, and we had our dinner. I bought the packed food catered by Indian Railways, which included rice, lentil, a dish made of cheese, two loaves, and my favorite gulab jamun. While, my yonder family had their home-cooked Puri – sabzi.
The government should announce Puri – sabzi as the ‘National Food for Travelling,’ for most Indian families carry the same while they tour.
After dining, we stretched out on our respective berths to sleep. I was on the lower berth; opposite to me, it was her mother, then she on the middle and her father on the upper berth.
I wanted to internment her beauty in my eyes, while she slept, but her father’s continuous gaze on me cut off my sly ideas. Switching the lights off, I pulled up my coverlet and started thinking about the ways of starting a conversation with her the next morning.
The craving of speaking to her kept me awake, and each passing second made me hastier. After tossing and turning for hours, I perched near the window.
It was a beautiful misty morning.
The cold breeze was hitting my face, the melodious dawn chorus of birds was making it musical, and the gray remains of the last night were turning red with each ray of the rising Sun.
In the wee hours, the queen of the night seems trying to dash out from the kingdom of Sun before he makes his grand entry, wearing a royal orange dress. It feels like the birds would have chosen a band of their most melodious singers to sing the welcome song for the Sun.
When the first sunray hits the surface of a girl’s beautiful face, it shines like a fresh pearl. Her face was also glinting in the gleams of the rising Sun. I was meekly watching the glam of half-covered her face, half of which was under her quilt.
I considered getting shot of my sleepy face before she woke up. I quested for my toothbrush and face wash in the rucksack. Taking all those apparatus, I crept out, ensuring that my strolls did not knock up anyone.
Ten minutes of trifling with water, and there I was, refreshed and confident. I went back to my place. In no time, the dusky morning turned sun-drenched. The tangy sunbeams started thwacking her face and coerced her to wake up. Unlike boys, girls wake up with added charm.
For the first time, I love you… the pincher hot sun… I, in gratification, thanked the Sun for being harsh and awaking her.
I stuffed myself with a baked samosa, a sandwich, and two cups of tea. In another two hours, we were sitting again at our same places – I, she opposite me, followed by her mother and father.
Unlike the last evening, the compartment was voiceless now. Her complete attention was focused on a book, her mother was silently knitting a blue sweater, and her father was reading a newspaper. And I was yet again struggling to search a good enough topic for starting a conversation with her.
Buck up, man! It’s only two hours, and the journey will end. Talk to her. If not about anything else, say something related to the book she is reading. The intellectual inner me abetted. I tilted a bit to read the cover page of the book she was holding.
The cover had something written in bold that said: “How to crack the SSB.” SSB – (Services Selection Board) is the personality and intelligence interview conducted by the Indian Armed Forces to analyze each candidate’s potential and compatibility for joining Indian Defence.
Woohoo… my heart danced. No topic could have been better to talk than the book she is reading. I thought. Being an Army brat, I found it the most comfortable to initiate a discussion related to Defence.
“Hey… Are you going for an SSB?” I finally spoke.
Unfortunately, my sudden question startled not only her but also her parents, who frowned and stared at me as if I would have committed the biggest crime of my life by questioning their daughter.
“No…,” she said stolidly and focused back on her book.
“Then, why is this book?” I made another effort to keep the conversation going.
“Actually… I was preparing for SSB. Now that… I have got a job in Pune, and I am going to join it.” She replied.
Her parents were still listening to us with full attention, and their eyes were shuttling between both of us.
“Are you in the army?” She asked, looking at the combat printed trousers I wore.
“No, my father is in the army while I am still trying to get into it,” I said.
Seeing the conversation going long, her parents re-laid their eyes on their works, keeping their partial concentration on what we talked about.
“So how many SSBs have you given?” I asked.
“Three…” she said. “Have you given any?”
“Yes… I have given two…” I replied.
“Are you not going to apply in Defence after this job?” I said.
“Umm… Maybe not…” She said after thinking for a few seconds. “I think my introvert nature is anyway not going to let me clear any. Maybe, I am just going to move on with this job.”
With these words, her saturnine eyes sank into the pain of an unfulfilled dream.
After two-three rejections, people usually fall to their destiny. They start conceding that they were not meant for what they dreamed and start compromising with their lives, pushing all their desires to the deepest part of their hearts.
Seeing people abating their dreams of joining defense is something I never liked and neither could I see her talking like that.
“It’s nothing like that. Even I am an introvert. But, two rejections have compelled me to overcome this weakness. Just try talking to strangers, and I’m sure you will gain confidence. I feel you can make it to Indian Defence.” I said.
“And what made you feel like that?”
“You have that spark in you. All you need is to look out for the ways to overcome your weaknesses…” I said, smiling.
She smiled back.
“Anyways… Are you going for an SSB?” She asked.
“No, my father is posted in Pune. I am going to visit him.”
“Beta… What do you do?” Her mother intervened, perhaps as an attempt to divert me from her daughter after we had talked for almost one and a half-hour about SSBs, the tips to boost confidence and not losing hope.
“I am doing Masters from a private college in Bhopal, Aunty Ji.” I said courteously.
“Masters… In?” She grilled. “Masters in Technology…” I said and shifted my gaze to her daughter, intending, to continue our hindered discussion again.
“What about your family? Where do they live?” Her mother asked.
Oh really! Family? As if you are going to marry your daughter to me. I thought, getting piqued. “I belong to Delhi… My mother lives there with my younger brother…” I said, masking my snarl by a deadpan smile.
The middle-aged lady kept snowing me with the questions of no damn relevance. Except that, I was then chatting with her instead of her daughter, even after all my possible endeavors of escaping.
“Beta… Unlock the luggage… We are about to reach our destination…” Her father said to her, leaving me in shudders.
I was crackling. That beautiful girl was sitting at my opposite berth for almost 16 hours while I ended up talking to her mother. Each passing second turned me more restless. I did not want that journey to end like that.
Is there any chance that I could get her phone number? I thought. Oh! Dear Lord, please make her go out of the compartment for a few seconds. I started pleading to God.
I wanted her to go out of her parents’ sight for a few seconds so that I could reach her and ask her number. While destiny seemed to be no mood to favor me, for she kept sitting there until we reached Pune.
The train blew the horn and started slowing down, signaling the arrival of the last platform of our journey. The noise of vendors and travelers at the platform began to mingle with the uproar of passengers fighting to alight from the train first.
She unlocked all the bags keyed under her berth.
Great! She will now come to unlock this bag… Maybe I can then ask her phone number secretly. Some butterflies danced inside me, peeping at the bag she locked under my berth the last day.
“Beta… Can you please unlock it?” Her mother requested, pointing to the bag under my berth and handed over the keys to me, yet again shattering my plans of palling up with her daughter.
Perhaps, she was still chastening me for my criminal offense of talking to her beautiful girl child. I must appreciate finesse with which she kept the guy who made the felony of chewing the rag with her daughter away from her.
Hell! I wanted to yell. “Sure!” I said coldly.
Tweaking the keys, I unlocked the bag and handed it over to her mother.
“Thank you, beta…” She said. I couldn’t react anything more than a smirk.
The train jerkily stopped. Everyone rushed to the doors. She held her little girly bag on one shoulder, pulled the trolley bag from the other hand, and followed her parents to deboard the train, while I kept sitting at my berth.
I pensively watched her going, leaving me with those broken pieces of my heart.
I wanted to run and hold her hand for mimicking the dialogue, ‘Tussi ja rahe ho… tussi na jao…’ but, neither it was a movie, nor his father was the ‘Babuji’ of ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ who would have let her daughter go with someone who strangely fell in love with her in mere 16 hours.
Before going out of sight, she surprisingly turned back to me for waving goodbye. Gifting me her million-dollar smile, she disappeared in the crowd.
I was left with no other option than collecting my backpack and melt away in the same crowd. After coming out of the station, I, in vain, scanned her to the point where my sight could reach. Disheartened, I hired an auto-rickshaw to the cantonment and left.
A carefree boy who boarded the train sixteen hours ago turned crazy for an unknown girl by the end of the journey.
Was that love?
Was that love at first sight?
Or was that just an attraction of a few hours?
I was clueless.
Drenched in regrets, I accused myself of not asking her for her phone number to the later realization that I even did not ask her name.
I racked my brain to whirl through the conversation that took place between the girl and her parents during the entire journey, hoping to reach the point where she was addressed by her name. But, I could not recall anything except ‘Beta.’
Throughout the whole journey, her parents only called her ‘Beta.’
She became ‘The Anonymous Girl’ who, one beautiful day, entered into my life, gave surprise love knocks on the closed doors of my heart, and vanished in the crowd of thousands of strange faces.
It has been almost a year when I met her, but still…
My eyes search for her at each public place, my heart visualizes her beautiful smiling face, my ears listen to her melodious voice, and my soul feels her fragrance somewhere resting within me.