Ashish was just beginning to doze when he was rudely awoken by her. A thin girl with glasses, she had more kilograms by way of luggage than on her person. She was struggling with the various pieces- pushing some under his seat while trying to put some up on the rack above, all the while blocking the aisle.
“Can I help you ?” he asked gallantly. She ignored him and shoved the bag up on the rack with all her might. As she jumped down to ground level he felt a sharp sting across his face – her thick plait had struck him like a whiplash!
He glared at her rubbing his face tenderly. She sat down on the aisle seat oblivious to him and took out a book, in the process strewing all kinds of odds and ends like a scarf, a mobile and some papers on the seat in between. He was glad that he was seated by the window with one seat between them. He had no wish to be injured again by her or her paraphernalia. He turned his face towards the window and watched the countryside rushing by.
The ghat section was beautiful. There were points when the drops from the little waterfalls on the hillsides almost splashed on the window of the AC chair car coach. He saw a bunch of village boys frolicking under one of them. He wished he could have got down and taken some pictures. They would be great for his next entry on his photo blog!
Hillsides and children were her particular favourite….He smiled to himself. There he had again said it to himself!!
What was it with him he wondered.. why were her likes now determining his creative expressions? When he had started his photo blog a year and a half ago it was to provide a space for himself to show case his hobby- photography! It helped him cope with his day today existence of being a financial analyst who lived with numbers. His blog had little by way of words- most of it being images.
He rarely got more than a few comments. He had never felt a need for acknowledgement from others- that is until she visited his virtual space a few months ago . She had commented on one of his favorite pictures- of a cowherd sitting on a buffalo and playing a flute. For the first time in his life, he felt there was someone who was able to describe very accurately in words what he sought to convey through his images.
He had gone back to her blog. Unlike his, her expression was only through words. She was very witty and often rather sarcastic. She could through her words, laugh at herself as well as others. She wrote about current affairs, her experiences from her life and work and other day today issues. He was amazed at her ability to convey her message so clearly- yes she was often very opinionated and they had sometimes had debates on issues that had filled up the comments section on her blog. He admired her clarity of thought and her command over the language.
Her email id was “manita”- as was her blog ID. He had often referred to her as “Anita” thinking it must be M. Anita or Anita M. But she had corrected him telling him he was wrong. Manita… odd name- he had thought! There was nothing on her blog to suggest who she might be in her real life. She had written up her profile in such a way that it conveyed a lot about her beliefs without actually revealing anything about her identity! Clever!
He had sometimes tried to search for her profile on facebook but predictably could not locate her. The blog did not make her email id public so there was no way he could mail her. Therefore, all communication had to be restricted to the blogworld. Sometimes he felt that he said more than he meant to in his comments on her blogs and when she commented on his he wondered if he imagined meanings beyond what her words had conveyed….. He could not deny it but he had a mental image of her as a graceful woman with an enigmatic smile.
His thoughts were disturbed by a clicking sound- the girl on the aisle seat was working on a lap top. He scowled at her for intruding into his thoughts. She ignored him and continued with her typing. She also had an annoying habit of shaking her head and sometimes her body as she typed- it made the seats creak loudly. She was humming something under her breath- completely out of tune! Did he imagine it or was she smiling to herself ? Okay so she was smiling to herself why did he think it was a private joke at his expense…?
A coffee vendor was coming down the aisle. He beckoned him towards himself and as he was trying to collect the coffee with one hand and pay the fellow with the other – the girl on the aisle seat suddenly made a movement..
“ Ouch!!” he screamed as hot coffee split down the front of his T shirt
“Sorry Uncle. I was just trying to plug my computer to the point on top of your window” she said settling back into her seat.
He did not know what angered him more – the fact that his favourite T shirt was stained with coffee or that she had called him “Uncle”!! He decided he needed to sit somewhere else- the seat was anyway sticky and he did not want his pants also to be stained with coffee!
“Excuse me” he said as he took his satchel from its spot under the seat in front and moved to a vacant seat two rows ahead. He would speak to the TTE later about this change.
Uncle indeed!!! Agreed he was prematurely grey but he was not a day older than thirty six. And she was definitely no teenager either. She must have been around twenty five or so..! A clumsy girl with no manners!!! He should have stepped on her long plait while getting out…
He turned his attention to the countryside once again. But the sights on this side of the train were not so picturesque. He got out his iPOD and connected up. The song began to soothe him. As he listened to Kishore Kumar sing about his “Sapnon ki Rani” he began to calm down. Ironic he was on the train and there was a road running parallel just like in the song– he looked at the vehicles passing by. Where was she? His thoughts went back to where they were .. to his unknown soul mate in the virtual world. Manita…. he wondered.. again. There was definitely something there.. “Could it be .Ofcourse!. Namita! A clever shuffling of words” he thought with a smile. Yes!!! He wanted her to know that he had deciphered her name!
He took out his lap top and plugged it on and inserted the internet data card! Unfortunately the signal seemed to be bad. It was not connecting. “ Maybe at the next station the connectivity will improve” he thought setting his lap top on the tray table in front of him. He leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes in anticipation. This was some kind of an omen – his stumbling upon her name. He had not waited thirty six years for nothing! He was sure now that he knew her name he would be able to find her. And then? Well… life held many possibilities!
The train was slowing down. There was some commotion from behind as his former co passenger – the girl with the long hair and many bags tried to move towards the door. He heard someone shout “Ma’m pleeesse. Watch where you put your bags” This time she did not seem to be bothered about apologizing as she moved down the aisle towards the door. He was thankful that he had escaped her departure otherwise it might have been his foot that had received her bags.
He looked at his computer – the internet had connected! He opened up Firefox and clicked on the icon that listed his favorites – the URL to her blog.
Ah.. there was a new post today. What was this…? “Humsafar” – a fictitious letter written by her to a co passenger on a train journey. He scrolled down quickly reading bits and pieces “ grouchy young man with an old man’s hair and demeanor” “ pretending to be asleep” “ comical expression when some drops of coffee spilt ” “Ran far away”…
Oh my God!! It couldn’t be!
He rushed out of the train and tried to look for her. The milling crowd made it impossible to spot anyone.. He walked down the length of the coach and back again. Meanwhile he heard the train whistle. He ran up to the door and just as he was going to board the coach his eyes fell on the reservation chart.
He looked at the name against seat no 23 – it said “Tanima Chaterjee F, Age 27 !
( this is my first experience with a new age love story. It is based on some interesting experiences I have read on posts by fellow bloggers about travel companions. Hope you like it too)