Making Melody Part 6

Dhaivat

That there were no second chances, she was sure of by now. She had had her chance that night at the gate outside her house. She could have chosen to walk away with him but instead, she had chosen to go inside and stand behind the door as her father slammed it shut on his face.

There was a split second before the door had shut when she had managed to catch a glimpse of him. He was standing outside her gate, illuminated by the street light above his head . The rain had petered out to a light drizzle. The play of the street light on the falling raindrops had created an illusion of a halo around him. And that was the image that had stayed with her all through these years.

She remained silent right through the drama that took place on the other side of the door. Her father had raved and ranted about how she had belied their trust while her mother had been sobbing about the shame that this would bring onto their family.

Padma was to date unsure of exactly what it is that she had supposedly done. Yes, it was 10.00PM. Her parents had been worried about her. But the delay was not deliberate. The heavy rain had brought about a land slide on their way down from the school up in the hills. The bus had halted for about two hours as efforts were on to clear the road. But the two of them had been blissfully unaware of anything that was going on around them, so wrapped up were they in each other.

Only when the road was cleared and the bus had begun to descend downward to the plains did she realize how late it was. The traffic on the winding roads was very heavy and by the time they had reached the bus station down in the town it was nearly 9.00PM.

Madhav would not let her go alone from the bus station. He had insisted on escorting her home.

She supposed it was their body language, as they had walked down the lane leading up to her house in the light drizzle that had given them away. No words had been exchanged but her parents had immediately understood that there was something that connected the young man and their daughter. It was more than an umbrella that they shared.

Despite all that her parents accused her of having done, she had refused to feel to guilty. She knew what she had experienced that day was something very rare. Never in her life had she thought that she could be connected to another human being in that way! She had stayed awake that entire night reliving each moment.

By the time the clouds cleared and the sun rays burst into the horizon, she was sure her parents would have forgiven her. However , that was not to be.

It was just before dawn that her mother had woken her up saying that her father was feeling unwell. He was complaining of breathlessness.

She had run down the road to the doctor who lived next door. He had told them to move her father to a hospital immediately. He was in the first stage of a heart attack. They had rushed him to the hospital.

The clouds had floated away, the sun had risen, the birds had sung but all that Padma could remember of that morning was the inside of the hospital room. The guilt that she had fought against engulfed her now!  In some corner of her mind a thought was slowly creeping in – that maybe she had brought this upon  her father!

She had prayed hard for him to recover, in sheer desperation promising herself that if her father recovered she would never do anything to make him unhappy again. The gods had probably heard her prayers because he had recovered and after two weeks been discharged from the hospital.

Now, it was up to her to keep her word.

She had stayed away from Madhav for the rest of the semester. After a couple of attempts at talking to her he had stopped seeking her company. He had graduated that year and she had stayed away from the graduation ceremony.

There were many a times that she had wanted to meet him and explain to him why she was staying away. But she never managed to muster up the courage to face him. She knew she had failed him and he would probably not forgive her for it ever!!

She focused her energies instead on her studies. She aced every exam that she took and it did not surprise anyone when she won a scholarship to go abroad for her master’s degree.

But she could not deny the fact that his absence had left a void in her heart. She had tried to make discreet inquiries about his whereabouts. But considering the fact that he was such a loner, it had been difficult to find out about him. He was like the air that blew out of his lungs, through the holes in his flute. Invisible, until the music started

A few years into her doctoral program, she had run into one of his classmates from college. During the course of their conversation she had learnt that he had been at  Vienna for a while, studying western classical music and playing with an orchestra. She had wanted to know more but by that time, she was almost engaged to Vineet and she did not think it was right to open what she considered a closed chapter from her past.

Unfortunately, what she had considered a closed chapter was anything but that!. It was a continuing melody. She knew it deep within her, the “Mukhda” had to be followed by the “Antara”. It was only a matter of time……..

( To be continued)

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Making Melody Part 5

Pancham

She had tried calling the number given to her by the boy at the school. It was a land line number that kept ringing every time she called. It was truly frustrating…! She tried watching the school from her balcony to see who was coming and going. But that was a wild idea anyway!

He continued to remain elusive…!! Her eyes filled up with tears. It had been her fault ..! She had had her chance but had lost it.

“A confused coward of a girl who was out to please everyone!” she thought bitterly. It had taken her, fifteen years to realize that pleasing everyone was not something that was humanly possible. It also meant displeasing a very important person – her own self! It was this realization that had given her the courage to do what she had, in the last six months.

People had thought she was crazy to leave a lucrative research career in the US and relocate to India. Vineet, her husband was vehemently opposed to her plan, which in the beginning, had included him.

“What? Are you crazy?” he had thundered in his usual loud voice.

For a man who was least interested in her career, he seemed to know a lot about how India would not offer her any options in post doctoral research. She could not imagine how she had spent nearly ten years married to someone like him.

To him everything was either money and what money could buy. A man who cared neither for art nor science. She had to listen to music in her car while she was driving to the university least he be “disturbed” by the sound. She could not read books while he was at home- unless they were connected with her work.

Every minute of her attention had to be devoted to him.

She realized soon enough, that she was to him, an acquisition. A brilliant scientific mind that also cooked his meals and did his laundry. And that is what she became after a while – a trained robot!

She had kept the reality away from her parents for as long as she could. But soon, her late parents had understood what was happening with their daughter’s life. She did not know if it was guilt, but her father had died willing to her the flat that she was now living in! It wasn’t very much by way of an asset, considering that it was small and located in a very modest part of town. But yes, it was a roof over her head. An asset she could count on, when she decided to tell her husband that she was going anyway.

She had by then, obtained a teaching assignment at the University in the town. They were very honored to have her. She did not know if teaching was what she wanted to do ultimately, but it certainly gave her a platform to land on when she came back home.

Vineet had raved and ranted about her decision to go anyway. And finally he had thrown at her what he considered his final ultimatum- “Stay here or be prepared to be divorced”.

Strangely, she had been so relieved when he had said it! It had saved her the trouble of having to articulate it at some point later.

He had been very nasty about the entire process of separation . But she had stood up to it ,had finally packed her bags and moved out.

“Is this what I want? This lonely existence?” she wondered turning her head to look out of the window.

But the path to self realization wasn’t an easy one. She knew she had wandered away from everything that she had wanted at one point in her life . Today, it might not be possible to get all of that back but she sincerely hoped she could get that one vital part of her past back- Madhav!!

However, the question was whether he wanted her back? Yes it was a coincidence that he worked in a school near her house but that may not mean much..!! And anyway why hadn’t he contacted her? The school would  have shared her name and contact details with him.

It probably meant he may not want to renew his contact with her…!

Why did she ever imagine he would be still waiting for her at the gate to her house as she had left him on that fateful night…? He was not like a constant note in a raga or a stabilizing notation in a formula. He was human and therefore subject to change

She was definitely a fool..! Such things did not happen in real life. One had to face to the consequences of one’s actions.

In life there were no second chances.

Pancham : The  Power of the constant 

Making Melody Part 4

Madhyama

The three hour ride up the winding roads on a rickety state transport bus was probably one of her best journeys so far! The lush greenery on both sides of the road, the spray from a waterfall as the bus passed close to it and of course Madhav’s presence on the seat next to hers.

She had been in two minds when he had asked her if she would come with him to the tiny village up in the hills. There was a residential school for tribal children up there, where he went every now and then to do some volunteer work. It was not something that many people knew. So she felt very special that he had asked her. It was to be a day trip. They had left early in the morning and were expected to be back later in the evening.

It hadn’t been easy to get permission from her family. However, when she had told them about the school and volunteer work her father had agreed. But of course she had omitted to mention the fact that it was just her and Madhav who were going. She felt a bit guilty about that. Anyway, she was glad that she was here with him. She loved the way her body bumped into Madhv’s as the bus negotiated the curves. She had looked up to find him smiling at her.

She remembered that smile even today.. it had been such a special moment!

They had got down from the bus and trekked up the hills for about twenty minutes before they reached the school.

“Why have you chosen a school in such a remote village to do your volunteer work ?” she had asked.

“I did not choose the school. It chose me. I used to come here with my mother when she was alive” he said.

She had itched to know more. She knew he had lost both his parents and lived with an old grandfather in an equally old and rambling house in the middle of town. It was rumored that his family was one of the oldest in the town. They were also considered to be one of the richest. She  wondered what had brought his mother to this place.

He was obviously a familiar figure in the school because everyone in the school from teachers to students were greeting him. The Head master came out of his room with hands folded in greeting.

“It was so nice of you to come. As always we have prepared our special lunch. We will have it served in some time” he said.

The children in the meanwhile were surrounding him and asking him to play the flute. Some of them looked at her curiously.

“This is Padma Didi. She is my friend. Say Namaste to her” he had said.

She blushed as the children turned their attention to her and chorused out the greeting.

She sat next to him under the shade of the huge peepul tree on campus as he took out the flute and held it to his lips. It was 10.00 AM , mid morning. He started to play Raag Asavari and then Raag Bhairavi. Bemused as always, she had watched him play. Clad in a black T shirt and jeans with his hair flying in the breeze he made a strange sight amid the children in this remote school.

“What are you thinking?” he had asked with a smile as the last note left his lip and fingers.

“I was thinking about the Pied Piper of Hamelin You have the same kind of magic with these children’ she had said with a laugh.

“ Only with the children?” he had asked softly looking into her eyes.

Dared she hope that he was giving her a message or was she reading something that was not there?

“ Well even the teachers and the others seem to be under your spell” she had said blushing.

“Not any spell Padma. They are just grateful for the support they are getting for the school from my family” he had said

“Support? But isn’t this a government school? “ she asked

“ It is . But these schools rarely receive the funds they are entitled to from the government. So the trust set up by my late mother helps with the day today expenses.” He said.

“Sir, lunch will be ready by 12.00 noon. Do you want to sit inside the office until then?” asked a teacher

“No. It is okay. We will walk around.” He said waving him away.

“Come lets go up that hill. I will show you a beautiful spot” he said pointing eastward.

She followed him trying to keep pace with his long strides. She admired the way he lithely negotiated the steep hill side.

“Here let me help you” he said extending his hand as she tried vainly to climb up a particularly steep section.

She hesitated, not wanting any physical contact with him.

“Come on trust me. I will not let you down” he had urged, his hand outstretched. She had felt silly about her reluctance and put her hand into his hoping he wouldn’t feel her racing pulse as he pulled her up.

They were at a clearing. The view beyond was fantastic. She could see the world stretched out in front of her. The breeze was strong. She could feel her dupatta flying away. She watched him grab the flying fabric in mid air.

“Here. Hold on to it now” he said with a laugh as he draped it around her shoulder.

“Come, its not far from here” he said pulling her hand.

She could hear the roar of the water fall even before she saw it. It was beautiful!! They were less than a couple of feet away from it. She watched the sunlight play on the water droplets and saw a rainbow.

“Did you see the rainbow out there Madhav? That is caused by the refraction of sunlight on the water drops which act as prisms” she said excitedly.

“Yes!! But everything cannot be explained by the laws of physics” he had said sitting down on a rock.

She agreed. Who could explain the magic of this moment? It seemed like the entire universe had come to a stand still. She wanted to reach across and run her fingers through his locks. He was looking at her intently. She clenched her fingers at her side, hoping he hadn’t read her thoughts.

“My mother brought me here nearly a dozen years ago” he said. “ I used to accompany her to all the places she went to as part of her charity work. But this is my favorite. And you are the only other person I  have brought here with me ”

“ I am honored” she had said with a smile.

“Today is her death anniversary” he said looking away abruptly.

“How many years has it been ?” she asked softly

“Ten years” he said

She waited in silence for him to speak again. It seemed like an eternity before he resumed the conversation. “She died in an accident on the way down to town. The car skidded off the hill side. It was raining heavily that evening. It was a miracle I survived”

“ I am sorry “ she whispered.

“ It is okay. I think death for her was a release. Her marriage had already broken up thanks to my grandfather’s meddling. My parents divorced when I was hardly seven. It was just this charity work that gave her some purpose in life” he said looking away from her.

“But I am sure you would have also been a source of joy to her” she asked.

“ I was .. I guess. Until my father and her father decided to use me as a pawn in their power game. There was a long drawn custody battle. My father’s family tried to paint her as mentally unsound so that they could get custody. But the old man had better lawyers. He portrayed my father as a drunkard and a womanizer. Anyway, my grandfather won the case and here I am living with him” he said bitterly.

“Madhav..please don’t feel sad.. turn around” she said putting her hand up to his shoulder.

And when he did turn around she had found herself melting in his arms. She felt his lips come down on hers and closed her eyes enjoying the most beautiful and silent melody ever! As his hands moved over her body, an irrational part of her mind wondered if the flute tucked away inside his pocket was envying her now.

( Teevra Madhyam …. Can we now expect the Vadi and Samvadi to start coming together…….)

Making Melody Part 3

Gandhar

It was 3 o’clock ! About four hours since the music had stopped. The clanging of the school bell every three quarters of an hour gave a pretty good idea about when the school was likely to get over for the day.

The sound of the bell was now followed  by that of children getting ready to leave for the day- As squeals and shouts of young voices, filled the air, she closed the door to her flat and made her way downstairs towards the school.

Standing outside the school gates she watched the children coming out. She wondered if she should go inside the campus to look for him.

After about fifteen minutes she decided she would go inside. It was unlikely that she would get any worthwhile information about Madhav from the watchman at the gate.

“Excuse me sir, can you tell me the way to the school administrative office?” she asked the old watchman.

“ Go straight down and turn right. First room at the corner” he said waving her inside.

She walked down feeling rather conscious about herself. It had been ages since she had left school. Unlike other women of her age , she hadn’t rediscovered it as a mother yet.
Why, she hadn’t even discovered motherhood ….! She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present.

The administrative office was dotted with people- the staff, some teachers, parents and students. Padma stood outside wondering how she should go about asking her question. Mustering up some confidence she walked up to a woman seated behind a desk and said.

“Hi, I would like to admit my child in this school. Can I have a prospectus and an application form?”

“ Admissions for the new academic year start from next month. Please pay Rs 200 for the form and prospectus” she said depositing an envelope in front of Padma.

“Thank you” said Padma pulling out her wallet and taking out a Rs 500 note

As the woman was looking through her drawer for the change she asked casually. “ Do you have music classes for children here? My child is interested”

“Yes of course, we do. Madhav sir comes here twice a week to teach the children to play the flute” said the woman fishing out the change.

“Madhav…. Do you mean Madhav Menon ?” asked Padma carefully.

“Yes. Do you know him?” asked the woman looking at her .

“Oh .. a little bit! He was in my college. When did he start teaching music here ?” asked Padma

“I don’t remember. May be two to three years ago. I have been working here only for a year now” said the woman.

“Do you have his contact details?” she asked, her heart beating loudly.

“We do. But then we cannot give it out to anyone like that” said the woman.

Padma turned around to leave, trying to hide the disappointment on her face.

“Madam, please wait . You can leave your name and address here. I can pass it on to him if you wish” called out the woman, extending a small notepad towards her.

With shaking fingers, Padma wrote out her name and address. There was no telephone number yet that she could share.

As she started walking out from the room towards the gate she heard a young voice call out to her. It was a  boy, about twelve years old who had been standing outside the office overhearing her conversation.

“Aunty, I have Madhav Sir’s phone number?” he said.

Taking a notebook out of her bag she scribbled down the number. She smiled at the little fellow and thanked him.

“Aunty, Sir is a very nice person. He pays my school fees here” said the boy looking at her seriously.

She nodded. No one needed to tell her that. His passion to help less privileged people was almost the same as his passion for music.But he rarely spoke about it. Like everything else about him it was camouflaged behind his unorthodox exterior. A facet of himself that he revealed only to those who he considered close.

She had been one of those few who had seen and experienced that side to him. But sadly, it hadn’t given her the courage to follow her heart..

( From Shuddh  to Teevra  next )

Making Melody Part 2

Rishabh

Going to a co ed college had been a big step in Padma’s student life. But considering that it was the best college in the country, it was also a rare honor for her. No one in her family had ever been there.

Coming as she did from a traditional family, Padma stayed in the shadows of the college campus trying her best not to draw attention to herself in her cotton salwar kameeze. She came in and left the classroom and the campus quietly. Nobody noticed her and she was glad that it was that way. She couldn’t imagine what she would have done if a smart boy or girl on campus had tried to speak to her.

It was two weeks into college, one cloudy afternoon, as she was sitting unobtrusively by a window inside the library that her entire life changed!

She heard the most divine melody wafting upwards from the quadrangle below.

Someone was playing Raag Malhar on the flute! There was no mistaking it !

She tried to drag her attention back to the seventh edition of “Advanced level physics by Nelkon and Parker” lying open in front of her. But try as much as she could, her mind refused to focus. It was as though someone or something was trying to take it over.

She bent over from the window trying to see who it was. But the musician remained out of sight.

Her mind was in a turmoil. She felt someone was calling out to her desperately. She wanted to know who was playing something so divine.

She shut the book and put it back into the shelf and started running downstairs.

The quadrangle was empty. Under normal circumstances she would have avoided cutting across it and drawing attention to herself. . But this wasn’t normal. There was something supernatural that was calling out to her.

The dark cloud in the meanwhile, unfolded into shards of lightening. But the rolling thunder did nothing to drown the divine sound. She watched him mesmerized as the first drops of rain began to fall.

His eyes were closed as his lips and fingers worked magic on air columns. His shoulder length hair was flying in the wind!

Even after fifteen years, that was the image that came to her mind every time she thought about him.

She did not know how long she had stood around like that. It was only when he had stopped playing that she realized where she was.

“You are completely drenched ” he had said opening his eyes and looking at her for the first time.

She shivered. Not so much from the cold dampness of her clothes but from the heat of his gaze.

“Come here. It is dry “ he had said indicating a spot next to him.

She had gone there as though drawn by an invisible string.

“Hi I am Madhav. Are you a fresher?” He had asked.

“Yes” she had nodded.

And thus had begun the most unusual relationship !.

Padma Srinivasan- B.Sc First year Physics, nerd of the first order, with the confidence of an ant and Madhav Menon, B.A Final year English , mysterious , loner with the conversation ability of a rock became what could only be called the “Odd couple” on campus.

He waited for her outside the lab or the library while she stood in the corner watching him complete his practice session with the college band.

Sometimes he played for her under the Frangipani tree in the corner of the campus. He often walked her to her bus stop and once they had walked all the way together to the end of her street in complete silence.

People didn’t know what to make of the relationship.

“Be careful. He is a crazy fellow. He probably does weed” said one of the girls in her class.

But Padma did not care. She lived for those moments that they spent together

The Aroh has just begun)

Making Melody Part 1

“Shadaj”

Padma could hear it distinctly!!

The sound of the falling water from the shower or the traffic outside her balcony did little to drown it.

But then how could she forget it? This melody was etched in her memory since the first time she had heard it. How many years was it she wondered as she reached for the towel to dry herself.

Fifteen ? Sixteen?

She quickly emerged from the bathroom and rummaged through her suitcase to find some clean clothes to put on before tracing the source of the song.

It was only yesterday that she had moved into this flat. Her luggage was still to arrive. All that she had with her now were a couple of suitcases and a few cartons of books.

Putting on a pair of sweat pants and a T shirt she stepped outside into the balcony. There was no mistaking it! It was Hamsadhwani – her favorite Raag ! And there was no mistaking the instrument – the flute which had haunted her dreams for the last decade and a half!

And dared she hope it was those same lips and fingers that were affecting her senses like this?

Her ears and eyes sought the source. The song was coming out of the school building next door. She wanted to go there and find out if it was indeed him who was playing it.

But a saner part of her told her that it was  crazy  to just barge into a school building and ask who was the musician playing the flute. She wanted to ignore that sane part of herself. However she knew that was a battle she would lose. That part of her had always ruled her decisions.

That same “sane” self… which had always made her do the “right” things in her life- to focus on her books when she had wanted to sing, to stay indoors when she had wanted to dance in the rain, to keep her thoughts and emotions hidden behind an impassive face when she had wanted to let go and scream them out aloud!

“Has it all been worth it” she wondered as she made her way back inside the room.

To the world it probably seemed like it had but she knew that it hadn’t been that easy.

Doing the right thing was okay as long as you knew what was right for you. The problem with Padma had been that she had allowed everyone but herself to define what was “right” for her.Her parents had wanted her to pursue a career in science and so she had. She was a Ph.D in Physics from a reputed university. They had wanted her to take up teaching as a career as it supposedly enabled a very happy and peaceful married life for a woman. She had agreed.

Everyone was happy when she agreed to marry the successful Wall Street financial whiz selected by her family. It was within their community and in all aspects a “match made in heaven”

But making everyone happy had made Padma tiered. And the match was far from being made in heaven!! She shuddered as she thought about the hell that she had left behind.

The melody has ceased. The silence seemed deafening. She decided  she would go to the school a little later in the afternoon and find out!

She wanted to start doing what was right for her. Looking for Madhav seemed to be the best way to do it.

Madhav…… how was she so sure it was him?

But it had to be!! No other person could create magic out of a bamboo tube like that!

( Wait… listen to the complete “Sargam” )

Between now and forever

Arjun got down from the train and looked around. It was a small station in the middle of nowhere.
He looked at his watch – 5.00 AM! Almost an hour since the train had halted there. He wondered what the matter was. There were others like him – irritated co passengers from the train who were also pacing the platform.

“What seems to be the matter?” he asked a middle aged man standing outside the next coach.

“There has been a derailment up ahead. A goods train” said the man rubbing his eyes sleepily.
Arjun made his way to the station master’s room. There was no one there. He looked around for someone who could tell him how long they were going to be stranded here.

It was chill. His breath clouded mistily around him. He needed to drink something hot. The jacket he was wearing was meant for the AC inside his coach and not for a roofless railway platform in the middle of the ghat section in the South Western railway sector.

He headed for the sole tea stall, a few yards away.

The stall owner was doing brisk business as a crowd of passengers had already gathered around it. He was also giving out some informal updates on when the train was likely to start. “Not for another two hours. The emergency rescue team reached the derailment site only an hour ago. The area is a ghat section. Not easy” he said cheerfully as he passed around paper cups filled with hot steaming tea.

Arjun paid for his cup and turned around to walk towards a less crowded spot. The people around the stall were suffocating him. Balancing his cup in one hand, he tried to put his wallet back into the pocket of his jeans. Not easy.. some of the liquid split out!

“Ouch! Please be careful. You have spilt hot tea on my feet!” said a woman’s voice angrily. Words of apology quickly rose to Arjun’s lips and froze!

No ! It couldn’t be !

He walked a little further away and turned back to look at her. The morning light was creeping out of the horizon and enveloping the platform in a soft golden glow. And in that golden light, he saw the face that had etched itself in his memory.

She had changed. Her face was thinner and she had cut her hair short. But the same determined chin thrust out of her face!

How many years had it been her wondered.. Four? Five? Five he realized after he did the calculation in his head.

He watched her as she sipped the tea out of the cup, holding her palms cupped over the rim. An odd mannerism.. almost childish! He had commented about it the first time they had met.

He had not wanted to meet her. He did not believe in arranged marriages. But after thirty two years of waiting around for his dream girl to waft into his life, he had allowed his sister to bully him into meeting a “girl”.

He had been distinctly uncomfortable as he had sat around at a Bangalore coffee shop waiting for her. He had seen a photograph of hers. A rather ordinary looking girl, neither dark nor fair. A sharp nose and a chin that thrust itself forward. A face that would easily be lost in a crowd. But then neither was he a film star!

However everything changed the moment she walked towards him. She had a smile that dimmed the world around him. It enveloped him in a warmth that made him feel very special.

“Hi I am Riya” she had said extending her hand briskly as he had stood up uneasily. After the initial awkwardness he had settled down. She had done most of the talking while he had listened quietly, nodding his head at appropriate intervals. Her voice was like honey and her eyes danced as she spoke.

She worked for a NGO. She had easy air of confidence that came from knowing who she was. A rare quality, he had never observed in any other woman. She was dressed simply and wore minimal make up. He was thankful for that because, women who were all dressed up irritated him.

They had talked for a couple of hours. The liked the same books, the same kind of music and the same movies. Unlike other women who wanted to know about his “prospects” as an astrophysicist she did not ask him the inevitable question about why he was working in India or why he had no interest in going abroad.

He was almost certain that she was the girl for him. It was when he was about to ask her about meeting again and getting to know each other better that she asked him something startling.
“Arjun, I have a request. Please don’t say no” she had said gazing into his eyes.

He shook his head smiling. She probably had some views on dowry or the marriage ceremony. Or may be she wanted him to shave his beard. Whatever… he was ready to agree to anything that she was going to ask!

But what she did ask for, left him stunned!

“Can you please tell your sister that you are not interested in me? Say I am not fair enough, or I am very opinionated… whatever” She said pleadingly.

“But.. why? I really like you” he had stammered.

“Arjun, it is like this. I am involved in another relationship. He is married. We are waiting for him to get a divorce. If my parents get to know of it they will be very shocked! I have been trying to reject all the marriage proposals that they have been coming up with. But yours will be a difficult one to say no to . If you refuse on the other hand, I can buy some time at my end” she had confessed.

He had been in a fix. To say “yes “to her would be saying “no” to his hopes.

But yes, he had said. He had told his sister that he had found the girl “most uninteresting”. A lie that had haunted him through the past five years .

He stole a glance in her direction. She was standing outside the door to her carriage. He wondered if he should speak to her. Would she remember him? Was she married to that chap now? Was he on the train too?

To hell with it!! He decided he had nothing to lose. He wanted to speak to her.

“Riya” he said softly walking up to her.

“Hello.. Arjun isn’t it?” she said as a  smile suffused  her face.

There! She had remembered his name. It was a good omen.

“How are you?” He asked her.

“Good. And you? I hope you are married to a nice girl now” she said with a soft laugh.

“No …! Haven’t found anyone yet. What about you? Are you married?” he asked

Her face clouded over. Did he imagine it or did she  avoid looking at him.

“No Arjun. I have started my own NGO. It requires a lot of my time. I don’t think I can manage marriage and my work together. So I have chosen to stay unmarried” she said softly.

“What does your NGO do” he asked her.

“We work with Tribal communities along the Western Ghats on health and livelihood issues” she said, her eyes lighting up in the way that he remembered from his dreams.

“Let us sit under that tree there. You can tell me more about it” he said pointing to one end of the platform.

“Okay” She said walking along with him.

They spoke for two hours or may be more. Dawn gave way to morning. Packets of idli and vadas followed the cups of tea. They almost missed hearing the clanging of the bell at the station announcing the departure of the train. They just about made it to her coach as the engine hooted!

The coaches were not connected. His coach was further down. He wondered if he could make it as the train started pulling out of the station.

“Hey Arjun, get on this coach for now” she said pulling him inside.

For now.. yes certainly!

It was a long enough journey

Between now and forever, there were immense possibilities!

(This story is for my friend Anu. She complains that most of my stories have unhappy endings. )

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