It’s an extremely tiring day at the office. I mean the previous office, my sincere prayers for folks stuck.
Now, as usual a practice with a few nocturnal animals there masquerading as creative writers, we three made it a point that we should always push the limits, test the boundaries and etc. stuff and sometimes were able to do the same. You might be wondering what those boundaries were, actually that was our in-time at home. Yeah, it’s a big deal when you’ve girls with you.
So, it all started when these two ladies and I were thinking of going out. We just didn’t want to go home directly after office that day. After fighting with consequent cancelling of Ubers, actually not their fault inside Sainik Farms it’s really messy so it’s less likely for a cabbie to be there in 10 minutes. So, the arrival of cab always crossed the arrival time and tested our patience.
We finally got a ride and headed to Hauz Khas Village, not a special desire to be there just these ladies didn’t want to try something fancy and yet they wanted the HKV like atmosphere, so I had a place in my mind for them.
This spot is Prem Paranthe Wale, Prem Bhaiya’s parantha stall is located in the lanes of HKV. For those of you who have been at Kunzum Cafe, just take a left from the cafe and there’s a narrow lane which will lead to a parking lot on the left hand side and a table-chair arrangement on the right, there you go, Prem Paranthe Wale. For ordering food when you’ll say, ‘Bhaiya’. He’ll reply almost immediately, ‘Haanjeeee Saar’ or ‘Haanjeee Mdem’ (trying best to communicate his accent through words, it’s easy to mimic then to write sometimes).
We three had a round of cigarettes and then ordered Paranthas and Chai. Worth it, ladies liked it and we massaged our ego by saying that we’re better off than more than half of the office going people who are missing fun in their lives. Okay, that was just a feeling and we’re running out of any specific thing to talk about except bitching about one or two guys and yeah, we didn’t have much to talk about anyway!
It’s the time when winters were approaching and the pollution which was passed as morning fog was omnipresent at all times in Delhi.
After having our paranthas, chai and noodles we booked an auto for SDA Market because we still didn’t feel like going to our home.
There were other things which happened in between as in I played the song, Tum Saath Ho in auto, or say we’re discussing random things about Rockstar and Tamasha, and as Ved was an engineer and fate has it, I’m as well, so we’re talking about that. Just talking about life in general. But why am I saying this? Let it be. It’s not important but shouldn’t be skipped either. Stupid things make life which it is right now.
Moving on, we are now in SDA Market and had another round of cigarettes. After that we decide that we’ll have tea at Chaayos, experiments with Chai. Chaayos then was celebrating it’s anniversary week so they had this offer which was on order above X amount you’ll get 500 gm Chai-patti free. Yeah, we got that. We’re still happy about it. Bullshit. Sorry, hashtag(#)Bullshit!
In Chaayos, I really craved to read something and read out aloud. Last time also when I was there with my friends, it’s intense and we had a really nice time, I thought to replicate it but in vain.
The piece I wanted to read out to these ladies was, Why I adore the night by Jeanette Winterson published in The Guardian in 2009.
Then what did we do?…. Let’s stop here, at this point of time do not search for any out of the box thing, the end is fairly simple and absurd.
After having our cup(s) of tea we decided to leave. One of the two, didn’t wish to and me too. So we pondered on the possibilities but we both dropped the plan and decided to head to our respective homes.
From the three of use, one is waiting for her cab for PG; the other one and I have boarded the auto for Green Park. She’ll be staying with her friend in the Green Park area and I’ll be boarding the metro.
It’s 11:45 PM.
I just had second thoughts, even I can stay at one of my friends’ place but thought against it. When I entered the metro station even the security guy woke up and very reluctantly did his duty, to perform regular action with the equipment.
Now I’m making my way to the platform, the platform is vacant save for two guys there. One on my right and one on my left. The guy on my right have just got up and boarded the metro towards Huda City Centre. I’m getting downstairs to reach the platform. I see someone looking at me. No, he’s staring at me, the guy on my left. The way he’s standing there seems like he’ll be boarding the metro towards Samaypur Badli, I thought popped in my mind.
I stood at a considerable distance. Then suddenly it strike me that I’ve not had my medicines, dose for the night. (FYI: Bronchitis) To pop up my pills I went towards the staircase and he’s standing nearby the staircase so we both had a regular eye contact there. A quick, strange and unlikely eye-contact, so I’ll take that back, the word ‘regular’.
I’ve taken my medicines now. And I’m back to the position where I was standing. Now, as is my habit, I feel extremely uncomfortable in the metro without a book. And I generally go with my Jhola which contains a water bottle, a book to read and a diary to write. And my wallet as well. No security issues, I just hate keeping it in my back pocket.
I’m now reading Conversations with God (Book I): An uncommon dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch. He’s staring at me now, I can see that. I’m thinking now, “Why man? What’s up with you?”. Second thought, “He doesn’t look like one who will stare at someone for no reason. He’s tall, handsome, and dressed nicely. But no sign of a bag or something.” Third thought, “He might have read the book. Or maybe he hasn’t just wants to have a look at it. Or it’s possible that we might have met at one of the book-meets!”.
It amazes me whenever I think of that instant even now after almost a month. What made me think too much? What made my heart to beat faster than ever? I never have been so nervous.Whatever it was, it was weird.
“Better, he’s looking away”, I thought then I considered not to steal a look and concentrate on my book. Then “Boy, he’s coming towards me.” Now my heart is beating like crazy, I guarantee that it skipped a beat when I saw his shoes approaching towards me, nearer to me with every second. “Phew, he stopped.” I breathed at last. He’s having a look at the map now.
Ten minutes have passed and no sign of metro. This was supposed to be as it was the last metro for the route and hence the delay. Now I turned my head to have a look at the time display board to see at what time the train will arrive. And he’s looking at me. “What’s up with you?”, I shouted inside carefully not expressing these words through my facial expressions or with my body.
Maybe I’m over thinking but imagine there’s no one here, I mean at the metro, at this hour and one person is constantly looking at you. What do you think about it?
For the first time after looking at him and maintaining the eye contact for say more than a few seconds, I realized he’s not staring. He is having a very admiring look. But that look, for no reason. Why? Why he’s looking at me as one does to a lover? Why he’s looking like I’m a cute baby or someone to whom he’s passing a smile?
I’m annoyed and pissed off. I suddenly turn my head to my book and start reading. Purposefully I’m avoiding to steal a look. Metro has arrived & finally, I felt relief. I don’t know but it felt like when one does when he/she finds a place to pee after holding the situation for a long time.
Relaxed. Every muscle in my body is relaxing. I’m de-stressing now!
He didn’t do anything. But just a look made me freak out. And worst part was that he’s looking at me like he’s admiring something in me. That made my senses go haywire.
This guy finally turns his head to right after I’ve stopped stealing a look at him and at his activities. He’s looking at me and I towards the metro which seems to be like arriving from under his armpit. It’s a scene, it appeared that the yellow light is making it’s way from under his armpit right under that denim jacket. Suddenly, he’s at the centre of things and he’s making the metro arrive for me, I thought for a while and stopped after noticing that intense look. It communicated something. I and Him, we both maintained that eye contact for more than usual time.
This instant, this encounter reminds of me of Sisak (award winning short film), where two homo-sexual individuals who travel through the Mumbai locals daily make an eye contact one day. And an intense story develops, without saying a word, everything is communicated through emotions and actions. I thought here we both are doing the same. Are we? But I’m annoyed here and in the film, none of them were!
Then we both realized we’re stretching it way too far. And we both moved our head down and up and then we both entered the train through different gates. Not that vacant, metro coaches at this hour of the night, midnight!
What if, if the metro was also vacant? Scary thought.
After being seated, I took a gulp of water from the water bottle, relaxed my facial muscles, phew-ed and then started reading. I noticed him inquiring about the station, may be he was new here, in Delhi. I noticed it because no one was talking in metro and he’s audible relatively.
How cool? Our mind has the capacity to develop a narrative and create a defense when it is not even needed. But I’m amused.
After inquiring about the station, may be he’s required to change the metro or not, but he got up from his seat. Came close to me. My heart has again started beating fast, reason I do not know. Then he stops to look at the map overhead right in front of me and then he assumes a place at the seats which reads ‘Old & Physically Challenged’. I don’t know why did he leave that seat and assumed this place. I’m overthinking, it’s midnight & metro would be going vacant.
Oh, wait a minute from there he can admire me more clearly, the view from previous seat was a bit compromising one because of the pole. And from here, he can watch me in HD 1080! Man!
And again, as expected. I, just to pretend that I’m listening to the announcer, pulled down the book and kept it on my lap and I noticed this, he’s placed his chin on his palm and in a certain mudra he’s sitting and looking at me.
I lost it at that very instant.
I felt like saying what’s this, what do you think you’re doing, stop it right away. I took a deep breath and looked at him to communicate my anger, I had a rage on my face and it’s visible to others I guess. And I stared at him just to make it sure he gets it. He did look away after that only to return to his admiring position after a few stations.
What would you guys have done about it?
At this point, when he’s looking at me, his face was cupped in his hands.
Firstly, he’s too good looking to rubbished as an ass. Secondly, I didn’t feel any rage like the instant just a few minutes ago. Thirdly, I’ve talked to strangers before. Maybe he wants to and is not able to.
I don’t know what got into me and I waved a ‘Hi!’ at him and smiled. While I was doing that I noticed one old man and a guy sitting beside me navigating the sender and receiver’s replies by moving their heads left and right, funny and amusing situation and these folks. When I did that. You know what he did.
He smiled, he smiled at me the most heartfelt, innocent and beautiful smile which I’ve ever received. Yes, he did and I appreciate him and remember him for that smile. He almost killed me at that very instant with that smile, I don’t know if I can remember even a kid smiling that way. His eyes narrowed down like reading a manuscript typed in small font and his cheeks were turning read. A grin overshadowing the smile now. He’s looking at me in this position and I’m thinking, ‘What made you smile like that, love?’
And we arrived at Rajiv Chowk metro station and he de-boarded the metro, the very next minute. While leaving he didn’t make a promise to meet next time, he didn’t gave a farewell smile, he just simply rose from his seat and rushed out with a silent face.
You’re happy a moment before. And now what made you rush out without saying a ‘Bye’ or smiling with a promise to meet next time.
I just couldn’t read. I pulled the book down suddenly and gasped, ‘What?’, ‘He left just like that!’.
From Rajiv Chowk to Kashmere Gate which happened to be the metro where I had to change but I didn’t find any metro to Shahdara, service over by now. I had to take an exit from there [Kashmere Gate] and take a cab to home.
So, from there to home. I even refused to talk to the cabbie, who’s being so nice to me at this hour, now it’s 00:30 AM.
I just kept thinking about that smile.
I just couldn’t control myself from sharing this absurd experience, so I typed it out and saved it in my notes in my phone. But it didn’t help, so I wrote it down in my diary. I’m thinking what made me to even share this to with one of the two ladies. And, even now.
What am I thinking? What do I want to achieve with this? Which is that thing which has not been sorted amongst us? There’s something left, uncompleted, untouched and unraveled there at that juncture when he smiled a heartfelt smile.
I just wish we cross our ways one day and I’ll say, ‘O Shams of Tabriz why you left Rumi lamenting for you by suddenly leaving and so unceremoniously’