Arpita Sharma



Arpita Sharma


Love At 100th Sight

Love At 100th Sight

11 mins

'You still have some time. Have your tea!'. 

Inaya turned back at her husband's hurried words. She stole a quick glance at the golden framed clock mounted on the wall of her living room and retraced her steps to occupy a seat beside her husband at the dining table. The clock was one of the most immediate purchases she had made after her wedding. She attached her most intimate emotions with this belonging of hers; a belonging that changed houses, but remained a faithful companion over the last ten years. 

She sipped the tea and a usual smile lit up her prettily chiselled face. 

'This is the reason I don't risk making tea for myself, Arnav. You make the most amazing tea in the world!', she said thankfully to her husband. 

'That reassures me that you would never return the favour.', replied Arnav in amusement and light-hearted banter. 

Inaya would have come up with a lethal rebuttal to win this age-old argument between them, but time was a definite constraint to consider. So, she settled with just a hard stare at her husband. She was determined to take her 'revenge' at a more convenient time. She picked up her laptop bag and briskly walked out of the door to leave for her workplace.

'Have a great day, sweetheart! ' Her husband's voice floated across the corridor as she hurried towards the elevator. She replied solemnly, 'See you in the evening.' and stepped on to the elevator. She wasn't really angry, but feigning anger earned every woman a definite leverage. And Inaya was in every intricate way, a woman. 

Inaya always thanked her stars for having married the best man in the world. She entrusted her life with him and had always unbosomed her every feeling, good or bad, to him. He was truly her life partner, her soulmate. 

Today was an important chapter of her life, or, atleast she hoped it to be. It was her first day at her new workplace. Inaya could have never imagined herself being anything other than a teacher. She was passionate about her profession and rejoiced in the company of her students beyond all measures. 

This was a new school, a new environment and a new culture, which she needed to acclimatise to. But, she definitely was looking forward to enjoying her forthcoming experiences. 

The apartment she stayed in had a luxurious sprawl of greenery around. As she walked past people taking their morning walks in the virid spread and enjoying the early morning breeze, she was besieged by a frequently felt resentment of being deprived of such a luxury. Being both a teacher and a mother of two growing children was an arduous existence. The late night notebook corrections, the next day classroom preparations and the early morning rituals to send off her children to school barely left her with enough sleep. The time to exercise or take a pleasant walk early in the morning was a distant dream. 

She stood at a spot she knew the school bus would arrive at to pick her up along with a few students. The sight of children always made Inaya cheerful and forget all her apparent worries. She smiled at the children and waved excitedly at them. Although strangers to each other, Inaya and the children took to instant liking. 

Inaya boarded the bus and seated herself comfortably. She looked around and found an elegant looking lady sitting on the seat across hers, clad in a fabric that reflected both style and class. She indeed was a conspicuous presence with a becoming smile and a confident countenance. Her beautiful eyes were vivacious. 

As soon as Inaya's eyes met hers, she smiled her greetings and introduced herself as Miss Savitri. As any first time meeting would ensue a courteously worded chat, they held a brief conversation with each other. 

The conversation was brief- brief indeed! At an unexpected moment during their exchange, Miss Savitri blurted out, 'Okay, ma'am! I listen to music during the drive. It sets my mood for the day. I don't want to compromise on this. Please excuse me.' Saying this, she plugged in her ear phones and turned away. 

Inaya was exasperated at the curt declaration and felt a sharp pinch of embarrassment blazing her cheeks. Of course, with a wide open-mouthed gape, she had to nod her acknowledgement to the abrupt dissolution of a potentially good chit-chat. 

But it left Inaya wondering how people could be so upfront and inconsiderate in their behaviour with others. Inaya was a sensitive person and she took deliberate care to word her feelings to people. Inaya had a foreboding that she wouldn't be much enjoying her travel time to the new work place. So, she thought this could be a 'blessing in disguise' to catch up with her much needed power nap. 

She closed her eyes and her mind drifted to ambivalent thoughts. It definitely had never been easy for Inaya when it came to dealing with adults. The ease she felt with children to build a rapport was not experienced with adults. She was a kind lady with a friendly disposition. However, she was quite an imposing presence, partly due to her high-pitched voice filled with overflowing enthusiasm and the rest due to her sophisticated accent. People probably judged her as a snob. However, her husband often said that her impulsive way of thinking differently and expressing the same, were stronger reasons for people keeping a distance from her. Well, Inaya didn't like being 'not liked' . She was definitely making sincere efforts to change by restraining herself from offering contradictory statements and thus avoiding conflicts with people. Nonetheless, relapsing to her impulse rather than her resolve was inevitable sometimes. Indeed, the old adage, 'Old habits die hard.' strongly served its implication in this particular scenario. 

Contrary to her vices, Inaya had some inate abilities too, which made her develop a strong bond with people. But, those abilities yielded slow result. 

Well, the first day at her workplace was nourishing and enjoyable. She attended training sessions, which imparted significant learning. Most importantly, being gregarious, she felt joyfully alive meeting a multitude of new people.

Still, there was something that disconcerted her. People, in her new workplace seemed to believe that serious work could happen only with grimly twisted and contorted faces. People seemed to be in a state of shock at Inaya's untimely jokes and resonating laughter. Inaya wondered if she could preserve herself amongst people who only meant business. 

Days went by. Inaya learned new things about the school and had made some voluminous addition to her pre-existing knowledge. She had made a few friends too with whom she felt a little more comfortable in the new place. Thankfully, there were people, she soon discovered, who didn't carry graveyards on their shoulders to work. 

If there was a silver lining that really brightened up her days ushering her into a world of glee, laughter and sunshine were her students. Everything else mattered the least. 

One thing remained unchanged all along. Her bus journey didn't get any more entertaining. Though her bus mate, Miss Savitri spoke to her everyday, Inaya apprehended that this relationship had not even the faintest possibility to ever blossom. She intuitively felt that Miss Savitri didn't approve of her, any bit more, even with the passage of time. 

Two months had passed since the first day of Inaya's new job. Inaya had held many quick exchanges with Miss Savitri. Each time Inaya tried discussing any of her experiences in the new place, Miss Savitri would turn away to her 'music'.

On one of those days, a Saturday, it was a working day only for teachers. As Inaya stood alone waiting for her school bus, she was lost in her thoughts; thoughts which ran wild, without any rhyme or reason. When she stirred out of her reverie, she found that the school bus was speeding ahead of her. She was horrified. How could the bus leave without her? Was the bus attendant blind or insane to have not noticed her? She definitely deserved a piece of her mind.

But, what had enraged her so highly, was her sense of embarrassment over her own unmindful nature. She almost never seemed to have control over the trail of her thoughts, getting herself in unwarranted situations.

Amidst her pandemonium, Inaya suddenly remembered that she had exchanged mobile numbers with Miss Savitri. She could call her and ask the bus to stop somewhere, while she caught up with it on an auto.

She nervously and frantically dialled Miss Savitri's number.

Her call was answered. Inaya asked, 'Good morning! Where is the bus, ma'am?'

Miss Savitri informed that they were around half a kilometer away from her bus stop.

Inaya was startled, "Already so far? Why did the bus leave, ma'am? I was standing right at the stop."

Miss Savitri's response felt like a slap across Inaya' s face, " I do not know about that."

Inaya's innate temperament was too sensitive to prolong the conversation or make any further investigation or request. She turned crimson with both rage and embarrassment. She was overcome with nostalgia and agony. Her previous school colleagues would never have done this! A wonder question grabbed her in tight hold, "Did she make a mistake in changing her job for higher salary?"

Inaya nearly battled to her school that day, indignant, embarrassed and hurt. She had to walk a great deal to get an auto. Every step of that difficult journey, she silently resolved to never speak with Miss Savitri. Inaya was someone who avoided unpleasant fights, so this was all she could do to assuage her feelings of embarrassment and hurt.

That day, during her journey back home, Inaya steeled herself, to resist spitting her anger. Inaya was determined to keep her promise. Never ever in life would she speak to Miss Savitri.

A fortnight passed in all its gravity and solemnity. Inaya was not particularly volatile, but after a few days she decided that the awkward silence between them made Inaya less comfortable than content.

"Being vindictive is not my cup of tea", Inaya realised.

Slowly as her anger was placated by the solacing hand of ticking time, Inaya let go off her resentment.  

She took the first conciliatory step by smiling at her. Things thereafter started taking their natural course of healing. 

One day while the bus was taking them back home, Miss Savitri looked more fatigued than usual. Inaya could not stop herself from asking her the reason. Miss Savitri started speaking about her difficulties of dealing with some colleagues. Inaya lent her patient ears with constant nods of acknowledgement. Miss Savitri, for the first time, was 'speaking.' 

Incidentally, she was talking about some conceptual aspect of language. Inaya gave some suggestions, which bewildered Miss Savitri. Their thoughts were in complete sync. They couldn't help smiling at each other at this realisation. Their opinions and approaches in terms of some pedagogical practices were in agreement. The discussion made Miss Savitri and Inaya reflect deeper on certain aspects of English Grammar and expressions. 

In the subsequent few meetings, Miss Savitri and Inaya shared similar exchanges. They felt intellectually nourished in each other's company. In a few days time, Miss Savitri started regarding Inaya with much greater respect and often spoke about new concepts to be taught in her class. 

With the passage of more time, Inaya realised that this apparently closed and upfront woman had a softer side. She was an amicable lady with both philosophical and intellectual propensity. Miss Savitri was such a loving soul, who showered great kindness and made Inaya feel cared.

One day, Miss Savitri blurted out, ' You know Inaya, I missed two months! We didn't speak to each other for the first two months and missed the delight of such a powerful association. I was earlier scared of you.' 

Inaya was alarmed! What could be scary about her? She felt she was absolutely innocuous. She lifted her brows quizzically and exclaimed, ' Scared? Of me, Miss Savitri? '

Miss Savitri laughed. She not only laughed, but burst into convulsive laughter.

'You were so loud. You were unsettled in the school and compared it with your previous school. I was always scared of being overheard. The least I wanted was to get into trouble one day. '

Inaya just managed a low murmur, 'Oh. I see!' 

Inaya lamely added, 'But, I have never known how to hush myself due to surroundings. I have always voiced my feelings openly oblivious to what people think.' 

However, Inaya was stunned. She figured out that the 'music' Miss Savitri heard everyday in the initial days had a purpose. These days, Miss Savitri had not been so particular about 'setting the mood for the day'. Her earphone was now an abandoned asset.

Inaya realised what had vexed Miss Savitri. She could give several excuses to justify herself. But, the truth remained unchanged. She had to admit it to herself that when it came to social behaviour, she was sometimes gauche.

Miss Savitri and Inaya now had become thick friends. They looked forward to meeting each other everyday. They discussed almost everything on earth.

Miss Savitri was inspired by Inaya's vocabulary and Inaya found Miss Savitri as her panacea. Miss Savitri had answers to all of Inaya's nagging and persistent questions about life and its overwhelming challenges. 

Now anytime if Inaya was late, Miss Savitri would always find out about her whereabouts. There wasn't the remotest possibility anymore that Inaya would miss her bus on any day. They sometimes even met after school hours to have street food or milkshakes. In Miss Savitri, Inaya had found a great mate. Miss Savitri brightened up Inaya's life with her humour and warmth. Her wise advices made her Inaya's confidant. 

At its facade, Inaya would have never imagined the headstrong Miss Savitri to be such a warm being. And in no wildest dream, she could have hoped this relationship to bear such sweet fruits.

After all, it was language which gifted Inaya a dear friend; the same language which had fetched her many envious critics and haters.

There were conspicuous consequences of their unique camaraderie.

Miss Savitri often referred to some Tamil saying, which meant, 'When we use a thread to weave jasmine flowers into a garland, the thread also gathers the sweet fragrance of the flowers.'

Drawing an analogy of the threaded jasmine garland with the association of these two unique, yet disparate women, it could quite be a riddle to evaluate who is the jasmine and who, the thread.

It matters the least when the union is so spontaneous, sweet and subtle. The garland is indeed so beautiful!

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