Classics Romance Tragedy
He sat on the seat, vibrating with a constant growling sound, and opened Facebook as usual. Warm, dusty breeze was smashing on his face which was quite enjoyable to him with headphones on, playing ‘Hotel California’ by ‘Eagles’. The bus was old and rushing, making everything trembles, including him. His eyes, brown speckled black, were ─by instinct or habit─ at a particular direction several times, every day, as usual. His eyes were at the tiny brownish speckle, on her fair sleeveless shoulder which was quavering in rhythm with the bus, the same bus which had been passing through the same bus-stops at same time for years on exact office hour. She sat there ─second seat from first gate─ every day at same time. She may be working in some private company, like me. He thought. It was like six months for which they were travelling on the same bus and he was watching her, enjoying her gracious presence with unnoticeable make up, her skillful gestures, her solitary gaze.
It was just another busy office day and he got on the bus at the very moment the bus was leaving. Sweating profusely, wiping his face with hand kerchief, he relaxed himself and realized that he was standing ─too late to grab a seat─ over that very seat the girl was sitting. A queer shiver flew through his spine. He couldn’t understand why he was feeling like that. It was a humid summer and he started sweating again. Pink purse in one hand and white smart-phone in other, she was listening to some song in her headphone with closed eyes; a text message buzzed in her phone waking the display for seconds ─‘It Will Rain’ by ‘Bruno Mars’ was playing. The message broke his stare and the girl noticed it too by looking sideways. He felt awkwardly embarrassed and looked outside through the window without noticing the moving vehicles, trees with dusty brown leaves, streets stained with betel spits and glorious smiling posters of skin-cream and shampoo. She stroke her hair around her earlobe making her designer blue-stoned earrings visible, removed small beads of perspiration on her upper lip by her pink hand-kerchief and then again closed her eyes as if nothing had happened.
It might be the most annoying job to be a bus conductor ─bumping and squeezing through damp, stinking, wet and sweaty passengers’ back of overcrowded bus was reasonable enough to dislike the job; add to it the continuous poking to people for fare, scarcity of coins for change and daily argument with passengers about the real amount of fare. The conductor, by habit, was shouting for fare. From might be three to four feet away, the conductor stretched his hand and shouted at him, “Hey elder brother, extend the fare.” One hand on the railing above his head, he put the other in his pocket, searching for purse. After examining every possible place for it, he was convinced that he had left it at his apartment in a hurry. Suddenly, he felt a nervous tinge in the humid heat and was dreading for his most fearful experience ─to be insulted and embarrassed for not paying the fare in front of everyone. He hesitantly looked at the conductor with dull eyes and black lips and irksome gaze. Queerly, the conductor ─there were eight people standing in between them─ watched him and said loudly, “What happen? Do you want a free ride with empty pocket and in office suit?”
“I am sorry brother, I forgot my purse.” He said with a smiling face, “I’ll pay you tomorrow.”
“No way, I know people like you who want free rides with fake excuses.” The conductor shouted adamantly, counting money he just received from another customer, “Pay or drop down in next stop.”
“Bhai, please understand, I am a daily passenger in this bus. Can’t I expect this little favour from you?” He sounded desperate.
The conductor didn’t reply making the situation more insulting with everyone staring at him.
“Here it is bhaiya, take the fare.” The girl in sleeveless purple salwar-kameez called the conductor from the window seat attracting everybody’s attention to the sudden change in the scene.
“No….no need…for that” he stumbled upon hesitantly, “don’t t…trouble …yourself, I…I can m..manage.”
She didn’t paid attention to his stammering and paid the fare to the conductor and settled on her seat. Then she said without looking, “Don’t worry, you can pay mine tomorrow.”
He was too surprised to grasp the whole situation and then uttered with difficulty, “Tha…Thankss.”
How does she know my destination? I think she was listening to some song in her mobile. He thought for a moment and then tried to start a formal conversation, “Hi, I am Abheer.”
The girl unplugged the headphone from her ear; removed curls of hair from her face appeared due to rushing wind from window; looked at him with a faint, pleasant smile and moved her lips, “Hi, I am Nisha, nice to meet you.”
Kohl-lined corner of her eyes were sprinkled and the thick, big bangle was clattering with the gold coloured purse of her.
Abheer felt delighted to talk to the girl he was staring for months. He said with anxiety, “Nice to meet you too. I work in ‘Worker Infotech Ltd’ as project designer. What about you?”
“Project designer. Wow! That’s great. I am also a designer. I think we have something in common.” Nisha said with a broad smile, “But I am not a project designer, it is fashion, fashion designer.”
“Ah! That was not unexpected, by looking at your outfit.” He laughed. Her voice; it is so stylish ─not too sweet, not too hoarse. He thought.
She chuckled and said the words mixed with sound of her laugh, “Oh! Is that so? How can you tell?”
“Just observation. Your dress-code, your style and your tone are quite professional.” Abheer grinned.
“So you observe me, I see.” She said with a teasing smile.
He blushed; which can’t be noticed for his skin colour, for it was a blend of light yellow and brown; and he became silent. Numb. She probably told the truth unintentionally, or who knew, she might know it all.
They talked and laughed; he standing, she sitting. Abheer who generally loathed standing on an over-crowded bus, was yearning to stand there for hours, for days and months, in that sulking heat and sweat. An immense feeling of ecstasy, desire to talk and to be listened surrounded him. He was so immersed in those moments ─engrossing every movement, every sound and every sight─ like it was hours they were talking, though it was only ten to fifteen minutes; so intense was those minutes.
They talked every day, on the bus, sharing one row of seat and sitting side by side. Thus time swayed by and they became very familiar to each other, extending their relation to online realm of facebook. Abheer fell for Nisha; inevitably. But he never gathered the courage to propose her or even to ask her out for coffee, because it would ruin their friendship.
With each passing day, the urge for confessing the unconditional love for Nisha was increasing exponentially in Abheer and one week after their first acquaintance it was uncontrollable for him to suppress his emotions. He decided to ask her out on next Monday, on the bus and he then would propose her. On Monday, he woke up early, bathed, shaved, face-washed, hair-styled and perfumed himself. With twenty minutes standing on the bus-stop he got up on the bus and stood beside Nisha. An older person, sitting with Nisha understood the situation and left the seat taking another seat just behind Nisha. She moved to the window and Abheer sat beside her. Feeling relaxed, for getting such a scope to talk to her so easily, he started the conversation.
“Hey, have you seen the photo I’ve posted?” His face was glowing with enthusiasm.
“Oh, which one? The one with you’re in a blue shirt with your colleagues?” She inquired. She wore transparent bluish bangles with matching light blue kurti.
“Yes yes that one. Tomorrow was birthday of one of them.” He said.
“Great! But you guys didn’t look like partying.” She smiled.
“No, he is you know, a very bookish nerd, like dear-son-of-mother. He never touched liquor.” He paused for a few moments and said, “How you people celebrate your birthdays?”
“O we do a lot of partying; I mean you know, like a lot of boozing and dancing and getting high.” She smirked and grinned.
“Oh really! That’s great. Not so traditional Indian girl. Huh?” He teased.
“Yes of course. Why should a woman be caged in name of tradition?”
“You are right.” And Abheer found a perfect chance to pitch his invitation, “Do you mind if I ask our not-so-traditional-girl out for a coffee tomorrow? Of course if my lady permits.” He bowed down his head for a salutation.
Nisha waited for few minutes and said, “Can you give me some time to decide? Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, not at all. You take all the time you need.” He said anxiously.
Then gradually, their talk was reduced for the rest of the bus journey. The bus moved on and wind blew, ruffling his super gel applied hair and drying his face-washed face. Nisha intermittently stared outside and Abheer waited, paring his nails, cracking his knuckles and repeatedly wiping his face. At last, her stop arrived and he knew by then that he was on the verge of losing her. She got up to get out of the row and move though the aisle between the seats and then suddenly she bowed down saying, “Tomorrow at CCD; 7 P.M.” And she gave the best smile a woman can give, walking away to the gate.
I’ve just asked for a coffee. What’s so big deal about it for an open minded girl like her? Abheer was thinking. I mean, yes, asking a girl for coffee means nearly equivalent to ask for date. But it was a casual proposal from me. His mind was racing and his heart was beating fast. That means she thought it as a date and approved it. Would that mean does she have it in her heart for me what I have for her? Maybe because of that she took so much time to decide. He suddenly woke up from his reverie with the ring of bell in the bus on arrival of his stop.
Abheer prepared himself like he was going to have interview for his biggest job on next day. He literally wrote down all the dialogues he was going to deliver; like it was a play. He recited it in front of mirror again and again. On morning, he refreshed himself with every way possible a man can and then walked to the bus stop; hoping to amaze Nisha with his charisma. He got up when the bus came and found the usual place of Nisha was replaced by some old woman. Abheer scanned the whole bus for her face but it was of no use. Creases appeared on his forehead. Is she trying to avoid me? She may take a taxi or another bus. Though like this shivered Abheer like ice was crawling on his spine. No, this can’t be. May be she is late today. She promised me to meet at 7 P.M. He assured himself and relaxed.
It was the CCD where Abheer booked a seat and was waiting. Couples around him were chirping in whispers, making his ears buzz. He sat there alone, holding his fourth glass of cold coffee. It was 7.45 P.M and he was waiting for like an hour. He inferred that she was not coming but his heart sank even thinking of that. He was hoping for she might be late for some reason; but she would come. She never came. After another half an hour, he left.
Facebook, phone, mail ─Abheer checked everything. But Nisha was like vanished, she never came online, her number was unreachable and thus she was also unreachable. He never seen her on the bus and his hope was diminishing day by day. In absence of her, he realized how much he loved her. Why have I never understood? I am a fool; a bloody dumb fool. He cursed himself. His feelings for her gradually precipitated down in his heart and with time he got used to the emptiness she had left in him.
3 years later…
Ducklings were quacking on the pond making ripples in the water which were creating sinusoidal waves in circles. Pink and big lotuses were swinging in smooth breeze. He was clicking with his new Nikkon camera at everything around him; at the bunch of butterflies, so many you couldn’t count; at the sparkling sunlight on morning dew which was accumulated on almost everything; the misty autumn that could make you yearn for love. Months and years got away and Abheer still had not got married in memory of Nisha. He went for a trip at a small village in West Bengal which though definitely was not a popular tourist spot; still, was rich with splendid natural beauty. It was a small tourist spot, where tourist who wanted a quiet, silent and serene atmosphere usually used to visit; and Abheer really liked it.
In the evening, the orange tinge in the sky made everything glowing with spell-binding yellow glint and Abheer could not miss this chance to snap some beautiful scenery in his camera. He was wandering on the narrow winding village road clicking and enjoying the scintillating beauty of nature. Immersed in that beauty, he came near the main road; which was quite void of people and full of occasionally appearing trucks and buses. Abheer was trying to take close up pictures of a blue grasshopper from an optimum distance with maximum zooming available. In doing this, he was walking backward slowly and suddenly got bumped into someone.
“Hey, watch your step.” A female voice it was. It was a very familiar voice. How can he not remember this eternal voice! Of course it was Nisha. He froze for few moments. Without turning towards her he knew it was her and he could feel her gaze on his shoulder. He turned towards her and laid his thirsty eyes on her after a long time. Her brownish speckle on shoulder, black-lined eyelids, vermilion dot between her eyebrows, purely black hair and a dull face emitting brightness, stunned irises and red sari ─almost everything changed about her physical appearance.
“A…Abheer!” Nisha stumbled for the first time.
“Where have you been?” Abheer was shaking, “Do you know how much pain I’ve endured for not able to see you for three years?”
“Sorry. I had no choice.” She murmured.
“Sorry! That’s all? That’s all the explanation you have.” He then held her shoulders; still shaking, “Three years of disappearance, avoidance and then just sorry!”
She looked at him with shocked and miserable eyes, “Don’t ever tell that. I didn’t avoid you.” She was staring at the setting sun, “I was going to have coffee with you the next day. But when I returned home on that day from office, I saw my Mom and Dad arranged a meeting to marry off me with one of our family friends’ son. I loved my parents a lot and they almost begged me not to insult their words.” She was sobbing with a broken voice, “I couldn’t turn them down and agreed. I knew meeting you would only lead to more complications. Hence, I decided to disappear from you.”
Abheer was staring contently at her moving lips, eyes full of tears and her slightly swelled belly.
Noticing his stare, she told, “I am pregnant. I’ve come here for a change. It is good for the foetus.”
“Oh! Congratulations.” He uttered blankly.
Suddenly she came near him and hugged tight; too tight for a hug. She gripped his shirt forcefully and told in his ears in a weeping whisper, “Why haven’t you proposed me? We both knew we fell. If you just showed the courage to propose me; if you hadn’t waited for weeks; if you just for once…” She stopped.
Nisha loosened herself from the embrace and wiped tears. Abheer continuously looked at her for few moments and smilingly said, “Bye. Take care.”
Then Abheer walked away through the path he came. He was moving slowly on the main road and suddenly heard a high pitched shout, “ABHEER….” He tried to rotate his neck to see backwards and saw front of a red truck. It was red like blood and it was zooming bigger with every second. Too little time he had, too stunned was he to act. His head became blank and he started praying that in some miraculous way, the truck would miss him just like a bullet misses its target. And when it was too obvious to deny that the incident would happen, he left grip of his camera whose lens was already broken due to tensed-and-desperate-grip-for-life and stood there keeping his mouth ajar. When the truck struck him and he became blind, the only thought in his head was that he forgot to take a picture of Nisha in his camera. A dull-thud, a silent gasp, one thousand sounds of motor engines and a pool of blood. It lynched him and rushed away. Wide pitch black road turned in to a red carpet with a human body lumped together at centre. Two red stripes of blood were trailed towards the long straight road which was made by wheels of the truck and made out of a life. Few people appeared around the body from nowhere. A purse was lying few meters away from it with a photo poking out of it; a photo of a beautiful girl. She was smiling.