Shreya. There she was, in my thoughts again, for the second time in the last ten seconds. It was an incessant sensation in my brain. How could a stranger constantly keep my head bustling with energy? Had I known that a mere flight journey from my University to a cousin’s wedding would make me feel this way, I would have been better prepared. She was mind-blowing.
“So you are one of those chaps who keeps the boarding pass till the end of the flight?” Those were her first words to me. Before I could even begin to answer, “Well, it helps in the cases when the Airline misplaces your luggage.” What an unusual question to ask someone sitting next to you on the plane. It would be wrong if I said that I didn’t notice how breath-taking she was. Not in some way you would see a super model. She was glowing, her face almost emanating light into my dark life. It was surprising how I didn’t notice her when she took the seat next to me.
“Yeah…it does.” said I, mustering some courage.
“So where are you flying off to?” came the question, as she adjusted her purse beside her, rather efficiently I must say. I have seen girls who can pull off any kind of clothing, but fail to do so when it comes to such accessories. “Kolkata, for my cousin’s marriage.” I felt oddly comfortable sharing this with her. She was a stranger, but never seemed to feel like one. Her skin was still glowing, making me rethink all the fairness creams I may have ever used. She smelled exquisite too, might I add? For no particular reason, I failed to ask her if she too was headed to the City of Joy; it was a via-flight.
We buckled up, air Hostesses and stewards did their business, rather politely, ignoring the haughty passengers who were too sunk into their music to listen to the safety guidelines and procedures, and we headed to our own destinations, praying to the merciful Sky Gods.
The Captain announced the local temperature to be a staggering 17 degrees, as soon as we touched down at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. No sooner had we done that, than she was up and running, her aisle seat helping her to rush to the end of the plane. Why would someone be in so much hurry to get off the plane? The mysteries about her grew.
Throughout the journey, we hadn’t talked much. Rather, it was me who hadn’t spoken a lot. She seemed like a jolly girl, probably in her early twenties. When the customary Jet Airways in-flight food arrived, she pounced on it, and I think she relished it too. She understood that I was staring at her, turning to my sides just to have a glance at her. How could I not? In a span of forty-five minutes, she had trapped me with her strange yet pleasant demeanour. Her eyelashes were so elegant, that even under her spectacles, it seemed as if they were speaking to me. Never before had I seen such jet black hair, with the most beautiful curves, dancing on her shoulders. That lucky speck of hair on her face kissed her gentle cheeks. She was wearing black, making her glow even more. I apologise, but her glow deserves several mentions.
“Something wrong?” she asked. I replied confidently this time, and introduced myself to her. “No, nothing really. I am sorry if I seemed rude earlier. I am Soham. What’s your name?”
“Soham, you say? I knew a guy in my school named Soham. A nice chap, but he weighed a thousand pounds! ”, she said, as she burst out laughing. I giggled, realising how wonderful it would be to spend time with her. “Nothing like you though, you look well in shape.” This was a strange feeling for me. I wasn’t accustomed to another girl flirting with me. It had been six months since my breakup. Was I getting drawn towards this girl?
“Err..thanks.” I didn’t possess enough courage to complement her and reveal all my feelings towards her. They would have to wait.
My contemplations were interrupted by a sudden question, “So tell me Soham, what bothers you? You seem like someone who is going through some troubled times.”
“Aren’t we all, at some point of time or the other?” I answered. How she caught hold of my emotions, I have no idea whatsoever, without knowing me at all!
“It seems as if you are facing some serious difficulties in your life. Trust me, it gets better. It always does. The difficult part is to let go and move on further with our lives. It’s like this: I read a story in a children’s magazine when I was in the sixth grade. It spoke about a boy trying to build a sandcastle. He wanted to be clever and cautious with the sand, so he held the particles firmly in his grip, only to realise that the tighter he made his grip, more of the sand would overflow. The same happens in life. The tighter we hold on to the past, the tougher it is to build the sandcastle of our future. So I say, let’s have a mild grip of the happy moments and let go of the negativity, in and around us.”
She stunned me with these words. So simple, yet so true.
She changed the topic soon though. She noticed my Barcelona jacket, and we talked a little bit about football. In a way, I was happy that she shared the same sporting interests as me. I noticed her hands to be covered with a little bit of flour. They seemed artistic to me, yet she seemed to be an organised woman. Was she a cook? Perhaps she worked in a grocery store? I never got the chance to ask her that though, just like I didn’t know where she was headed.
Her abrupt departure from the aircraft was not the highlight of the journey. It was the moment that preceded her sudden movement. Before getting off the seat, she looked back, for a nanosecond, dropped something from her hands, winked at me and sped off with her purse. It took me a few seconds to pick up the mystery-item, as I still had my seat belt in the locked position. I smiled, looking at it, realising how she had kept me engrossed in the conversation. It was her boarding pass, which more importantly bore her name.
As I got up from my seat and saw the passengers leaving, I felt a sudden urge to run and catch hold of her. I had no intention of telling her how I felt about her. I simply wanted to keep listening to her. I wanted her to be the one who removed all the sorrow and darkness from my life. Alas! Some things feel so important only when they are gone. Would I ever see her again, and if I do, what would I tell her? Would I remind her of how beautiful she looks? How would I explain to her that her little speech had changed me as a person, over the course of just a ninety minute journey? I thought it best to let go of these desires, just as she had explained.
I was greeted warmly by my parents at the airport, whom I was seeing after a duration of 17 months. It felt extremely nice to feel my mother’s affection and receive my father’s loving instructions. We headed to our family home at Salt Lake. After catching up with some of my relatives, and watching my cousin brother become the butt of all jokes as per the usual pre-wedding Bengali customs, I finally lay my head on the pillow as darkness engulfed the starry night. I was obviously deep into the thoughts of my Flight-companion. Hesitatingly, I decided to stop pondering over things that were a work of my fantasy, and decided to get sufficient rest before the big day.
The wedding went well. It was emotional for me to see my elder cousin getting married, as I have no siblings of my own. The Bengali marriage traditions can spark happiness into the lives of any attendant, and I was no exception. However, my mind was in a constant battle with my heart; the unrest in me being unknown to the world.
The reception night arrived. Everyone was dressed in fancy suits and sarees. As the bride-groom’s brother, it was my duty to take care of most of the official proceedings, making me immensely tired by the end of it all. My suit’s back pocket, however, still contained that boarding pass. The night was capped off by something wonderful.
The band that had been hired by my Kolkata relatives, was making people go about in a frenzy. I, however, wasn’t interested in the dancing. I sat by the dessert stall, looking at all the merry people, wishing that the light of my life too, would dance with me.
“Hey Mister! Mind if I ask you for a dance?” came the words. My prayers had been answered. Destiny had intervened.
“Are you sure? Would you want anything in return?” said I, clutching my back pocket.
“A boarding pass to begin this journey, please?”