Through Saharanpur and some one-man stations, the train slithered
its way into the Dehradun station. In spite of Dehra rising to
the stature of a capital and much done in the way of development
and modernization, the railway station remains to be an
apologetic reminiscence of the erstwhile deprivation era.
However, I have always loved railway stations. Here too there was
the shrill, albeit, drowsy shout of the vendors selling bread
pakoras, chai, etc.
We got down of the train and didn't know how we will take this
forward. We hadn't discussed the course forward during our long
nightly exchanges. We had, both, conveniently postponed the next
steps, even if there were any, for the life after the train
Here we were standing with our respective luggage on the Dehra's
railway station. The coolies came in hordes like flies to pack of
open sweets. I for sure did not need the services of the men
clothed in red. However, I just asked her if she would like to
employ someone to carry her bags. Then I realized, she was only
carrying one medium sized sky bag and a sling bag or what we call
She just smiled back and said… "I can manage by own baggage"
It sounded very independent. I shooed the coolies away, but they
kept following us until were almost out of the station. And that
is when the auto rickshaw drivers and cabbies started chasing us.
Some offering us to take us to Mussoories, while others offering
us a 'sasta room' (cheap hotel room).
We looked at each other and said nothing. Both of us were largely
unsure of what course to take forward.
Then I asked, ''let us have some coffee''.
She gladly agreed.
We scouted around for a coffee joint and quickly found the symbol
of globalization and hard felt consumerism. The Café Coffee Day
Quickly we crossed the road and entered into the air-conditioned
comfort of the coffee world. The slogan all across the walls read
"A lot can happen over coffee".
The night without sleep had left me edgy and zoned out. The couch
at the coffee shop was slowly calling out to the sleep in me… I
was finding it hard to not give in.
Again, breaking my dripping thoughts she interjected.
"I need to use the washroom", she said, and quickly headed
towards the brown wooden door.
This has come to be the most used and abused euphemism of all.
Calling a fully functional 'LOO' as a washroom or restroom. Well
it seems that finally the sense of sophistication has crept into
the otherwise quite unabashedly crude mannerism of Indians.
I looked at my watch and it hinted me that Shruti had been gone
for a while. Easily, a good ten minutes.
Girls take that kind of time. No girl ever owns up to it and even
if any of them do they would go to any lengths to defend the time
they take to get ready and unready.
I was getting restless.
I took out a pen from my waist pouch and started scribbling on
one of the tissue papers that were aesthetically placed in a
steel-grey CCD tissue holder.
The joint called life,
Soothing as a knife,
On a road with my wife,
Felt like a never ending strife.
I stopped after the quartet… Not for lack of words of rhyme. But
because it was complete. Complete and precise expression!
Shruti was back. She was gazing onto the tissue that bore the
quartet. Pulling it through she started reading it. Quietly
looked up and kept staring at me.
Her constant and condescending stare somehow made me feel
awkward. Her stare was all penetrating the inner secrets of my
life. It was as if the girl in the black kurtee was a soul
She then broke the silence and said… "A Poet"
Before I could respond she said, "A sad one at that"
Well she summed me up in two phrases. That was it. All there was
to me. No more diagnosis required. She had fulfilled her drive to
I was, perhaps, of no more interest to her. I have been solved.
No more intrigue and chase left. I was feeling very insecure. Not
As a habit, she interjected my thoughts again and asked, "What do
you want to drink?"
I softly said Cappuccino.
Was this the end? Will she walk out after the coffee and promise
to meet back in Delhi? Was this how it is to end? Is there any
use in thinking all of this?
She said, "Order two then"
I walked up to the counter and ordered two cappuccinos. The
attended asked me frivolous questions around how I will take my
coffee? Trying to sell me more than the coffee…
Often you feel like smashing the living day lights out of such
modern day street vendors. Dressed in pesky uniforms they try to
sell you stuff you don't ever need. I have always not liked
salesmen… I have always liked shopping alone… left to myself… no
one standing on my head and pushing me to try out of stuff I
really do not need.
Like in shopping, I have the same disregard for salesmen of life.
The kind of people who keep telling you what you should do in
life, what seems right, what does not. I have hated this clan
forever and forever will.
Well, pondering on all this I came back and sat… waiting for the
She kept her gaze locked on me.
To break her unnerving stare, I quizzed on her educational
The responses were prompt and lively.
She had done her masters in journalism from IIMC - Dhenkanal.
Well for those who do not identify with the IIMC - it is the
Indian Institute of Mass Communication - the mecca of journalism
and mass communication in India.
In my earlier days, I had failed in the entrance test for IIMC. I
told her that. She had passed, where I had failed.
I think it gave her superiority over me. Head to head, I had
At the same time, it kind of glued me to her. She had a portion
of life that I once aspired for. There was some coincidence that
kept coming back to put us together. Some of a kind that only I
She asked me about my education, or should I say lack of it. I
told her that I specialized in doctoring spin or what we call
public relations. However, I have been ever since been involved
in research and editorial.
We chit-chatted for another fifteen minutes before I point blank
asked her, "Will you like to spend the next few days of yours in
Mussoorie with me?"
I was aghast at the ill-formed proposition I had made. Then
quickly added, "Not as if staying together, but spending some
She stared at me so intensely that I wanted to pick my stuff and
Then breaking the silence again, she gave a huge crackle of a
And said, "Do you prefer to hire a taxi or the rickety bus?"