I sat on a bench in the park, with my back to a strip of Marigold plants, fenced by a structure made of bricks covered with lichen to such an extent that it was impossible to tell the its colour. I faced few children who were deciding among themselves which game they’ll play in the twilight. It was already quarter past six in a late march evening and it was beginning to get dark. I liked this place. It was my little secret escape. This place harmonized with my mood. I paid a visit to this place whenever I felt the need of hiding myself from the curious faces because it allowed me to come forth with bowed shoulders and unhappy eyes and still be unrecognized.
Sitting there, I remembered the strange man I met on the train. He was not a man I had known or met before. He was a complete stranger. By looks, he was neither very handsome nor very charming but still managed to draw attention towards himself. It was his voice that compelled me to steal occasional glances. There was definitely something eccentric in his voice, his voice had a peculiarity of its own.
I had always been fancied by voices. It was never faces but voices that attracted me. But this time it wasn’t just his voice that fetched my attention.
As his voice entered my ears, I turned like floating ribbons to have a closer look at him. I was bound by the perfect selection of words. He commanded over the language like the pied piper of Hamelin commanded over the rats and then later the children. His fluent and persuasive use of the language was so superb that it compelled me to enter into a conversation with him. He was eloquent.
His clothes revealed that he came from a respectable background though not very rich but well educated. He was talking to an old man.
As I headed towards him, with every single step I became more determined to indulge that man into a talk. Though I never looked at him directly, my complete attention hovered over head. Suddenly I felt as if wonderful melodies entered my ears. He was talking to me. I passed a smile. He came towards me. I asked in somewhat confident manner.
“Do I know you?”
He replied with a smile.
“Of course, you do.”
I was shocked. I had never known this man.
“Sorry, but I can’t recollect you anywhere in my mind.”
“You wanted to talk to me. Right?”
He had read me like a nursery rhyme.
“But how did you come to know that?”
At this he laughed.
I wanted to run away but I controlled myself. I didn’t want to look like a school girl caught while cheating in exam. What a fool I had made out of myself. For the first time, I had determined to talk to a perfect stranger and was caught. But suddenly I felt relieved because the job of making him talk to me was now over.
We talked about railways, then we leapt from railways to politics, then to the common man and then from the common man to personal lives. I don’t know what made me open up like this. He asked numerous questions and I answered all correctly as if it were a job interview. I had certainly got a friend in him. I gave him my address and phone number. His station had arrived. I bade him good bye and then he left.
Two minutes after he left I realized that I hadn’t asked him his name. I jumped out of the train and saw him talking to someone. It was a familiar figure. As I neared them, I was shocked to find him talking to my husband. I hid myself and listened closely.
“What happened? You seem full of results.”
“Yes. I am.”
“Your suspect was not in vain. She has the problem.”
“What? I knew something was amiss but…”
“There’s no time to waste. Give her all your attention and love. And don’t forget that she’s ill.”
“I know that but for how long?”
“I am sorry…”
My husband sighed.
I was shocked. I had already had enough adventures and this was the biggest of them all. They were surely talking about me. They must have gone bad. I am perfectly normal.
I wanted a private moment with my husband. As soon as the doctor left, I followed my husband and stopped him.
My presence threatened him.
I told him that I had overheard their conversation that demanded to know the truth.
And now here I was, sitting all in my little secret place alone, giving thoughts over my peculiar habit of talking to unknown people and revealing all secrets of my household and finding pleasure in that.
My house had been flooded by strange guests and the telephone rang day and night with strange people calling.
My mind fought a long battle. Finally, I rose to go.
Children ahead were playing hide and seek.
I looked at them for a moment and thought.
“How carefree these little children are? I want to be like them.”
And I turned to go.
The decision had been taken. I will control myself and avoid such encounters.
Three days later…
“Excuse me ma’am. Do you want to talk to me?”
“Yes. Actually it was your voice that grabbed my attention.”