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 journey.
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 a
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 outlet!
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 reader.
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 understand me.
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 sure why.
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 coffee.
She kept her gaze locked on me.
To break her unnerving stare, I quizzed on her educational background.
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 lost.
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 time together.”
She stared at me so intensely that I wanted to pick my stuff and run out.
Then breaking the silence again, she gave a huge crackle of a laughter!
And said, “Do you prefer to hire a taxi or the rickety bus?”
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