Today I walked a little further from my house. I passed the grey old building and saw the same old man sitting on the balcony armchair and smoking his pipe. I saw him crane his neck and take a peep at me. A usual event.
I passed the tree which bore fiery red flowers. I don't know the English name for it.
I, then came to the police station where some of the constables were hanging around and sharing a good laugh. Just the way we did outside college. And for no particular reason, tears welled up in my eyes.
So, I walked by faster so no one would see me.
And from a distance, I saw a familiar figure walking towards me. The pace was as slow as mine. And given that there are very few street lights on that road, a lot was left to hunch.
"Rashi!" I whispered loudly. Almost as if the figure heard my voice, it stopped at a distance and said, "Priyadarshini...."
Nothing more was said for at least another ten seconds; but it felt like hours.
"What are you doing in Bangalore?" she asked.
I live here now. Have been here for almost three years.
"Wow! I have been here for pretty much the same time. And to think we never met."
Yeah. Maybe it wasn't time.
Do you have time for a coffee?
So we walked down to Brio - the coffee joint on the roof of Home Stop. It was a weird evening - sultry, unlike Bangalore. There were beads of sweat on both our foreheads and upper lip. It was then that I saw her face.
There were no dark circles on that flawed skin. In fact, it had cleared up quite a bit from the time I remember. She wore a cotton shirt and a pair of faded jeans. Kolhapuris gave away the tired feet.
Are you married? was her first question.
Yeah. I got married about four years back. Moved here soon after. Was in Chennai for about a year and then moved back. What about you?
No. Not married. Actually not married anymore. Was.
I wasn't surprised. People were getting divorced all the time. This was just one of those.
Long story Priya. Maybe some other time.
Then she brightened up.
Tell me about you. Any kids?
Nah. Don't want them.
Cool. Working somewhere?
Nothing permanent. Here and there. I write for a living. Waiting for that big break.
Maybe we should meet up for lunch or dinner one day. What do you think?
Sounds great. Where are you staying?
Victoria Layout. Rented an apartment.
What are you doing in Bangalore Rashi?
Oh! I teach in a special school. Have been there for almost eight years now.
Wow. That's pretty impressive. I had imagined you to go and become a professional tennis player or something.
Yeah, That would be the day.
The coffee is nice.
Yeah I come here a lot.
You do? Fish, so do I.
Then why didn't we meet before Priya?
Maybe it wasn't time.
Things change don't they? I never imagined you married.
Neither had I.
Is it good for you?
In more ways than not.
Nice. Am happy for you.
Rashi, don't you ever miss the school days? Where did you go away after you left school. I know you moved to Delhi. I even wrote you letters. There were no replies. I just thought you'd disappeared.
I am sorry about that. Was never into writing letters. But I got all of yours. I still have them in fact.
What?!? You do? Why?
I don't know. Back then, you were the only one who wanted to be my friend. Everyone else pretended.
I think we should go now. It's getting late.
Come home sometime. We'll catch up.
Sure. Let's. I would love to talk about everything that you've been doing.. All the men in your life - all the broken hearts.
Right, of course!! (Laughter)
We paid for the coffee and left. Walking towards pretty much the same direction for a while we didn't share a single word till the road forked into two.
Good night then Priya. See you soon. It was awesome meeting you.
Tata dear. Hope to see you again - soon.
We parted. I started walking back home and as I approached the old grey house, the old grey man was still sitting on his chair. He craned his neck again and looked down at me. Then a feeble and yet stable hand came up and waved a solemn wave. I waved back - a miniature smile touching my mouth.
And as I got into the lift I realised that Rashi and I didn't exchange numbers. She would leave again. Like the last time.