Ashok Nagar Bus Depot…
It was time to board the mini bus.
But he waited just by the side of it as other passengers filed in one after the other.
It was a peak summer day. The sun smiled broadly showering its warmth generously on Mother Earth. Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead. He wiped them off with the handkerchief. The frugal shadow cast by the bus provided minimal respite from the burning brightness. But he was not bothered about the heat or the flies that persistently and irritatingly buzzed around him. His gaze was fixed on the mouth of the gully on the other end of the main road. The movement of the traffic was increasing gradually blocking his view now and then. However, the speeding vehicles did not distract him.
It was time for her to come…the girl with the thoughtful look.
She was his co-passenger and took the 8 o’clock mini every day to Dalhousie Square, the corporate hub of Kolkata, where she de-boarded – most probably she worked in one of the offices situated there. Which one? He did not know. Perhaps he would ask her one day or follow her and find out. He had been observing her for the past few months. There was something very different, very unusual and unique about her. The bespectacled girl had an aura of seriousness about her which was suggestive of a sweet sincerity, an enigmatic innocence that was uncommon and at the same time oddly attractive and alluring. Her long, dark, glistening hair cascaded down to her waist. Her thin, reed-like figure was always clad in hand woven, cotton sarees. She was fond of reading and always had a book or a magazine open on her lap during the bus journey. She never looked up. Her concentration never wavered. Her eyes never strayed towards the other occupants of the bus. He was doubtful whether she realized that he travelled with her every day. But he knew each and every slightest of movements of her body. How she bent her head a little too low while reading, how she wiped the sweat off her face with her hanky now and then in the over-crowded interior of the bus, how she turned a little to her side and asked for a ticket in a soft, pleasing tone, how her lips pursed up and brows creased when she was in deep musing – he had mugged up, rather, soaked in all these little, insignificant details about her day in and day out. That was why he chose to sit one seat behind her always – so that he could stare at her unnoticed.
He knew she stayed in the third gully off the main road– the house in the corner just next to the lamp post with the green grills and door. He had followed her stealthily one evening and found that out. It was a big house and the locked entrance had a kind of invincibility, a sense of impregnability about it. But one day he was sure to barge in through that gate. What would he do thereafter he was not very sure but the thought of gate crashing into her domain was an oft-replayed dream sequence that enlivened his days and nights– a soothing anointment to his diffident manhood.
At times he wondered what her name was – Kuhu, Piya, Peeluor Riya ? Lovely pet names but these did not go well with her persona. She should have unusual, dignified names to match her personality extraordinaire – Shreyasi, Somashreya or Paramtapa? He loved to carry on with this guessing game but could hardly muster enough courage to approach her and ask her name. But no more wait. He decided all of a sudden that today was the day to tell her that he wanted to be friends with her. He wanted to know everything about her – her likes and dislikes, her thoughts and desires, her passions and fears. And what if she snubbed him off? He would accept that as well. He would take in even her hatred and jeers. He was ready for every possibility, every outcome. He had to talk to her. As soon as she arrived he would go up to her and introduce himself. He waited for the moment with baited breath.
She was very punctual usually. But today she was unusually late. He prayed silently that she would appear like a fairy out of the blue and glide her way into his heart. But that did not seem to be happening. What happened instead was Raghu the driver of the mini bus finished his tea, threw the earthen cup aside and hopped into the bus. He took his seat and inserting the key to the ignition called out to him, “Dada! Jump in. We are ready to move.” Being a regular, he was pally with the driver and the conductor. But this morning everything was going haywire. She had not come till then. Was she on leave today? Was she not going to come? The thought made him morose. Raghu, in the meanwhile, kept on persuading him to board the bus undeterred by his lack of response. “Dada! Are you waiting for anyone? Come in and take your seat. Quickly.” The engine purred into action.
Yesterday his boss had rebuked him for reaching office late. He could not afford to be late again. The dour face of his ever-dissatisfied superior floated in front of his eyes. Reluctantly, he got in and took a seat next to the window on the right hand side – the main road was clearly visible from there. Raghu was now playing with the vehicle. The bus oscillated back and forth gingerly but did not spur into a run ahead. Good, he thought, a little more time. He could wait a little longer for her. If only this moment could be prolonged forever. He looked out of the window. An overloaded truck was lumbering past like a slow-moving mammoth. It was blocking the view of the gully opposite. As it inched a little further, suddenly she came into view – yellow saree with green border, yes, it was her. She had spotted the bus too and was walking fast. Now she gained pace then broke into a run to catch the bus.
“Raghu! Raghu! Stop! Stop!” He cried getting up from his seat.
At the same time another passenger yelled from the back, “What nonsense is this? Are you going to make a move or should we get down? We are all getting late to office.”
Raghu calmed down the agitated office goer, “Dada! Don’t get upset. Here we go.”
He raised his voice, “Raghu! Wait! Somebody is coming.”
“Dada! Sorry. I can’t wait any longer. Maalik (owner of the bus) will kill me if I don’t reach Dalhousie on time,” so saying he pressed hard on the accelerator.
He craned his neck out of the window to see her. The distance between her and the bus was increasing rapidly. With the gathered speed of the bus she was soon reduced to a mere speck against the dazzling horizon. He slumped back in his seat. Another day gone! Wasted! Another opportunity missed. He thought. But never mind. There was always a tomorrow. If not tomorrow then some other day, some other time, when he would be able to summon sufficient courage to go up to her, ask her name, confess to her his feelings. She would be shy at first and then acquiescent, intimate, cosy. He would playfully accuse her of being a trespasser who made it a point to invade his dreams every night. She would smile up to him; he would then hold her hand and together they would walk up to the big house in the corner with the bolted door, push open and step in unhindered.
He would wait for her at the bus terminus at 8 o’clock sharp every week day morning.
That was a promise he made to himself and intended to keep it as well.
And if you happen to be at the Ashok Nagar Bus Terminus by the three-way crossing where the main road swerves right then speeds straight down towards Barranagar you may still find him there waiting for her even this day…
There’s nothing like chasing a dream, you know…