I knew that the train was scheduled to arrive at 9.30 but I was too impatient to just sit at home waiting. Besides, I was afraid Mum would sense my excitement and become suspicious.
Right now, the platform is extremely noisy and crowded with a variety of people. The hawkers chanting on top of their voices, ladies gossiping in different lingoes, babies crying, friends chatting, men speculating over the share market, hushed whispers, excited voices, sad voices, happy ones, beggars begging for alms, people rushing from one end to the other, the announcements, the sounds of the engine, trains passing by, etc. etc. There is too much commotion, just too much activity around me. It is a typical busy morning of a typical Indian railway station.
Surprisingly, the pandemonium does not bother me. I am too far away from Pune to think about my present surroundings.
I am currently transported to the Himalayas, thinking about our purely coincidental meeting, two and a half years ago when I had gone to Kathmandu, Nepal with my family on a vacation. I was just fourteen then when I first met him and he was around sixteen, two years elder to me.
I remember our very first meeting, which was rather an embarrassing one for me considering that I had bumped into him almost knocking him down, in the hotel corridors. I silently laugh remembering that.
But the first time we saw each other (read-ran into each other), the first time we sophisticatedly exchanged hellos (well that wasn’t our first meeting as I’d only managed to mutter a ‘sorry’ out of awkwardness during the first one), the first time I’d shyly managed to look into his eyes(instantly looking away), we connected.
Something entirely different, different in a nice way passed between us. It was intense, extremely strong, something for which I don’t have words to express, something which is usually referred to as a ‘connection’ happened.
Along my stay there, we got fairly acquainted with each other. I learnt that he was a lad from Mumbai who’d just given his S.S.C board exams and was on a long post-boards holiday.
It was on the last day while bidding farewell that we exchanged our e-mail ids and promised one another to stay in touch.
It was a fortnight since I had come back home when I realised that the Bombay boy I had met back in Kathmandu was still on my mind. In fact I was thinking about him day and night, oblivious to why my mind was constantly occupied by him. Whatever I felt for him didn’t make sense to my fresh teen mind. Finally I decided to write to him.
That’s how we built up a contact, e-mailing, chatting on the net and virtually meeting everyday. Gradually the acquaintance turned into a strong friendship and friendship into love. The connection was always there; just that it needed time to mature. It was two years later, that is six months back when he’d finally confessed his feelings to me and my joys knew no bounds.
After that day our relationship took a new toll. Things changed. We always wanted to meet each other, ALWAYS!!! But distance never permitted us to meet. Well, I know Mumbai is just few hours away from Pune but things just didn’t work out for our meeting.
Today he is finally coming! Coming to meet ME! In a few minutes he’ll actually be besides me, right here. O my God! It is past 9.20 and my nervousness mixed with anticipation is increasing with every second. How does he look now?? Will I be able to recognize him? I had spent every single night in the past few months looking at the snaps we had taken together during various occasions throughout ‘the’ holiday. The original memory of his had gradually faded. The more hard I tried to remember him the fainter and distant it seemed; so now the only clear memory was that of a photograph.
Will he recognize me? Will he say, ‘You’re beautiful’, the way the guy always ends up saying to his girl, in the many romances I’ve read? (Oh yes, I’m still mulling over my looks when my best friend has already told me that I look great and I needn’t worry about my appearance as he’ll anyway like me as he’s in ‘love’ with me.)
How will we greet each other? Are we supposed to shake hands and say hi? Or are we supposed embrace each other, the way they show in movies? My mind is swarming with thoughts.
As the clock ticks 9.25 I get up and start pacing up and down the platform. In another five minutes I am going to meet him. My stomach does a somersault. I am nervous and awfully excited. To my disappointment time is passing by dreadfully slow.
I take a deep breathe and tell my self to be patient and calm. Just then I hear the announcement, ‘The Mumbai-Pune ‘dash dash’ express (I am too bemused to pay attention to the train’s name) will be shortly arriving on platform number two.
I go right to the edge of the platform and peer down the rail line to see if I could see anything. And then in a split second I see the distant smoke coming from the engine and then the engine itself comes to life, followed by the horn of the engine and the rumble of the train. The train has started drawing up towards the platform and I slightly back away. The rumbling of the train is ringing in my ears but I cannot tell if the train is making more noise or my fast beating heart.
The train has started to slow down. My eyes are recklessly searching him. I scan every boogie that is passing by. I look through almost every window, every door trying to spot him.
I am sweating out of anxiety, my hands numb. Suddenly I spot a slowing boogie pass by. In the door of that boogie stands a guy who is gazing out screening the crowd on the platform.
As I realize who it is our eyes meet. The moving train slowly comes to a halt and his boogie is just a few feet away from where I’m standing, towards my left.
He jumps out of the train with a backpack on his bag and flashes a smile at me, his white teeth gleaming.
My heart misses a beat. With wide eyes I stand there dumbstruck simply staring back. I am too anesthetized to even smile back.
My heart starts pulsating louder and louder as he has starts walking towards me. The world around me seems to be spinning fast. Everything around me seems to blur, except him walking towards me in a majestic stride.
‘Hi’, he mutters for the third time, his voice getting a bit impatient startling me. I don’t know for how long he has been standing in front of me, our eyes strongly locked in a gaze. His lustrous brown eyes, the depth of his eyes, the warmness in it, the glint, the innocence, the affection all makes my heart skip a beat. I am simply astounded.
‘Damn!’ I think. ‘I have already ruined the first moment. He must have found me dumb, as I couldn’t even exchange a single hi’.
‘Hi’ I retort, my voice hardly audible.
Immediately his face breaks into a smile. I weakly smile back and look away breaking the magic and then slowly looking up towards his towering face, finally managing to give a full fledged smile.
For another few seconds (which seemed like ages) we stand there simply staring at each other, our happiness visible through our beaming glowing faces.
‘What?’ he finally asks stretching out his hands and shrugging his shoulders.
‘Nothing, just that you’ve grown big and…and cute,’ I stutter studying his face.
‘Oh,’ he guffaws, ’you are neither the small, naïve girl I met a few years ago.’
‘You’ve grown too’ he continues taking my hand in his, ‘you’ve grown into a gorgeous girl, sweetheart,’ he caresses my cheek with his other hand making my heart almost jump out of me and spring back.
‘That I have.’ I giggle.
‘Now will you take me around the city or do we spend the rest of the day here on this lacklustre platform?’
‘C’mon,’ I say taking his hand walking towards the exit.
P.S- This is based on two of my ‘lost’ friends’ true story. I write this as a tribute to their love and the past friendship we shared. May God bless them with lots of such happy moments, prosperity and may they remain together forever.