its the usual day otherwise. cloudy morning. people too lazy to claim their weekend sleeping in. quiets roads and busy barber shops. but for one motorist who's got some reason to rush back home - who knocks into me as i step across that fateful gate.
"fuck" i mutter "dude... look where you're going"
he almost misses the brown stray who scampers away as soon as the bike halts.
the biker looks more worried than me. don't know the physics of how exactly it happened in that one short screech of a moment but there's a stin on my leg and blood is just beggining to trickle down my denims.
"sorrry sorrry!" he's petrified as people gang up to interfere.
"im ok... its ok" i wave away the people with a light gesture and the guy restarts his bike and hurries on.
i dust off my clothes and walk on towards the place where i'm supposed to meet a friend for brunch. and what lies behind that gate is something i'd never really expected. something i wont be able to explain for a long long time.
as i walk in, i see her. she's just another woman. nothing special - i heuristically judge by the auto-pilot system every man is born with. she's not even my 'type' - if there's such a thing that is.
no black nailpaint. no tattoos. no glares that hide her eyes. not even an athletic figure. she's just sitting there simply in her black embroidered kurti and white denims. like buddha under the tree. only that she's got no halo around her - instead she's got her silky hair in a small bun kept in place with a little wooden pin. she's writing in a little notebook that seems expensive.
A tiny roughly made candy paper origami swan sits beside her.
I 'm used to evaluating people and it's a function of myself that i can't really stop anymore. i size up people and categorize them - no one's special - everyone fits into one of the 24 categories i know. and it's pretty perfect.
i haven't even walked upto the lobby as yet, and she's already a specimen. filed. and placed.
my cell beeps and i pick up to answer, turning around expecting to see my friend walk in from the gate.
"dude, i'm so sorry. i'll be 10 mins late."
"as usual" i smile as if she can see my smile. "its ok. im already here. buzz me when you reach. come fast."
she mumbles something on the other end - or actually, that's just what i can make out as i passively switch off the call as i turn around again to sit on the stairs. She's right opposite me. still writing something.
a stray walks up to her from nowhere. and she's mildly shocked for a moment. is she that delicate? stupid chick! i speak to myself in my head. but then she sees the dog looking up to her and lays aside the book. she quells her fear and reaches out her hand to the dog who curiously comes up to it and touches it with his snout - touching her fingers with a tiny acknowledging lick. and i think that's the moment it happened. she smiles like she's never had such a moment ever before.
its as if eve touched another living creature for the first time. she's full of surprise and amazement and excitement and all kinds of emotions powerful enough to make her fair cheeks blush up with joy. and over-ride that still existent minute wall of fear.
and she looks up at me with that smile still on her face....
yes, that's the moment.
all those little files in my head are scattered. infact, for that one moment, there's no file drawer itself anymore. its a clean, empty desk. maybe with a candy paper origami swan on it at the most.
i smile back out of reflex. definitely not intentionally - coz im way too confused at having my mind behave this way. and then i smile again, this time intentionally as i walk up to her seeing that she's still a little afraid.
"he wont bite. he likes you."
and she says the most unusual response i've ever heard to that statement: "i feel it." she smiled. "i like him too".
my walk almost pauses as i slow down - amused. most people would say 'are you sure?'.. 'oh he's so cute!'.. 'do you know him'... or some similar usual chatter. but not her. she had already established a mutual reciprocation of emotions between them. and the dog seemed to understand that.
he needed to be loved. and she was capable of loving. it was that simple to them both.
and i stood there, still trying to find a file, again.
the origami bird on the table is the same bird she's left behind under the tree with her diary.
"he seems hungry" i say looking at his frail frame.
"come, let's get him some food" she quickly responds.
my mind says - helllo! you don't even know me and now you want me to go with you and get the dog some food? yes i love dogs. but 'let US get him some food?' that's only the second sentence we spoke!
and yet for some strange reason, i find myself complying to that request... maybe coz a hint of that smile still lingers there.
i pet the little brown mutt and he scampers along with us back to the gate side chai-tapri.
"you shouldn't ignore that cut you know" pointing at my leg she speaks in a clear voice that sounds much like genuine concern... looking at me with those eyes that seem to belong to a 5 year old...
and i realise that i'm walking with a limp - and yet had no sense of the pain all this while. what's wrong with me???
"bhaiiyaaaa... ek packet biscuit dena" she squeaks in the tiniest little kitten voice i've ever heard. and that's pain vanished again as she leans over the shelf for the biscuits i notice her again.
yes again. post my heuristic analysis of her. those soft breasts aren't shoved up with any padding - they seem to melt onto the hard wood of the shelf as they graze against them.
her kurti extends right upto the lower line of her not athletically shapely but yet existent buttocks. her white denims hiding her frail legs that taper down into her pink, out of place pumas.
who wears white denims with pink pumas? seriously???
the judgemental bitch in me is on overdrive but i end up saying "sweet shoes!" and smile. why? i don't know. but they do seem very sweet on her. in fact it would be tough to find anything that would not ook sweet/gorgeous/wonderful on her.
why? she isnt something dropdead gorgeous! where are those files??? and what's that stupid origami bird doing on my table?
she hands the shopkeeper a 5 ruppee coin and turns around
"bad bad habit"
i'm taken aback. did she see me check her out? or is she speaking about my files? oh come on - how would she know! stupid me.
"eh???" i ask with a monosyllable.
she sits down, opening the biscuit pack "sit stupid!" she says while feeding the dog. "show me your leg."
am i missing something here? i think as i continue complying, placing myself on the bench while saying "naaah! its alright!"
"shut up and show me"
i like her. do i? i do. i think.
but why? no way. shut up. where are those files gone? i need to look for more clues.
the dog is now munching on the biscuits as i pet him with one hand and pull up my denims with the other.
"do you order around all strangers you meet?" i ask with a laugh
"that depends on what you mean by strangers - or how you define strangers. right?"
something's wrong here. why is she speaking my words? this is what i say.
i want to know her. i need to know her.
i look at her as she cleans my cut with some water and i could have sworn it was a wound a while back.
"its just a cut"
"yeah. silly biker. the world's full of strangers who are friends right?"
she giggles and blinks both eyes like a kid as if she caugh me playfully taunting her.
that smile again. i need to know her better but my friend will be here any moment.
should i get her number? she seems to be nice. very nice. ok, whom am i fooling? - i'm smitten!
"it'll heal ok?" she prescribes her care in those words. bleeeep bleeeeep. she looks at her silver plated cell.
and as i smile in acknowledgement of her mothering. that's when she drops those words : "i need to go now. you take care."
i'm taken aback again - she was right here this instant. what happened now. "why?" i ask
but without an answer she scurries away like the dog after the accident. before i can put my denim down n follow her out, she's almost into her yellow little car.
as she turns to sit inside, the kurti gets caught on the door and peels away with a small tear at the seams.
small enough to allow a glimpse of her white waist, with small brown circular patches. and a streak running up towards her breast.
is that a tattooo????? that's strange! who is she? and what happened?
she shrugs it off and sits in. shuts the door and the engine revs to life. and she drives away.
the cut dosent hurt anymore. where did she go? did we even have that bizzare encounter? and how could i forget to even ask her name???
wait. should i even bother. this is stupid.
my cell goes off again. "im at the gate, where are you?"
i shrug it off. i go hug my friend at the gate.
we walk towards the stairs and im walking without a limp.
"sorry i got late. lets go eat, im hungry...."
im listening as we are walking in and those words fade away as i look at that paper swan still under the tree. the diary was gone. i wonder who took it? she was gone. i wonder why?
"just a minute." i walk down the stairs back to the tree, pick up the little swan, smile, shrug my head and walk back to the stairs.
"... just a swan" i say as we rush up the stairs together.
at night i sleep. without a limp. just a bruise. the files are back on my desk. but there's no file for her. there's just a swan for that. and a lot of questions... a lot of questions that make me smile.
actually, the swan's not really on my desk. the swan's on my window.... and i'm falling asleep.
- Pushkaraj Shirke