Girl at the bus stop - Part I
"You too are late today", she says. "I know", I reply. "My boss wanted to talk to a client just when I was about to leave and I had to stay back for it. How was your day?" "Fine, today I finished my piece of code and released it for testing. I hope the testers get kind. Else I am screwed", she says. I cannot think of any suitable reply so I just say "Good". She starts to say something else when the bus numbered 60 is spotted. I also notice it but pretend as if the bus never existed. "Ho... you are lucky. Here comes your bus." "Oh, lots of people inside. I think I will take the next", say I. "No, silly. The people standing inside are getting down. There are even seats available. Bye and have a good time", she sings gaily.
I try to smile at her, curse the bus driver and make a deliberate slow walk hoping that the bus leaves before I get in. But the bus conductor sees me (bad), recognizes me (worse) and blows his whistle indicating to the driver to stop (worst). I board on the bus, turn around and find her smiling and waving at me. I too do the same and settle down beside a window.
I had first met her six months ago. It was my first day in Chennai and like all the people in Chennai who don't speak Tamil; I was having a horrendous time. None speak Hindi and few, English. I found her in the bus stop, arms folded, cool and composed, looking confident of anything and everything. She did not look like a Tamilian and with the earphones on, was probably listening to FM radio. I asked, "Mount Road, bus no.?" I did not want to speak good English as I found that it embarrasses people who are not fluent at it. She removed the earphones and said, "That is ok, I speak English." I said, "Oh, I am sorry. I just wanted to know which buses go to the Mount Road from here." "60", she said. "There are also a couple of others but I am not sure. Plenty of 60 s on the road, though. Look, there comes one." Impulsively, I turn around and made a dash for it. Only a little later, I realized I did not even thank her. How mean it must have looked. I thought I would make it up if I meet her again.
It was again around a month later when I met her again. I was there in the bus stop desperately trying to shake off a guy who wanted me to buy some Tamil books. It was then that she appeared. "Mount Road, bus no.?" she said smiling. "Hey, hi. How are you? Long time, no see?" I greeted her like an old friend. I did not really intend to be so informal but the words had come out tumbling. "Doing good. So you recognized me?" she said. "Why, of course. Did not see you for quite some time. Were you out of town or something?" I enquired as politely as I could. "Actually yes. I was in Mumbai. Was working at the client site for a short while. So, got used to Chennai?" she asked.
I weighed upon the question a little. If I say no, I could take the opportunity to ask her something about Chennai and our conversation and acquaintanceship might grow. On the other hand, if I say yes, I might appeal to her as a confident and a capable person. I decided to take on a middle path and diplomatically said, "A little. Actually decent enough, but not very well though. So you are here everyday?" "At almost the same time. Between 7:00 and 7:30." She seemed quite outspoken and looked comfortable. I liked her attitude. Her poise and grace. Her self assuring manner. No unsolicited bashfulness. Yet, so Indian. No airs or hint of arrogance, yet cool, calm and so confident of herself.
Over the next few weeks, I met her more often. I started looking forward to our brief meetings. Each not more than five minutes at the most. Some days, I missed my buses to meet her. Would wait for 15 - 20 minutes for her. Every time we met, it was always I who would have come to the bus stop first. Nevertheless, I was happy, took her for what she was, a stranger girl in the bus stop providing my otherwise boring, insipid life with a little life and romance.
Today is the first day when I find her in the bus stop before me. Is she waiting for me, missing a couple of buses in the process? The thought, in itself, is so heartwarming that I smile. I do not have a way of knowing it for sure so I believe it is true. "So, what's up? You look great today", she says. I smile and say, "You too". She winks and says, "I know". Then a brief silence as we both watch a fat policeman stop a mid size truck before asking for papers. I start to think hard. How do I proceed further than ‘Hi, how are you? How was your day? Bye.' How do I get to know more of her? Abruptly, "Say, would you care for a cup of coffee? I have a splitting headache and I am badly in need of caffeine."
(To be continued...)