Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Match made in Heaven

I stood at the crossroads, looking up and down, left and right, and cursing myself ! What on earth was I thinking, how could I have forgotten to read up directions. All around me, people were walking at breakneck speeds, nobody having time for a pathetic poor loser lost in this fast paced world. I had been struggling like this for the past 45 minutes getting muddled deeper and deeper into this crazy insane maze. How was I ever going to turn up for this appointment on time? It might be intelligent to rather call up and reschedule and walk back home. But who am I kidding. I like to think of myself as someone who would never take a step back in life, come what may. Even if that takes me away from the human species who take pride in calling themselves intelligent. 

 A full 10 seconds passed before I heard a voice and felt spoken to. At first I thought it was my inner voice that spoke. Guess I had been watching way too many movies. 
Do not grieve son, whichever road you take, All roads lead to Heaven”. 
It took me half of that time to realize the mischief in the voice. One look at her took all my breath away. She was like a fresh sunrise bathed in light rising admist the parched forests of Africa. You could have not known there are people around you had it not been for the ever rising decibel levels. But I couldnt take my eyes off her. And then I felt myself blush. And then felt even more stupid for doing so. Whoever heard of a guy blushing. I could have kicked myself ( Read kicked myself = kicked myself real hard ! ) . 

She stood out, every bit of her, from the banal crowd. Yet, she was no angel. She was one of them. You could have walked past her and not noticed her. But she was something about her and I stood mystified by her presence. “ Stop staring at me ! You think I am an alien or something? ” 
Well, I am actually lost and was trying to figure out my directions when you seemed to have said something” 
I said pretty serenely ! I didnt know girls spoke to strangers. 

Lost?? Hmm?? You mean Lost as in L-O-S-T?? From Siberia or something? “ 
She quipped with a smirk on her face. Two can play at this game, I thought and retorted 
Not exactly, I just saw this huge space ship drop out of the skies, and I figured I could get a sighting and Lo and Behold ! You walked by ! “ 
All right, Smart Aleck, go find directions yourself, but keep what I said in mind about the heaven thing !! “ 
said she as she mounted her bike and started riding away. 
Gee, you are actually riding, I thought there would be a ping and poof ! you would vanish !! “ were my last words to her before she rode away. 

I kept looking at her till she was out of sight and then stood wondering if I had really spoken to her or had she been an apparition. It seemed strange in this world to have spoken to a stranger for not more than a minute, yet having had an entirely ridiculous and seemingly unhelpful conversation, something that gave an essence of the two people knowing each other for more the duration that it was, a minute. 

I decided to throw the incident out of his mind and focus on finding my destination. But she had other plans and stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. A good twenty minutes later, I walked into 3, Primrose Lane, Chaska, Albany NY and I stopped. Dead in my tracks. Reading the signboard. There were two businesses sharing the location. ‘Beautiful Smiles’ was where I had applied to for work. I was trained as a junior dentist and had been thinking of advanced training. 

The other signboard read “Made in Heaven”. It was a store selling ancient pieces of junk. (My whole thesis was going to change shortly, but my mind remained blissfully unaware of this as I read on). A fleeting thought entered my mind as I thought about her, if she had known that I was coming, else why would she have stressed on that Heaven statement? But I couldnt afford to dwell on it else I would be denied the job even before I knew it. 

Thoughts of her and the weird conversation kept ringing through my mind all day long even after my appointment was done and I was neatly ensconced back home, gazing into the fireplace. Had it only been a co-incidence after all? I decided to check out the area the next day. Morning approached bright and warm with the sun shining in full armour at an early 8 itself. Up and raring to go, I had a quick breakfast of bagel and juice, the ultimate American food wherever you go, and was out by 8:20. Work didnt start till 9. I still had a good 40 mins to hunt for her. Hunt?? What am I doing here, trying to find a girl who I have no clue about and why? I have no time for girls and who on earth would be interested in a geek like me ! Excuse me? Did I just hear interested? Why am I even thinking about all this ! One day and this is what you start thinking, get your life back on track you Hero ! 

Yet no matter how much I tried to convince myself, her face wouldnt go off my mind. It was like etched forever. The day passed uneventfully and as as the sun made a graceful retreat I decided to pack up and leave even though my eyes kept darting about for the mystery woman. I finally risked a peek into “Made in Heaven”. 

 “They were right when they said appearances are deceptive ! I thought you were smart enough not to get caught peeking ! “ She put up a bold act like she was angry or something though the dimples on her face spoke an entirely different story. 

If appearances are deceptive and I am not smart, it would mean I look smart ! Why thats nice of you to say ! “ 
I beamed while gathering myself from the sudden being-caught-in-the-act thing. Not wanting to support me in my theory and yet not being able to deny it, she clasped her hands frowning and changed the topic. 

A dentist hmm? You look like a salesman or something ! “ She said looking past me at my workplace. 
I am. I sell smiles, to one and all ! ” I replied with a smile. The line sounded right out of a movie. I was right. I had been watching too many. But this sounded very impressive and genuine and a perfect line to floor the lady of your dreams. I actually felt glad I was able to make it up impromptu. Usually such things dont enter my mind till I am done making a complete fool of myself. This very realization gave me a boost that maybe she was the one for me. If such thoughts had depth, I might have been the most successful man by now. Anyways, moving back into situation we are dealing with at the moment. “Expensive?“ She asked, getting into the topic. I couldnt figure why she would think of a dentist. With her pearly whites, she could have been a model for Crest ! 

Not much, just about the price of a cup of coffee ! “ Eager expectant eyes looked her way as I hit myself mentally about a 1000 times a minute thinking of what made me ask her out. Why would she say Yes to you you idiot ! “ Are you asking me out ? “An impish grin scaled her face. 
I know you believe in the appearances are deceptive thing. But are you really this dumb or do you just act that way “ Not to be outdone, I replied. 

Thats a nice way of asking me out “ She acted hurt but I knew better. 
Any way which would give you the hint “ Game’s over ! 
You call that a hint ? “ Wasnt she ever going to give up. 
Is that a Yes or a No “ I asked finally ! 

 20 mins later we walked into a Starbucks, ordered cappucinos and talked endlessly as if we had just met after 20 years or so. Talk about having known each other for less than 24 hrs. I would be the youngest guy in the dental industry to have been fired within 48 hrs of joining. But I was beyond worry. She was everything I had been looking for. Smart, (Read both smart and smart-aleck) , chic, impish and a beauty. The chemistry couldnt be ignored either. Neither of us did anything defined as romantic, we just sat and talked and laughed at jokes and life’s little incidents. I could feel her eyes on me as I spoke. I tried not to stare at her yet I know I ended up doing that most of the time. And she knew it. It was a totally innocent friendship with 2 adults getting to know each other. Yet it was something more than that. 

And as I walked her back to the office for her bike, I couldnt help thinking about something beyond friendship with her. I knew it was too early to be thinking of something more and I would need to give it some more time. Yet I couldnt stand being away from her. She seemed to be echoing my thoughts as we stood silent next to her bike. People talk about love at first sight, this wasnt a first, Ok Ok , two sights, so what, big deal. We parted with a “ C you tommorrow ! “. 

I slept fitfully that night and woke early next morning, thinking of meeting her before work. I bet the day would be great if I saw her first thing every morning. Whoa ! Hold on ! Slow down where is all this leading to.. Go slow ! Go Slow.. I kept saying that to myself and the minute I saw her through the glass standing in there wiping the artifacts, I said to myself - To heck with going slow, if you go slow, you will never make it ! Allright the tortoise made it, but tortoises stay for 300 years, if it hadnt won against the hare ( and it won because it was intelligent, and remember, I just told you I dont count myself as one of that species ) , it could still keep going and never make it. I didnt have 300 years. 300 seconds seemed long enough to me as it is. 

 I took a deep breath and walked into the store, ahem, boutique, she would kill anyone who called it a store, she had said yesterday. She took great pride in what she did. That was nice too. What part of her life wasnt nice dumbo ! And to think, I who said as I willed, was willing to go by what she said. So I walked into the ‘boutique’. What happened to you, one half of me ridiculed. I am in love you idiot ! The other half reasoned. She stood with her back to me, atop a ladder, dusting a huge Persian mirror. Every beauty seemed magnified and she seemed to glow more than everything around her. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks. She caught my eye in the mirror. 

No vacancy ! We are not hiring right now, call back later “ She said teasing me. 
You have an excellent collection of beauties here “ I said, ignoring her comment and hoping she would catch on to the true meaning of my statement. Brushing off my statement and struggling to appear casual, she replied, turning to face me 
They are expensive.“ 
That one sure is priceless “ I said looking beyond her. She turned, her eyes searching for what I was referring to, and then blushed as she saw me looking at her reflection in the mirror. Profound Silence. Blessed. As far as retorts went, I knew had won. As she looked at me through the mirror and smiled that shy smile, I knew we both had won much more than that. We had won each other’s hearts. Her eyes spoke eveything that she didnt. And I knew she was looking deep into my thoughts, beyond where anyone had even been. I had never been this open with anyone else before. It was indeed, a match “ Made in Heaven “.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Perfect Homecoming

Serenity. Maybe the business suit guys at Oxford had seen something like this to have coined the word “Serenity”.....The scene at the graduation ceremony said it all. The crowd looked like a huge yet silent wave of black coats with hats and diplomas. To even think that crowds could sometimes become mobs seemed impossible in the least. One could see a trickle of colour here and there, proud parents, friends and family, dressed in their best. Sherry was one among them, her name yet to be announced to accept the diploma. This was the moment she had been waiting for, God only knew since when. Becoming a graduate is a very common dream these days, in fact it no longer qualifies as a dream anymore. And more so for guys, since its the minimum requirement to get a job, a girl, a life. But then for Sherry, it meant the world. A new beginning, she knew she still had a long way to go. But atleast this was a start. It had been a difficult childhood for her, money hadn’t flown easy. Everything was a hand-me-down, be it books, toys, clothes or even her one and only bicycle for that matter. There wasnt anyone to complain to anyways, and it didnt matter much, nothing would change. Very few kids of the pre-teen ages learnt it the hard way, and she was one of them. Maybe this was what made her resolve so strong. She had been a quiet kid at school, diligently working to make it through, and then helping out at home even though she was the youngest. School responsibilities, household chores and homework to top it kept her busy and active during her school days. College was not much different, but here was where her battles started. Getting through courses wasnt that simple, and payments were difficult. Staying aloof was worse, but money was scarce and she couldnt afford to hang out too much. She hadnt made it in the looks department either, for guys to woo her and buy her gifts. There was nothing special about her, she was just the normal next door girl. She was the kind where someone might even feel sorry for her and buy her something out of sympathy. But self-respect ruled every heart. Friends were few, sympathizers more, yet she lived those days with her head held high and a firmess in her step. Father used to help her a lot during those days, Mother didnt know much, she wasnt much educated, but then she was the best. Father understood but there wasnt much he could do. With 4 kids and the state they were in, Sherry was still proud of what he was doing for them. Mother had seen a lot of rough days herself and she knew how it was being a young go-for-it girl handling life alone. Now, with a confident gait, she walked down the steps of the podium, degree in hand, a winning knowing smile of her face and a hope in her heart of making it big in the world. Sister Rosie stood there looking on proud. Mother and Father would have loved to be here, if they could have. They would really have been proud. She had really wanted them to be here. This was for them. Circumstances said otherwise. The trip back home hardly even registered as her mind was remniscient of all those memories of a life lived long ago. Memories of years past, of those days long long ago. Of those days as a 6 year old, when she had once been taken to the doctor. Why? Because she had been keeping her pencil in her mouth, and her friend told her its got marks on her mouth, so she swallowed an eraser, those young innocent years when you thought doing something like this would erase out the wrong. The very thought bought a smile on her face. She thought of those years as a 12 year old, in school, pushing her friend into the stream which flowed beside her school, only because she wanted to cross the bridge first, the day when she and her group had stacked stones to throw at the enemy group of girls, of those young thoughtful years when you thought .. just thought, when wierd strange ideas spring up.. like why is there corruption in this world, why do we need politicians, why do we need a government, the days of crushes and heartbreaks, of gossips and tell-tales, of girlfriends and other girlfriends, of those endless hours of discussions, when time spent with friends would never be enough. And yet at the backbone of all this, she remembered her parents, Mother and Father couldnt make it here, they would have wanted to, she knew that for sure. But life made its own rules. God created those rules. Now she was all alone. How was she going to make a living all by herself. She couldnt bring herself to answer. The train pulled into the ever packed busy station like a huge tidal wave and it brought her out of her reverie. The scene here was one of total commotion and confusion, parents yelling at their kids to be in sight, hawkers running around, beggers loitering, porters trying to swindle money out of poor passengers struggling to unload their ever heavy luggage, it was just like any other metro station. With a heavy heart she set foot into the city of Calcutta this was where it had all happened, this was where she had lived most of her life lately. The city bought back unwanted memories yet she knew she couldnt run away from it anymore. Sister Rosie kept glancing at her every once in a while for any signs of breakdown but they never came. The sad face was still very strong deep within. They walked the familiar stairs, nothing much had changed around her, the peeling yellow walls desperately in need of a re-coat of fresh paint still looked the same they had 8 years ago. Graffiti adorned the walls and there were some tobacco spills here and there, some old some fresh ones like someone had just been through here. She recalled sitting here with her friend, Kristin, who was more of a sister than a friend, telling her about different kinds of people that had been around and how she might have to be more careful. It was dangerous here especially for young girls. Back then she was 8 years old, it hadnt made much sense then. Now looking around, and thinking back at those words her best friend Kristin had said, it all fit in. Kristin had long since left, she didnt know when, in this place people just came and left, it just was a walk of life. Newer lives, better dreams and aspirations, or maybe just different ones, no one knew where they ended up. Sometimes she thought of what had happened to Kristin, maybe she should have been more close to her, she would have known what was going on in her mind. Someone said she had run away with the caretaker of this place, he had been missing too since the same day Kristin went missing, but to Sherry it didnt fit right. Kristin was a lot more choosy about her guy, she wouldnt have settled for someone like this, what did he have after all? Or did she? Drugs did a lot of things to one’s mind and sometimes she had doubted Kristin on illegal drugs. This place did strange things to you. Before she even realized it, she was there.. the place looked awful as ever, yet this was it. With faint shaken steps she approached the room, and slowly opened the creaky door. With a heavy heart she took a few dainty steps inside. It was like walking into a mist, even though you knew it would suck the life out of you. Her resolve still held, but she was starting to crack up. As the dust settled she could make out the people in the photographs around her. And that was when she finally broke down. Tears flushed down her cheeks as cheerful yet painful memories flooded her mind. A silent sob gave way to a deathly wail and she let herself cry. Cry loud for all those lost years, for the parents whom she lost when she was 8, the sister whom she lost to the caretaker, to poverty or to destiny, she couldnt decide which. She couldnt bring herself to think Kristin was dead but then no one even knew. She had been missing for years. She poured her heart out and cried for the brother she never knew, because he gave in to drugs and eventually to his pending death. Rosie looked on but there was nothing she could do. Someday the grief had to come out, and it was better to get it done with. The girl had been living with this all her life. You couldnt say if it was a selfish choice or a decision taken with pure honesty and a will to live, and get and give love in return. The gigantic brown oak doors looked down at Sherry with all their majesty, guarding her with all their might, holding their heads low in respect for all that she had been through and all her decisions and yet remained true. The door placeholder read Little Angels Nursery.. For my Mom and Dad. Sherry gently opened the door and stepped inside. The walls beckoned to her calling her back to her abode, her belonging. With Mother and Father and her memories. This was where she belonged. This was Home. The morning sun brought with it a new ray of hope and a sunshine that threatened to carry you away into its world of dreams and light. As the babies 4-5 years old walked in one by one, and looking at their cherubic faces a picture of innocence, a look of hope, she knew she could make it. She would live.


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