Apart from Love
I found myself enveloped in a surge of energy and renewed vigour after a week-long trek through the majestic Himalayas. As the echoes of my expedition still reverberated within me, a day-long journey awaited me to get back home.
Amidst the bustling Delhi Nizamuddin Station, my arrival preceded the scheduled departure of the Rajadhani Express bound for Bangalore. Uncharacteristically early, I was bored to wait. Determined to escape the boredom, I sought solace through the lens of my DSLR camera.
Through the viewfinder of my SLR, I glimpsed a girl boarding the train. She was beautiful, like a twinkling star in the sky. The sight of her ignited a profound realisation within me – the dawn of a new chapter in my story.
"I don't want to fall in love with this girl," I lied to myself, for the truth was far too intimidating to confront. In one moment, she resembled a delicate rose, and in the next, a blossoming jasmine. Her smile cultivated a garden of flowers within my heart with its simplicity.
A twist of fate awaited as I realised it was the very same train I was to board.
Finally, on the train, I navigated through the sea of settling passengers and their restless companions, when a beautiful voice pierced the air behind me, "Excuse me bhaiya...side please." Kill me!!! Unwilling to endure another encounter with senseless titles, I allowed her to pass. (I mean, she was too old to call me bhaiya and of course, too pretty!)
The universe seemed to play its hand, for the girl I had admired from afar on the platform found her place in front of my very eyes, seated beside my designated spot. I took my place beside her, awestruck by the surreal turn of events that unfolded before me. It was too good to be true.
The train journey commenced, and it resembled the perfect dream I had never dared to imagine.
Rajadhani: My Kingdom (albeit not the capital itself, but rather a mere train carriage).
Seat number 24: My throne.
And beside me, My Queen!
Even I could not have planned it better. Who would have believed dreams could manifest themselves in such a tangible reality? I was, indeed, living a dream I had never dreamt.
And then the irony struck (as usual) in the form of an old witch (Yes, even dreams do have vamps!). No offence, but I didn’t even have time to strike a conversation with the girl. An elderly lady requested this pretty girl to exchange their seats since she couldn’t climb up. And my queen wholeheartedly agreed to the request, without even thinking about me. (Oh ya…why will she? And why should she?)
This old lady smiled at me and I returned the favour by giving her the famous fake smile. The girl then stood up, took her luggage, smiled (the same famous fake one!) and vanished into thin air, just like in the dream. (My bad – Who said dreams, come true?)
And then suddenly I felt nothing. That is when I saw her (the other girl and the main character of this story!), sitting right opposite to me. She had tucked herself away in a corner, invisible to the crowd, her attention absorbed by the pages of “I too had a love story” (Maybe she was being sarcastic to my happenings!). She was cute and in a way beautiful, beautiful not like the girls in the movies. Nor like the girl I liked a few minutes back. I thought hers was the beauty of the soul, hidden from the world's gaze. Maybe, the best kind of beauty is the kind that is mostly ignored.
When I saw her, she was staring outside continuously, maybe a lover of nature. Anyways I didn’t want to know about this girl (this time I was not lying to myself!). Throughout our journey, she attempted to extend an olive branch of friendship, but I shielded myself from her advances. Had it not been for the earlier encounter, I might have fallen for her by now. And it was one of those moments again…when books were your only friends and music, your only saviour.
WHAT WAS THE GIRL THINKING?
Gazing through the window pane, I fixated not on the marvels of the world outside – but at the reflection of my world inside (read it as my crush, for now!). Yes – I am talking about this guy who was sitting in the seat (#24) opposite to me.
When he smiled, I felt like he was speaking to my heart, but the only problem was that I was unable to understand the language.
I tried to strike up a conversation, but couldn’t. Because most of the time his earphones were plugged in, giving me no chance to talk. Or he was busy reading some books.
I utilised the opportunity to get near him in the name of kindness. I proposed to the elderly lady seated beside him to sleep in my berth as she was too tired (and so I could sit beside him!).
Once in the evening, he started seeing some pictures he took on his camera. In a bid to connect with him, I complimented the professional quality of his images. A harmless lie, it seemed. As a result, he offered me his camera, allowing me to admire his vast collection of pictures, thousands in number, before immersing himself in his book once more. His actions were a puzzle, an enigma begging to be unravelled.
I was sure he was not committed since he was never on the phone from the start of our journey.
All throughout the journey, I tried to do what I am not good at – impressing him. I failed every time. I felt ignored. Perhaps I was not his type. But I couldn’t help but try. At least his thoughts kept me from getting bored.
As night descended upon us, I asked him to wake me upon our arrival in Bangalore, not due to any innate inability to rise early but driven by the fear that he might depart without bidding me a final farewell. Hope persisted within me, yet when we reached our destination, he leisurely packed his belongings, neglecting to awaken me from my slumber. He didn’t even look at me while I was leaving.
I was waiting for him on the platform. To meet one last time and bid adieu. Just when I made up my mind to not fall for him again, He looked at me.
He kissed me with his intense looks. He hugged me with his subtle smile. He stole my heart in that moment, forgetting to take it with him. So, I chose to leave my heart there, to move on, so that no one could steal it from me again!
He came near me, his presence filling the space between us, waiting for me to utter a word. I preferred to be silent.
"So?" he inquired, his voice hanging in the air like a whispered secret. "So?" I echoed softly, my heart pounding, aching for words I dare not speak.
He smiled again and waved his hand saying ‘See you soon’. Such a cryptic phrase - I don’t know why he said that but he seemed honest (which I forced myself not to believe!). I was sad but couldn’t cry.
He moved ahead, slowly, as if walking away from the space we shared, leaving me yearning to bridge the distance. But I decided not to yield this time, and so I raced forward, my steps quickening like a wild heartbeat, leaving him behind without a glance.
I knew it was our last goodbye, but I insisted on convincing myself to say: See you soon (Honestly – I don’t know why!).
A pang of sadness stabbed my heart, much like the feeling when a girl I cherished walked away. However, this time, it was not the girl I admired who drifted away, but the one who admired me.
Some feelings cannot be shown. Some words cannot be expressed. Sometimes you have to let go of some people who made you feel special. She just played her part in my life.
It is not love unless love is defined as a 'like' that lasts only for 30 minutes. It is not a crush unless crush is defined as a feeling of letting go of someone you like. Neither friends nor foes, we were strangers, two wanderers who briefly crossed paths, entwined by a magical sentiment that was surely not love.
Maybe it is not about a happy ending, maybe it is about the journey and the story. Maybe it is not about love. Maybe it is something apart from love.