I had always wondered how people of Mumbai could develop camaraderie with the people who just take the same local at the same time as they do. In the sea of people how could you recognize that “Yes, I met this guy yesterday”? Answers took some time to come but yes, they came.
I don’t know when I noticed her first. Maybe it was November, maybe it was December – but it was one of the two as I remember having the plaster on my leg at that time. Those days the ten-minute drive to office had been replaced by the twenty-minute auto-ride. At the traffic junction one day, like always I was drinking in the variety of people around me. Then I noticed her – in a white dress on her scooty waiting for the signal – staring in my direction, no not in my direction, but staring at me and foot long plaster-of-paris cast. She noticed that I noticed, and her sympathetic glance averted mine, but there were traces of a smile about to appear on her lips. Before the smile could materialize, the signal betrayed and she had disappeared in a cloud of exhaust smoke. I had a feeling that this was not the first time I had seen and the subsequent journey to office was spent in mulling over prior, if any, opportune meetings.
Since then almost daily I would spot her, although I never consciously tried to find her, but my subconscious would always pick up her number plate, or her tell-tale pony, or the eyes on their accord would scan the crowd for her. January came and off came the plaster. I was back on my bike, but I did not see her at the junction. The second day it hit me that I was ten minutes late, she was there daily at the same time just I was late being back on bike. Next day onwards I left for office ten minutes earlier, and there she was – in the same white dress that I had noticed her first in – she saw that the plaster was off and gave an acknowledging smile. It became a daily ritual, we saw each other at the junction, exchanged smiles, and both went on our own ways. That small odd ritual did have its own quaint charm.
Next month I was off for two weeks, the first day of my vacation I thought about her, but then the holiday mood gripped me and there was no thought of her for the subsequent 14 days. I was getting ready to rejoin the same old boring work life when her thoughts crept in my head. Would she be there? Without even realizing it, I had missed her. She had become a part of my daily life, even though she was nobody to me. Full of her thoughts I reached the junction and saw her waiting for the signal looking forlorn. I took my bike beside her, she turned and I was greeted with the most dazzling smile I have ever got, and the words “Where were you? I was worried”. We skipped office that day, called in sick, and talked through the day. I went back home feeling more refreshed then I had ever done before. We were exact opposites when it came to trivial things – tastes in food, movies, coffee etc; but when it came to the things that really matter – life, love, and dreams – we were the same. With a shock I realized that we had talked for straight ten hours and I still did not know her name.
The answer came, now I know how people develop camaraderie by just traveling in the same train. Next week we celebrate our second marriage anniversary, and yes, now I know her name.
Note: This is pure fiction 🙂