The sun was about to set. The traffic had increased. The honking reverberated in her head.  The auto rickshaw in which she sat jerked into a pit. “Please be careful.” She shouted to the driver. “Sorry madam, the roads are really bad after the rains.” Her heart was beating fast. Her greatest fear had come alive, what if he never showed up….

She touched the vermilion on her forehead and a grain of rice fell on her lap. She picked it up and held it in her palm. How affectionately her mother had smeared it on her forehead after the puja. Her parents had known it was a special day, but they could have never imagined the turmoil in her heart.

A gust of wind blew her hair and her clothes fluttered. Dark clouds gathered over the sunset beams and prevailed even after the onset of complete darkness. Was it her mind playing games or was the universe trying to give her a sign? Whatever it was, she could not interpret it. She had made her decision; in fact, they both had...

Big drops of water came down and dripped on her shoulder. She zipped open her bag to look for an umbrella. She remembered having put it just under the crushed pile of clothes. Her finger touched a solid edge and she turned it to see. The photo frame stared right at her, as if they could still see her and know what she was doing. Her parents were perfect; the ideal ‘made for each other’ couple.

The green umbrella had always been special. From the day she had pointed it out to her mother in the big store, she had never understood how she had saved up enough to get for her birthday. She had always frowned at the black ones that hung in their closet. She took out the umbrella from her bag and held it in her hands. The auto rickshaw jerked and stopped at the Central railway station. She paid the driver, opened the umbrella, held her bag in one hand and climbed out. The rain poured heavily, almost growling and fighting with her, as if accusing her of the crime she was about to commit.

She was almost drenched when she reached platform 10. She stood under the big clock, as they had discussed. It struck seven. She wanted to sit down, but the bench was a few paces away. She did not want to risk the chance of missing him. She held her duppata and used it to wipe her wet face as the corners of her clothes dripped with water. She bit her nails as she looked around anxiously at the unknown faces.  She tried calling his cellphone, but it was switched off. She still kept trying. The clock struck eight.

The heavy rain had led to water logging at the tracks. She could no longer see the tracks, but only ankle deep water. The platform was almost full now. Their train was due at eight fifteen. Her trembling hands redialed his number, but it was still switched off. She brushed away her tears. Maybe he was stuck in a traffic jam, maybe water seeped into his phone and it stopped working, maybe there had been an accident. She took out the two tickets she had purchased and looked at them -Karan Nagesh, age 24 and Kiran Prakash, age 23. “The train to Jammu has been delayed and it will now depart at 9:20”, the announcement in all the three languages enforced some calmness in her. She walked upto the bench and sat on it.
Karan had visited her house almost 3 weeks ago.  Smiles and cheers all until his job status was made known. If only, her parents had not considered unemployment as a vice. If only, he had not strongly reacted to their dislike. If only, the pitch of their voices had been low. If only, he had not walked away banging their door. It had been the greatest humiliation her parents had ever faced.

Maybe, she would have forgotten him. Maybe, time would have healed her wounds. But these hopes were crushed when she came back from office to see a houseful of people. A tall and lean guy had been introduced to her as her prospective groom. “This is the best thing for you”, her parents had said. “We have seen your choice, it didn’t work out. Now, you must comply with us.”She had been in too much of a shock to retort. So when Karan had suggested shifting to Uttaranchal, she had agreed. He had promised they would get married there. She had resigned from her job the very next day.

She held the bag close to her body; it had all her savings and Provident Fund money. She fought back her tears. She no longer knew right from wrong. What if he never came tonight? What if he had just done it to take revenge for the insults her parents had flanked at him? She sat there, her clothes dripping and her hands crossed tightly across the bag. The clock struck nine. The train stopped and stood in front of her. Twenty minutes was all she had left. She dialed his cell phone again, still not used to the disappointment!

Could she turn back and go home? It wasn’t an option. Could she board the train alone? But where would she go, what would she do there? The train started moving. She stood up and looked at it. Happy faces flung out waving at their loved ones. She stood up and watched it, move away from the platform. Her heart sank, and tears flooded her eyes.

She did not know how many hours had passed, but her mind had stopped responding. The numbness had taken over her completely. She just sat there and stared at the floor, as the clock struck twelve.

She woke up to the sound of a cleaning lady, asking her to move. She woke up and rubbed her eyes. She looked at her phone, there were 38 missed calls. She looked quickly, all were from her home. He never called. She dialed his number again, it was still switched off!

Her phone started ringing again, it was her mother. She switched it off. What could she possibly do now, where could she go? At the corner of the post, she saw a lady begging for food. Wrapped in her arms was a frail child. She held the child close and wrapped her sari around him. How desperate she looked for food.

She lifted her bag and rushed out of the station. As she rang the doorbell, she was still at a loss of words. Her  mother opened the door,  and she flung into her arms. “I am sorry Ma, I am so sorry.” And her mother took her inside the house and closed the door shut.




08/18/2010 11:32am

Nice and touching story !!

What happend to him, why didn't he turn up?

08/19/2010 12:30am

Thanks Vimal....nice to know that you are still curious....but the whole essense was that sometimes things happen for which we can't find answers...yet, we have to make the sensible choice and move on...

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Vineet....ur comments are so flattering....i don't know how this came about...but i always wanted to write...and i did start in school...just write whenever i have the urge to express...

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