He waited beneath the gulmohur tree by the roadside. It was time for her to come. He was not going to procrastinate any longer. Today, he thought to himself, I will do it today. The gentle breeze blew some flowers down in a red cascade. It thrilled him. It was on just such a day that he had first seen her.
He was riding to the downtown office. There was some snag in the traffic. It was hot and he was irritated as hell. Why did it have be to him on this errand??
But all that changed in seconds.
He was waiting impatiently for the traffic to clear. A gentle breeze blew from somewhere. The red flowers from the gulmohur on the sidewalk fell in a cascade from above. And there was a girl was walking down the footpath through the cascading flowers. Something about her held his attention. He watched her as she walked through the falling red flowers. The evening sun shone on her hair tied up in a pony tail. It swung jauntily while she walked. She was wearing a yellow dress with red flowers on them. She exuded joie de vivre. It made him feel nice in spite of his general bad mood.
And then she smiled.
He almost lost his balance. He did not turn behind to see at whom she had smiled. He could not take his eyes off her long enough for that. The traffic cleared just then. Horns started blaring. He reluctantly moved forward, unable to take one last backward glance.
Who was she?? He yearned to know. Would he ever see her again?? He wanted to, so very much.
He smiled when he thought of that first day. Where was she?? She was late today! Yes, sometimes she would be. Maybe she had gone to the library for some book. He smiled when he thought of how much more he knew of her now.
The next day he had had to go to the downtown office again. Strangely, he had not protested. He had felt a strange excitement. Would he see her?? The chances were so dismal.
This time he saw her a little ahead, at where the road curved before it reached the tree-lined avenue of the Museum road. She was walking, ponytail swinging. Change of dress. She was in a maroon salwar kameez today. He slowed his bike to a crawl. She had a file in her hand and a bag over her shoulders. She seemed lost in thought. Happy thought. Soon she had crossed him and moved on. He sped away, strangely elated and at the same time feeling deflated.
He looked at his watch for the umpteenth time. He smiled at his own impatience. He was in a hurry today!
His mind wandered back to the day he surprised himself by volunteering for the daily trip to check things at the downtown office. His boss was pleased at his interest in things. He would probably make me the in-charge now, he thought ruefully! The many evenings he had agreed to make the trip to the office must have had his boss thinking he was very much interested in the new project there. But, he had only wanted to catch a glimpse of her.
Another day. He had got out of the office earlier than usual. He parked his bike beneath the gulmohur tree and waited leaning on it. There she came. She was in a sari today. Hair left loose. She looked divine. The file and her cloth bag seemed to be her constant companions. He saw her turn her head and look up to the first floor of the building opposite. He saw a burly man smile deferentially at her. He looked back just in time to see her fleeting smile of acknowledgment. He had almost missed that smile. He could have kicked himself!
At home. Relaxing with a cup of coffee, he replayed the scene in his mind. Who could that be?? The man looked like he was a chauffeur or peon. There were many offices in that building. Did someone she know work there??
He struck gold the next day. He was waiting at the traffic lights when this car parked right beside him. Was he dreaming? There she was in the front seat. An elderly gentleman was driving. He made his decision and followed the car. He was going to be late for the office and would have hell to pay. But he could not ignore this! The car stopped near the bus stop a little ahead and the girl got out waving to the man. He saw her run across and get into the College bus. He had his first clue. He knew the name of her college. On an impulse, he decided to follow the car. He followed it to the office building right opposite where he waited for her.
He watched the traffic idly. Today, he promised himself again. I will not delay any longer. He would walk up to her and talk to her. Would she think he was some roadside Romeo out to harass her? How would he convince her he was not?? Whatever, he just had to go up and talk to her. She was late today. Was she searching for some book?? Had she met some friends on her way?? He felt restless and impatient. The gentle breeze blew. The red flowers fell like a shower. That brought a smile back to his face.
That day had been his lucky day. He had followed the car back to the office and saw the old man getting down. He looked familiar. Then memory flooded him, gifting him with exquisite pieces from the past. He remembered this gentleman who had been their neighbor years back. Was she the little girl he used to get chocolates for?? Was she the one whom he deigned to ignore most of the time of their stay next door??
That had been years back, but he remembered her name with clarity now. Now he had a plan. He had got the opening he needed.
There she was walking down the road. His heart skipped a beat. She was again in the yellow dress he saw her first in. It seemed somehow ominous to him, that she should be. Today was an important day. He would walk up to her and introduce himself. As simple as that. No subterfuge for him.
She was almost level with him. His eyes feasted on her. Today he was going to talk to her. He crossed the road with determination.
The girl turned. She felt herself go cold.
She saw a body lying on the road, covered with blood. Vehicles had stopped. Somebody was already on the phone. People from the office opposite were rushing out. She watched uncertainly.
Who was that man??
She felt a sinking feeling. He looked young too.
Why had he been crossing the road??
Why had he been so careless??
She stood there a few seconds more watching the crowds, indecisive.
There was nothing she could do.
Someone young had died in a road accident.
Death depressed her.
She dragged her feet home with a heavy heart.
The girl he loved.
The girl who never knew she was loved.