Monday, January 9, 2017

The Cliché

It must be true that everyone has their railway platform moment, or some variant of the same: a tragic parting with a train’s whistle playing in the background, a heart-breaking arms-stretched tableau at an airport’s Departure terminal or a lingering handshake at the bus-stand with thirty or so impatient fellow-passengers grumbling, “Aw…get on the bus, will you?”.
I have mine.
She was on platform number one. I was running to the escalator. A kid came in between. We nearly collided.
I mumbled an apology, recognized her instantly. It took her a while.
“We have met before, haven’t we?” she asked.
“Madam, at the bank, the mutual fund investment,” I mumbled.
“Ah yes…they are not doing well, are they?” she said with a smile in her eyes.
“Madam, think long-term, blue-chip portfolio never fails,” I tried to sound confident. “Are you here to catch a train?”
“Is there anything else to catch on a railway platform?” she teased.
We laughed.
“How about you?” she asked.
“My train is about to leave on platform number three,” I said. I added, “Going on honeymoon…”
“Alone?” she continued to tease.
I blushed and said, “With wife…”
“You have a lovely time,” she said.
The kid, and a trolley-bag it was pushing, whizzed behind her. She took a few steps forward to evade a collision. I raised my arms. We nearly touched.
“Phew…” she said, “you better run, your train is leaving.”
I raced over the bridge, jumped into my compartment and slumped on my seat.
“Who was that?” my wife asked.
“The lady you were talking to…?” she continued.
“Oh…no one…” I replied.
We had the coupe to ourselves.
An hour later, at Kollam, she asked, “How did she know you would be here today?”
“I don’t know…” I said.
Just before Ernakulam, she asked, “Did she talk…” she paused.
I waited for her to continue.
“You know…about long-term stuff…?” she said.
I nodded.
“But, it’s over, isn’t it?” she asked.
I nodded.
I watched the setting sun, stared blankly at a winding river, my unblinking tear-filled eyes followed twittering birds, my thoughts could have seemed far away, sat back, gave a long sigh, blinked and then closed my eyes.
At Kozhikode, she held my hand.
“Let’s have biriyani,” she said.
The honeymoon was lovely.
We returned by plane, via Bangalore. We had a four-hour wait there.
When I returned after a toilet break, I saw her at a bookshop, talking to a tall, handsome man. They smiled sadly at each other, the farewell seemed long and touching. He walked away, haltingly, to another gate. She returned to me, wiping her eyes with a small tissue.
She immersed herself in the book she had bought, with him. It was the bestseller, ‘Farewell to Gods’.
“Tea…?” I asked.
She nodded without looking up. I patted her shoulder. She rested her cold damp cheek on my hand. 

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