The clouds were gathering together rapidly. It seemed as though they were all conspiring against her. She protectively smoothened her crisp new suit. She fussed over the stiff duppatta and kameez that would soon be wet. It was an important day and she couldn’t afford to get drenched, how much ever she would have liked it. Her hair revolted against her scalp and tried to run away from it. The inevitably strong breeze while travelling in an auto rickshaw, was also helping in their cause. She placed the duppatta on her head to foil the attempt.
It will rain soon, she concluded dismally. The gift would get wet. And so will she. This meeting was crucial. She was going to meet him in the railway station. They both wanted it to be this way. They both wanted to see each other the first thing, when he reached Delhi. This meeting was planned for over two long longing months. She had played and replayed the scenes again and again in her mind. Undeniable butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She wondered if it was the same for him. What would the meeting be like? What will they say to each other? Will he be cool, unlike her? Or… maybe he is just like her!
Two months ago, on a rainy June afternoon, he proposed to her over the telephone. She thought about it for a couple of sleepless days and nights and decided that he was the person she would gladly spend the rest of her life with. Their happiness knew no bounds. Like all new lovers, he gently admonished her whenever she worried that even God would be jealous of their love. They had not met ever since he popped the crucial question. And once she agreed, they simply couldn’t wait till they would finally meet.
This was the day! Just before he left for Delhi, he informed her about his train details and the platform number. She said she would come to receive him even though the train would arrive the station at six in the morning. He told her not to come at such an early hour, but he knew better than to resist her decision, especially when she was stubborn about it.
Seconds translated into un-waitable, unforgettable moments while she waited on the platform. Suddenly she felt awkward, standing alone being an easy target to all the stares she attracted. She was a regular girl with nothing unusual about her and she was aware of that whatever her man told her. She smiled wistfully, just how often has he seen her anyway? She was the one who was more sceptic about this relationship working out. She had to be coaxed and cajoled. But once she made up her mind about it, no one in this world could shake her off it. A black serpentine train approached Delhi with a long trail of smoke, steam and a multitude of people along with it. She was wrenched out of her reverie when the anxiety of the meeting returned to the pit of her stomach. She thought she almost dropped the gift. She thought it almost began to rain – her skin tingled with excitement and she mistook it for a light drizzle. She looked skywards and found the unmistakeable rain-bearing clouds still gathered in their conspiracy huddle. Her eyes searched the platform for the face.
What once was a deserted platform was now teeming with people. Lots of them! Hawkers and beggars, passengers and well-wishers. Some were smiling. Some were tearful. Everyone excused a hug or a peck over here. No one intruded your moment of privacy with their questioning eyebrows at a railway platform. They understood.
She hurried towards the bogie he had mentioned. This was the first time she was coming to a railway station alone. But this wasn’t a matter in which she wanted to take anybody’s assistance. She edged and elbowed past the sea of strangers around her. The walk, or rather, jostle till the bogie seemed to go on forever. Her eyes continually scanned the people who descended from the different bogies. No one looked familiar. She felt an unexplainable sense of relief and sadness all muddled up into one. Relief that it wasn’t someone she was not keen to meet at this moment. Sad that it isn’t him.
A head attached to a fairly long neck stuck out of the appointed bogie. The head looked the other way first, then in her direction. Without delay, their eyes met. Instant recognition. He chewed gum while bringing out his luggage. Her steps towards him quickened its pace. A girlish giggle and smile escaped her lips. His grin spanned from ear to ear. A lightning quick warm hug later, they resumed regular conversation. As though they have been talking to each other for the past few years. As though there was nothing new that had sprouted between them. He picked up his luggage and the girl offered to hold a bag. He wondered aloud if it would be ‘politically correct’ to offer the fairly heavy bag to his Lady Love. More giggles followed.
The air had become heavy. The clouds were a humid grey. A listless beggar fanned himself to no avail. The lovers did not feel the neck-choking suffocation. They felt like a pair of newly liberated birds… soaring high with giddiness. What wondrous things young love can do! Was that a raindrop she sensed? No. The exhilaration was getting to her head now.
They stepped into a hired auto rickshaw and sped away. He stole a peek at her happy smiling face, but couldn’t make the timely escape. She had caught him looking at her, smiled and looked away. The trees sped by, all in a hurry to reach somewhere; she was never able to figure out where. Her heart danced to a happy tune. Everything seemed beautiful. The deserted streets of Connaught Place looked like Paradise in full bloom. The sky above would burst any minute and pour forth its contents. Once again, there was that tingling sensation on her skin. It felt a little warm this time. Human warmth. She realised – he was holding her hand. She smiled shyly and looked outside. They travelled in silence, towards a new Life. Towards Hopeful Happiness.
It was raining heavily now. Unmistakeably.