The train was 20 minutes late. There was a deluge of people on the platform. I was having a tough time spotting her amidst this maddening crowd. She said she will be in the second AC coach. I was standing somewhere in the middle, as nobody gave any specific indication of where the AC coach is going to come to a halt. I had to run a few yards to catch up with the coach when it finally arrived. The crowd was still pouring out of the train and eyes were frantically vacillating between the 2 exits. Finally I saw her, getting down from the coach. She was wearing a bright red tee and blue jeans. Her hair was tied neatly behind her head. As soon as she saw me, she beamed an effervescent smile . My heart warmed up to it. We hugged each other and was for a moment or so speechless. I broke the silence by putting forth the quintessential "How are you"?. She said she is fine and gave me that lovely smile once again.
I took her bag and we started walking towards the exit. "So how is Delhi"? I asked her. Delhi is full of life. Energy. Oh ! I am so much in love with that place .Why don't you come and spend a few days there? She looked quizzingly at my face. "I will. When time permits. I would definitely make a visit before you return for good" I said and gave her a smile. She suddenly took my hands and said "I missed you". I looked into her eyes and said "So did I". All the way back to the car , we just walked hand in hand, without uttering a single word. As if the silence spoke volumes about our feelings and emotions. I loaded her luggage in the boot and we set off to her place. "So did you get the list of books that I had emailed you"? I asked. "Of course I did. I even read a few of those. Very nice books. I wanted to talk to you about "Atlas Shrugged", which I found to be intriguing as well as intellectually stimulating. When I come over to your place we will sit and yap about it!" She said gleefully. "So when are you coming over"? I asked her impatiently. "Soon. Very soon." She said and smiled. I just looked at her and wondered what's going through her mind now? Very difficult to say. At times she is an enigma, like that jig saw puzzle with one or 2 pieces missing so that you will never come to know the real picture. But she is my best friend. My confidante. With whom I can just open my heart and pour out my worries galore. I have some connect with her , which is steadily growing stronger with each passing year. It's been 3 years since I have known her. That timid girl whom I casually bumped into in the college library has grown in confidence.
The traffic was pathetic at this time of the day. I was trying hard to get past the auto fellas in front of me when she nudged my hand and said 'Relax! We have all the time in the world". "Yeah, I know" I said . " But I want to get you home fast so that you can relax. The fatigue is showing in your eyes". She then smiled at me and patted my hand. We were mostly silent for the rest of our journey. I put some good songs and we just got lost in our own world. By the time we reached home it was half past 1. Her mom was anxiously waiting for her on the porch. She was a tall lanky lady with an effervescent smile. I liked her the moment I saw here. She introduced me and we just exchanged pleasantries. Her offer to have lunch was politely turned down by me. I bade goodbye and promised to call her soon. As I was driving back to my house, I kept thinking "Do I love her"?. "Does she love me"?. I reached a logical conclusion that I loved her. I enjoyed her company and I admired her intellect. She was beautiful and loving and I thought we shared a special relationship with each other. I was thrilled and wanted to call her right away and tell her about this. But I then thought it would be better to speak to her face to face. So I restrained my urge to call and open up my heart to her.
After 3 days, on a Friday, I called her. I told her that I will come and pick her up and drive to the beach. She consented. I picked her up at around 03.00 pm in the afternoon. The beach was 25 kms away from her place. During the journey we spoke about our lives, our ambitions and what we wanted to be in future. She was very clear about it. Her dream job was in US and she wanted to be there in another 2 -3 years time. When I heard this, my heart sunk low. I never thought I was made for US. And I was sure that I could never assimilate or blend with the culture there. Probably she would have sensed a growing desolation on my face for she changed the subject and we started discussing about books. Our brief sojourn at the beach was not very promising. I was lost in my own thoughts and the fear of losing her started to sink in. I wanted to tell her that I loved her but words just failed me. I didn't want to vitiate her future in anyway. In between our conversation she asked me 'Are you okay?". Your eyes are sad. What happened?". I said I am fine and was just thinking about us. She just looked at me for a long time and said nothing. I tried to avoid her eyes as I could have blurted out everything had i just looked at her face. We walked for a long time on the beach sands, hand in hand, saying nothing. But the silence was so soothing. It was as if the waves were whispering to us. Caressing us. Comforting us. Finally the sun hid itself behind what looked like dark ominous clouds. It was getting late and the sky heralded an impending rain. I told her that it's better if we get back or else we will be caught in the rain.
The drive back was devoid of any long conversation. Her mien told me that she wanted to be left alone. I just did that. When we reached her house she said bye and stepped out. My heart was heavy. I just wanted to hug her and stay like that for a long long time. Without knowing, tears welled up in my eyes. Before she could see that, I drove off. When I reached home, I was in a very desolate mood. I skipped dinner lying to my mom that I had food from outside. I threw myself on to my bed and just closed my eyes, thinking about her. I was kind of sure that I have messed up the camaraderie with her. A sudden fear of losing her gripped me. My heart ached. I longed for her companionship. If only she could see my heart .....if only .....
Just then my phone started ringing. It was her. I picked up. In her husky voice she said "Hi..Are you Ok? I just couldn't utter a word. We maintained that silence for close to a minute. "I am ok. Sorry for messing up our trip". I said finally. Then we started talking to each other , like old times, when she used to call me from Delhi. We talked for close to 2 hours. When we were about to end our conversation , she said that we will make one more trip to the beach to pacify our earlier angst. I reluctantly said ok. Because I knew that being with her was painful now as I realized that I have started loving her dearly. We both exchanged good byes but just couldn't keep the phone down. I could hear her breathing on the other side. Finally she said something. As I was lost in my own thoughts I couldn't hear her properly. 'Sorry, What did you just say"?. I asked her. I could sense hesitancy in her voice. Finally she said " I love you".
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