It was around five and the evening sky was overcast. There was a soft breeze caressing the trees and the tang of fresh leaves mesmerized the senses. An evening could not have been better.
There were just three passengers in the bus. Two of them were elderly men and the third was I. I had made myself comfortable on a window seat. And in my trance of observing the beauteous fiasco, I had completely forgotten to notice my newly embarked co-passenger. It was only when the flying dupatta hit my face that I turned around to have a look at her. She was the perfect picture to be enframed in the beautiful evening. By her soft and tender appearance, I guessed that she was in her late teens. The long flowing hair and the hazel blue eyes; I could not have been luckier – she was too beautiful to sit beside me.
The conductor approached and she took out a ten-rupee note. Delicately showing four fingers, she indicated four rupees. Four rupees! I wonder where she was going. “Are you getting down at Esplanade?” asked the conductor. She shook her head in agreement. I was supposed to get down a stop after Esplanade. Cool! Now I have someone to chat with.
“Do you travel regularly on this route?” She just passed a sweet smile and began staring at her fingers. Why did she not reply? Did I say anything rude? Do I look like a ruffian? Perhaps she is one of those outrageously snob girls. “It seems that you are not interested in replying. However, I am gonna give one more shot at it. Do you realize that you are looking pretty good in this white dress of yours.” There was no change in her expression. “Oh come on! I had been very blatant. Sorry for that.” She took a deep breath, turned towards me and glared straight into my eyes. Be ready for your first public insult is what I could tell myself. I recall my Grandma used to say that we should never talk to strangers. Me and my big flirtatious mouth.
To my relief, there weren’t any explosion. She shied away. The red nail polish was growing pale and I finally concluded that the trick does not work on everybody.
* * *
The bus stopped. Again taking a deep breath, she heaved herself up. I could hear her steps down the footboard. Down below, she was greeted by her father. She was visibly overjoyed to meet him.
I was just about to turn to the other side that something caught my attention. It was her fingers. She was not speaking to her father verbally, but in a sort of sign language. I just could not believe it. What a shame for me and for God! Some things are better not spoken, but quietly understood.
A chaotic feeling of guilt and sympathy flooded me. She turned back and waved a quaint little ‘bye.’ It was now my turn to keep quiet.