“Can you please…” “This place is…”, we spoke out together. Gitanjali Express, boarded at Nagpur, at 8:16pm on the 14th of July 2008, barely a minute after getting into the train. I was on my way back to Jamshedpur, had quit my job after getting bored with it, and she was visiting her relatives in Calcutta. I had already taken my place on the berth and she rushed in with three pieces of luggage on the head of a coolie trailing behind her.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but this is my seat”, I said.
“Please let me sit here for a bit until the TTE comes, I’ll just get my ticket confirmed from him”, she replied and asked the coolie to put her luggage under the seat. The TTE never came to my coupe that night, and with great difficulty, I convinced her to sleep on my berth as I pretended to not be sleepy and went to the doorway of the coach, intending to spend the night by the small seat near the door with my iPod.
She came to where I was sitting at about 5:00am, and asked me my name. “Abhishek Joshi”, I said, “What’s yours?”, She told me her name. And we spoke with each other into the dawn, asking each other about our respective families, our education, our interests, and then moved on to some heavier stuff, philosophy, love. I was deeply enamored by her eyes. They weren’t exactly brown, they were a shade darker, but they were beautifully shaped. Mrignayani, I’d have said.
She said that she was perturbed by what was going on in the world, war, environmental destruction, greed. I said that that would always be there, that we humans were hardwired to behave the way we do, and she looked into my eyes and said that it shouldn’t have to be that way.
And that was it, that earnest look on her face, that innocence in her eyes, maybe she hadn’t seen that much of the world. She wasn’t the cynic that I had become, she was still untouched by the pain that life brings upon the less fortunate. But I knew that she had every reason to be the cynic that I had become so easily. She had lost her parents to the infamous Purushottam-Kalindi train accident a decade ago. Her education had been set back a year as she couldn’t take up her classes at school since she was in shock for 6 months. And yet she had recovered. She had not become a cynic. She still believed that the world was a fair place. That people are intrinsically good. I had read about something of the sort somewhere, hadn’t quite believed it. And here was this beautiful creature of God who was telling me that there is still hope, that there is no reason good enough for us all to give up on ourselves.
And I knew at that moment that she was the one. Our elders often wonder at how our generation chooses and discards partners so easily, and I agree with them completely. But I connected with her on a completely different level. It wasn’t visceral. It was very much something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and she later told me that she couldn’t exactly say what it was either. But that there was something that just connected.
We stood at that doorway all day that day, never feeling tired. Holding hands. And then holding each other after a while. It was as if the whole world had disappeared all of a sudden. There was only her for me. And only me for her. I don’t know how it happened. My mother would surely have disapproved of my choosing someone for myself that I had only met a few hours earlier. If she had a mother, I’m sure she would have disagreed too.
The train reached Tatanagar railway station, and I had to get off the train. We exchanged numbers and promised we’d meet again. As she waved goodbye, my Mom asked me, “Who’s that?”. “Somebody”, I replied. And then for a week I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to carry on my father’s business, or did I want to do an MBA? I chose the latter, came to XLRI a few months later. I never forgot about her, but I never met her, too. Life just got too busy. We did keep in touch with each other on the phone though.
The first two semesters passed by in a blur, and we barely spoke. Come the third term, I decided to call her up one evening. “Hello…””I missed you so…” we again spoke together. It was unmistakable. Each time we had spoken, we had done so together. When her voice and mine came out together, it was like music. “Mile sur mera tumhara, toh sur bane hamara…” the song goes. And I know this for a fact, that when some things are meant to be, there is no stopping them from happening. And it’s also true that when you meet the woman of your dreams, you can actually hear the music playing in the background, everything else just goes blank, and there’s only her.
So, there are no two ways about it, I will meet her again after my summer internship. I will find out if we’re truly meant to be. I don’t really know right now. I have only met her once, but when I do meet her again, I will know for sure. I will know whether the chemistry is really there or whether I was just first time lucky. I know that I’d be right about her if we speak again together. Because when “Mile sur mera tumhara…”, things will really be alright again.