This week I do not have anything to offer in terms of an art story. So I am thinking of sharing an experience I had today morning. I do not know whether it would reach you as there are all chances that my editor trashing it. But if she does, don’t worry it will reach you through my blog. Doesn’t it sound like a covert warning to the editor? I can see her smiling at her computer screen. A morning smile is always good for health.
This story is quite Marquez-ian. While travelling by metro I generally read books in order to cover that one hour I take from my station of origin to my studio. I should not say that I try to ‘cover’ that one hour. Metro travelling is not at all boring provided if you have a pair of good eyes to watch people without insulting their personality or privacy. Most of the people listen to music through ear phones. They nod their heads, smile, contort their faces, jam a bit or maximum yell thinking that they are humming. It is interesting to watch music listeners. Another interesting thing is to listen to various ring tones. Ring tones tell you the nature of a person, I should add, almost. And those people who are running behind their office time tell lies point blank. But none smirks because everyone in the metro knows at some point one has to lie to survive.
I do not rush for seats. If some kind soul finds me a senior citizen who needs to rest his tired legs and gives away his seat for me, I happily take it with an avuncular air. But those people who capture the seats of senior citizens are instant sleepers. They sleep the moment they sit on them. They are at their histrionic best till an arrogant senior citizen rudely shakes them up from their best actor sleep. But only from a certain angle I look like a senior citizen. That means I travel standing between two coaches every day, reading books or watching people. But let me tell you, anything given free people make use of it to the hilt. They polish their shoes at the bristles fitted by the escalators and get a back massage by the rubbery flaps connecting two coaches.
Today morning, while standing at the same edge of a coach that meets the next one I saw a girl standing just opposite me. She could have been hardly twenty year old or less. Long thing legs where clad in a light blue jeans and her pink T-shirt showed a large butterfly in flutters. There was a line written along the waist line of the T-shirt which I was unable to read due to my self-warning. She had a pair of long arms and on the left arm she had a wrist watch with a large square dial. Her fingers were too long and veins were quite visible. Two small little finger rings adored her fingers. She had beautifully clipped nails on her fingers. As she was thin and tall, she looked a bit flat-chested but her breasts were full and round though small. Her eyes shone when she expectantly looked at the tickers running along the display board announcing the names of stations. She had a sharp nose, full lips and semi curly hairs. Two streaks of hairs kept on falling on the right side of her cheek, which she kept on combing back with her right hand. Two small black moles at her right cheek added to her beauty.
She knew she was beautiful. But she was awkwardly young and conscious of her own self. I looked at her and she looked at me. Her eyes and the token that was continuously rubbed by her anxious fingers showed that she was not a regular traveller by metro. When I had covered the first fifteen minutes of the first leg of my trip to studio, this girl had already become conscious of my presence. I kept telling myself that she was young and I should not disturb her at all by my gaze. But as she was standing just opposite, even my cursory glance out through the window would have invited her counter gaze. Her eyes were twisting and turning like a martial artist, swishing and swaging like a fish, ducking and probing like a bird and I was really amused by her reactions. Finally I decided to look at her fingers only which she had folded across her stomach, perhaps she was holding her bag tight to her body. The bag showed that she was either in college or just out of it because only undergrad kids could have such vandalized bags with them.
Her fingers responded to my gaze. Was I looking at her fingers or was I trying to look away and distract my mind with pious thoughts? After all, even while looking at her fingers I never had any uncalled for thoughts in my mind. But I knew she was looking at me and she knew I was looking at her fingers. The fingers moved as if they were like the fingers of a pianist mesmerized not only by the notes of a master but also by the taunting hand movements of a conductor. I was the conductor. An uncle. I thought she would call me uncle. Even if she had called me uncle I would have responded like an uncle. I would have taken her to wherever she wanted to go because at that moment my whole idea was to see this girl safe. The thought passed through my mind repeatedly- if I was looking at her fingers what the young guys would be doing? Wouldn’t they kill her with their gazes?
I cursed myself for looking at her fingers. By that time I had reached the Central Secretariat station where I was to change to another line to my studio. I did not want to look back as I knew she had just got out of the coach just behind me. My paced across the platform and I wanted to walk away from her and to become one with the crowd as if I were a piece of salt in an ocean of people. I waited at the other platform for my connecting train. To my shock I saw this young girl walking up to me, standing next to where I stood. Train came, doors opened, lot of people rushed out and a few people calmly walked in. One was she and the other one was I myself. I travel by the same line every day. I stand near the door. Today too I stood there. She stood just opposite me, leaning against a steel pole. She looked like a sculpture.
We, for the first time let me use the word we, were in tune with each other. What happened in the other train happened here too. In between I saw her hands going goose pimples all over. Blame it on the air conditioner of the metro coach. I could count them. They were three hundred and four altogether. She raised her hand to comb her hair behind her right ear. I saw her armpit with stubble, so tender and so attractive. She knew it that I saw it. She was so young and I a middle aged man. But the harmony in air was so mystical. I wanted to extend my hands to her so that I could hold her and release her whenever she wanted. But someone offered me a seat.
(Picture by Aditya Dhawan)
I was reluctant but I did sit. She stood there. Looking at her was difficult sitting there. But the spell was not broken. I knew it and she knew it. ‘Next station is Qutub Minar and the train terminates there,’ the announcement came. Yes it is where I get down every day. I walk up to my studio from there. I knew that she must be meeting her boyfriend at Qutub Minar. Or she might be going somewhere to her relative’s place. Anyway she too was going to Qutub Minar station. She took out her mobile phone. I knew she must be waiting for her boy friend’s call or a message. He must be waiting there. Then they would go to Qutub Minar and spend the rest of the day there in each other’s embrace. Hot kisses would be exchanged.
The train drew up to Qutub platform. I got up from my seat. I did not want to look at the girl again. I thought she was glued to her mobile phone and the message contained in it or the call she had been expecting. I came out of the coach. I did not want to look back. I walked fast, as fast as I could. The sun was blazing fiercely. I struck my usual path. Walk alone. I kept walking. But only one thing I asked myself:
Who was she and where did she go from Qutub?