Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Mist

She walked briskly. At that hour, the pathway alongside the lake hadn't begun to fill with the early morning walkers. She searched the faces. Would he be there?

Last night at the art show, he had said, "Ever since I moved to Bangalore, I go to the Ulsoor lake to jog every morning. Half an hour and I am ready for what the rest of the day brings."

His smile had crinkled his face and she has ached to touch the corner of his lip.

She paused for a moment and stared at the islands that dotted the lake. When she was growing up, she had always wanted to spend a day there by herself.

What am I doing here? She asked herself. I barely know him.

She stepped out onto the road and began walking home. At the corner, a car slowed down. The tinted windows slid slowly down. Shalini peered into the car, through the early morning veil of mist, beyond the sliding windows – it wasn’t Dev; it was a middle-age gent peering at her; Shalini quickly turned her head away, hid her disappointment.

It was a cool early October morning with a very light drizzle – she drew the parka over her head and thought again, ‘what am I doing here, I hardly know him – this is really pathetic and stupid ! I’m 29 and I’m falling head over heels…’, she smiled wryly and muttered aloud, ‘…all over again’.

She had earlier met Dev briefly at the art school where she taught – he was a businessman, appeared to be in early 30s with a keen eye and interest for paintings. About a month ago she had bumped into him at an art gallery. She had talked to Dev for about 30 minutes – she found him to be interesting, engaging and very thoughtful; she didn’t think he was handsome, but he had a certain charm about him – Shalini attributed that to the kindness his eyes had exuded. Then last night she had met him in the art show; and at the after-show dinner, he was at her table. The discussion meandered around various topics – food, health, tea and some on the art fraternity. Shalini had decided then that she would accidentally bump him to him at the Ulsoor lake. She had come in around 6.30AM this morning, realized the futility of bumping into Dev around the vastness of space around the lake, listlessly done some work-out and was now returning home disappointed.

As she walked back, her mind drifted to her past – losing her mother early, growing up with her father and her disappointments. Sometimes, Shalini wished that her father had remarried, so that she would have had a women’s influence in her life. Shalini was a very gawky kid growing up, physically much uncoordinated. When she was in school, she ached to belong to a clique, but was always in the fringes. Her father tried to help, but it was only so much she could talk to him. As she grew, she appeared to become more gauche. All her lack of grace seemed to even out by her natural talent and flair for painting and art. She produced art that epitomized elegance and allure. At college, she found herself getting interested with one of her college mates and slowly falling in love with him. She soon found out that falling for someone has to be two-way; and for her it usually ended up as a one-way street. It seemed that because of her inherent niceness, lot of people loved her for she was, but never did one fall in love with her. Lonelier after her father’s death, Shalini also ended up writing a lot of poetry and notes that were locked away in her diary. She had so much love to give and the lack of reciprocity left a dull aching in her all time. Ever a romantic, it did not deter from hope that she would find the right man. The right man was always around the next corner.

Shalini was jolted back to the present by a barking dog. She still found poor visibility ahead of her due to the cool fog. The mist cover reminder her of her own life. It wasn’t very clear what the future held for her. She wondered…

Beyond this mist,
Would there be a tryst?
Not with a pot of gold,
Just his hand to hold.

“That was crap”, she told herself; If only she were a bit more elegant, if only she was less clumsy, if only she were to carry herself better, if only she wasn’t the Jassi… Life, it seemed to her, were full of precluded possibilities! Somehow time had stopped still for her and she remained an ugly duckling ! “Clich├ęd !!”, she muttered out aloud, and added, “I should stop talking to myself aloud” and broke into a smile at the paradox.

Shalini turned into the St.John’s road and was close to her apartment block. At the entrance to her apartment, she found her way blocked by someone. She looked up

“Hello, Good morning – I was in the vicinity I thought I’d drop by and give you the book”

It was Dev in his track-suit, holding a book on contemporary Indian art, with that smile.

[From here-on, I've two possible closures - tell me which one you'd like to see]

______________________ [Ending 1] ________________________

“To be honest, that was just an excuse, I was hoping to see you and perhaps have that special tea you were talking over dinner last night”, Dev continued with mischief in his eyes and the crinkle in the corner of his mouth.

Shalini managed to say, “oh sure, do come in”.

As she looked up, she also saw that the bright sun was beginning to break through and the fog was clearing.

______________________ [Ending 2] _________________________

“To be honest, that was just an excuse, I was hoping to see you and perhaps have that special tea you were talking over dinner last night”, Dev continued with mischief in his eyes and the crinkle in the corner of his mouth.

Shalini managed to say, “oh sure, do come in”.

"One sec", Dev said and turned around to wave towards a car parked a few yards away. He continued, "I want to you to meet my fiancee..."

As Shalini looked through the veil at the car, she just could make out the person's contours - it was blurred. She could not decide, if it was due to the mist that suddenly seemed denser or her tears.

_______________________________________________________

12 comments:

The Soliloquist said...

Sweet... Brought back the M n B memories ... Though I have to be forced to read them, due to lack of options, they do give a nice feeling despite being cliched mush.... Guess its the effect of being brought up on "alls well that ends well" indian movies... :-)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Sol: :) - Looks like our comms have crossed. I've been accused of being too sad/negative and "all's messed up that does ends messed up" with my stories. So tried a different theme this time. In hindsight, it looked too nice; so added the other possible closure..

Anonymous said...

It is like a movie story with fairy tale ending :-)

The Soliloquist said...

the sad ending aint sad enough... :-).. trust me it gives me much more meloncholy ideas....

the girl is sure to get over her disappointment in a day or two..and chide herself for getting carried away... as all gals do.. , no one would lose a life over a two meeting crush.. All said and done, however many M n Bs we might read, and however many melodramatic movies we may watch, reality never fails to strike...

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Sol: Hmmm, more sad ? Hmmm... next in the scale is "Bala-esque Sadness", followed by "Floyd-esque Depression". Where do you want to go to ? :)

4MBH: I'll correct that, pronto...

DR said...

Nice reading ! Obviously the 2nd option would be my choice (being what I am probably :) its possible that a lifelong relationship gets built over with just one or few meetings. Its not just the chemistry, its something else :)

Anonymous said...

Of course the 1st ending! The M&Bs I have read and loved do play a role in this decision. But why sadness always.. i am glad you changed track though temporarily.
C

ramesh said...

option 2 :) to continue the twisty trend in your stories

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4DR: Something else ? Hmmm, pray tell me :)

4Accs: Actually, since the votes were tied 2-2, i've left both on the blog

4Ramesh: :) Twist and Turn :)

Sekar said...

How about:
______________________ [Ending 3] _________________________

“To be honest, that was just an excuse, I was hoping to see you and perhaps have that special tea you were talking over dinner last night”, Dev continued with mischief in his eyes and the crinkle in the corner of his mouth.

Shalini managed to say, “oh sure, do come in”.


"One sec", Dev said and turned around to wave towards a car parked a few yards away. He continued, "I want to you to meet my wife..."

And as Shalini tried to hide her disappointment and shock on the one hand, while desperately putting on a welcome, though artificial smile and greeting the new element in the equation, the car door opened and disgorged a wheelchair with the most serene and beatific figure that Shalini had ever laid her eyes on.

Dev continued "Meet my wife Sangeetha. She got paralyzed in her legs when she jumped in front of a speeding bus to rescue an old man trying to cross the street. It is a long story but that was all before I married her. Anyway let us get to that tea of yours before it is lunch time". He said that with that crinkling smile of his, and Shalini did not know her feelings anymore. Her admiration of Dev went up several notches and her sense of loss in what could have happened increased. On the other side of the emotional milieu, she was filled with admiration for Sangeetha as well and felt really good that she had someone like Dev to be her companion. As if to reflect her own confused emotions, the sun peeked in the still dense mist and threw a little warmth in the otherwise slightly chilly morning, and she could also see a rainbow forming.

Postscript: I know that the above comes across as a dull narrative, but you could do something wonderful with your command of language:-).

-Sekar

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Sekar: Good one... lets talk about it... :)

k said...

Nice.

Would a guy turn up with his wife at 6.30am for a cup of tea? Esp. with mischief in his eyes? Hmmm...Not so sure.

Now would a romantically inclined guy turn up with a book for a cup of tea at 6.30am, in a track suit? Quite possible. Any silly/foolish deed becomes acceptable when under the guise of love/romance.