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Monsoon series 6: Mirages

posted Aug 6, 2014, 9:57 PM by Madhuri Sen

“Sameer, sameer,” she yelled out over the loud splattering of the rain. She could see him standing under the tree, silently sobbing. She dared not venture out into the pouring rain from the safe shelter of the building foyer, to speak with him at closer range. She wanted to ask him why he was upset.  He seemed not to hear; which was no surprise to her.

She hugged her windcheater closer around her, waiting for the rain to lessen its fury. Finally she sat down on the chair placed there for the watchman, resigned to a longish wait. She saw Sameer move off with slouched shoulders towards the back of the building.  Mom would just have to wait for her tea.  She would rather face her mother’s wrath later than get soaked to the skin trying to get the milk from the grocer’s.

He walked up right next to where she was sitting and stared out at the rain as well. It seemed like he would prefer to wait it out until the rain stopped, as well. He looked down at her and smiled, “Hi, I live in the D Wing. I have seen you get off your school bus at the same time that I get back from work. My name is Saajan. What’s yours?”  She always called him Saajan in her mind because Saajan and Sanjana kind of sounded nice together. “Sanjana,” she replied looking up with a sideways look, meeting his eyes. “You are very pretty you know. I just couldn’t help noticing,” he said. She looked away with a shy smile. He continued, “Can I come to your school and give you a ride back on my bike sometimes? It’s anyway on my way back from work.” At this point she always got stuck. How was she supposed to respond: Was it, I will have to check with my mom; or sure, you can come looking for me in school bus no. Y-14, if you can get there before 5.30?  She frowned looking blankly into the distance as she pondered the question.

That was Sameer’s mom coming through the gate looking ridiculous on Sameer’s cycle. She came right up to the tree where Sameer had earlier been standing and leaned the cycle to it. “Hi, Santa,” she called out as she passed where Sanjana was sitting. Sanjana’s frown turned into a scowl. She wished her nickname from when she was a kid would vanish. How was she ever supposed to look cool if everyone called her Santa. She mumbled a hello back with her scowl still in place. But Sameer’s mother wasn’t really looking. Sanjana looked at her own reflection in the mirrored surface of the column at the entrance foyer. She was almost a woman now she thought to herself, as she looked at her reflection. She seemed pleased with what she saw as she stood straighter, pulling the t-shirt back a little tighter so that the shape of her budding curves showed more clearly.

The rain seemed to be getting down to a drizzle now. She ventured out tentatively towards the gate and stared in dismay at the huge puddle the road seemed to have become.  She stood there undecided on her next plan of action. If she went back without getting the carton of milk after such a huge delay, her mother was sure to yell at her. But if she stepped on to the road, she ran the risk of getting her new t-shirt and capris splashed; and Saajan hadn’t even seen her in it yet. Like the devil may have, just as that thought crossed her mind Saajan appeared from the building entrance on his side. He seemed to be in a hurry. It was only later that she noticed his wife walking ahead of him. She puzzled, why weren’t they walking together?  So they were fighting, were they? His wife’s expression seemed to say that she was in a foul mood. She felt pleased at the thought. Maybe they would fight and get divorced. It was simply unfair that he got married before she could be old enough to even have a chance.

She followed both of them out towards the seaside promenade. The rain had started to come down hard again. She picked up her pace in a half running stride to catch up with him. When she had managed to come alongside she slowed down to walk by his side with only a few feet distance between them. She felt good pretending that they were taking a walk together through the rain. She kept her eyes carefully averted however, with as casual an expression as was possible given that her heartbeats were deafening her with their war drumming.

She could see that he deliberately kept a fair distance from his wife; until about half way up the promenade. He quickened his pace thereafter to catch up with her. So did Sanjana. As he got close, she saw him reach out and hold his wife by her waist from behind as she turned around seemingly taken by  surprise. A sharp stab of jealousy shot through her. If only….

There were tears starting to well in her eyes as she watched them from the distance of a few feet.  He was so close, yet so far way. Others on the promenade moved around her to walk past; a few jostled her as well. But she just felt nothing, no one. She was numb. She saw him throw away two sodden tickets before they turned around together and started to walk back in the direction of the house.

She walked up to the pieces of sodden paper and picked them up from the puddle they were floating in, smoothening them out. They would make a nice addition to her collection of ‘Saajan souvenirs’ as she called them. These may have been the tickets to go watch…she peered down to see the lettering on the tickets in the poor illumination of the street lights….Hamlet…in another time and dimension, they would have been watching Hamlet together with his arms around her shoulders, snuggling in the dark. She smiled and started to walk back, shutting her eyes every few minutes to relive the moments when shortly before she had actually been walking next to him.