HE was anticipating at the railroad terminal for several breaths when he noticed a bright matron at the opposite head of the platform, in black goggles and unwaveringly advancing with a slight halt here and then and her right hand moving unusually amassing momentum to advance as if something tried to withdraw her steps towards the back . He knew that it was her.
This is a principal and bustling halt of the electric train in the times of his boyhood. Later the town discovered numerous expansions, adding fresh operations on travel, luxury and further, metro subways and even quicker means of transportation. However, in those primes, it was a dominant stop. And he picked this special point for that impending meeting he had been yearning for long.
He was born here. K—–M. In the state clinic only half a mile from this spot. His daddy was an operator in a publishing firm governed by an assortment of academics and artisans defending the freedom struggle. His mother was in government service. In this metropolis that claimed a culture of 1500 years or further. Not indisputable. The centre switched its name according to the rulers who owned and it was a major port for goods, in an ancient map of voyage, enterprise and cultural exchange. The modern name is according to the postulate of the novel regulatory body that has a majority in the contemporary times. but he knew the place very well. He had sat on the same concrete benches[perhaps] with his cousins, and quite recently in his last visit for the funeral of his uncle, his cousin brought him to this particular station, to catch the connecting train. In the days of his college, whenever he visited this city with his parents to see their old friends and relatives, he got down and caught the train from this particular station. Because his father had his dearest old friend, staying just close to the railroad station, in a one-room apartment on the upper floor before he married a wealthy lady and moved to a bigger place. His father’s friend was good to him and a good friend to his father too, but a different man of different values. He married for wealth and status. But his father married for love. Just that. And that was all and enough for which every living thing is after in every heartbeat of the day.
So he chose this scene, this station, this platform, which is moderately crowded with electric trains going to both sides. He doubted whether she would appear, but she came.
After arriving at this city, he had phoned from his mobile to her number and though he did not expect, she picked his call. She recognised him. She is a star, has been so for many prior years, and the papers carry the features of her itinerary. What was he? Not a headliner. For he played well often, but abhorred trophies and at the terminal moment, quit the show and the spotlight, That made him a very private person, to make him unfettered to enjoy his sunset at will. He cared more about the excitement of living, Yes sheer living than any of the prizes that people offer you for their own private ends.
She stood before him and he looked at her face and requested her to remove her sunglasses which she might have used to avoid the sun and also to filter the fans to give more room for herself. This is what stardom status is finally. You cannot walk alone on the highways without answering people’s questions.you have become what they strive to be, those folks who deem success in this world as the absolute end. She removed the lorgnette and he saw her eyes, though less fiery as in her youth, still glowing and retaining some of the fire. For a second, he could not help thinking about that. The fact that she was the woman he wanted to marry in his college and could not and his senior married and she agreed. They were classmates and she had that ‘Vellarankannu’,[vella=white; Kannu=eye.–Malayalam],the rarest of eyes, the blackish white one, similar to a precious stone.
He asked her about her private life and also, if she is what she trumpets to be. For that she gave a roundabout reply.
‘You see we are meeting after many years. And I am not conscious of all your changes so far and I cannot all on a sudden divulge my private sides. Who knows that some reporter bribes you and you reveal my story to him for money?’.
This response devastated him so much. Here is perhaps another one of that Lappwing, who ”flyeth with a false cry farre from their nestes, making those that looke for them seeke where they are not”.(Lyly)…..What a pitiable end to a happy idealist girl of twenties with whom he conducted the organ donation camp three decades ago. And also with whom he sojourned in a motel room together as best friends, near a Children’s Hospital and collecting money and medicines for cancer affected kids.
Seeing his dismay she tried to console him with an ardent smile.
‘You see …Times have changed less to our whims, though we have every right to expect the right outcome. My whole life has turned out to be a business. A give and take.Expectation and fulfilment.As an actor,what the audience expects of me. And I have not found anybody who loved me just for the pure act of loving’.
‘Me, your husband, and maybe…..’, he paused, so that she could fill up the vacuum.
‘You, maybe –though I am not sure….. My husband, he is caring and generous, and more so after my ailment, attending me as if I were his daughter-and since there is a family around, the topic of love is always shrouded in responsibilities and common goals that every family has, and though it is divine setup, we cannot expect the best always. The best results come at random, and many times, we only know the motifs much later, misunderstanding the good intentions as bad and gullibly accepting the bad as good ones, giving place to self-regrets and painful afterthoughts. But in my case, it worked well and that is how I am here’, she concluded her long outburst.
‘Did you tell your wife that you are meeting me today’, she asked in a hurried tone.
He said, ‘No, but I will tell her when I go to my hometown,’ he said.
‘Out of responsibility?’, she asked.
‘No’, he said, ‘Out of selfishness, ‘If not, I will miss my sleep.’
‘Oh’, she said in a glum fashion, but smiled heartily later,and was trying to fathom the good man who was all and everything in her life for many youthful years,and the days and evenings they spent amidst fishing boats and shrimping nets near the harbour, and the matinees at Shenoy’s ‘Vistarama’(theatre) and Chinese snacks and how he vomited after drinking his first Chinese soup that tasted like the feather of a bird.
‘Did you tell your husband?’, he asked.
‘His car is waiting at the station parking lot down, she said, ‘In fact, he told me to convey his regards to you, though he is not much interested in meeting you’.
He thought with a slight ache, how that senior at the Institute had conquered him in love-He probed further- No, there is no jealousy.
Who said that – ‘All is fair in love and war’. John Lyly? However, he did not know that in those years of innocence of youth. If it were, everything would have changed in life – Yes,have changed. Everything.
But he thought that it was for good, for his wife is quite unlike her, though less attractive, capable of great sacrifices, though not fair like her, she has the most ardent smile ever.
But who is this matron after all, whom he trusted once and finally who deserted him and married another man whose father had ten fishing boats whereas his father had only three?
She told him- ‘ I am sorry dear for whatever has happened,’
He had heard that old story from many sources.
Her father warned her that she would have to stamp over the old sire’s corpse before marrying him.it ought to be true, for his close confreres would not lie to him, and they were all happy idealists, the most romantic of the folks, who had many illusions of the world before some of them turned opportunists and later diving into the world of big cash and power. Not for the power to help each other but power to build their solitary empire and enjoy this story that only last a few days or leap years.
‘We will sit somewhere’, he said and she agreed, and they made a place at the end of a concrete bench, the other part of it occupied by college girl with a heavy satchel, who was in her churidar and pyjama and reading from the thick notebook and her lips slightly quivering while doing so.
He remembered now, how his father used to coach him to read without moving lips and once bought him a book on speed reading and taught him how to scan long divisions of profound thoughts quicker with a few shifts of the orb.
He viewed her body very closely now, this once upon a time damsel, with an artificial protrusion on her left bosom, after that malignancy that has been chasing her in recent years.
‘This conference, I wanted badly’, he said, because I am not sure if we will meet during the rest of our lives’
‘Yes’, she said almost supporting him. And added, ‘There is no certainty of life. We don’t, in fact, choose anything as such, we are all receivers even when we are making great choices in life. every coin has another side. Few people on earth can see both sides in a single look. Those blessed lot, unlike me’, she said. Finally, he wanted to hear that coming from her own mouth and he felt a great pity and subdued love for this unlucky woman, a star of the masses, seeing before his eyes less fortunate than him.
‘ I wanted to ask you this – but could not- Still, I think this is the best time ever-Did you love me then? …In those days –’, he asked.
‘See,’ She said, ‘If a man likes a woman, there are several ways of expressing it, and words are the best means -But, if a woman likes a man, though there are several ways of expressing it, words are the meanest ones- the silliest of ways of telling that feeling.’
She continued, ‘ If I had not liked you then, do you think, I would have come now?’, she continued, ‘In spite of everything’.
‘In spite of what?’, he asked, in agitation.
She said-unequivocally,’In spite of my ill health’, and pointed feebly to the left side of her bosom, which he knew was a big hollow, and she had made it all for the viewers.
He felt sad. Immensely sad.never before he was so sad in his whole life,except at his mother’s funeral.–
Then he said something, that nobody heard.
‘Can I hug and kiss you?’, he asked her in a frightful tone.
‘No’, she said. ‘You were in the West, you might be used to that’, she said. here as you know well, is against the norm, ‘she said, ‘if you do so, a crowd will throng around you, and we will not be able to get out. ‘However, you can kiss my hand’, she said and offered him his her right hand, and he kissed it fervidly, as if it were the most darling present offered to him in this entire life and will be taken away any moment, because it is most treasured , a living presence with hopes and vibrant with a lot of covert horsepowers, a small slice of the universe itself with all its mysteries and kick. She stood up and in a flash caught his right shoulder and pressed so obdurately that it brassed him off and he knew that she was giving vent to an unsung sentiment that crossed her. Then she walked past him, past others and past everybody, and he hoped that she will look back but she did not and vanished in the last group at the exit. ‘A real princess,’ he told himself in emotion, and the last part of his utterance escaped him, ‘But of another kingdom’. It was loud with a great rush of waft from his mouth and the porter who passed with a bulky luggage on his occiput gave a gyration and gawked back at him in curiosity.
-[From a Work of Fiction in Making]