940 words. ( a 5-minute read )
(Announcement in train: Agla Station, Dadar. Next Station, Dadar.)
She knew she had to get off the train, but she instinctively shrugged, her body refusing to accept the fact that this was her destination. The platform was almost here, everyone getting ready to alight the train. And a storm of emotions was erupting in her mind. Her heart started beating faster than an Eminem rap. Should I? Is this right? How would I answer them? Questions. So many of them! But it was too late now. The train had departed from Dadar. The only thing she could do now was to watch, but today she wasn’t just watching, today she was observing. The station looked so lively, a group of college students enjoying, adults running to catch their scheduled train, couples enjoying their bhel, senior citizens moving at their own pace. My sorrow is so small in comparison to their’s, then how do they manage to smile and I cannot? Has everyone else found the secret to happiness? She felt lost. She wanted to text him, ask him about his well-being, but she knew he wouldn’t reply. One misunderstanding had cost her the love of her life, and eventually the purpose of her life. So here she was, sitting in the window seat watching the sun paint the sky with its dusk palette. She recollected her grandma’s words, “If you want to fly, start flapping your wings”. Enough of sitting on a branch, now I want to fly, she thought to herself. The train reached Mumbai CST. She finally got off and entered the city of dreams, to find one for herself.
As she was finding her way through the crowd, a sweet voice pleased her ears, “Didi lelo na please, do hi bache hai!” (translated at the end) , the poor six-year-old was holding two roses in front of her, his eyes shining with hope. She didn’t want to disappoint him but couldn’t find the correct words, “Mai kya karungi iska?”, she said softly. “Didi ye gulaab hai. Agar aapko koi pasand ata hai to use dena chahiye. Achha thike dekho aap bohot achhe ho. Aap mujhe achhe lage, to ye ek gulaab aapke liye.”, and he gave one rose to her as a gift. “Please ye dusra aap khareed lijiye. Aap apne boyfriend ko dena”. Her face witnessed a miracle that day, as her lips curved to form a smile. It was weeks since she last smiled. She bought the rose and then said “Ek baat bolu, aap bhi mujhe pasand aa gaye, to ye gulaab aap rakho. Bech mat dena , ise apne paas rakhna. Meri taraf se toufa samajh lijiiye.” The six-year-old couldn’t understand what just happened, his eyes became watery. She asked him about what he would do next, now that he sold all the roses. He said that his name was Chhotu and that he would now go to the night school. A tear rolled down her cheeks, she realized that Chhotu had to work for the day so that he could attend the night school. She asked him if she could come with him to the night school. “Ha bilkul didi, par thoda chalna padega”, chhotu was excited. “Ha chalo”, she said. After 15 minutes of walking the streets of Mumbai, they reached a spot on the Marine-drive. Chhotu introduced his friends to her, there were around 7 to 8 other poor kids. She sat there with them for some time, getting to know them better. And suddenly there was a curtain of darkness, and she couldn’t see anything. Someone was trying to blindfold her. In the tiny moment, she regretted every decision that she had taken today, right from not getting off at Dadar to believing in this stranger kid… her mind getting cloudier, and thoughts getting frightening. She wanted to scream, but she just couldn’t. She was being kidnapped!
But wait, it was not a blindfold, those were hands, and they smelt of Chapha (Plumeria). “Pehchan Kaun” said a masculine voice. It felt familiar but still different. Some memories started to pop up from her mental archives. This was the exact same place, same time, where they had decided to meet last time. Ronny? “Yes! You remember!” “Of course I do. And I am really sorry for what happened back then. We were 16 yaar. And it’s been 8 years now!”, she exclaimed.
“Why are you explaining? I never asked for any. It was your family’s decision to move, how could that be your fault?” “But I bailed on our last meeting before I left, I am guilty of that, please forgive me.”, she was crying by now. Ronny hugged her, held her tight. “But what are you doing here (sobbing) ?”, she asked. “After that day, this place became very important for me, after all, you were supposed to meet me here. I came here every day. And one day I saw some kids selling toys, polishing boots, and felt pity for them. So I started ‘Bijli’, the night school and have been teaching these kids since.” She couldn’t stop crying. “I also want to teach”, she said. “Sure. You’re most welcome”, came the reply. She was in the arms of the person she trusted the most, her childhood best friend. Was it just friendship? She had always wondered. But she didn’t want to find that out today. Right now she wanted to enjoy this moment. She seemed to have found a purpose once again. That day, a bird had left the comfort of the branch and taken flight into the sky.
P.S. – My very first attempt at flash fiction! And this won the third prize at an institute level competition! And a book is the best prize you can get. Can’t wait to read this one.
For those who don’t understand Hindi :
Didi lelo na please, do hi bache hai! = Please buy these, sister (respectfully), only two are left.
Mai kya karungi iska? = What will I do with those ?
Didi ye gulaab hai. Agar aapko koi pasand ata hai to use dena chahiye. Achha thike dekho aap bohot achhe ho. Aap mujhe achhe lage, to ye ek gulaab aapke liye. = These are roses, sister. These are given to the ones you like. Okay, see you are good. I like you, so this one rose is for you.
Please ye dusra aap khareed lijiye. Aap apne boyfriend ko dena = Please buy this other one. You can give it to your boyfriend.
Ek baat bolu, aap bhi mujhe pasand aa gaye, to ye gulaab aap rakho. Bech mat dena , ise apne paas rakhna. Meri taraf se toufa samajh lijiiye. = I must say , I seem to like you too, so take this rose. Don’t sell it, keep it with you. Consider it as a present from me.
Ha bilkul didi, par thoda chalna padega = Yes sure sister, but we will have to walk a bit.
Ha chalo = Sure, lets go.
Pehchan Kaun = Guess who ?
Criticism is appreciated. Do comment.