She was talking very fast. In English, a language he wasn't all together comfortable with. Her face came alive, a canvas for her emotions, each one so passionate, and yet so fleeting. Her orange dupatta, the one with blue tassels at the edges, was draped in hurried carelessness. She had big expressive eyes. And they sparkled with so much life. He watched her, those hands making delightful designs as they kept up with her words, her audience captivated and hanging on every idea she happened to toss their way. And through that haze of words (he couldn't keep up with them anyway, at least not in that language she had claimed as her own), she suddenly looked at him. Straight in the eye, that frank gaze that never failed to make him uncomfortable and inexplicably drawn towards it, at the same time. She broke into a grin seeing him, although she didn't even know him. Yet.
She, on the hand, hadn't spotted him immediately. When she did, she saw he had an air of someone who's travelled too far from his comfort zone. He was out of place in that roomful of people, and in that moment when their eyes held each other, she could see he was unsure of which box to place her in. She didn't help him out of the enigma. He was holding a glass of juice. Apple of course. He bit into a paneer pakoda. Vegetarian of course. He was not blunted into being just another face in the crowd. The sleeve of his jacket was ripped. His hair had specks of grey in it. He smiled at some people but struck up no conversations. When they were introduced to each other, he smiled politely and quickly moved away, a detail not lost on her. She was sharp with people and something about him got under her skin. She had shivered slightly and that seemed like a sign.
"Aha, so you are from my part of the world!"
The pride she took in her sense of belonging was not lost on him. Her smile, how it lit up that face!
"Tumhe pata hai tum bahut jaldi baat karti ho?"
His voice was gruff, rusty as if unused, but his eyes were earnest. They seemed to say, "O lovely lady, see through me."
|To all the stories we are part of.|
That day was so many dreams away. Today he watched her breathe as she lay beside him. It was nearly time. His body threatened to betray him, but he was too correct to cross lines, imaginary or otherwise. Were her eyes, those warm brown eyes, moist? No, it must be the light playing games with his hammering heart. He had seen her cry once in all this time, the one time that spectacular smile had faltered. Seeing her sobbing softly, he had felt ugly and weak. In that moment of pain, she had turned away, isolating him more than her fancy words ever could. As she turned towards him now, he realised, she was his and she was nobody's. If anything, that was all he knew of her. He burrowed his head into her hair, it always smelt so sweet! He smiled thinking of all the summer days they had filled with conversations. Flattening so many blades of grass in their favourite garden, fighting over who will hold the ladybird, watching the leaves change colours. They had wiggled their toes and shared ideas, dodged the zaalim zamaana and constructed an unlikely relationship. She had broken through his coarse exterior, and allowed herself to blossom in it. As she got up to leave, her dupatta brushed his face. Those tassels, once again, demanding his attention as she slipped out of his world. Bidding a farewell neither one of them would ever muster the courage to articulate.