He had been watching her for quite some time. Those huge brown eyes attracted him like magnets. They were like a pair of snow white lotuses in a ripple less pond. He did not know whether the example fitted the object of admiration or not. But he was again and again reminded of the picturesque water body, calm and still, mirroring the greenery around, with the lotuses blooming just in the midst of the blue-green waters. He had been staring unblinkingly at her from the moment he made himself comfortable in the Food Court.
He did not know who she was. It was whiling an aimless afternoon in the mall that he felt the pangs of hunger. Locating the eatery, he had ordered to his choice and sat down with a plate of hot chowmein when his eyes fell on her. Two or three tables away she sat motionless like a fairy that had just descended on this Earth in the midst of the crowd and was busy gathering her wits. He chuckled to himself. In a spotless white chikan salwar suit her dupatta trailed down brushing the floor. What else could she be compared with? Such serene beauty! Such placid but haunting expression! She was quite oblivious of her surroundings – the many eyes that rested on her. A few silky brown curls fell waywardly on her smooth forehead. She did not wave them away. Her eyes stared unseeingly at the wall opposite. But there was a hint of a smile in them. They glowed like fireflies in a dark, moonless, night. Now how did the fireflies come to his mind? He just shook his head with a sheepish smile. He was afraid he was becoming poetic.
Poetic and he? He was surprised. He could not believe himself. Where was his mechanical genius, his rationale, his analytical acumen gone? He was an engineer and not a poet. But engineers were not immune to beatific portraits of innocent beauty, were they? Thought he. Engineers also possessed hearts which could sprint, somersault and skip beats when occasions heralded such reactions. His analytical mind was in the fourth gear. She was not glamorous. She was not wild. She was just an angel in repose. There was a timeless quality about her. The way she seemed lost in thought far removed from the hum drum of life. Even inertia could be so fascinating! He could not help but admire.
He let his eyes feast every inch and angle of her body. Now she looked like a flawless mannequin in an idle posture. Her hands lay on her laps. The delicate, slender fingers were an artist’s delight. He wanted to take her hand in his and kiss the tip of each finger till the soft pink of her skin became golden red. He wanted to take her in his arms and make endless promises of lifelong togetherness. He wanted to memorize her name under his breath. What was her name? He wished fervently that he could know her name. No, not only the name but everything about her. He suddenly realized that this was not mere infatuation. This was something more than that.
He could feel her pulse within him. She wanted him to reach out to her. She wanted that he should come closer though she had not signaled to him. There was no outward manifestation of her desires or her repeated but wordless calls to him. But he just knew. There was a strong, undying bond between them. Philosophers spoke about the sublimity of love which took one to higher planes. He did not know whether this was that divine experience or not. But the one thing that he knew and felt for sure was a fatal temptation to touch her very being with exploring fingers. How could anybody affect him so easily and so quickly in such a short time? He had not even spoken to her yet. He nodded in stern resolution. Yes, that was exactly what she wanted him to do. Speak to her. But before that he had to acquaint himself with her. How to go about that?
On an impulse, he snatched a paper napkin from the holder and jotted down a few lines on it. Thank God he always carried a pen. When he finished scribbling he was not sure that those lines were written by him. How could he? But there was no time to judge his poetic abilities now. While he was penning his ardour a short, plump girl had joined the angel. They had got up and were about to leave hand in hand. He had this odd feeling that he missed something. Something which he should have noticed!!!
Never mind that. Now his eyes were reverted to her approaching figure. She walked with a swan like grace. A little haltingly. A little unsure of herself. But there was such rhythm in her every movement. She would surely grace the dance floor of any party.
As she passed by a few tables, gazes followed her with odd expressions. A few lips muttered half whispered comments. She just smiled and walked past them with a quiet resolution which was becoming and dignified at the same time. He could not follow the meanings in those cruel eyes or the whispers of those vitriolic lips. He was only interested in her.
They had to pass his table in order to move towards the exit. As she neared him he faltered. For a few seconds he thought he had lost the moment. Sweat erupted from every pour of his body. There was hollowness in the pit of his stomach. His throat felt dry. His eyes burnt. He did not know what to do. The paper napkin shivered in his hands. It was now or never.
Just then she came over to his table then circumventing it turned towards the door. Before she could move past her dupatta caught on to something. What stroke of luck he exclaimed in his heart of heart. She stopped for a moment. Just a moment! And that moment was priceless for him. As she struggled to free the end of her dupatta he took a step towards her and shoved the napkin into her left palm. Startled she fumbled with her dupatta more. For once he thought she would drop the napkin. But she did not. Then it was all over. The magic of the moment was gone forever. The dupatta was freed by the nimble fingers of her companion and they glided on.
He gritted his teeth. Why did the other girl have to spoil the moment? She would have been there a few more minutes had her friend not helped her. He sat down heavily on the chair. He remembered why he had come there. To eat!!! But the chowmein seemed so tasteless now.
On the other side of the Food Court as the two figures walked out the girl in white smiled to herself opening her palms. She could figure out what that crumpled piece of paper might contain. She nudged her friend without looking at her. Extending her arms in front she said knowingly, “Perhaps this is for you, Renu.” Her companion looked at her questioningly. She felt the question digging her skin. The girl smiled to herself looking straight ahead of her. Without a trace of remorse or pity in her voice she concluded,” He thinks I am perfect. I know I am not.” Hand in hand they crossed the road.