A few lines were scribbled, a few words were struck through, blotches of ink here and there on the crinkled paper – as it was, did not aesthetically look like a letter, but Anita read on.
“I don’t know how to tell you, I like you ever since I saw you first time. I love to hear when you speak. I feel like I am dreaming”, then there was something she could not read.
“I cannot look into your eyes. I feel so shy, but I pick up a fight with others to get a close view, every other day.” She stopped at scribbled words, again.
“When you sit on your chair and cross your legs, I feel so uneasy but I cannot take my eyes off. I jabbed one’s nose who was talking dirty about the blouse you wore yesterday. I love you. I cannot stand anyone talking about you. Do you want to know who I am? ”
Anita shuddered. The crumpled piece of paper was definitely from a notebook. Slowly she looked up at the faces in her class.
“I cannot believe”, he wanted to add – she did it, but stopped. He was way too excited.
“Well, you can see for yourself”, his friend sighed.
“I am at a loss. I don’t know what to say. It was such a lovely house, so beautiful and something I have always been jealous of you for. How long did it take to build, long for sure?”
“Ah! No less than two years I guess”, he kept his voice low, looking at it now. Everything looked like a mess. Broken pieces of everything shattered.
“It was not just a house. It was a work of art. I could compare with. You started with nothing and then you got all those wonderful ideas, you adorned with just perfect little souvenirs from all around.” He could not hold his thoughts, while his friend remained unduly calm.
“But it was her house too. How could she tear it down?”
“Mood swings, I guess.”
“So two of you are cool after this?”
“Yeah, fortunately love is not so fragile!”
For the next few moments they sipped beer silently, looking at the debris of what used to be a miniature of Alok’s dream house that he made of matchsticks, pebbles, plastic, glasses and what not!
She found herself a small portion of land at one corner of the backyard. She plowed the soil with a shovel in her tiny hands, planted some seeds and watered them. She wanted this for a long time now – her own garden.
On a sunny afternoon, young roots appeared from the seeds, the shoot straightened and shining leaves uncoiled. She clapped with glee.
The plants started growing on the soil bed, took the shape of a small bush.
Then the red flowers bloomed.
She ran to her father and pulled his shirt, “Look papa, the plants are growing-”
He smiled and tapped her shoulder, “You are doing good, sweetheart.”
There was no room for a real garden in the apartment. His five year old daughter was picking up virtual reality games.
He shook his head impatiently, “No, it’s not working.”
She didn’t utter a word. It only irritated him.
“Damn woman, you’re after my blood now? Look what you have done.” He showed her a scar.
“I’m going to get you.” He swayed his jittery hand.
She was too fast for him.
“You think will get away with this? You made my life miserable. It’s no fun to sleep on this bed anymore.”
He snarled. And then he thumped hard on the bed, held her in his fist and grinned, “Gotcha!”
Another bed bug looked on from a corner.
There are some faces that tell me I know them, no matter where I see them, like this man standing near the other end of the door. I prefer to stand near the door to catch some fresh air though it was difficult when people huddled in and out at the stations. He was wearing clean and neatly pressed white kurta with dhoti. His attire and thick black celluloid spectacles told me he was a teacher. No, I did not know him by name or profession. I just knew that he took the same local train as me every morning.
I sometimes wondered the way people know each other in these train journeys. Every day when I get on to the train, my eyes meet some of the people I know. A few unspoken words are exchanged, but that tells me everyone is fine. They are just normal mango people. Of all that changed past couple of years, these hitherto unnamed relations stay put, for whatever reasons.
Today I missed my usual 8:15 Naihaty local. I took the next Ranaghat and before long I knew I was traveling with a complete set of strangers. No looks were exchanged; I took a corner near the door. Then my eyes fell upon him. He too definitely missed the train. I smiled. Strangely he did not smile back. I guessed he was not feeling comfortable. Well, the train was far heavily packed than what it takes to travel in comfort. I was somewhat surprised. Going by his age, he was an avid daily passenger and those of his age happen to travel in more than one circles like compartment number five on 6:40 Krishnanagar or number five on 7 Kalyani and so on. I guessed he was not like those who can mix very well, or maybe he was not well. There was something in his face that I failed to read.
“Hey, what do you think you are doing?” I heard a shrill voice. A voice that was high pitched enough to be heard over the noise of a moving train. I turned my head in curiosity. The woman continued to shout, “Did you think you will get away with that?”
“But… but it was only my wristwatch.”
“Your watch? Hell with your watch. Do I look like an idiot? You scum, you filthy pig. Your watch tore the stitches on my blouse.”
More and more people were tuning into the conversation now. It was after all, kind of story that everyone like to hear, talk about. Right then something moved near my blindspot and with a blink a scream faded away. The old teacher had jumped out of the train. The shock took everyone. The argument subsided. The train was slowing down. Somebody had pulled the chain. Clamor burst into my eardrums.
The train came to a halt, finally. I heard some people jump off enthusiastically. I wanted to go too. But I could not move. I had not recovered from the shock. I knew it. He must have been determined to do this. So he missed his train deliberately. He did not want to do it when familiar faces were around. Then he saw me and looked away. Did I remind him of a student?
I whispered, “I know him.”
“How did you know him? Was he so frustrated in life? Was it his family? What did he do?” Questions were whirling around me. I just did not know how to tell them how I know him.