Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Aisha #2

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Aisha combed her handbag, mumbling prayers and asking God earnestly that she should have one rupee coin in her bag. She brought out her fist and heaved a deep sigh tensely hoping for a one rupee coin. She opened her fist; it was a two rupee coin. Her face fell, like a flower after a full night in hair, and she looked like she’s almost on the verge of tears. There was no one in the vicinity to ask change.

The weighing machine would only work with a one-rupee coin. She still gingerly stepped onto the weighing machine, though unsure what to do. She stood there for a while, lost in thought. Just then, someone popped a coin in the one rupee coin slot.  She was back to her usual self, exuberant, and she stood in a stiff attention posture, like she always did, lest the machine adds some more weight because of the moving air. The machine made some familiar soft ringing sounds followed by card crunching sounds, flashed some disco lights and the red and white disk finally came to a stop. Her eyes lit and lips opened into a wide grin. There was a final bell ring following which the machine issued a card, She flipped it immediately, ‘you’re one who goes after your heart, no matter what,’ it read. She read it again two more times and was almost jumping on the balls of her feet seeing such positive comment about her and then she casually flipped it to see the weight, 55, it showed. ‘Ha!’ She gasped taking in a lot of air, and moving her hand to her tummy, absent-mindedly, “Am I becoming too fat?”  She asked herself. “How much is too fat anyway?”

“Don’t worry, you look absolutely perfect. Fat definitely doesn’t describe you,” he said.

In her ecstasy, she forgot that someone else had put the coin, for her. He was a charming guy, he wore a thin grey shirt, the shape of his muscles evident even on a full sleeve shirt, a radiant face, with a little stubble and grey color in moustache area, clearly shaved that morning, roughly her height, a tad bit taller and with an almost girl like soft hand stretching out with which he was gesturing a lot. She just realized she spoke out loud her weight. She bit her tongue a little bit embarrassed. He smiled so easily, and she thought it should be made illegal to smile in such a cute way. She forced herself to think instead standing there like an idiot and her mind reminded her that she owed him one rupee, “Wow, what a bizarre line of thought I’ve in such beautiful situation,” she thought to herself.

“I’m sorry, er, hi, I’m Aisha,” she said staring at his nose, she could definitely give it a little bite, she thought, and absent-mindedly extended her arm.

“Hi, I’m Ana--.” He extended his hand to shake her hand, but then he noticed she was offering him the two rupee coin she fished out earlier.

He was offended, and it was clearly shown by his scrunched up nose. It seemed like his nose itself can convey a wide variety of emotions and he was one of those who can’t hide emotions. “I can’t take that, I’m sorry,” saying which he turned away and walked off.

She clicked her tongue and gave a little tap to her forehead and ran and caught up with him, she overtook him and turning towards him she said, “I’m sorry,” she said touching her earlobes with both her hands while balancing her handbag in the crook of her right elbow. More than her words, her gesture and eyes pleaded apology.

It was a funny sight, and he loosened a bit, “I saw you didn’t have the one rupee coin and you clearly wanted to check your weight, so I popped the coin in. I wasn’t doing it as a profit venture to accept the two rupee coin from you.”

“Sorry, baba. It’s just, my father said never to owe anyone anything. I agree I’ve been a stupid. I’m really sorry. Forgive me na, it’s painting to be like this,” she said still clutching her earlobes with her hands. She pleaded innocently like kids did when apologizing to their teachers.

“Oh, k. I forgive you. And stand straight before you pull your ears off.”

She straightened and pulled her handbag up her shoulder. “So, what did you say your name was again?”

“Anand,” he added, “So where are you going?”

“Kanyakumari, you?”

“Me too. Kanyakumari. What’s your seat no?”

She moved her head a little back, looking skeptically, and eyes frowning.

He added, “That is if you want to tell me. I’m traveling alone. And I thought it’d be good to have a company. This is the first time I’m traveling alone.”

She laughed, “Don’t worry, nothing will happen, I’ve traveled alone infinite times. I’ll tell you my seat number presently, I don’t remember. Let’s go for a chai first. The train is going to be late by an hour, at the least and it’s really cold.”

They went to a small canteen just opposite the station and ordered cutting chai. Taking careful sips of the hot masala tea in those small glass tumblers, he said, “So why did you want to check your weight so badly? Did someone say you were fat? You almost cried when you found out you don’t have a one rupee coin.”

“I don’t care about my weight, I mean I do care about my weight, but that’s not why I was so anxious. Hold this,” she gave him his tea cup to hold and the accidental brushing of her fingers made his head reel with excitement, and sent a chill down his spine. He wondered how a small touch could electrify his senses like that.

She, rummaged in her bag and brought out a book, a notebook, opened it and showed him. Nearly one fifth of the fat book was filled, with cards. The rest of it was empty. Those were railway weighing machine cards, which showed weight one side and had a quote on the other side.

“I don’t know if I can call this a hobby, for it is much more to me. I collect these cards, two per journey, one at the source and one at the destination. Somehow these always seem to tell me something. They tell me secrets, sometimes they reveal the future to me or warn me against something and sometimes they advise me, they are like tiny little friends to me and yeah I know I sound stupid. Don’t laugh, you will choke on your tea,” she said and added, “Wow, what a tea. This tiny amount of liquid can kick the senses right back. If tea were to be a mom, I think it’ll make us do all the house work. It gives such sense of energy.”

Anand really did choke a little on his tea hearing her comments.

“I just hope the ticket collector will be someone I don’t know.”

Anand looked at her incredulously.

“You don’t believe me right? But yeah I know many TCs, my dad works in Railways.”

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