Monday, January 10, 2011

The Lady at my Table

Canteen, that's where I spent most of my time. Not to eat, but to feel at peace. To feel happy and satisfied like everyone else, there.. to escape from the clutches of the classrooms, studios and teachers who look through their spectacles with such suspicion that you could fall from your stool searching for your fallen pencil.. it's like they push you from there. Early before a session starts and sometimes after a good sleep in the last row... that's where I head to. The college canteen.
                     It's a great place. The canteen. With a small atrium shaking hands with the light, it sort of illuminates my day. Collegemates and classmates sitting around in groups, fighting for their spoon of pasta, the weary canteen boy who is ever in demand, the lovers who always chose to stand under the atrium, banking their weights on the high table, ever smiling and looking into each others eyes ( Holy god only knows what they ever mean by "we talk through our eyes..!"), the best friends who always take a happy stand either shrieking or consoling one another and a few like me. Secluded from the fake appearances and gestures of socialization. It's not that I don't get along with people, only people don't get along with me.  

                There is a table I sit at everyday, which forever creaks under my increasing weight.. A table which many fail to see. At the farthest end of the spacious, exposed brick structure. There it stands, a table.. A chair where I sit and another opposite to me. To one side, I get to see the entire canteen's chaotic capabilities in food, love, friendship and gang wars.. and to the other, there lies a green spread of lawn, sprouting colorful flowers and hiding the existence of a dog and her family of three pups.. Sunlight hits me, not too much, not too shaded either, just the way I like it. With an olive drab shade to the half-hanging bamboo curtain and a few colourful posters, there was nothing that people I saw, found interesting. Just a table and two old chairs. Creaky and lonely, just like me.
             That day, I was sitting at my regular, sipping my cup of hot tea along with a book.. I usually read, not because it gives me joy, but because, I don't know what else to do. It is escapade into another world where you are concerned about the character, not yourself.. where you're worried about what is going to happen to him or her, that, there is a momentary loss in the anxieties of your own. It is just a hot cup of tea, a book and yourself, in silence, not from outside, but from inside. Infact, I hear nothing. I feel it isn't worth my time.. to stop looking away from the changing worlds.. I grew deaf to it all. It didn't make me look up.. all those commotions of a birthday party, the cries of the "hot" girls of college, the stupid supposed-to-be-humorous comments of the silly boys, a screaming canteen owner, the sizzling sounds of cooking food and beeping ovens through the open kitchen door... I grew immune to it all. In a way, it told me things were normal. It meant people were at their usual, getting more and more stupid and less logical. Something inside me always said, this, was not what I wanted to hear. Something else it is, but just not this. Not the panic that I hear in their shouts, not the insecure feeling I sense.. Something else, it said inside me, whatever it is, inside me. 
               I pored over the book in eternal silence. I read on and on.. until his image struck me. He often did intrude into my happy world, making me feel miserable and useless. He is the boy I like. He is the boy who makes my head swerve in his direction as he walks by. He is my friend and no more than that, yet, my fistful beat my head in this. He is the reason for a lot of my smiles, silent sobs at night and the feeling of emptiness way down till my stomach. Emptiness, as heavy as void probably shouldn't be.. and so I moved around slowly. Beyond all my changing characters, he remained as a constant one. Ever to swift too take over my thoughts, too cute for me to look away and a baby for me to adore. He was all in one. My friend, my baby and my "in-dreams" love of life. There are so many questions in life that I didn't know the answers for. But the one that drove me crazy was this. "So, I do like him.. But does he?" I usually didnt know what to do at times like these. One of my good friends usually said," Yes, you like him. It wasn't a voluntary act that you started liking him.. and it cant be one.. the way you're trying, trying to get him out of your mind. It won't happen.. Let it be, cherish the moment. You may not like him in some time from now.. enjoy the magical feeling until it lasts. " A few other of my good friends want me to tell him! Tell him that I like him! It is going to be something I'll never do in my life, I tell them, everytime that they grew tired of me talking to them about him. They wanted to put an end to the grumbling. I wanted a new beginning.

                   It was one of my "him-struck" times. I was unable to read nor joke around with my friends from the studio.. I sat at 'my' table and stared out at Sasha(that's what I named her!) and her puppies play in eternal jubilation. Lost in thoughts, I came back to earth when I realized my cup of tea has reached its end.. My heart in his thoughts, battling with my mind led me towards a storming headache. I got up, reached for another cup of tea.. The canteen boy, ever too friendly with me, served me first.. Holding the hot paper cup between my thumb and middle finger, I made my way back to my seat. The hot liquid of soothing brown entity had all my concentration, that only after I reached my table and set down the cup of tea, did I realize that there was someone else sitting there.

                 It was a woman of forty-five probably. Her hair was drawn back into a pony tail, just a little longer than mine with her. She wore a purple Kurti and jeans, brandishing a huge black handbag. She was talking over the phone with someone..
"Yeah yeah! I'm right here. Oh, okay. Take your own time! yup.. bye sweetheart."

                   Sweetheart? Who was on the phone? Her child or her husband ? Whoever she is, all that I was concerned was the fact that I had to share a place that I considered only mine. "Damn!",I said over and over again, under my breath,  drinking my cup of tea in extreme interest so that I didn't have to make eye contact with her. Until I heard her speak...

   "Hi! could you please tell me where to get a cup of tea?", she asked.

Wow, here was a lady sitting in the canteen and asking me where we can order a cup of tea. What do I seem like to her? "Over there", I said, politely pointing to the counter.
   She smiled. She had a pretty smile, I have to admit. She got up for helping herself with one of the best tea in the world. The one that my canteen sold. She left her handbag on the table and looked at me... " Could I please leave this here? I'll just go and get my tea and back?" Great, now I was her caretaker as well?
I nodded and she left.
     Moments passed before she came back... She was clutching her tea the way I held mine.. in my left hand, gathering all the heat I could, before letting my mouth relish its taste. She sat down and smiled at me. Again. Bham. Her smile, for some reason let me loose all my feelings of distaste for her. I just smiled for a reply.

"Thank you, my dear!", she said.
"My pleasure, aunty!"
"You know, that word keeps reminding me of my age.?"

I was taken aback. I was lost in thoughts of his smile...and hers. they seemed so alike. I didn't expect her to continue a conversation. Well, now that she did, I had to, too. But whatever did she expect me to call her? Dude or something?

"Err.. I'm so sorry. I didnt mean to offend you."
"Aw, knock it my dear. It is my age isn't it..? Just that after coming here and seeing the kids here and all.. I was reminded of my college days. Must be fun for you right? College and all?"

   She seemed nice. Probably I was in too much of a foul mood to have surpassed the goodness of the lady. I smiled... and our conversation struck.

 "Yes, college is indeed nice. Though there are ups and downs.. exams, fights, broken hearts... it's still a place I head to with immense attachment."

"Hmmm..", she replied sipping her cup of tea with an extreme sense of pleasure shining on her face. She paused to look at me, and spoke.. Her voice was probably the "something". I'm surely not immune to it. Just like his voice, that I'd turn to.

".... Broken hearts.. Yes.. You have your heart in pieces, do you, my dear?"

She was wading into deep waters of my personal feelings. Angry as I should have got, I felt nothing. In her presence, for some reason, I felt calm and tranquilized. Like a sedated animal listening to her every word. Her smile had captivated me.

"No," I replied. "Not yet."
" Not yet eh? It is an interesting answer." she casually lifted her cup of tea to her mouth and had it in silence.. only for a moment though.. ".. yes, so, are you in love?"

   I was shocked, not because she had thrown at me, a query so private but because I didn't know the answer myself. I knew I had been evading this question for a very long time, to my own friends, to my diary and to myself. I was scared to make or reach a decision... Decision meant confirmation and acknowledgment. No, I wasn't ready for that yet. Though I had been wanting to talk to someone about it, for a very long time, I didn't, in fear. So, now that she has asked me, do I tell her? Anyway I don't know her, she wouldn't go talking about it behind my back.. so, should I tell her or not?

     Her silky voice cut through my thoughts. I looked up to see her looking at me with concern. Her eyes sparkled behind her specs with an unknown intimacy. "Did I say something wrong my dear? I'm really sorry if I did. You don't have to answer me you know..". she trailed but in a firm voice.

  "No," I said, "You haven't said anything wrong. It's just that I don't know what to say, because I myself don't know the answer."

"Well, then you must find out."

I looked at her. Yes, she was right afterall. I must find out, but how.?

"I see confusion in your eyes.. You don't know what to do. Am I right?"

Bloody right I thought. Of course, I don't know what to do.

"You're right aunty.. I don't know what to do. I like a guy who is my friend.. I don't know if he likes me back."

"Did you take any efforts to find out out?"


She sighed.

"My dear, if you don't let him know, how do you expect a reply? Answers are given after a question is asked. Statements that you might want, you'll receive only if you initiate the conversation on the terms you want it to go. Why don't you just give it a shot? What sort of a boy is he, anyway?"

   A smile reached my lips. What sort of boy is he? Now, how do I explain that?

"He is a cute guy. A guy who is genuine, who likes me as a friend. He is the type of person who makes others laugh. But he is also the popular one. With totally different tastes from mine. Our beliefs aren't the same."

"Do you think that is reason enough, to not tell him? I think you should tell him. As soon as possible. Probably today."

"I dont think it would ever happen. If I told him and he refuses, I wouldn't be able to bear that pain."

"Well, if you don't tell him at all, it'll swell and burst. Much worse than what this can do to you."

“But, I’m scared aunty.. I don’t know how to face him.”

 "Listen to me my dear, were you ever afraid to talk to him as a friend? Did you think twice when you ruffled his hair, when you thought of him as a friend?"

"Err.. no, I didn't. That was different. This feeling is different."

"No, it's all the same. It is friendship that you're gonna take on to a higher level. Take it from me, I can assure you this much. All you have to do is to go tell him.."

    Now, who was this lady who made me listen to her with such intensity.. What lies in her voice that makes me listen to her, I don't know. Who was she anyway? I collected myself back from my thoughts and spoke to the woman in front of me. The one who seemed to know what she spoke. The one who spoke from her heart. 

  "O.K.. let's look at it this way... I walk up to him, tell him that I love him. What if he says he doesn't love me?"

"Oh, let's look at it this way.. You walk up to him and tell him that you love him... And he says.. Damn, I've been wanting to say the same thing to you for a very long time? "

"This isn't an answer, is it? You just asked me a question back."

"Well, sometimes, questions raise questions. When one is answered, the other automatically answers itself. More like your design, I would say.."

"But.. Aunty, I really don't know what I should do. He lives in every page of my diary, he comes in my dreams, I feel comfortable around him.. I feel like I can act as crazy as a monkey and still not care..because he is one too... He is not like me though, he doesn't read, doesn't really believe in God.. But I somehow have this gut feeling that he is meant to be with me.. but I really dont know how to tell him this."

"What if he is struggling with the same problem?"

""Hmm.. I dont know about it, right?"

"Precisely why I am asking you to go tell him. Think my little girl, when you grow up and turn around looking at all the things that you haven't had the guts to face, you' ll want to face it again.. But then, you might not have the age or youth for it. Some things and people you lose now, you'll never be able to retrieve again!"

"But what if my stakes are high?"

"What would happen if you told him my dear? He'll stop talking to you? If he does so, you are better off without the guy.. and if he says he likes you too.. well and good for you don't you think? And if he refuses and remains the same with you, atleast you are cleared of the confusion in your head, aren't you?"

"Hmm.. you make sense."

"Yes, I do. And it would do you good to listen to me.. oh oh.. why in the world are you looking so drained..? wo... why are you ducking now?" 

"Aww.. Aunty, there he is." Damn, why did I let that slip now? 

Indeed, he had come inside at the wrong time. The bugger, I hadn't seen him for a week now. Heard he wasn't feeling well or something. And he turns up now.. with a charismatic woman next to me, asking me to tell him how I feel about him. Lovely timing indeed.
The ever too eager Aunty wanted to catch a glimpse of my favorite boy. She swerved around to see a hoard of young men standing there... 

"Who is it, my dear lady?",she asked. 

I had given my tongue away. No other choice, I had, but to tell her. 

"That boy there.. in the blue shirt with stripes.. OH oh! He saw me.. Crap!"

Indeed, he was heading to our table. I waved and he waved right back with a broad smile. Oh my god... THAT smile.

"Hi, how are you?", he asked, looking at me. 

"Ha, seems like I should be asking you that. How are you feeling man?"

"Well, you can see me now", he said, outstretching his arms, in  order to offer me a total view of his fit state..."Do I look anywhere near being diseased?"

I couldn't help but smile. "No, you dont."

"Well, so who do we have here?", he asked, looking at my guide for the morning, probably, the rest of my life. They both shared a smile. She looked at him and nodded. The lady in the purple kurti got up giving her seat to my boy. Now, now.. what was happening..? This fellow was beaming too. 

"Oh, I should be off now my dear... And my boy, I'll leave the car here, drive back home soon. Take care..", she exclaimed as she dropped the car keys on the old table. 
       She looked at the still surprised me, smiled and said, "You have things to tell my dear, and let me assure you it will all turn out well. Trust me." She winked and turned around and walked towards the exit door, her high pony swinging in the air, in total confidence of its place in air. Now, that is a woman, I say. 

 "Well, you've seen her.. and I'm still here you know?" He was looking at me through his overgrown locks of hair. He had been looking at me.
Wow, so, how long have I been staring at her? 

  "Ah, ha, I'm sorry. And.. Er.. hey! I have something to tell you."

"Wow, so, do I."

"And something to ask...", I added. "You know her?" I asked, pointing at the exiting woman. 

He smiled. 

"Yes", he said... "She is my mum." 

The lady in the purple kurti turned, looked at me and smiled. I looked from her son to her.. Damn, the same smile. She winked again and left.

I laughed. I knew what I had to tell him.

~ Hemu 


  1. Hemu!!!!!

    This was really wonderful.... did this really happen,If it was then was it a polite way of informing appa thro a blog :)

    It did move me :)


  2. This was utterly beautiful...gripping the mind till the very end...really well written! :)

  3. Hey...great work. Someone is really worthy of the largest pack of thanks that they sell !!!

  4. u r an amazing writer...

    ur writings r flavored in it's every part whther it's describing the surroundings or reading a person's mind or d climax..


  5. Thota- thanks a lot :)

    Angel- thank you a lot. I'm glad that you like it :)

    Neenju akka- Na, it isnt a true life incident,I wish it was ;) lol, Appa would be reading it anyway. I'm surprised you read the entire thing :) thank you!

    Mei akka- thanks akka, your comments help me grow!

    Anagha- I know I know, but public man! we'll discuss this in private! thanks da :D

  6. I just read this and even at the cost of repeating I like your writing. You bring out the most sensitive feelings with ease and you have a way with words. Hope you take up creative writing rather than building blocks or what ever... It does sound like one of your true incidents though...vidya

  7. Hi vidya Akka :)
    thanks a ton, I m hoping to improve. well, I've always wanted to be a writer.. which I intend on becoming when my work is good enough for publication.
    Haha :D i love building blocks too.. Though creative writing has always beckoned me :)
    and no, its not a true life incident even if it might seem so :) :P
    thanls for reading by and letting me know, it pushes me forward! :)

  8. Hey! you are very good with words Hema, though I can't help feeling that your blogs have been inspired by something real...;)..??

  9. Hi sumati! :-) thanks a ton!
    There are always inspirations for everything and everyone don't you think? ;) you are right as far as that goes :D

  10. Apart from the length of this post, the subject was totally rivetting.


    Joy always,

  11. Very good flow ... liked it .....
    For some strange reason it reminded me of a Ramani chandran novel may be good characters and an happy ending.. (BTW Ayn Rand readers may not know RC I guess :-)
    Did like Niranjana's comment too, i shud add..

  12. Hello Dayanathanji,
    Thanks a lot.. you are right, I haven't read RC but I have heard a great deal about him. It's not because I'm an Ayn Rand reader but because I can't read Tamil in a proper flow and fluently.
    Ah, my sister would be glad to find some company on that side :)


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