She had always been the elusive type, and I had always been the persisting type.
That’s what I opined. However, she doesn’t quite agree to it, she feels I had been careless. That I didn’t have the eye to see, beyond the apparently visible. That I didn’t realize that the elusion was the concealment, the uninviting retraction put on deliberately (perhaps) to challenge my inert ability to drive beyond the artificial facade deep into the emotions which were so preciously preserved.
Nevertheless, I had been longing for her always, in moments when she was eluding me and when she was not. She was – borrowing from Cliff Richard – the theme for my dreams.
The year – Nineteen Ninety Four, the month – January, the Day – Twenty-sixth
I had been up early morning in excitement, very restless and eager to get on with the early part of the day till I would reach Esplanade and Metro cinema hall for the matinee show of the Mani Ratnam masterpiece ‘Roja’. I was dressed up a bit exaggeratedly – compared to the usual way of life in those days – white shirt (which I had preserved carefully for the campus interviews) over blue jeans (specially dry-washed for the occasion), accompanied by a pair of (not-so-clean) Power Joggers, and the masterstroke in form of Aviator sunglasses (borrowed from one of my hostel-mates, obviously fake). All set and done, I was waiting in front of Metro and impatiently puffing onto a plain Charminar (the unwealthy smokers’ charisma statement) and from time to time looking over the seamless inflow of human forms to spot the only face that mattered.
She ultimately could be seen. At first only the impression, then gradually as she came near and nearer she became radiant. She was wearing one of those sarees which her mother would buy for herself, off-white with a green border, her hair braided tidily and her forehead resplendent with a dark-green bindi, her lips carefully lipsticked deep red and her eyes kohl-lined into fathomless depths of imagination. She finally came near and stood by me, and we looked into each other.
Why do we need words if we can speak with our eyes? If we can hold hands and walk? So that walk together – across-the-pavement through-the-portico into-the-cinema-hall through-the-semi-darkness till-we-found-our-seats – was witness to a million implicit verses and unfolding emotions which never required to be scripted.
Midway through the movie somewhere there was a song-and-dance sequence, when the young Roja was getting married to the handsome Rishi Kumar. ‘Rukmini Rukmini, shaadi ke baad kya kya hua..’ – I got inquisitive and asked her, “বিয়েতে এসব আবার হয় নাকি, ভাব একবার আমাদের বিয়েতে এইসব হচ্ছে!”
She did not respond, except that she turned her head towards me, and through the darkness her eyes penetrated my inner soul. My proposal was awkward indeed, but she with all her grace created a magic moment out of it.