She had always been the elusive type, and he had always been the persisting type.
That’s how he feels, but she doesn’t quite agree to it. She still believes that he had been careless, that he didn’t have the eye to see beyond the apparently visible, that he didn’t realize the elusion was the concealment – the uninviting retraction put on to challenge his inert ability to drive beyond the artificial facade deep into the emotions which were so preciously preserved.
Nevertheless, he had been longing for her always, in moments when she was eluding him and when she was not.
A lovely sunny afternoon in Kolkata in mid Nineties.
He had been since morning excited and very restless, eager to get on with the early part of the day. He would reach Esplanade aka Metro theatre for the matinee show of the Mani Ratnam masterpiece ‘Roja’. He was dressed up a bit exaggeratedly – compared to the usual way of life in those days – white shirt (which he 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, topped with RayBan Aviator sunglasses (borrowed from one of his hostel-mates). All set and done, he 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 him, and they 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-they-found-their-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. He, being typically cynical as he was, thought Main Ratnam had gone overboard now; he turned towards her and remarked, “এবার একটু বাড়াবাড়ি হয়ে যাচ্ছে”.
She did not respond, except that she looked into his eyes. Thereafter, nothing else mattered. As if Time, awestruck with the resplendence and modesty of Grace, had decided to stop.