He was sitting on one of the many benches on Carter Road, Mumbai; one of the many places overlooking the sea and which were open to the public.
He liked to sit there at night, enjoy the cool sea breeze, maybe even have a cup of coffee at the numerous coffee joints across the street. The song on his iPod changed to one of his favorites. An old Hindi song by Kishore Kumar.
Oh yes, he was a fan of the oldies. No one knew this. They would think it was uncool. Not that he cared.
He yawned, got up and stretched. It was 9 P.M. Time to finish his jog and head back home. As he was tying his shoe laces, he heard the sound of a little boy laughing. He looked up to see a tiny toddler, barely able to walk, trying to run towards his mother. She had her back towards him, but he already knew who she was when she turned and he saw her face.
Who was she? She was nothing. No one.
She, with her long, black hair and big brown eyes. Those incredibly honest eyes that he could never get himself to look into. They made him feel uneasy. Unsure. Not in control.
Their story was almost an old cliche. They had been friends in college. The entire college also knew that she was madly in love with him. But he chose not to see it. Heck no! He was too young, too busy getting high and having a good time to get into a relationship. Plus, she wasn’t that pretty.
Then college had ended and they drifted apart. She was willing to wait for him. Couldn’t he giver her once chance? But he said no. Again. Couldn’t they just be friends? He could not understand it, but something wasn’t right. He liked her. A lot. But he didn’t love her.
She was devastated. He remembered the last time that he had met her. They had met for drinks and when he dropped her off to the train station, she’d given him a big hug, looked him right in the eye; a bit teary eyed and walked away.
He had known back then that it was goodbye, even though she hadn’t said it.
He sat down again, curious to see more of her. It had been almost 5 years since they had last met. Motherhood suited her well. She was almost…well….beautiful.
He saw her take her son’s hand in hers and felt a twinge of jealousy.
“This could have been yours”, his brain whispered.
He got up and walked away in the opposite direction.
He saw them, everyday at the same time – every night henceforth.
He was careful not to bump into her or let her see him. He could have changed his timings so that he didn’t have to play this game of hide and seek but the fact was, he secretly enjoyed watching them; mother and child. And he realized how lonely he really was.
20th August 2012
Tonight was different. It was his birthday. His 30th birthday. And he was all alone.
She was sitting at her usual spot, the baby asleep in the pram. A gust of wind loosened a few strands from her messy bun. And he couldn’t believe how he never saw how beautiful she had always been. Maybe it was the serene smile on her face. Or something else, which was now unattainable and thus, even more attractive.
” Fuck this shit”, he muttered to himself. He started jogging slowly towards her, crossing her and then doubled back.
” Riya! Hey, is it Riya Singh?”
She looked up, surprised.
” Hey…hi! Fancy that….wow…it has been ages!” He spluttered awkwardly.
” Yeah, i know…” She smiled, holding out her hand.
He shook it and then looked at the baby…”So!”
” Oh yes, that’s Arjun!” She fondly touched his cheek and looked up at him.
” Wow…so when did you get married? And congratulations…you never told me!”
She looked at him, a wry smile on her face, ” Three years ago and no…well it was just close friends and family.”
She looked away, pursing her lips together.
He licked his lips, wondering what to say when her phone rang.
“Hello? Oh hey baby, where have you parked? Oh ok, we will be right there.”
She looked at Armaan, “I should go…Aman, my husband has come to pick us up…”
He nodded, ” Yes..it was…good meeting you…lets catch up sometime. And hey…this is…” , he gestured towards her and the baby, ” This is great….you look happy.”
She smiled again. “Thank you. I am.”
She gave the pram a little push and started walking. After a few steps, she stopped and turned around.
He was staring at the ground. “What?”
“Happy birthday dum – dum.” She waved and walked away.