Too far too close

Sometimes you think you have left behind something in the past and try to brush it off, thinking it to never appear again, but to your surprise and excitement, it reappears and puts you in a sweet awkward situation. And you don’t understand if it is a sign, or is just another coincidence. You have been gazing into nothingness, walking like a zombie, and suddenly that familiar face comes in front of you and you don’t know how to react. After long years of not meeting each other, you see that face at the wildest of place at the wildest of time you can imagine.

In this world, every second, millions are born; millions die; millions fall in love; millions break up; millions get married; millions are divorced; millions start for somewhere; millions head back home; so isn’t it just a mere coincidence that you happen to meet somebody at some place just because somebody is 10 minutes late, or you happen to be 10 minutes early, or you became the batch mate of Mr. X and not Mr. Y, because you were born a few years later, or you never fell in love and married Miss A as you never happen to meet. Is this what theory of randomness talk about in Physics? Nothing in this universe is certain and everything is an outcome of random events each of which have a fair chance of occurrence!

Or is it following any mathematical rule? Is it prewritten?

Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. 26th April. Flight go IndiGo 6E-618. Departure time 7:55 hours.

My mother and my more-than-a-brother Arunabh had come to drop me to the airport. It was just 6:30 am. The flight was 10 minutes delayed and the boarding time was from 7:40 am. I checked in, collected my pass, submitted my bag that I had carried in addition to my backpack and went out to say them a final goodbye before I left.

I talked with them for a few minutes and then I walked in for security-check. The line was long. Beside was the line for ladies, which was totally empty. Both the lines were designed such that they meet face to face at the final entry point.

I lingered through my line and in about 20 minutes I reached the entry.

And I could not believe to see who was standing right in front of me. Was it a dream? Was I on drugs? I was at home so there was no chance of even taking weed too.

She had taken the ladies line and walked directly to the entry point as there was no one else. After so many years had she to reappear right before me?

She looked into me; straight into my eyes. I looked at her confused. I just realized how horribly dressed I was. I hadn’t even taken a bath and the spectacles that I recently took made me look awful. My hair was long and disheveled and the red headphone that was hung on my neck was embarrassing me now. I normally don’t use it outdoors but since my earphones had been screwed and the long journey would have become intolerably boring without music, I had to use it. The backpack was so fully loaded that there was no space to put it in there and I had to just hang it on my neck.

She looked more beautiful than ever before. I don’t understand how can some people get more and more beautiful as days passed! She looked like a beauty queen— that she was. The pink top and the black jeans seemed like they were made only for her. And her hair that was nicely tied made her face even more adorable.

It was awkward. I was still not sure if she was Ankita. It had been more than 7-8 years that I had not seen her. But still she was stunningly beautiful and I felt too under confident, like a beast standing in front of a beauty. I brushed my hair thinking that would make me look any better. And took out my specs and put it in my pocket. I could do nothing about the headphone.

She was still looking at me and was about to smile. Her face was about to glow. But I looked away. Why did I do that? I don’t know!

That was rude! What she must have felt? Why do I always have to be such a loser!

I moved on. I took a tray, took out the laptop from my backpack and put both on it and put the tray on the belt for going through the screening by the x-ray machine. I went to the male queue to undergo full body scan. One TSA agent was standing at the gate with a metal detector on his hand.

I reached the gate after two-three men who stood before me were done. The TSA agent ran the metal detector over me and it beeped. “What is in the pocket?” he asked. I took out my phones and the key and he said me to put them too on a tray and pass it through the belt. Nobody had said me anything during my security check in Mumbai airport when I was coming home. So it didn’t occur to me.

The lady at the belt shouted at me for not depositing them on the tray the first time and I tried to explain. Ankita must have been standing somewhere nearby undergoing the same process and I had to goof up in front of her when I was trying to act smart! It was frustrating.

After going through the process I collected my stuffs and moved to the waiting hall. On the LED display board I could see: IndiGo 6E-618 Gate No. 5, which was on first floor. I looked around to see if I could find Ankita. I couldn’t see her. I had lost her.

With a heavy heart I stepped on the on the escalator. I reached the waiting hall on first floor and took a seat just at the corner of hall near the entry, facing the ones who were seated on rows perpendicular to mine. I wanted a safe seat just in case she was there; I wanted to see her but didn’t want to be seen.

It was a huge hall and there were many rows of seats; the ones at the ends were parallel facing each other and the ones in middle were perpendicular to these. In between, there was a row of many huge square-pillars standing in a line, parallel to the middle seats, supporting the roof. So visibility was restrained only to a short distance amidst the crowd and the pillars.

And behind the row of the pillars, I spotted her! Between two such huge pillars due to the angle made by the location where I sat, there was a little space that I could see through and through it I could see only one face seated in a row that was perpendicular to mine, and it was Ankita’s!

I thanked my luck and just kept staring at her. She was far away and I hoped she would not be able to see me. She must also be going to Mumbai too and most probably she’s on the same flight, if my luck favoured. I had heard that she stayed in Mumbai, but never happened to come across her. Maybe today was the day and god had brought us together so that we could become friends again.

Suddenly, she looked towards me and I freaked out. Did she see me? Did she notice me gazing at her? I just looked away and pretended to be lost in thoughts.

I sneaked my look again towards her. I didn’t see her. Where did she go? I looked here and here trying not to make it look deliberate. I didn’t find her.

Meanwhile I noticed that only a few minutes were left to departure time but still the boarding had not started yet. I looked into the display board again. IndiGo 6E-618 Gate No. 3. What? Gate No. 3 was on ground floor. Did I make a mistake while looking the first time?

I hurried to the ground floor and saw a long queue already ready to go through the final check, in order to board in. I got into the queue after confirming from the lady standing at the last and tried to look for Ankita. There she was! Towards the front of the queue. So she was on the same flight. Maybe the boarding gate had been changed so she had left for the ground floor and I missed everything as I was pretending to be oblivious.

Once the gate was opened, we got into the bus meant to take us to the plane. She was seating at the seat near the door. I was tempted to take the seat beside her which was vacant. But I walked to the last row and took the window seat. I was facing towards her. A girl sat beside her and I was sneaking looks at her from my seat.

The bus stopped and I deliberately became the last man to get down. I was afraid to cross her. A flight personnel looked into my pass and told me to take the rear door. I didn’t see her. She must have taken the front door and boarded in.

I desperately hoped that she were in the seat next to me. At least then we couldn’t have escaped each other. But that didn’t happen.

I took my seat. 19B—the middle seat that I hated the most. The one seated to my left looked like a Korean gangster. He had tattoos all over his body parts whatever were exposed and a funky cap on his head. His T-shirt and the pants too were too colorful and fashionable. He was talking to someone on the phone in a language that I couldn’t understand. The one seated to my right looked like a normal human being— well dressed.

I stretched up in my seat to see if I could see where she sat down, though I didn’t hope to see her. But to my surprise I saw her again—just one row between us!

She was seating at the window seat two rows ahead of me and me at the middle seat two rows behind her so that I could see her; or at least parts of her from where I sat.

The announcement was made to switch off all electronic gadgets and fasten the seat belts. The flight took off and once it got steady we could switch on the gadgets and untie the belts. The airhostess started their onboard food service and people started ordering various food items. I was still looking at her though I could only see a part of her head above her seat. I saw her ordering something from the airhostess. The airhostesses were nothing in comparison to her beauty. They must have felt inferiority complex looking at her!

Few years back, she was so close to me and now so far! It seemed just like yesterday.

I was new at that school then. And she had come to that school few years earlier and was properly settled. We had earlier studied in the same school, and she was a few years junior to me. Though we never happened to talk with each other while we studied in the older school, she somehow remembered me and particularly my acting in the school plays; she’d often ask, “How did you get your tooth removed when you did the role of the old man?” and I’d say, “The tooth was still there, I just pasted a black paper over it and from a distance it seemed like gone.” She would listen to me as if amazed by my trick.

We stayed at the same place so used to travel in the same school bus. She was in the junior section and me in the senior; I was in class 9 she was in class 6. Their classes used to get over few minutes earlier and all the junior section students would get into the school buses and take the seats. Since the number of students in the busses were more than the seats, it was difficult for the senior students to get seat easily; either they had to create a fear so that nobody will take their seat or had to carry some kids on their lap and I liked none.

She started keeping a seat for me; the seat beside her. I don’t remember if I had told her to do so or she did that on her own. There were times when her friends would call her to seat with them and she won’t go. And I started liking her.

And we started sitting next to each other every day while going and coming. While going ours was the first stop so there was no problem. We’d talk a lot of random things and I would at times just look at her—blank, as she kept talking. She was quite good in studies and also danced well too.

I fell madly in love with her. Once I had come after having a haircut. She said I look better in short hair; I was so happy to listen that.

But one day we fought over something. It was something stupid that I don’t even remember now what. We stopped talking to each other and started seating separately. In a few days my class 10 was over and I shifted to another school. I couldn’t even tell her how much I liked her!

The announcement that the plane was about to land, brought me to the present. I looked at her; she was looking out the window.

The plane landed and we un-boarded. I hurriedly took the rear door as I was scared of being seen by her. I booked a cab and was waiting at the pick-up point. There in a cab I saw her going.

She looked at me. I looked at her. She smiled. I smiled back.

 

~KMnO4

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