[Issue 16 / Feb 16]

One.

Standing at the roadside, just near the bend, I saw her engaged in serious, animated conversation. As the wait for the tram was longish, I got the opportunity to see how it ended. She wrapped it up with a feisty finger, jabbing at his chest, with a smirk playing on her garishly painted pout. He began walking down the pavement, and she followed him meekly. I thought I had lost them in the crowd but they soon appeared in sight, with the man consulting a stranger and quickly waving at the mini bus with both his hands.

He clambered quickly. The lady hobbled after him. His elbow dislodged her thick glasses from her aquiline nose. Oops. It was purely unintentional. Her pair fell on the road. Smashed. She jumped off the moving bus to collect it. Alone.

She picked up the broken frame and put it carefully in her white clutch bag. She slowly walked to the lamp post where she stood earlier. Her eyes fell on me. I noticed squint in her right eye. She gave a broad smile. I thought the recipient was someone behind me. I hesitated to reciprocate. Besides, my smile could mean a lot to her, including what I did not wish to convey. However, I let a faint smile appear on my face without establishing eye contact with her. Her positive frame of mind deserved it.

A tramcar lumbered from the other direction. I entered the vacant second class coach – to be closer to what I was leaving behind. I took a window seat and looked back with courage this time. I saw things recede, including the image of the blinking-winking lady who stood there alone, hoping for some gentle stroke of luck before sundown.

Two.

I was waiting for the fruit juice seller to serve me. She polished off a tall glass of sweet lime juice while the young man beside her paid the juice seller. The froth layered her upper lip and fired my imagination while the stretch of her vermilion erected a huge wall of distance within me. Next week I saw her at the same juice shop, wolfing down a jumbo glass of pomegranate juice. She gave me a look tinged with I-have-seen-you-before expression. Then swerved her kohl-lined eyes to penetrate her gaze elsewhere. Small, peppy talk with the man accompanying her made her fork out her tongue pretty often. But the man was different this time, well past his prime.

Three.

To find a short cut to reach the office, I clutched the files and started walking through a park to reach the other side. City traffic came to a grinding halt because of a protest march. As I reached the fag end, I was approached by a lady who offered to eliminate my visible signs of stress and anxiety. It was a warm reception in a public space, with cordiality and respect. I politely turned her down. She valued this respect and let me go without any hassle.

Four.

I saw her leaning against the poster wall of the theatre. The adult content of the poster was hidden by this modestly dressed lady in salwar kameez and this raised my irritation. Her covered bust was perhaps heavier than what the poster girl was flashing. The options of reel and real blended seamlessly. I avoided looking at the wall because of her whenever I went that way. One fine afternoon, she stepped aside to offer me full view of the new alluring poster. She had classified me as one fantasy jerk who would never respond to her overtures. Intelligent. I looked at her instead of the poster this time, gave a smile with a quick, meaningless nod, and crossed the road.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in a Kolkata-based advertising agency. His short stories and articles have been published in Deccan Herald, The Assam Tribune, Tehelka, The Pioneer and The Statesman. Apart from writing, he loves watching world cinema and Bollywood flicks.

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