I was waiting for the bus that day. The sun beating down, and a few drops of sweat trickling down my face. It was one of those usual boring days. I checked my watch. The bus would be arriving any time now. Little did my bored self know then that that day would change my life forever.
"Excuse me, could you tell me what time it is?" I heard a voice say. I looked back at her and I felt my heart skip a beat. Never before had I seen anybody as beautiful.
"Hello, I am asking you for the time." she repeated.
I gathered my senses.
"It is almost 8:30 am." I replied. "You waiting for a bus?"
"No, I am waiting for a plane at a bus stop. What are you, an old man?" she snapped.
"I was just trying to make conversation. Sorry for bothering you."
I felt bad. The first meeting with this lady was not going well. Better luck next time, I told my heart.
The bus arrived soon and both of us got on to it. I was slightly quicker and manage to grab a seat. She came and stood next to my seat. I looked up at her just to catch her stern gaze back. I felt sheepish and took out the newspaper from my bag and began reading it.
"You are totally shameless, aren't you?" she said softly.
"Pardon me. How could you just say something like that?" I asked her. This was getting annoying.
"A lady is going towards a seat and you just come and grab it shamelessly. Don't you have any manners?"
I got up.
"Ok. Just have it and shut up. I don't need to listen to nonsense early in the day."
She sat on my seat with a smile and I went to the other end of the bus. I was boiling inside. How could anybody call me shameless?
I glanced towards her and she smiled back at me.
Why? Why do beautiful women have such lovely smiles?
I tried looking away in another direction, but my gaze always ended up in hers. After about five minutes, the person sitting next to her got up as his destination had come. Smiling beauty looked at me and gestured me to take the now vacant seat. My mind was being torn apart. One part of it wanted to go and sit next to her, the other part was too insulted to accept the invitation. Obviously the first part won the contest and I ended up being seated next to her.
"I am sorry for being rude earlier." She said, flashing that smile which was diminishing my ego continuously.
"Is this sarcasm or honesty speaking?" I asked cautiously. I did not want to get insulted again.
"Take it as a simple sorry. I know I have behaved badly with you and want to apologise. I am Deepa." She extended her hand.
"Apology accepted. I am Rakesh. So may I know the reason behind your attitude, if you don't mind? Just curious since I have been at the receiving end of it since morning."
"You can call it just plain frustration. Things haven't been going my way you know."
"Such as, my alarm did not go off in the morning which made me skip breakfast in order to catch the bus on time. I ask you the time since I forgot my watch at home and you stare dumbly at me. I get into the bus finally and you grab the sole available seat before me. And work pressures to top that. Who can be in a good mood after that?"
"Me staring dumbly at you? You seriously gotta be kidding me." I said.
"Don't worry, I usually have that effect on guys and I am used to it. And before you get any ideas, let me tell you that I am already married."
"No issues. I'm not interested in dating you, though I must say you are very beautiful and your husband is one lucky guy."
"I wish he would remember that. May be you can tell him if you happen to meet him. He is very forgetful, you know. So where do you work?"
"Still looking for a job actually. I have a degree in journalism and have done a few itsy bitsy pieces here and there. I have an interview with the Times in about two hours, hoping to crack something there. What about you?"
"Now you have to be joking. Are you sure you haven't been stalking me?"
"What do you mean? I was waiting at the bus stop first, remember?"
"I am assistant to the chief editor in Times and I am headed the same way. So here's the deal. I will buy some breakfast for both of us and then we can go to the office together. Let me complete my apology that way."
Now this was too good to be true. This beautiful woman was asking me to have breakfast with her and she worked at the same place that I was going for an interview. Two birds in one shot?
We reached our destination and headed to a nearby cafe.
"I am really hungry." She said. " What will you be having? A coffee I guess, with maybe some upma? They make it really well here."
"You seem to know my taste very well. Perfect suggestion." I smiled back. Coffee and upma was actually my favourite combination.
"I guess I should, the same way I know how to irritate you." she replied.
"What do you mean you should know?"
Just then the waiter came and took the order.
We were sitting next to the window of the cafe and the morning sun was streaking in from it right across her face. A cool breeze was blowing that blew her hair softly. With a gentle motion of her fingers, she brushed the loose strands of hair aside and smiled at me.
"You really like me, don't you?" she asked.
"Why do you ask me that? We have just met." I replied.
Her eyes filled up for a split moment and she recovered her composure quickly. The food arrived soon and she busied herself into eating.
"Let me change the topic. Since you were late, why didn't your husband drop you?"
"I wish he would just remember he has a wife for a change. Maybe I should have married you instead."
"What the hell are you saying? It isn't funny if this is your idea of a joke."
"Rakesh, don't do this again please. Don't you remember anything?" Those tears were back again and this time she made no effort to hide them.
"What do you mean?" This was getting weird.
"Don't you remember this place? This was where I took you so many years back when we met for the first time to apologise for being rude. Try to remember Rakesh, please make an effort."
"I think I am having enough of this nonsense. Thank you for the meal, I think I should be going for the interview now."
"Look at yourself Rakesh. Just have a look in the mirror. Do you even think you are young enough for an interview?"
Ironically there was a mirror right across where I was standing. I looked into it. Was my hair really white? Did I actually have those wrinkles on my face?
"Yeah, look into that mirror. Look into it the way you have been looking in it for the past few months. Neither are you going for an interview, nor am I working at the Times. I have been your wife for the past 54 years. I know the ailment is eating your memory, but try to remember something please!"
A sharp pain emerged in my head. Everything looked too bright, so much that I could not keep my eyes open. I closed my eyes. The pain kept on increasing and it spread to the rest of my body which could not hold me any longer. I fell on the floor grabbing my head with both hands. Images were flooding in my brain. A much younger me graduating from college. Me receiving the best journalist award. Me looking into the eyes of my newly-wed bride. Me holding the tiny hands of a baby girl, my daughter. It was too much to bear. I tried opening my eyes, everything was blurred. I could make out Deepa leaning over me telling me to hold on. Those eyes were familiar. I had seen them on my wedding day. I could make out some white clothed men holding me up and taking me somewhere. Somebody held my palm, and this time I did not need anybody telling me who it was.
"Deepa......... " my voice trailed off.
It was a normal day. I woke up early in the morning and made myself some light breakfast. I had an interview that day and I wanted to reach the office before time to make a good first impression. As usual, I walked to the bus stop and was waiting for the bus, when a hand tapped my shoulder and asked,
"Excuse me, could you tell me what time it is?"
I looked back at her and I felt my heart skip a beat. Never before had I seen anybody as beautiful.