“Amber weather warning in most parts of England – forecast of heavy rain and strong winds” – the MET office weather update popped up on the brand new iPhone 11 of Rishi. With a frowned face, he tried to look outside from the waiting room of Oxford Railway station, to make a quick judgement of the climate– it was raining cats and dogs. He cursed the non-negotiable work commitment which made him to travel urgently in such a weather.
“Damn! I should have drove today” he thought to himself but unfortunately his car was at the service centre for the repair of the brake pedal.
The 2018 model of Land Rover Discovery SUV was quite an extravagant buy for Rishi. It was on his dream car list for long. He bought it last year after bidding good-bye to the old banger- 2009 model of Mercedes , his companion for almost 4 years. Nina wasn’t very supportive of this lavish spend initially but she often succumbed to Rishi’s indulgence towards gadgets and love for cars.
“Consider this as my mid-life affair, best for my sanity” giggled Rishi to calm down a very disappointed Nina. Well, Rishi cannot blame Nina being thrifty most often – she has seen enough struggles in the beginning with him when they started their life in a one bedroom stingy apartment in the suburbs of London, after they shifted to the UK,almost 12 years back. Since then she hasn’t taken her foot off the pedal – be it with Rishi, her career as a pediatrician, making their house a home or raising their 8 years old son Nishanth. She certainly wears the pants in the family and why wouldn’t it be – she is the smarter between the two and more sensible. But in this whole run for perfection she has invariably concealed the girl she used to be, one whom Rishi keeps looking for in his wife.
Rishi was busy checking office emails on his phone, while sipping the Café Latte, he picked up on his way to the station. He was disrupted by the travel announcement from the station control room. Most of the trains were running at a delay due to the bad weather condition. Certainly, this was the last he was expecting for today. What a day it has been – travelling on a day like this for a client presentation which didn’t go as expected, now trains getting delayed and the weather situation turning worse every hour. He was irritated, resentful and least to say was almost swearing in his mind so loud that he was worried that the people in the waiting room might actually hear him out. He looked around – the waiting room wasn’t crowded like it usually would be on any other given day – Who would be so crazy to travel on a day like this?
“What time would you be home?” – watsapp text popped up from Nina. Chats with Nina are now limited to such questions. There is nothing wrong about that. That is how marriages of 14 years almost looks like – most of their conversations revolve around Nishanth.
Rishi looked at his watch and made a quick calculation of time. “Should be 8” he texted back Nina.
“I would have been home by now ,had it not been this stupid presentation”, Rishi kept on making complaints to himself. Bosses have a magical way to persuade their employees to travel on an amber-warning weather condition to gain business. He looked around, almost everyone in the waiting room had similar frustrations on their face.
Train to London Paddington is in another half an hour. Some ray of hope for Rishi. The last drop of Café Latte was long over. He was thinking in his mind that in order to survive the long boring journey back to London, he would definitely need extra dosage of caffeine but was also wary of the fact that it wouldn’t do any good to him while trying to sleep. Spin-off from marrying a doctor – you start counting nutritional side effects of everything. Whatever it is, Rishi decided he needs enough coffee to keep his patience under check.
He picked up his laptop bag, put on his coat and headed towards the coffee shop outside the waiting room of the station. Just when he opened the waiting room door, he almost collided with someone. Someone, who was rushing into the waiting room as if trying to save herself from the cold wind outside and the only savior was the waiting room heat radiators, waiting to embrace her with all the warmth.
“Oh, I am so sorry” she said, apologetic yet in a rush. She was almost drenched – the half closed umbrella in her hand certainly wasn’t of much help. She was carrying a laptop bag, which clearly indicated that she was a victim like Rishi who had to sacrifice her warm cosy home for gaining business for some CEO, who must be sitting comfortably at home , sipping hot chocolate.
Rishi hold the door for her and said “After you”, the most commonly used British etiquette, which he has by now picked up pretty well.
“Finally”, Rishi sighed to himself with relief when he saw the train carriage to London arriving at the platform. With coffee in one hand and laptop bag on his shoulder, he started to move towards the coach. By now, he has seen his train tickets multiple times to remember that he was in coach E, seat number 71.
Oh that feeling of going home – Rishi couldn’t wait to finally get home. While walking towards his coach, he saw “Ms. Rushy Rush”, with whom he had a brief encounter at the waiting room door, juggling with her long British walking umbrella, her huge hand bag, laptop bag, mobile phone and at the same time trying to figure out which coach she is in. It made Rishi smirk at the sight – “I thought women are multi-taskers”.
The September evening sky outside Rishi’s window seat looked melancholic and dull. The sky was filled with varying shades of dark ominous clouds. Inattentively, he was scanning through some watsapp texts by his old college mates, giggling at some jokes forwarded in the group, thinking how typical of men even in their 40s to find fun in silly sex jokes.
He sent a quick text to Nina to keep her posted that the train should leave in another ten to fifteen minutes. He looked around – the coach seemed less crowded. Handful of few, mostly professionals, making their way back to London on a grim weather day. On any other day, his home is approximately half an hour drive from his work place. He is usually home by 7 in the evening, except for very few evenings when he chooses to attend after-work drinks with co-workers, which is very rare actually. Rishi has never been too outgoing or social. Ever since Nishanth’s academics has taken up speed, Nina has been very particular that most week evenings are spent in preparing him for the secondary school. There are strict rules been followed under Nina’s governance and there is no escape from those.
Rishi closed his eyes, waiting for the train to start anytime now. It’s been a long and tiring day.
“Sorry, is this yours?” a voice stopped Rishi from almost falling asleep. He looked up to see “Ms. Rushy Rush” standing there with a newspaper in her hand. She had put her handbag on the seat diagonally opposite to his.
“No, that is not mine”, said Rishi politely with a smile.
The next few minutes, Rishi tried hard to look outside the window, making all possible vain efforts not to catch a glimpse of her while she was settling down. The station guard whistling outside was the final signal that the train would depart now – Rishi was going back home finally, after a long day, he couldn’t wait to get over.
There’s something wonderfully melancholic about gazing out of a train window on a gloomy evening and hearing the heavy rain hitting the window. He was lost in his own thoughts looking outside but couldn’t fully focus – may be a part of him wanted to take a sneak peek at his co-passenger.
She would probably be in her mid to late 30s? Well, he was never an expert in making wild assumptions about a woman. He usually has his “foot in the mouth” moments with women when he tries to make informal conversations for the first time.
She wasn’t exquisitely attractive or gorgeous, one who will make all heads turn but maybe she has a charm of her own which was captivating. She was wearing a long brown trench coat, which was still wet by the rain. She was dressed up for work with black trousers and brown ankle boots matching with her trench coat. She had a very simple, ordinary and unadorned look – but what was so enchanting about looking at her?
She had finally settled down into her seat with the huge handbag resting next to her – what do women carry in those big bags? Rishi always had the same question for Nina but never got a satisfactory answer.
She was quite engrossed in her own world, into her phone, lost in rapidly typing something. Something must have really captivated her thoughts, making artistic furrows on her beautifully shaped brows. Only thing that could disrupt her thoughts was her free flowing dark black curls which occasionally fell around her face, covering most parts of her visible round face. She had a clear face, wheatish complexion, small nose and thin lips. Her eyes, still lowered, were covered by black framed retro style glasses giving her quite a geeky look. Between gently tucking her hair behind her ears and carefully adjusting the glasses to sit perfectly over her small nose – she didn’t realize that someone sitting a meter away ,has spent almost thirty minutes of the journey in minutely observing the nitty-gritty of her actions.
The train had made an intermediate stop. Passengers getting off at this station made their way out. Another forty-five minutes till the train reaches its final destination. Why doesn’t the desperation to reach home seem obvious anymore? Rishi realized he hasn’t even finished the coffee – the one which seemed life-saver for him, just few hours back. Is it because he knows home is not too far now or has he started enjoying the silent company of his co-passenger? He hasn’t checked his phone for long, longer than his usual habits. Has there been a hypnotizing effect on him or is it that he is just too tired and clouded in his mind about the whole day?
It’s dark outside and rain drops over the window makes it even more difficult to see anything outside. Not that Rishi want to opt for the choice of looking outside, if given to choose between looking outside or inside.
The typing has now reduced and so has the furrows on her brow line. The sequence of curls falling on her face and being tucked behind ears continue though, building a beautiful chemistry between her hair and her ear lobes.
What is so mesmerising about looking at her? Does she look familiar? No.
May be, she has a charm which has the power of revitalising. Is it her or her presence that is making the journey nothing less than pleasant?
Just when Rishi didn’t expect, she looked up and smiled.
The weather seems to be getting worse. Nina, meanwhile, texted Rishi that she would come to the station to pick him up, anticipating lesser chances of getting a cab in this weather.
Rishi was embarrassed, he didn’t expect he would be caught off-guard staring at her. He was not quick enough to take his eyes off. But his embarrassment was all worth, because what he saw then was more beautiful than the whole of her – her eyes. She had deep, black, rounded eyes with thick eye lashes. She smiled through her eyes, making it more enchanting. Her eyes were bright and powerful. She looked into his eyes and smiled coyly. Thankfully, this time her hair didn’t make an unwanted guest appearance on her face.
“Do you know what time the train would reach London?” she asked Rishi, may be a gesture to break that unwanted silence between them.
“Should be by 8, I think” ,said Rishi.
Silence prevailed again. Rishi is usually very bad in striking conversations. He was thinking hard what to say next but then preferred to keep quite especially after he was caught red-handed staring at her. Unable to continue the conversation, she went back to her phone, watching something which made her smile and her eyes lit up, like a little child watching Disney. The sight was beautiful.
The train reached London Paddington – the final stop. All passengers headed towards the door to depart. Rishi picked up his bag, put on his coat and started to move. She carefully picked up all her belongings and made her way to the door too. A beautiful journey without the need to speak has come to an end. Some people has a unique magnetic charisma of casting a magical spell without interaction, bringing a harmony to the chaos in your mind.
As they reached the door, Rishi turned back and smiled to give her way – “After you”.
The irony of time – it will never move at a pace you would want it to.
A long tiring mediocre day turned out to be beautiful in the end. It had a calming effect on Rishi. Not always morning shows the day. As he saw her walking out of the station, he made his way to the car park. He will never have an answer what made the unspoken journey so pleasant? What was so special about the “After you”s – he probably has used this multiple times before? Sometimes there are people who crosses your path, giving you the serenity like fresh lavender smell, and you know you would probably never meet them again.
Rishi walked to the car park, still clouded with thoughts from the journey. Nina was there in the car, waiting for him. He sat in the car and they made their way to home.
As Nina made a turn to go out of the car park, there was another car at the giveaway junction. Nina made a gentle gesture to signal “After you” to the other car which was also waiting to leave the car park. The gentleman at the driving seat, waved his hand to make a thank-you signal.
Rishi looked at the passenger beside him. It wasn’t difficult for him to recognise those deep rounded bright eyes and that effervescent smile. The car passed taking a turn left. Nina left behind, signalling right.