Priya said “Ravi you are such a gentleman”
Ravi was filled with disgust when he heard those words. He tried hard not to show his emotions and said “Good night, Priya. I will leave now, its too late, my mechanic will pick up your car tommorrow and give you a call once its ready”
Priya felt that his response was a little weird. They were good friends for the last 8 years and he would have normally passed a witty/flirty remark about her comment. He loved annoying her by flirting with her.
Priya went to sleep thinking how much Ravi had helped her over the years in many situations. He was the man to call out to, when she was in trouble. Even today when her car broke down when she was returning from her office at 11.30 PM, she made the first call to Ravi. He was sleeping, but without asking any further questions, he just instructed her to be seated in the car with doors locked. He knew the place she was stranded was unsafe, he kept talking to her on the phone, cracking jokes, throughout the time he was on his way.
Ravi started driving back to his home, those words that Priya told him “You are such a gentleman” were ringing in his years. He was reminded of something that he wanted to forget. But everytime someone told him that he was a good guy or a gentleman, he couldn’t help himself thinking about what had happened a few months ago.
He was on a business trip to Singapore for 3 months and used to commute to office by train. He was away from home, was alone, and was not really enjoying the trip. He wanted to get back home as soon as he was done with his work. The routine was killing him after a month.
He decided that he would take the public bus from Monday for a change, at least he could look at different faces than the usual. He boarded the bus from the cental bus station and found a comfortable window seat near the rear exit of the bus. As the bus started moving through its route, it was becoming crowded. He had a oversized passenger sitting next to him and just when he was ruing his decision to take the bus, he saw her. It was love at first sight for Ravi.
She was just getting into the bus and she looked so different from the rest of the crowd in the bus. She was tall by Singapore/Indian standards, and had a flawless complexion with very little makeup, probably only lipstick, straightened hair and her attire seemed straight out of a Prada or a Gucci store. Her eyes were blue or green, it was hard to spot from a distance. Ravi was gaping at her, with his mouth open almost, when she glanced at him. He quickly turned to read his magazine.
While he was pretending to read, her looks were slapping him on his face to look up. He looked at her again, she was standing in the front portion of the bus and was moving a little towards the back as people were getting down in the stops. Just when he was trying to shift his gaze, she saw him again looking at her and smiled at him.
Ravi got reminded of all the Hindi Movies that he had seen, where once the girl smiles, the guy would hear wonderful music in his ears and break into a song. He was hoping that she would come close to his seat and at the opportune moment, the fat passenger next to him would get down and she would sit there. He smiled back at her and they exchanged a few more glances. Ravi was already dreaming about talking to her, going out with her, a romantic dinner, a date and what not.
The moment he was waiting for was about to arrive, she was close to where he was seated and the passenger next to him was about to get down too. He hi-fived in his imagination. The bus stopped and the passengers were getting down, she was moving closer to his seat and just when the bus was about to leave from the stop, she checked with the passenger if it was Orchard road and he said yes, in a hurry she requested the driver to stop and quickly got down from the bus. In flash, Ravi also got down from the bus.
She was waiting in the bus stop, looking a little nervous, as if waiting for someone. She had not noticed Ravi getting down in the same stop. After getting down Ravi had headed straight to a starbucks opposite the bus stop and observed her a few minutes, while sipping his mocha. He felt that she was in some kind of trouble and what better way to win a girl’s heart than to help her in need. He moved closer to her and was about to say “Hello”, when she offered her hand saying, “You are Ravi, right!, Hi, I am Sheeba, Thank god you are here”.
Ravi was taken aback, he gathered himself and asked her “How do you know my name?”.
She again said “I am Sheeba, don’t you recall”.
Ravi replied politely “Do I know you, I am sorry, I am not able to recall”
“Ravi, I am Ramya’s classmate, we met a few months back at a mall in chennai when you guys had come for a movie”, she said.
The name “Ramya” from her mouth is all what Ravi heard. He got his senses back. Ramya was his wife. He felt embarrassed to have run behind a beautiful girl like a 16 year old. The embarrassment was heightened thinking that the girl was his wife’s friend. It didn’t take much time for the embarrassment to turn to guilt. He felt bad for having loved this girl for the last 1 hour and making plans to woo her.
Sheeba shook his arm, “Ravi, you still don’t remember”
“Oh yes! Sheeba, now I remember. That’s why I was looking at you in the bus, you looked very familiar, but I couldn’t recall. Sorry”, he lied.
“I recognized you as soon as I saw, but with this bloody bag in one hand and holding on to the rails with another, I could only smile at you. When you smiled back, I thought you had recognized me”, Sheeba said with a little disappointment.
“So do you work here? Closeby?”, she quipped.
Ravi couldn’t tell her that, he was attracted to her and got down 3 stops before his actual destination.
He couldn’t look at her beautiful eyes anymore. Ravi quickly pointed out to a building on the horizon and said “Yes its about a couple of Kilometres from here, I get down here and walk to the office, some exercise, you know”.
Ravi was cursing himself for being such a loose character. His wife’s face was in front of his eyes and he realized that he loved her beyond imagination to have done something like this.
Sheeba then said, “Ravi, its my first trip abroad, I am here on a project and supposed to reach this place” and gave me a piece of paper. She added “A colleague, told me that he would be waiting for me at Orchard Road, but he is nowhere to be seen”.
“I just arrived last night and do not have a singapore mobile, can you just call my colleague on this number and check where he is”.
Ravi looked at the address and realized that she had got down at the wrong end of the road. He gave his phone to Sheeba and asked her to inform her colleague, about the situation and that she would reach office with him.
Sheeba said, “Ravi, thanks for the offer, but you must be getting late for your work, I will take a cab”.
Though he wanted to run away from her at that moment, Ravi insisted and said “Its ok, Sheeba, I will go with you and drop you at your office and mine is only a few blocks away”
Ravi dropped Sheeba in her office and she thanked him and said “My friend is lucky to have you as her husband, you are such a gentleman”
The guilt of going behind someone else despite being happily married was too much for Ravi and he decided that he would tell Ramya what happened that evening. He thought “Yes, I did not stray, I am not having an affair, but falling in love with someone else even if its for a moment when you claim to be in love with another is wrong”, he thought.
In the evening, he logged on to his laptop to do a skype video chat with his wife. Ramya said “My dear husband, you are so adorable, Thanks for helping out Sheeba today, I had a chat with her today, she was all praises about you and I am so proud”. He couldn’t muster the courage to tell her the truth.
Ravi reached home, it took him more than double the time driving back, thinking about all that had happened. He rang the bell and Ramya opened the door and said “Did you drop Priya home? my darling gentleman husband”, before she could complete the last 2 words in the sentence Ravi kissed her on her lips and said “I am tired baby, lets sleep”.