There are certain days when one would expect that things could have been different!
It was that day of early December! I had visited the coal town of Raniganj in West Bengal for some official assignment.
It was a hectic day and I had figured to cool off in the evening… no more tension of the office!
Sitting in the restaurant of the Hotel occupying a table for two, I felt like getting to know… talk to somebody… but no known person could have been there. It was my first visit to that town; my only acquaintances were office ones …
I casually glanced around.
It was a large restaurant but sparsely occupied. There were sprinklings of men and women, more gentlemen as I could make out.
My eyes dwelt upon the far east corner of the room near the reception area. A lady was sitting there alone just as I was here. Could she also be looking for somebody to talk to as I was?
She appeared to have slim built, pleasant in appearance, perhaps in the wrong side of twenty, attired in traditional sari of light pink. The nip in the air due to the onset of early winter had made her drape a black woolen shawl on her shoulders.
I was some distance away and her description in my mind might have been a bit premature, especially her appearance, but it was just idle speculation. I had nothing else to occupy me at that time.
Soon the waiter came and took my dinner order. For some minutes my attention was diverted; when the waiter left, I saw my watch – the time was 7.55 pm; I looked again towards the direction of the lady. She was not there.
“Well”, I thought, “there goes a small diversion in this dreary place.”
With nothing else to do I picked up the menu again…dessert had to be ordered.
“May I sit here?”, there was a low melodious voice of a lady.
I raised my eyes … a bit taken aback as the same lady was standing near me, a faint smile on her face, a mild perfumed aroma surrounding her.
She was pretty, fair complexioned with petite nose, large – dark eyes, a small shapely mouth colored with natural lipstick. The most striking feature of her appearance was thick, black and wavy hair cascading down till her shoulders.
It just took a few moments for me to absorb her beauty … yes in my mind she appeared fascinating. So much so that I felt my heart was palpitating.
I was sure my face didn’t reveal my inner thoughts … outwardly I was calm and stared at her.
She repeated, “May I?”
“Yes”, I said, “But I am not able to place you”.
She sat down demurely and opened her purse taking out a visiting card. “I am Debina, Business Development Manager of M/s Coal Equipment. I saw you in Black Diamond Coalfields’ office today morning and over- heard your business proposal to them. Sorry for unintended intrusion. “
She handed her card to me, “My firm will be able to supplement your proposal in such a way that both yours and my firm will be benefited.”
Then opening her leather bag, she said, “If you allow me I can discuss the outlines with you…”
The waiter returned at that time with my order. She stopped. I offered to order for her and she graciously accepted.
While we continued with our dinner, she told me about her background. She had come from Kolkata on an assignment and it was a chance that she saw me in the office where I had gone in the morning. On inquiring about my stay in the town I told her that I was in this hotel.
The dinner was over and she was willing to discuss her business outlines with me. I suggested that we could go to my room where over a cup of coffee we could discuss further.
In my room, she made herself comfortable on the chair and I reclined on the bed. Coffee had been ordered.
“Please explain your business details to me.” I said suppressing my feelings. She took out a folder with sheaf of papers and handed over two of them to me and began her presentation.
About an hour later, it was 10.00 pm.… she then concluded. Her proposal was quite convincing and my first impression was that I could take it forward to my senior management. I said, “Can you send me some more details as we have discussed just now? ”
It was getting late in the night and with a touch of concern I asked, “Where have you put up Debina? It is quite late in the night for a lady to move … “
In the back of my mind I had harbored a faint hope that she was staying in this hotel; then we might have spent more time together. Her intelligence, charm and overall personality were tying me up with a bond of loving attraction. It was a feeling which was gradually overwhelming me.
She smiled, “I am staying at the adjoining hotel; it is just a walking distance…” She paused and continued, “…. tomorrow morning I am traveling far, but I will try to take it forward soon.”
Then she stood up, “Now can I take your leave? “.
I got up and shook her hand. It was slim and soft; I withdrew my hand with some reluctance. My eyes were on her! Perhaps there was something in my expression and body language that seemed to reveal my inner thoughts to her. Women did seem to have that sixth sense to understand these!
She could have read the signals and left at once but she didn’t. Standing there she was looking at me for some more moments. Her eyes were soft and misty… lips slightly apart as if she wanted to say something but not able to …
My thoughts were in turmoil; a breathlessness was overcoming me as if I was a school kid about to experience his first love. Mesmerized I again wanted to take her hand and gently pull her towards me… it was such a beautiful dream. And I did!
Suddenly the whole edifice seemed to crumble… it was as if I had just woken up… reality was different. Debina pulled her hand back with a brief smile; she turned and went out of the room leaving it empty…. devoid of any life and color!
I stared at the open door for several minutes then got up and closed it.
That whole night I had a fitful sleep!
Next morning, I came down to the restaurant for my breakfast. Another busy day awaited me. On the way near the reception area, I found a small crowd discussing something animatedly. Curious, I stopped and asked the receptionist. She replied “Sir… a lady has been found dead in the next-door hotel … police say that she died yesterday afternoon. her body was found today morning… cause of death not known…”
Suddenly my mouth turned dry in some unknown anxiety, “What is her name? “I could manage to say.
“Sir… her name was Debina …”
My mind, at once turned into a whirlwind… was it the same Debina who was with me the entire yesterday evening? But how can that be if she had already been dead? Who was she … her soul… her spirit? I couldn’t believe it!!
My emotive turmoil was hard to define. I was in a daze. The next day I was back in Kolkata. Visiting her Firm, M/s Coal Equipment, a very senior officer confirmed that Debina did work for them; unfortunately, she was found dead in Raniganj, a day ago. Nobody knew how she had died. The Police was investigating.
Later I came to know that she was no ordinary employee; she was the daughter of the owner of that Firm but being independent- minded always preferred to chart her own career with her unstinted efforts!
A year had since passed. I was still trying to find the answers to my eternal questions. But more questions had come up. Why did she come to me? Was she so committed that even after her death she was finishing her business assignments? That’s the reason why she had come to me! I admired her ethereal sense of responsibility! Coupled with that I couldn’t help but to feel that she had sensed my loving attraction for her! Would she have reciprocated… but how?
I know that she will continue to be an enigma to me!
Eventually her Firm was successful in getting the business from my firm …due to her efforts that fateful day… but I couldn’t have got her, ever.
Today, only an emotional illusion is staying with me and will endure for the rest of my life!
Strangely, tonight, while retiring to bed I sensed a mild perfumed aroma which had surrounded her…….