Normally monsoon and rains does not disrupt life in Coonoor. In fact, it brings her charm a notch higher. A nice warm cup of tea and a stroll in the road will reveal her elegance. The very same street today is never the same on any other day. The variance in scent of the rain, difference in thickness of the mist and the shift in texture of cloud reveals a new place on every single day. Customarily, school kids wear their raincoats over the school bags, with rain boots and holding the umbrella. They looked like little Sherlock Holmes with a hump in the back. They turn their umbrellas to right angles like a flag bearer saluting in a parade to defend themselves from water on the roads splashed by fast moving cars. All vehicles keep moving with fog lamps on and window shutters closed. Those without windshield wipers are blind and hence stopped. The humming machines in the tea factories keep humming day and night. Monsoon and rains do not mute them. Umbrellas are mandate for pedestrians.
It is a similar rainy evening today. Vineeth is waiting in the club road bus stop for her. It’s almost seven years past since he spoke to her. Although he spoke very little, he did. He could not surmise how quick the time moved by. He’s not very sure if she’ll show up today. Vineeth is moving out of station or abroad, to be precise, for a while. He listed up the “to do” things and “friends to meet” before he left. Though he knew that meeting her is top in priority, he never put this on record. He kept it to himself, like always. It really took some effort to figure out where she lives and obviously it is a surprise to him. Her name is Nisha.
Some episodes in life never fade away from memories, like beautiful monsoon in Coonoor. It was one such episode, in that very same club road bus stop when Vineeth met Nisha. It was drizzling in the evening. The lazy sun sheepishly sunk behind the thick curtain of cloud. Tiny beads of water were sliding over the leaves and grass across the road. A wandering horse there quenched its thirst and hunger simultaneously by grazing that grass. Vineeth was little frustrated due to the ruined soccer match. He was hitting the football onto the wall over and over again. The wet ball was sketching the wall with mud stains on every punch. He wasn’t waiting for bus. He was just killing some time before he went home which was not very far from there. There was a gust of chill wind. He pulled over his sweater. The gust brought a faint layer of fog with it. From the club road stop he could see only up to the cornwall crossroad junction.
There on the other side of club road appeared a silhouette of a girl with an umbrella. She was holding the umbrella tilted towards left side shielding the drizzle. She walked the road with unhurried pace, like she was late for nowhere. Slowly the silhouette developed into a portrait. First thing he noticed was the umbrella. It appeared decorative with orchid flowers printed on the borders. Apparently, there was a leak in the umbrella. Rain drops squeezed themselves through the unseen gap in the umbrella and tried to bounce towards her. She was well aware of the situation and wrecked their dreams simply flicking her finger tips against them in a timely fashion, one after another. She was wearing a paisley patterned grey colored sweater which was drenched by rain near the sleeves. Since then grey became Vineeth’s favored color for unknown reasons. Whenever he had to pick a color, he picked grey, mostly unwitting.
When she came near the bus stop, she glanced at him for about a second. But that view stuck in his mind for an eternity. She had a thin scar above her right eye, which gave a unique touch to the portrait. Sensing her distraction, few squeezing rain drops from the orchid umbrella bounced over her nose, thereby embracing their destiny. She wiped them off with her grey sweater sleeve, and resumed her dreams wrecking process with fingertips. She wasn’t exactly smiling. But he could see that she was lively and delighted due to the climate. There was serenity in her appearance. She obviously adored the rain. She had a ‘relaxed French braided’ style with her wet hair. A tiny chrysanthemum was hugging her hair. It appeared to be alive and whispering behind her ears.
She glided till the crossroads, turned right towards the cornwall road. Slowly the portrait withered into a silhouette and then dissolved with the nature. That serenity in her appearance caught Vineeth after that. He felt calm and joyous. The feeling similar to watching a snow cladding peak or watching a calm sunset in mid ocean or watching the stars on a cloudless night. She was ‘a thing of beauty’. Shortly after she disappeared the fog lifted, drizzling stopped, and clouds cleared revealing the sun near the horizon and the horse…..? He couldn’t recall which way the horse went. It was like all of them gathered at the crossroads to feast their eyes when she cruised through the roads.
Time passed by. He started waiting for her at the club road stop. She too noticed him. Most of the time she came with her paisley patterned sweater and orchid umbrella. They befriended each other. They liked one another. They rarely spoke in the streets. They spoke through the phone that too only over weekends. He waited for the weekends to arrive and she waited for the phone to ring. After some time Vineeth proposed to her. She never accepted his proposal, but neither denied. She said she’ll reply in favor when the time is right.
Later Vineeth went out of Coonoor for higher studies. Nisha’s parents got transferred and she had to move out of Coonoor too. Their only contact through the phones broke abruptly. That came as a shock to Vineeth. He moved on with his life, but those memories never faded. At times he even had hallucinations of Nisha appearing next to him. She was deep within his head. Now after so many years, he cracked her current living location via her parent’s office contacts. To his surprise she’s now living in Coonoor and got married. He contacted Nisha and they agreed to meet at same old club road bus stop.
He is waiting there at the stop. There suddenly came a gust of chill wind, which brought a faint layer of mist with it and started drizzling, dramatically!! A car arrived at the stop. Nisha got out of the car. She opened the rear door and took out a shawl and covered herself with it. She then pulled out an umbrella and shielded herself from the drizzle. It is the same orchid umbrella. The shawl is grey in color and contained paisley patterns. She came towards him. She looked the same ‘a thing of beauty’.
“Hey Vini, how are you?” She asked in a cracking voice, about to break.
“Hi. I’m good… Good. Thanks.”
“So… you said you’re moving abroad?”
“Hmm.. yes, for a while.”
“Good. That’s good.” She said.
“You came back to Coonoor!!”
“Ahh… yes, I like it here.” She said. By then her eyes became moist.
A long silence entangled them. The drizzle was thickening into rain. Slowly some rain water beads squeezed themselves through that invisible hole in the orchid umbrella and bounced onto her nose.
But she did not wipe them off today.
“So… hmm… how are you? Are you…”clearing his throat Vineeth asked “Are you happy these days? Contended?”
Quickly she replied “Yes. Of Course. I am…. I am a…. satisfied girl now” and her voice broke.
Covering her mouth she said in a feeble sound,
“It’s starting to pour. I’ve to reach home before that, take care yourself” and she turned back.
Vineeth is never sure if that was tears or rain drop that run through her chin. He never replied.
Nisha got into the car and drove towards the crossroads and into cornwall street. The fog lifted and the rain stopped.