This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 21 Dec 2013 and won INR 500
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
Gorgeous and elegant she was. Plugging the headphones onto her ears, she swayed her head gently to the music being played. She had a kind of aura around her which could easily attract people. I felt the magnetic attraction to her. She was impatiently waiting for the bus to arrive while I kept admiring her. She had left her hair loose which was an added advantage to her beauty. She had designed a bindi on her forehead which suited her aptly. Her long dangling earrings showed that she loved stylish & ethnic accessories. Wearing a simple green kurti top and black leggings, she looked like a typical Chennai girl. She had carefully selected her sandals which matched her attire perfectly. On the whole, she was fair and beautiful. I could not take my eyes off her.
There arrived a bus and she got into it. I was quick to react and I too got into the same bus. Though I had no plans of going out on that day, I didn’t want to miss the chance of admiring her. She took a window seat and waited for the conductor to come over so that she could get a ticket. I occupied a place next to an elderly man. She held out the money to the conductor and got a ticket to the book fair which was being held in Chennai. After acquiring the ticket, she turned towards the window and started watching outside. The conductor came over to me and asked,”Where do you want to go, sir?”
I was completely submerged in looking at her & ignored the conductor’s question. He waved his hand in front of my eyes and asked once more,
“Hello!!!! Where do you want to go?”
“A ticket to book fair” I replied.
The conductor gave a stern look at me and handed over the ticket. I continued looking at her but she never took notice of me.
The book fair stop arrived & the conductor announced the people to get down. She alighted from the bus and I followed her.
“36th Book Fair-Chennai”
A board was put up at the entrance. She walked a few steps forward & asked the security guard.
“Where is the actual book fair? Should I walk for some more distance?”
Her voice was sweet and it gave goosebumps to me.
“Yes madam, you have to walk inside for quarter a kilometer” the security guard replied.
“Thank you!” She heaved a sigh.
I followed her inside. She walked like a model and occasionally adjusted her handbag over her shoulder. I felt happy to walk behind her. I didn’t know what I was feeling at that moment. All I could say is, I felt happy. Just happy.
We entered the fair and saw a huge number of stalls. I was utterly shocked to see so much book stalls. She went over to the receptionist and asked for a catalogue. Browsing through the pages, she made a mental note of the stall numbers which she wanted to visit. She entered the 5th stall and her eyes wandered through the shelves of books. It was at that time she sensed that I was following her. She turned back and gave me an angry stare. I felt embarrassed and turned towards the shelf as if searching for a book. But she kept her hands on her hips and asked me,”What do you want? Why are you following me right from the bus stop?”
I was taken aback at her direct question. Then, I answered her,
“No! I wasn’t following you. I have also come to this fair. So, I too got into the same bus in which you boarded.”
“Is it? Don’t try to make me a fool. I have been noticing you. You kept on looking at me.”
“So, you noticed me? Then, why didn’t you ask these questions before? You liked me admiring you. Thats why you kept quiet.”
“Just stupid! I was waiting for the right chance to pounce on you.”
“Oh! Then why are you standing still? Come on, pounce on me.”
“Get lost!!!” She shouted at me in peak anger.
“Hey, ok ok. Cool down. Lets be friends. I am Samar. And you?”
“I don’t want any friends. You can mind your own business and go on your way.”
“But I feel bored walking alone. You have also come alone. Then, why don’t we browse for books, together?”
“Look! I didn’t want anybody to accompany me. That’s why I told my mom that I would go alone. Please, leave me. Find someone else. Look at that girl over there. She has also come alone. Why don’t you join her?”
“No….I don’t think as if I could talk to her. But I feel some strange power attracting me to you. I think we should give it a try and be friends. Atleast for today.”
She gave a slight smile. I think she liked my approach. So, she nodded back at me and called me to join her. I was on cloud nine. I could not control my happiness. Walking beside a pretty girl gives the best feeling in the world. I thanked God for this opportunity.
“So, tell me. Whats your name?” I asked her.
“Well, that’s a good name. What kind of books do you read, Shalini?”
“I prefer all genres. I don’t select a specific kind. If I like the story line, then I would buy the book.”
“Hmmm…can we go to some stalls which sell English novels? We have arrived at a Tamil novels stall.”
“Yes, come lets go Samar.”
I liked her when she addressed my name. As I was close to her, I watched her keenly. She had applied a thick line of kaajal which made her even more beautiful.
We reached a stall which housed loads of English novels. There were many racks of Sidney Sheldon & Jeffrey Archer books. I have read a lot of Sidney’s books and he was my favorite author. I was eagerly waiting to see what Shalini would pick up.
“I haven’t read any of Sidney Sheldon’s novels. Can you suggest some?” She asked.
” ‘The Sands of Time’ is a bestseller. You could buy that.”
She picked it up and browsed through the pages. She read the outline at the back cover and smiled.
“I’ll take this one.” She said.
We went to the billing counter and paid for the book. We skipped ten more stalls as nothing interested either of us. Meanwhile, I had opened Facebook in my Nokia Lumia 920 and was browsing through it. Shalini said,”Talk something. I am bored. What are you browsing in your mobile?”
“Don’t use Facebook often. You kind of, get addicted to it.”
“I am addicted already.”
Just then Shalini’s mobile rang. I could see the display which was showing “Mom”. She signalled me to keep quiet and attended the call. “Hi mom……..” She moved further away from me. Once again, I started admiring her. I had strange kind of feelings then. I was deeply enchanted by her. I was gradually giving away my heart to her. Just then, a strand of hair fell before her eyes. She caught it between her fingers and shoved it behind her ear. It was at that moment I fell in love with her! I could easily say that it was love. I had been in a relationship which ended rather badly. So, I could say how being in love felt. The moment I laid my eyes on her in the bus stand, I could say that there was a magical link between us. But now, I realised it.
“Hey Samar!!! What happened? Why are you standing like a ghost ridden fellow?”
I came back to senses.
“Why are you staring at me?” She asked.
“You look so beautiful.”
I think she blushed. Then, she replied, “Thank you Samar.” She winked her eyes in a lovely manner and casted a cute smile. My heart almost skipped a beat.
For the rest of the walk, I could not help looking at her. Once again, I thought,”Yes, I have fallen in love with her. She is the one for me. A typical Chennai girl and a good girl too. She is well behaved. She is interested in books just like me. I hope I could make her mine. Let me start asking questions about her.”
“Well, where are you hailing from?” I asked.
“I was born and brought up in Chennai.” She replied.
I was disappointed that she didn’t ask me back. I moved on to the next question,”Where do you live currently? I mean, your area.”
“I stay at Vadapalani. I just came to Anna Nagar this morning to one of my friend’s house. That’s why I got into a bus from there. Where do you stay?”
I felt relieved that she had asked me back. I quietly replied,” I stay in Anna Nagar only.”
“Actually, I love Anna Nagar. I like the ambiance of that area with all its shops and restaurants. And of course, there are smart & handsome guys just like you.”
I was blown away. I thanked her for her sweet compliment.
Then, I asked the next question,”Well, what do you do?”
“I am pursuing my B.Sc in Computer Science. What about you?”
“I am a passed out Viscom student. I am now undergoing training for cinematography.”
“Oh! Thats great Samar.”
I stopped with that. I didn’t want to ask her anymore questions as she may think that I am going overboard.
Then she spoke,”Samar! I am hungry. Come, lets go and have something.”
Saying so, we headed out and entered inside the eatery stall ‘Saapida Vanga’. It was a big stall with too many sub stalls which read Dosa, Poori, Variety rice, Biryani, Parotta, Snacks, etc.,
The receptionist asked,”What do you want sir?”
“Lemon rice for me and Chicken biryani for her.” I said pointing at Shalini.
She was shocked. “How do you know that I like chicken biryani?”
“What do you think I was doing on Facebook? I found your profile ‘Shalini Maithri’ which had a cute profile picture. I clicked on ‘Likes’. The first one popped up-Chicken Biryani.”
Stunned, she snatched the order coupon from me and moved towards the Biryani stall. She got a plate of delicious biryani. Soon, I followed her with a plate of lemon rice and mango pickle. We occupied a corner table and feasted on our respective dishes.
“By the way, I have sent you a friend request Shalini. If you wish, you accept it.”
“Yeah sure Samar. Now that we have become friends, I don’t have a problem in accepting you as a friend in the virtual world.”
Soon after lunch we re-entered the fair and started walking. We spoke about many things and even had inane conversations.
I thought,” She is so interesting. I have never met such a strong-minded and bold girl. I will surely propose to her after a few days. She will be mine, forever.”
Shalini interrupted my thoughts, “Hey do you like romantic novels?”
“Yeah, I love them. I read a lot of Nicholas Sparks’ books. ‘The Notebook’ is my favorite.”
“I read a lot of Mills and Boons too.” She said with a shy smile.
Time passed away as we walked and talked. We shared our views on various topics. Soon, our legs ached. So, we sat on the sidewalk. We had delicious coffee and started moving again.
It was 6 pm. Shalini glanced at her watch and exclaimed,”Hey its time! Lets move out. By the way, we have finished visiting all the stalls.”
“Thats great.” I replied.
We started walking to the main road. I spoke,” Can I have your number, Shalini? I won’t misuse it. You are the most interesting person I have ever met. Amazing! I would like to be in touch with you.”
“Hey, come on. No need to give such an explanation. I will give you a missed call from my number. Save it.”
“Well, thank you.” I replied.
We reached the main road and then that strange question popped in my mind. The most incredible question. If the answer to that question was positive, then my dreams would get shattered. But anyway, I had to ask it. My heart wrenched. I felt the jitters. Maybe, because of love. Then, I asked,
“Shalini, I don’t know whether I have the authority to ask this. But I need to ask. Are you committed?”
“Should I answer this question?” pat came the reply.
“I might have been a good friend to you. But that doesn’t mean I should share my personal with you so soon.”
“Oh! I am sorry Shalini. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Don’t be angry on me.”
“Its ok Samar. Thank you for being my friend today. I would have felt bored if you hadn’t been there. And you are amazing too. Lets continue to be friends like this. See you later if there is any chance of meeting. Bye, take care.”
“Hmmm…keep in touch Shalini…take care…bye….”
She boarded the bus and waved to me through the window. I waved back. My eyes welled up with tears. I was only a substitute for her boredom. She didn’t genuinely find anything interesting in me.
” But I won’t leave her. I will pursue her. I am sure she is single. She will be mine. I will constantly keep in touch with her.”
Thinking so, I too boarded another bus and reached home after an hour. I took out my mobile and dialled Shalini’s number. The caller tune was a sad Tamil song. I was surprised. Such an outspoken girl had a sad song in her caller tune. The call was attended. But, not by Shalini.
“Hello” a male voice.
“Hello, may I speak to Shalini? I am her friend Samar.”
The voice at the other end started crying.
“Shalini has committed suicide. She had left a note telling that she has taken that decision due to her love failure. She attended the book fair for one last time as she was crazy about books. Shalini is dead!!! Shalini is dead!!!!” The man started wailing at high pitch.
I dropped my phone to the floor and stood still. My hands and legs became numb. Tears flowed from my eyes unknown to me.
“I have never met such a strong-minded and bold girl.” My own thoughts reflected back and laughed at me.