The headlights of his Swift barely penetrated the thick darkness hanging around him as Bharat ploughed on along the Mumbai- Chennai highway. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience of his life to drive, alone, in the middle of the night along one of the longest stretch of roads in India, especially on Christmas Day. Yet this was exactly what his boss demanded. A huge consignment was arriving from Canada at Kanyakumari and he was needed there to supervise all its…
The hitchhiker’s outstretched finger made him depress the brakes. She was standing all alone in the middle of the road. He knew how it felt to just watch an empty car pass by. She opened the passenger seat door but didn’t get in.
“Do you mind if I sit behind? I have a phobia of front seats.”
Despite that ever so soft pull by his ego, Bharat indicated her to get in. The car’s engine roared to life as he heard the door shut behind him.
“So where are you off to?” asked Bharat, adjusting the rear view mirror so that he can keep eye contact while talking. She was about his age and, he hated to admit it, beautiful. He thought of his wife back home, probably sleeping with his child and any thought that may have crept in vanished. But there was something about that face that told him that it was a face he had forgotten with time, that he knew her.
“To help someone I love” she smiled mysteriously, “ don’t worry about me, tell me where you are going Bharat.”
“Kanyakumari. Wait… how do you know my name?”
“You are a legend at St. Stephens. Everyone knows you. Class topper, leader, activist, everyone’s favourite, you are like the pinnacle of perfection.”
“You are from St. Stepehens?”
“Yes. I was two years your junior. You don’t remember me do you?”
Bharat grinned, audibly just in case she didn’t see his face in the mirror. He had learned long ago that this was the best way to disarm anyone armed to the teeth with the “Don’t you remember me” weapon.
“Well then,” she continued “let me re introduce myself. My name is Christina, and I was of the mechanical engineering batch of 2001. Oh… and a huge fan of yours.”
“Sheesh… you are flattering me.” he grinned again, “So, what do you do for a living?”
There was an awkward silence. He looked into the mirror and saw her head bowed. And then, so silent that he didn’t first notice it, came the sound of suppressed sorrow.
“Are you crying? Wait…What’s wrong?” he asked, alarmed. The entire conversion flashed through his head. No, he hadn’t said anything offensive, maybe except the last question. It may have touched a raw nerve.
“You know, they say love works in mysterious ways. I was in love, madly. With you. I was ready to do anything for you. And then you married. I was devastated, depressed. I was distracted. I didn’t see the lorry coming.”
“What are you talking about?” He was thoroughly confused. Either this girl was crazy or…. He didn’t know what else. She continued as if she hadn’t heard him.
“But love goes beyond mortal boundaries set by man, doesn’t it. My love for you is too pure to be corrupted by jealousy. Do me just one favour, do not complete this journey. I desperately want you with me, but more than that, I want you to be happy.”
The car suddenly came to a screeching halt. Bharat looked around. The back seat was empty.
His phone rang. It was his boss.
Bharat talked. “ ….No sir. I won’t be able to make it in time. My tyre is punctured” No, he wouldn’t complete this journey.
His boss was agitated but understanding. He will send someone else, don’t worry, get back as soon as you can. Bharat thanked him. He didn’t understand why Christina didn’t want him to complete his journey. He called his wife at home, she was fine. Who was she, and where did she go? Or was she, as he imagined, a….
He looked at the date on his phone. Saturday, 25 December 2006.
And a star shined brightly upon him.