The Enchanting Midnight

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The Coincidences of Similarities

CHAPTER 19

The Coincidences of Similarities

I woke up by the sound of the alarm which I had set for 5-15 in the morning. I needed at least ten minutes to get my eyes opened. I couldn’t stop myself from yawning continuously. It was a drowsy atmosphere and I did not want to leave my blanket in the chilly morning. Yet it was the question of a promise for me.

Somehow I managed to get out of my bed and be ready. By then, I felt awake from inside to be able to step out. I reminded myself that I was going for a basketball match and my opponent was strong. However, I really did not worry about the match. For me, it was going to be an opportunity to see another skill of this amazing girl.

At exactly 5-45 A.M., I stepped out of my house. As she had said, she was standing outside the gate. I couldn’t help but notice that she had just put on her usual thin jacket, dressed in her black track suit and blue sports shoes.

So, there she was ready for an adventure and I simply wondered if we were really going for a basketball match. I had put on a jacket over my sweater because I did not want to take the risk of catching cold. However, I wasn’t feeling very cold, surprisingly, even when I could only see fog around us.

She saw me approaching and smiled, “Good morning doctor. Ready?”

“Do I have a choice?”, I tried to look helpless.

She laughed, “No. Are you feeling cold today?”

“Not as much as I really do. But I don’t know how”.

“See I said, but how can you know everything doctor”, she laughed again, “Now you are the guide. Please take me to the place. By the way, I think I had left my Identity Card in your car last night. I’ll take it after we return.”

I nodded and started walking, ignoring all the confusions in my mind. She joined me. We had to go to a local Club just half a kilo metre from our locality, where there was a basketball court thankfully. Moreover, I had visited it a lot in school days, so it wasn’t a problem for me to enter it early in the morning.

She did not speak anything on the way nor did I. Yet, I could make out that she was very happy about it. Probably, that was the importance of little unnoticed things in life, I thought, as we walked towards the gate of the club.

“So, here we come”, I said and she responded by showing a thumbs up sign.

The guard let me enter with her. We proceeded towards the store room, where I found the old caretaker, who got very excited on seeing me after a long time.

“Siddharth! After such a long time. You never came here. How come early in the morning son?”, he asked me as he noticed Mishti.

“Hello uncle. Just thought of getting freshened up in this weather. My friend is a very good basketball player. So we thought of going for a match.”

“Oh that’s great. Welcome dear”, he said to Mishti, who responded with a smile,” It will be a pleasure to see you playing again Siddharth. Nobody would interrupt you at this time”, he said as he handed a ball to me.

As I moved out with him, Mishti whispered from behind, “ ‘A friend who is a very good basketball player’. Come on doctor, I am already scared of you. Don’t make me feel embarrassed too”.

“We shall see who plays well”, I smiled at her and she looked surprised. But I wasn’t, it was back in school that I used to play. Moreover, I hadn’t even seen the ball since then, leave alone practicing regularly. We continued to move till we reached the court finally.

I handed over the ball to her and asked , “Offense or defense?”

She replied,” Offense”, as expected from her,” Twenty minutes before half time and twenty after that. Okay with you?”

“Cool”, I replied and the game started. For me, the beautiful winter morning disappeared, again as a surprise. It was just me, the ball and her in that court. It was a thrilling experience to see her move confidently with the ball. As if, for her, the only happinesss in the world was basketball.

As I had expected, it wasn’t easy to get the ball from her. She dribbled the ball in every possible direction and seemed to fly in the air when she moved around. I could not give up my fear of chill for initial few minutes, until I thought, I had to prove that I wasn’t a beginner as I had quoted myself.

I defended my post successfully, preventing a basket from her in the initial ten minutes and felt better. At least, I wasn’t going lame for it. And then, as if remembering my earlier days, I moved forward. As she threw the ball up in the air again, I jumped up and grabbed it in my hands.

I moved backwards and started dribbling to her post. She was surprised at my form for a few seconds, which proved an advantage for me, and there I made a simple basket. As I jumped in excitement, she laughed and said, “See I told you I am scared. Now I have to buck up”.

I continued to move forward with the ball, but had to stop when the timer indicated that the first half was over. I dropped the ball there and sat down on a bench outside the court. She joined me, “That’s the difference between a very good player and a national level player, you see doctor”.

“That might be because of your fear. But I still think you would play better. Just don’t be surprised at anything”, I looked at her. She was looking at the ball. I wondered how one ball could make her the same again, as cheerful, as jubilant, as she had always been. I was witnessing another Mishti Sengupta, whom I hadn’t known till now.

Then, as if waking up, she said, “It was too long for a half time. Let’s continue now doctor”, setting the timer again.

“Now I am scared”, I laughed and she joined me.

The ball did not remain with me for more than a minute. She grabbed it so easily that it was my turn for a surprise. Forgetting my own warning, I couldn’t stop her from making a basket. As she came towards me, she said, “One for one, that makes it two points for both of us individually”.

The game continued, with the ball being grabbed by me and a basket score for me. And then, for probably another ten minutes or so, she kept trying to take hold of the ball but couldn’t. As both of us knew, those were the last very few minutes of the second half, and the critical ones too.

I threw the ball up in the air suspecting it to be the second last or the last minute, but as if waiting for the opportunity, she grabbed it, and threw it towards my post, from that far point only, and made a basket score. I had only a feeble chance to win, but the second half got over by then.

She sat on the bench, laughing out loud, “So that brings us to a tie. Two baskets each. Four points each.”

“Probably not”, I said waiting for the caretaker to approach us and clear my doubt. She looked at me, confused. I replied,” Depends on the point from where you made the basket”.

As he came, I asked, “Uncle, where was she when she made this last basket score?”

He showed us the point. I laughed this time, looked at her and replied, “You win miss Mishti Sengupta. You’ve scored a basket worth three points. You made it from the three-point arc, which means you are ahead of me by one point. Congratulations”.

“Thank you doctor! I can’t believe it though”, she replied in amazement and I couldn’t stop myself again from noticing how pretty she looked when she felt happy, when she felt delighted, even though for something so little.

“That’s why I said, we shall see. You are a better player than me now”, I said as I returned the ball, greeted the caretaker and walked out of the club with her. Rays of faint sunlight had started falling on the ground, which made the dew drops sparkle around us. The fog remained, but there was warmth in the air.

“May be it was by luck. But I know you are a wonderful player. Everybody can’t play so well without practicing after some years”, she said, “So when do I have to give you a treat?” seeing my confused expressions, she responded, “Of course I won, you should be given a treat for that, isn’t it?”

“Oh. Okay, I don’t know. Anytime you say”, I said as we reached my house.

“Today? In the evening? And please bring uncle and aunty too. It would be my pleasure to see them again”.

“Evening?”, I wondered for a minute., just when I heard my mother’s voice from behind.

“Oh Mishti! How are you? So, who won the match?”, she asked teasingly.

“I am great aunty. By luck, I did”, she replied.

“I knew you would. You are a wonderful girl”.

“Thank you aunty, by the way will you please come for a treat in the evening along with uncle and doctor? I owe it to you, and I just thought of going out, so if you don’t have anything else to do?”

“Today in the evening. Of course. In fact, I was going to invite you for a party. It is Siddharth’s birthday today, and we wanted to go out. It would be fun to go with you”.

“Doctor’s birthday!!”, she looked at me, “You didn’t even speak about it! I am so sorry. Happy birthday doctor! And I am sorry about making you lose on this day”.

“It wouldn’t have been a fair game then”, I replied.

“Yeah now I know why you feel cold”, she looked at me and then towards my mother, “Thank you aunty. Enjoy the evening for today. I might not be able to come and spoil the party”, she looked down.

“Are you stupid? We would love to have you with us. If you want, you can give us a treat too. Siddharth does not have many friends”, my mother insisted.

Mishti looked at me, then at her, then at me again, finally replying with a smile, “Thank you aunty. I would join you in the evening. But the treat will be mine”.

“We’ll share it”, I replied.

She laughed,” Okay doctor”.

“Come on in, you must not have had tea in this chilly morning”, my mother said.

“Thank you aunty, but I have to go and get the newspaper and the bill, plus a lot of work remains pending after being away from the home for one week. I’ll come some other time”.

As she turned to leave, I called her, “You are forgetting something again”.

“Oh yes, please bring my card. I am waiting”, she made a forgetful expression.

I went inside and pulled it out of my drawer. I had already noticed that last night and had kept it with me. But I didn’t want her to know that I remembered about it. I looked at the card again. Next to her smiling picture was the name Mishti Sengupta, D/O Late Lt. Col. D. Sengupta. And what I saw below that made me wonder with a surprise, how stupid I had been in noticing something, though I seemed to notice everything about her.

I realized why she had insisted for a game that day, early in the morning. I realized why she had invited us for a treat in the evening. Even if she had lost, she would have invited us for it. I realized why she was trying to be happy that day. I knew why a little thing like basketball seemed the only real thing in this world to make her happy.

And with that I also realized one more coincidence of similarity between us, at which I couldn’t stop smiling. I wondered if this was all being planned because it seemed unrealistic to me. But it had to be real, for I was experiencing it all, right there in reality.

With that smile, I decided what to do in the evening, and walked towards the gate with her card, where she was talking to my mother. I tried to pretend that I didn’t know anything, and returned the card to her, “Miss basketball player, please do not forget your things here and there from the next time. And be ready in the evening. We’ll come to pick you up around 7.”

“I’ll be ready. But doctor I didn’t forget it anywhere or here and there. I forgot it with you, isn’t it?”, she pulled out her tongue and we laughed and waved goodbye to her. I wondered how she had also tried to do the same thing which I had done. It was going too coincidental, ever since the day when I had seen her for the first time and what more, it hadn’t been long since then.

I stood there wondering about what I had noticed a few minutes back, until I realized that my mother was waiting for me to come inside, and somewhere I feared that she was noticing me too. I quietly moved inside to tell her what I had seen.

At 7 P.M., I drove to her place. She came out quietly. I looked at her, turned to the other side, but was compelled to look at her, because she looked pretty again. I always wondered why she loved sarees so much.

Earlier, I had thought it was for the dress code, but she seemed to be fond of it. Dressed in a radiant blue, simple saree, with her natural look and her waist-length hair tied together, loosely, made her seem adorable.

“Hello uncle and aunty”, she smiled at us,” and happy birthday again doctor. I have to make it up for winning the match against you on your birthday”.

We laughed. She took her place at the back seat next to my mother. I had kept the windows on my side and hers down. Thankfully, she did not say anything about it, but my mother did,” Siddharth, are you not feeling cold?”, she asked from behind.

Mishti raised her eyebrow and waited for my reply. I looked at her and said, “No mom. I don’t think it is so cold tonight, isn’t it?”

“Possible. Can’t say. I never felt cold anyway. It was you who said that”, she said and everybody laughed at me.

We stopped at the Birla Temple. Mishti asked my mother, “Which place is this aunty?”

She replied,” It is the Birla Temple. We visit it always on special occasions. More because, Siddharth loves the view of the city from the premises of the temple”, she whispered the last sentence to Mishti.

I looked at her and said, “Of course that view is so beautiful. The city seems heavenly when lit up at this time. And it is very peaceful to stand over there.”

“Okay okay, but I still go for the view from the Upper Lake”, my mother argued with a smile.

“We’ll be going there too mom”, I replied.

We entered the temple. I saw Mishti closing her eyes and praying silently for a few seconds. I was there to pray too, but for those few seconds, I looked at her. I knew the reason why she was praying with that keenness. I could understand how she felt, yet she remained quiet. As we moved out, she asked me,” Which view were you talking about doctor?”

“Follow me”, I said. She did along with my parents. I directed her to the premises behind the temple.

For me, the view of Bhopal city from that place was always equally beautiful, no matter how many times I had visited it. At a wonderful winter evening like that, it added more beauty to the view. I could see the numerous lit up places at a distance, the dark depths from there, the lake with the surface of the water sparkling with the lights, the silence of the city, along with the sound of some distant prayers. And that evening, the breeze that I felt on my face over there seemed wonderful. I tried to breathe in all of it. It wasn’t cold, it was beautiful, I thought as I loved the chill, getting inside me. I did not know how, but I wasn’t feeling cold, because of her may be. And with all that, she was beside me too, the most wonderful presence I ever felt.

I looked at her, she seemed equally mesmerized by the beauty. “How is it?”, I asked, trying to sound normal.

“It is simply amazing doctor. Thank you so much for showing me this place. I am really obliged for this”, she replied, the words seemed to come from inside her heart.

“My pleasure”, I replied.

“Mishti, you know you will love the view from Upper Lake too, if you don’t forget to take us over there Siddharth”, my mother reminded me.

“Yes mom, I will. After dinner”.

My mother laughed and so did my father. But Mishti and I, both were still drowned into the beauty of what we had just seen, rather felt. I thought of telling her about what I knew, after dinner. I did not want to spoil the beauty of that silence, that innocent warmth of the miracle I had just experienced.

We moved out of the temple. I thought of collecting a few words. I did not know how I could make it sound normal when I had to tell her what I knew. I wondered if I’d do it properly. May be I could, for my mother had told me that and I believed her when she showed her faith in me.

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