Not At First Sight
Not At First Sight
Eight years back
Yes, that’s when it started. As I think of her and turn the pages back in my memory, I land at that bus stop. Coincidentally, it was also a December morning. Considering a typical winter morning around 8 and the fact that I was easily prone to catching cold, I had covered myself with two jackets and a cap, and my fingers were getting numb, even after being inside my gloves. Anybody out at that time would have been in a similar state. ‘Anybody out’. Nobody would care to be out in such a morning even in Bhopal.
Schools were closed and so were most of the offices, owing to winter vacations. But I had to go, despite the weather. Being an intern was not easy, even when my father was a renowned doctor. Some things have to go the way they should be. That was the reason I had to wait for the bus which would take me from New Market to Hamidia Hospital, where I was pursuing my internship.
It was a matter of nine more months before I could join him in our hospital. Still, it seemed like ages with that tough schedule and more with the way I had to follow it, and reporting to my senior doctor at 8-30 A.M. every day was just one of those rules. Apart from the sound of the two buses which had stopped, there was utter silence. That pin drop silence was disturbed only by the sweeping of the road. Of course, doctors are not the only ones who could never stop working.
There wasn’t a sign of anybody around, when as if from nowhere, she appeared. It wasn’t a Bollywood movie where dried leaves flew around or music started playing when I saw her. But something about the way she carried herself gracefully couldn’t stop me from smiling. A girl dressed in a simple peach coloured saree with hair of waist-length neatly tied together walked towards the stop. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact I was more surprised by the fact that she was wearing a thin jacket, and seemed to enjoy the weather. No signs of a scarf or even gloves for that matter.
A consistent calmness on her face made it even more confusing as if she did not know that she was present in that chill around us. The only thing that she carried was a bag. Moreover, her eyes seemed to be concentrated somewhere else, as if she was moving by some sort of hypnosis. That secret smile on her face which she probably attempted to hide from herself was something that brought warmth in that chill. Not that she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. But she was beautiful, add to it a chilly winter morning and her simplicity and calm posture, she seemed like an angel who had appeared from nowhere.
She did not notice me and stood at the opposite corner of the stop, where I could not see her anymore. Ten minutes passed, and there was not a single sound in the vicinity. I wondered if she was still there at the other corner, but being as I was, I did not have the courage to peep over the board in between. It just wasn’t my kind of a thing. Not that I had never talked to girls, but this was not just dignified. Moreover, I would have tripped over the board under the weight of my jackets. I was wondering if I was alone there when I heard a voice. A voice that I can still recognize.
“Is there any tea stall nearby open around at this time?”
She was talking to the sweeper on the road.
“No madam, it is very cold. There’s one on the left but it doesn’t get opened before 9.”
“Oh, that would be late.”
At that point, I wondered what she was doing there, on a cold winter morning when everybody loved to reside under their blankets, except for people like me. People like me, oh may be she is a doctor! I laughed at the moment the thought came. Now, it was not the effect of the chill, but of my own imagination. Had she been a doctor, I would’ve seen her at least once before today. There I go, my mind had started playing tricks when I should’ve been more worried about the day to come with my tight schedule and about the Post Graduation entrance exams. It wasn’t a child’s play of course even if you are a doctor’s son and being an MBBS forever wasn’t my dream.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a bus. It was my bus at last. I stopped thinking about my newly entertained thought and got in quickly. To my surprise, she got in too. I couldn’t stop wondering where she had to go. Yet again, I did not want to turn back and look at her. My answer came as I heard the same voice, “Shyamla Hills”. Shyamla Hills, probably a politician. Again I laughed at myself for the thought, she was too young and looked too innocent to be a politician. Moreover, politicians are not so lost. They seem to have that diplomatic approach in everything they do. This was getting too much now. She was just a stranger whom I’d seen at the stop and here I was engrossed in her thoughts forgetting everything else in my own world.
I gave a jerk to my head and laughed at myself for behaving like a typical teenager at the sight of a charm that seemed to have appeared for some time to make one feel better and might never happen again. There is something about the sanctity of God’s creations which we often tend to forget, and he reminds us with a popped up surprise that we have to take a break from our daily routine and think about it. There I was experiencing the same thing. I gave a hault to my pacing mind and stepped out of the bus at my stop, taking care not to look back. It wasn’t going to happen every day of course and I knew I was right.
Hamidia Hospital, Bhopal
If there was any place in the world which seemed more haphazard to me with each passing day, it was this. Had it not been my father’s wishes, I would not even have waited in Bhopal for my internship. I wanted to work at a place that was not so mismanaged like this. My dream of working at my father’s hospital remained. But then, this was a famous government hospital with talented, experienced doctors whom I had always seen busy in the wards or Operation Theatres every day, and the experience mattered a lot.
The day at the hospital was more than enough to make me forget what had happened in the morning. It seemed more of a Marathon checking out patients in the general ward, reporting to the concerned seniors and handling the extra issues. Nevertheless, I had to confirm my registration for the upcoming camp in the Jahangeerabad slums too. So, I hurriedly approached the Dean’s office, giving up my tea time in the evening.
“Excuse me, Sir.”
“Come in.” As I entered, I could not care to wait for him to let me start speaking.
“I wanted to get registered for the upcoming camp in Jahangeerabad slums.”
“I am sorry sir. Dr. Siddharth Mukherjee. Intern under Dr. S. Reddy.”
“Mukherjee. Good. It is in your genes,” he said with a smile that I had seen too many times by now when people heard my full name, owing to my father’s reputation, “You could’ve directly talked to him.”
“Actually I was told I will have to give my name here.”
“Oh, that’s not a problem. You can give it to him. We have only a few volunteers till now.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Yeah. By the way, do you know there is a campaign scheduled in that area at that time? We need to avoid the possible problems too.”
I had not heard anything about it but I could not say that. “Yes sir. Good day sir”
“Good day Dr. Mukherjee.”
By the time I got up to leave for home, tired by my work, it was already 9 at night. Thankfully, the buses were available at that time. As I waited for my bus, the only thought that occupied my mind was getting to home soon to have the dinner prepared by my mother. My mind was too tired to think of anything else in that crowded bus. Moreover, the winter chill was capturing my senses, something I was really allergic to. When I reached my stop at New Market, it was already 9-30 P.M. I got down quickly and hurried towards home. I was stopped by a voice, a voice that sounded so familiar.
“Excuse me, you had left your bag in the bus.”
A girl in the darkness of that path I had turned to, handed it to me and left. I knew she was the one I had seen in the morning. I saw her leaving the path, turning to the main road, and kept staring in the darkness till I heard the dogs barking in the street. As if waking up from the warmth of a dream, I turned to my path.
So, I had been wrong. It would probably be everyday. But what if I had been right, I thought as I walked inside my house.