The Enchanting Midnight

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The Mysterious Girl

CHAPTER 3

The Mysterious Girl

New Market Bus Stop, Bhopal

I could not help but think about who she was, that night. I had never seen her before anywhere. I seemed to know most of the people who came to that stop, so she was surely a new resident out here. Around 2 at night, I finally gave up my thoughts and tried to doze off. It was very stupid of me to be lost in such thoughts when I had a tiring day to come again.

The temperature seemed to be lower than before in the surroundings now, which obviously meant that I needed to increase the number of jackets I had to put on. However, that day, surprisingly, I felt somewhat suffocated covered with the thick jacket. Moreover, the weight of my extra clothing made it difficult for me to walk quickly to the bus stop. It was 7-45 A.M. I was definitely not late but something at the back of my mind compelled me to reach there as early as possible.

Not that I was following the girl whom I had seen the previous day, but she aroused curiosity, and I just wanted to know who she was and what she was doing there. Probably I knew I wouldn’t go and ask her the same thing, but I had a faint hope that I could get to know something if I reached there when she was present. As I paced up my steps, a sudden thought made me feel embarrassed to myself. I was preoccupied by the thoughts of a strange girl, just seen once, to the extent that I had started looking for ways to know more about her. The thought vanished as it had come. And I did not care about it anymore.

I was not alone at the stop that morning however. The schools and offices seemed to have reopened. In the crowd that waited with the increased noise around me, I looked around for that silence which I had experienced the morning before. More than that, my eyes searched for someone who was missing from there. What if she had come here only yesterday? What if the whole thing had just been my imagination? What if it was a result of my stress that I had hallucinations? There was nobody around who seemed to be lost in such a state like mine. Everyone was busy, in the present world and I was somewhere else.

Even after half an hour, there was no sign of her. She had been here the previous day at that time. I was feeling disappointed for an unexplainable reason. I felt as if I was not in my senses, trying to imagine a girl, the reality of whose presence was not confirmed.

My bus arrived. Heavily, I turned back to look for the last time then and got in. From where had she appeared yesterday and suddenly disappeared today, I thought. Irritated by myself, I took out the newspaper from my bag and tried to concentrate on the headline. It had the usual updates of the upcoming elections when my eyes stopped at a headline ‘Jahangeerabad slums: Campaign for the homeless residents scheduled after 15 days’. I browsed through the whole piece of information to get the idea of what Dr. Sharma, my Dean had mentioned to me. So there might be a scene of chaos to be handled along with the medical camp. The reason for very few volunteers till then was before me. However, I knew I would not step back. I had to do all that I could for my father. I wanted him to be proud of me. I was eagerly waiting for the day when he would ask me to join him to practice.

The article continued on the next page. I quickly glanced through it so as to complete reading before the hospital came. There was nothing important other than the statements of local leaders about the issue. Just when I was about to fold it back, something at the bottom left corner caught my glimpse and I forgot everything else. My eyes could not be mistaken of course. It was her photograph. The same lost eyes and that mysterious smile. My heart suddenly seemed to leap forward. So she was not my imagination. I smiled at myself. I looked at the tag with the photograph. It read ‘Volunteers from various fields will accompany local NGO workers for providing amenities to the residents in the upcoming campaign’. ‘Volunteers from various fields’ I repeated.

“Hamidia”, my thoughts were interrupted by the conductor’s voice. I folded it back and got down immediately. I couldn’t help walking with an energetic mood. At least I knew she was not a result of my hallucinations. Adding to it, I also knew that she was involved in some kind of a social work. Also, I again had the hope that she would cross my path again.

With my newly found thought, I entertained myself and got ready for the day.

That night, as I got into my bus, I was already wet, dripping all over as it rained. Obviously, I wouldn’t have carried an umbrella in winter season when there was no sign of rains. Somehow I managed to get seated. That was not difficult at all as the bus was not crowded and I could easily get a seat. I was horrified by this sudden rainfall. As I settled and dried my hands with my handkerchief, I saw the newspaper in my bag again. I couldn’t stop myself from taking a look at that article. Soon after a minute, I realized that it was getting wet from the raindrops coming inside by the window behind me. I turned back to get it closed, when as if struck by paralysis, I couldn’t move.

She was seated right behind me! I looked at her. With the same lost expressions, she was looking outside the window. She seemed to enjoy the weather. It didn’t surprise me now that she was again wearing a not-so-heavy jacket. A feeling of warmth ran through me in that totally chilled condition of mine. I did not ask her to close the window. It was only when she looked at me with questioning eyes, did I realize that I had been stupidly staring her from the last five minutes. I did not know what to say.

“I actually…I…the raindrops…”

“Oh Yes. Sorry. I like it so I often that I tend to forget that others might find it troublesome. Here I’ll close this window.”

I regained my voice,” No I like it too, actually my newspaper had got wet.”

I don’t know why I said that, and she eyed me with an eyebrow raised, looking at my situation. I then realized what an idiot I must have seemed sitting all wet, asking somebody to close the window, and telling that I loved it.

I smiled weakly trying to justify myself. She seemed convinced, as I could make out from her expressions which turned lost again, just when she looked back at the newspaper. Thankfully, it was the front page and not the one with the detailed article.

“If you don’t mind, can I have a look at it?”

“Sure.”

“Thank you.”

She took the newspaper and stopped at the same piece of information. However, she did not turn the page to read the complete article. She again seemed lost in thoughts, and then suddenly looked at me, as if coming back from her own world.

“It is sad that politicians these days take an interest in everything only when the elections are about to take place”, she said handing the newspaper back to me.

I wasn’t thinking about it, but I didn’t want to seem ignorant.

“Yes”, I added,” but hopefully people understand everything. Although, campaigns like these are beneficial to the victims.”

“You are right. People know everything”, she paused to look at me for a while. “Are you a part of this campaign too?”

“Sort of. I’ll be there as a….”

“Oh you are a journalist. That’s good.”

“But I….Yes…I am a journalist”, I don’t know why I was saying that.

“Of course, who else would be out in such a weather working for a good cause.”

“You are right.”

She did not say anything after that and so didn’t I. Journalist, that’s what she might be. Of course, she can’t be a politician. Or she might be a social worker. I was so busy calculating the possibilities, that I did not notice that my stop had come and she had already got down. As the bus was about to leave, I quickened my steps to get down just in time. I wondered where she had disappeared. I could have asked who she was, at least when I had been able to put up a conversation. Standing there as it rained, I felt I had lost the clue to my newly entertained mystery again. As I entered my house, I wondered if I would see her again.

It had been ten nights since that night. Every morning I reached the stop early and every night I tried to check if she was there in my bus. But she had disappeared like a mysterious being. I knew she was real but where was she? Who was she? So many other questions remained in my mind, which I tried to put aside with my schedule. I still hoped to see her again, at the back of my mind.

It was the eleventh day after that night. I had come to the hospital early that day, in order to make arrangements for the camp to be organized. Although by now there were more volunteers, the problems to be handled were still more. I was in the general ward checking up the boxes of vaccines to be loaded, when I heard my name.

“Dr. Siddharth Mukherjee, there is something urgent that you need to attend. There is a call from your father. Your mother is injured”, my fellow-intern informed me. I took my belongings and ignored the questions, fear and anxiety in my mind. What had happened to her? More than that, I wanted to see her as soon as possible. I ran to Dr. Reddy and explained him everything. He was considerate enough to let me take a half-day leave and I headed towards home, hoping that she was fine.

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