The Enchanting Midnight

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Winter Seems Warmer Than Ever

CHAPTER 5

Winter seems warmer than ever

Just when I was wondering about the futile possibilities of the arrival of my guest, the door bell rang. I put down my cup of tea and opened the door. She stood there with a hesitant look accompanied by her usual smile.

“Hello, I hope I am not disturbing you all”.

“Not at all. She has been waiting for you since I told her that you had come.”

I directed her to my mother’s room. She was awake and smiled at us as we entered.

“Nice to see you again, and I’d forgot to thank you”, my mother said.

Even I had forgotten to thank her, I remembered. How stupid.

“There is no need to thank me aunty. I would have done that for sure. How are you feeling now?”

“Very well. My family cares so much for me. My husband is coming earlier than usual just to look after me, and my son had already taken a leave, even when I had a nurse over here. You two would have talked, isn’t it?”

“That’s very loving of them. Yes, I think we have talked once before.”

“Ok. I didn’t know that”, my mother looked at me.

I smiled weakly so as not to show my nervousness, wondering what all Mishti remembered.

“Let me bring some snacks”, I left the room.

There, I felt like a thief who had been caught red-handed by the security. Yet, I had to seem normal. So, I went back with snacks and waited for more.

They seemed to get along well as I saw them talking easily with each other. When I entered, they were laughing about something. I gave them the plate and got seated near my mother.

“Siddharth, you didn’t tell me you are a journalist?”, my mother said looking at me with mischievous eyes. They both laughed again.

“Actually, I didn’t get the opportunity to tell that”, I replied feeling like an idiot.

“Oh really?”, it was Mishti, ”I understand. Sometimes people often complaint that I talk too much, doctor”, she laughed and my mother joined.

“Where do you stay? I mean do you stay alone?”

“Just two blocks away, aunty. Yes, alone at least for now.”

“See what a coincidence. We are neighbours, but had not met before this.”

“Oh that’s because I came here just a month back.”

“Nice. Will you join us for dinner tonight?”, my mother asked her.

“That is very sweet of you aunty. But I will be late by the time I reach home. Probably some other day when you say”.

“I would like it that the other day comes too, but tonight we would love it if you are here. After all, I demand a goodie since you saved me”, my mother insisted, “And he can accompany you to your place if it gets late.”

“No that’s not the problem”, she hesitated, “I had my dinner already prepared”.

“It is ok. You can still join us I suppose Mishti”.

“Ok Aunty, for you”, she laughed and was joined by my mother.

So now she knew I was a doctor.

“By the way are you a journalist?”, I asked trying to seem unaware.

“Sort of”, she replied. Seeing me confused, she added, “I am a research fellow, working for some particular stories for TOI. Right now, I am working upon the Jahangeerabad slums issue.”

“Ok. Has that got something to do with the upcoming campaign?”

“Oh yes, I will be there for the story and as a volunteer for an NGO to help the authorities provide amenities to the residents.”

“ Too bad, this weather brought the viral epidemic for them.”

“No, actually it is not just about the viral epidemic there. It has more to do with their possessed land and the recent incidents of major smuggling.”

I looked at her, confused again.

Seeing me so, she explained, “Probably the uninhabited land over there seemed a safe place for major smugglers to use for hiding their illegal stock. Also, it has become a place for many socially illegal activities. When this came into light, the residents were beaten badly by unknown people, and their temporary accommodations were damaged. Though, investigations are going on, but you know better what happens with them. Even after so many days of providing everything to them, much needs to be done. Though, it has started on a higher level now because of the upcoming elections I guess. So there will be a campaign under which this NGO will help them. It will last for a week. I doubt what can be done in that much time. However, I still think it will do something, so I am a part of it”, she completed.

“I did not know in this depth, though I’d heard about this incident.”

“Of course how would you. You are a doctor. Much of this is not even official. We have found out some of it.”, she said keeping the tray aside.

“You are also a part of this campaign, isn’t it?”, she remembered it all.

“Oh yes. He is going there for a week too, for the medical camp”, my mother broke her silence. She had been quiet till now.

The door bell rang again.

“I think it is your father. Tell him who is here and ask him to get ready for dinner”, she said.

Everybody seemed to talk a lot during dinner and I watched them all, wondering how it was happening. My father seemed to be interested in her work, and my mother seemed to be interested in her. By the time, we were done, it was 11-30 P.M.

“Thank you so much aunty. It was a lovely evening”, she said as she got up.

“All because of you Mishti”, my father replied.

“And keep visiting. I would like to have you around. I feel lonely when there is nobody to talk”, my mother invited her again.

“Sure aunty. We would be meeting in the locality anyway. But I will visit you”, she smiled at her.

“It is late. Will you mind if Siddharth accompanies you to your place?”, my father asked.

She looked at me and replied, “Ok. I won’t. Thank you again.”

I walked with her in silence towards her place. It was not exactly an awkward silence, because even in that chilling weather, I wasn’t shivering. I seemed to enjoy that silence, with the only sound being that of our footsteps, along with the breeze screaming occasionally. It was extremely quiet around us. I did not feel like breaking the silence, because it seemed more comfortable, than looking for words. It wasn’t just the silence, but somewhere it was the relief of getting that fear removed. The fear of not being able to find her again was completely over now, although I had just known who she was. But that feeling of knowing that she would not disappear now. I don’t know why I felt so.

She kept walking in a relaxed way, dressed in her casuals, with another thin jacket, that did not surprise me anymore. On that moonlit street, she seemed more like a child who was going for an adventure, knowing that it will be easy. That was another beautiful moment for me.

We stopped at a gate and she turned back,” Thank you doctor”, she looked around, “It might be very chilly for you”.

“No, it isn’t so chilly..”

“Oh yes, you are a journalist who shivers, yet likes this weather,” she laughed at me.

“Ok. I meant not-so-chilly. It is more like a poetic weather.”

“I won’t pull your leg more”, she laughed again, “”This weather is for more daring people, who have stories to find. Good night doctor.”

“Good night”, I replied as she entered her house.

‘Stories to find’. Although the words were said for some obvious reasons, I felt there was more behind them. I always seemed to find something beyond words behind what she said. Not because, I knew she was a poet too, but because, there was always a mysterious aura in the way she talked or said anything.

And later I would come to know that I was right about this. I looked back once again and left.

The next morning, I looked around for her at the bus stop, but I did not feel anxious for that. I knew she was here only. As I stepped into the bus, I saw her coming towards it in a hurry.

She saw me and smiled.

“Good morning doctor.”

“Good morning.”

She had started addressing me as ‘doctor’ and I avoided calling her by her name. The reason why I never initiated to talk and it was never needed because she always did. Of course, I wouldn’t have called her ‘journalist’.

“All set for the day? How is aunty now?”, she asked as we got ourselves a seat.

“Yes, and she is fine now”, I replied.

“When are you leaving for the camp by the way?”, she asked.

“Five days later.”

“Oh, same day”, she laughed.

I smiled. She did not say anything and looked outside the window. It was difficult to pretend that I wasn’t thinking about her, when I was sitting right next to her. I pulled out the newspaper for that day and tried to concentrate. There was nothing to capture my attention. The information about the slums seemed to be repetitive.

“Can I have a look at it too?”, she asked.

I handed it to her. She seemed to skip all the pages and stopped at the editorial. She seemed to read every line with great sincerity. Her mysterious smile appeared when she was reading the editorial. I wondered what had been so interesting. Next, she turned to the business page. Scanning it all over within a few seconds, next she turned to the sports page. Further, she scanned a page about Bollywood. Finding nothing of her interest, she handed it back to me with a smile.

“Thank you”, and she again seemed lost in thoughts as she looked out of the window. I did not interrupt her.

Not a word was spoken for the remaining fifteen minutes. As I got up to leave when my stop came, I looked back at her. She still seemed lost.

I got down from the bus, just when I heard her say, “Good day Doctor”.

“Good day to you too”, I replied.

The bus left and I continued on my way.

I left around 8 at night. My bus came soon and she was there again. We shared the same seat as it was not crowded. There was more silence, with some usual conversation in between. We did not talk much, but it was very comfortable to be silent.

This routine continued for the next four days, every morning and every evening. We got along the same way, and it seemed well enough. It was so obvious that it seemed as if things had always been like this. In between, she also visited my mother, who seemed to be getting more fond of her with each passing day.

With all this going on, I was only left wondering how it was happening and what more was to come. I had some questions too, at the back of my mind, which I wanted to get answered. She had many things hidden behind the way she was. But it seemed too early for me to plunge into this. So I waited till it was the right time. Nevertheless, the fact remained. I was getting too much with it. Rather, it was getting too much of me, and I had sensed that I had started to take her more than a mysterious stranger.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, I waited for the camp too. Now, that I knew she would be there. Now that I knew, she would recognize me. Now that I knew, she would be there around me, may be with me.

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