Everything passes. It has to. That's the beauty and tragedy of it.
There was a loud screech from the rebellious tires as the bus came to a sudden stop. She was hurled forward slightly as the bus applied sudden brakes. She looked up from her tablet, paused the movie she has been watching and removed her ear-phones, wondering what could have caused this sudden halt.
All the passengers were craning their necks to get a better view of the resulting commotion. Through the raised voices of the driver and some random commuters outside, it was evident that a collision of sorts had been prevented at the end moment. They seemed to be arguing about whose fault it was, mouthing a string of cuss words in their vernacular. She frowned slightly, annoyed that there could be a delay in reaching office – yet again…
Road accidents were not uncommon in Bangalore’s busy rush hour traffic. There seemed to be hardly any decorum or even minimal road sense with every large and small vehicle demanding priority passage. Loud honking and furrowed brows dominated the morning scene. Flaring tempers followed suit.
She sighed and sunk back in her seat, stuffed the earphones in her ear and resumed the video, thankful to have some respite from this commotion. It looked like a long wait, but at least she needn’t get upset about it.
Just then her phone buzzed.
She had a new incoming WhatsApp message from the group of friends from her previous company. There was some random chat in progress about one of the team getting ready to tie the knot. Everyone in her circle was either getting hitched or getting knocked up. It was impossible to escape such status posts even on Facebook, which made staying long on such social sites a real pain for someone like her – single and trying hard to remain so. “Married, with kids” seemed to be the most coveted status update. It was hard enough with all the society aunties spouting their so-called “concern” about her marriageable age slipping out of reach, every time she visited her folk back home. And all her married friends were all gung ho about their recent new acquisition – their husbands/bundles of joy. All of a sudden, they appeared to be from some distant planet out of her comprehension.
She sighed and added her “congrats + suitable smiley icon” to the already long list of superfluous wishes on her WhatsApp group, not wanting to appear socially obnoxious because she herself was out of the realm of weddings.
As she wondered if she would probably be left out of the wedding race, her thoughts wandered unbidden to Vishesh – her “ex”. They had broken up a year back after four years of tumultuous togetherness and the emotional gash from the break-up had not quite healed completely. There was a dull ache that at most times, she was able to quell with self-imposed workaholism. At other times like these, stuck in a sluggish traffic jam and goaded by peers, an avalanche of memories threatened to ruin her peace of mind.
Not that they had been totally incompatible. Just that they had some deep-seated differences of opinion about certain fundamental issues. Hers was to have a stable career before tying the knot; his was to play the field in the meantime. When she realized she was being two-timed by someone she thought she had known so well, cared so deeply for and that too with none other than her best friend…well, heartbreak is heartbreak… Words, smiles, promises, dreams, friendship, warmth, hope – everything lost meaning in a fraction of a heartbeat, in the light of splintered trust.
Like every other girl fantasizing about a stable relationship that would metamorphose into wedded bliss, she had believed that he was “The One” from the moment they had met in college. Over the years that they had known each other, their friendship had evolved into a deeper bond. Her faith had never faltered, even though they had their share of crests and troughs like every other couple known to man. He was charming – she’d give him that – and he always knew what worked for him and when. He could always manage to worm his way into her good books no matter how many times he might have screwed up. It was always hard to question the sincerity of his promises even though there were countless times he never really delivered on them. Or paid heed to her wishes. Until the time he had taken it too far – by hooking up with her best friend of many years and keeping her in the dark for months before she finally caught them in the act.
It was at a traffic jam like this that she had caught sight of Vishesh’s car. He had called her up earlier that week to say he would be out on a business trip for a few days. Accustomed to accepting his words unquestioningly, she hadn’t thought much about it at the time since his job did require him to travel a lot. She didn’t believe in cross-questioning his every move or push him for unnecessary details. That was just not her. She believed in personal space and individual boundaries. Plus, when he did give away details, he was always thoroughly convincing and the very epitome of sincerity. But she never realized her trusting nature would be her undoing one day.
So anyway, there he was cozying up with her best friend in his car not two meters from where she was, the two of them cootchie-cooing like a pair of love birds. At first she couldn’t believe her eyes, afraid her mind was playing tricks on her. But then, fury rushed in, crashing through every last bit of goodwill. When she called his number and asked where he was, to her astonishment, he answered that he was still out, preparing for a big business meeting. His deceit had left her aghast and deeply hurt.
She had been blinded by his attention and mojo too long that when his unfaithfulness had finally hit her, it had hit her smack between her eyes, draining her of all emotion and leaving her numb. The tears had come later, much later, in torrents and trickled to a thin stream of pain or spurts of recurring memories getting blurrier and somewhat bearable with the passage of time. Now, she was hardened by life in general and reasonably happy with her state of being. Love wasn’t the be all and end all of life, and one never knows what the future has in store. Cynicism wasn’t in her nature, but caution had wormed its way in to help seal her broken heart.
She had probably had a near miss on that one. A wake up call of sorts. An accident averted by divine providence – perhaps just like this one that caused the traffic jam. May be there was still hope for her yet.
If the bus didn’t pull out of the verbal stronghold, she was going to be late and miss the morning’s meeting.
She looked at her buzzing phone.
Another notification, now on her Facebook page. She fought the urge to ignore it. Funny, she mused, how social media has gone on to integrate all social life of this generation whose day begins and ends with their social media enabled smart phones. But in the process, it had also managed to alienate them from real conversations with real people – for instance, one’s co-passengers in the bus. One was updated with a myriad little details of “friends” at all times, but was there any real closeness these days..? Somewhere in the universe of selfies and inane status posts, perhaps people were still getting together, drawing whatever joy they could from one another. An eternal quest for happiness and fulfillment…
She looked at the passenger beside her, for the first time. He was a well-dressed, youngish, bespectacled guy with a clean-shaven and lantern-jawed profile, his expression flitting from serious one minute to a relaxed composure the next. He was engrossed in his smart phone, occasionally looking up to see if the commotion outside had subsided. She could relate with his growing impatience.
Must be an IT professional, she thought, like the million other software engineers headed for work to some multinational software company or the other. Bangalore was teeming with such people who made a living by solving the business and technology problems of the globe. She was one such person herself and her work kept her sane.
The quarrel-mongering drivers of either vehicle had finally quit their tamasha and decided to give in to the persistent honking of fellow commuters. The bus pulled ahead reluctantly and she sighed with a mixture of relief and impatience.
Her co-passenger glanced at her and smiled pleasantly. “A tough one, huh?”
He had a nice voice, she noted and soft eyes that crinkled behind the glasses. She answered levelly “Yeah! You can say that.”
“Had they gone on any longer with their verbal tirade, I’m sure most of the people in the bus would have stomped out in anger!” he chimed.
“Hmm…” She gave a non-committal smile.
“Hi, I’m Arjun. Arjun Mehta” he extended a palm in introduction “I am a software developer at ZDS in Whitefield.” ZDS was a reputed software firm, needing no further clarification. “I have seen you travel this route before. Nice to meet you…”
His manner was friendly and unassuming. Curious but not obtrusive.
“Ashvika” She answered, taking his proffered hand after an infinitesimal pause. “Financial analyst at Societe Generale. Pleased to meet you too…”
There is that split second when time stops.
A silent moment when eyes meet and smiles converge. You can call it a heartbeat or an eternity. You can call it destiny or a second chance. Or love at first sight. She decided to open her mind to possibilities because one broken dream is not the end of dreaming. And she thanked the traffic jam… Again…