When We Met

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Every Saturday, I cursed my HOD for the work schedule assigned to me.

I didn’t mind her stretching my timetable on any other day, but on Saturdays I had to go to my hometown.

That Saturday, Mom had given me strict instructions to arrive on time, for she had invited her old friend’s family.

She was on a special mission to find a suitable match for me.

I stuffed my bag as I reached the hostel room, dragged it quickly, and hired a rickshaw for the bus stand.

I was running to catch the bus when I bumped into someone. I mumbled a weak apology and looked up. There he was, the handsome Sardar, as everyone called him at the summer camp.

My heart missed a beat. Suave and intelligent, he had a flair for almost everything. He had excelled in debates and discussions interspersed with funny anecdotes and witty comments.

“Hi, Miss Bhardwaj,” he greeted me enthusiastically.

It had been many years since we attended the camp. Though we were from different colleges, except for some,most of us remained in contact.

“Where have you been all these years, Mr. Singh?” Words escaped involuntarily. I bit my lips, but it was too late. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t recognize him.

He smiled and invited me casually,“ Let’s have a cup of coffee. I will tell you everything.”

Mom’s instructions came flooding into my mind. She had the impression that her daughter was stupid and that anyone could charm her.

Mom had a weird way of inculcating so-called moral values. She never lectured me about dos and don’ts. Warnings were ingrained in her day-to-day conversation.

“Be wary of language teachers”, she often told me while taunting Papa , ”they have a way with the words and can entice innocent girls.”

Poor mom! She herself had been a victim, charmed by my manipulative papa, who dragged her into a life of hardship and penury.

Her casual conversation went like this: “The father committed suicide because his daughter eloped with her boyfriend.”

My dilemma was genuine. My middle-class upbringing in a small town was making it difficult for me to accept his invitation. “What if some students saw us together? What if mom came to know?”

It was like stepping into forbidden territory. Here was a lecturer, handsome and witty, and a Sikh too, a double flaw, according to my mom.

All the heroes of Shakespeare’s tragedies, with their tragic flaws, flashed into my mind.

And then my vulnerable heart was already beating a bit faster than usual.

“Sorry, Mr. Singh. I have to go.” I pleaded meekly.

“Don’t worry about that; buses go after every half hour.”

I was entrapped.

We found a table in the coffee shop. Then, without any warning, he took my hand into his.

The din and the sounds of the surroundings melted away.

The only sound was the sweet nothings he was whispering. 

I knew he was the one.

Mom’s instructions fluttered away like myriad-colored butterflies.


The Night When The Owls Were Too Loud


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