A Tale from Mylai

There was a huge railway station on my left and a wide two-way road on my right. I had parked my scooter near the entrance of the railway station and I bent down to fidget with my yellow scooter. There was a lady vendor sitting next to me selling yellow flowers that camouflaged with my scooter. The fragrance from the withering flowers caught my attention and I looked in their direction. From under the table that sat the flowers, I caught a glimpse of a man who wore a little hunch, which was perhaps from the weight of his right hand that looked broken.

One part of my mind was questioning the existence of such chanced encounters with people and on the other hand it was determined to stay close to reality. Out of all the people in the crowd there, my eyes first found him before anything else. I wasn’t yet sure if I wanted to kick myself for looking in his direction. But didn’t I turn to look in the direction of those yellow flowers?

I felt dizzy as if I were losing ground. Was it the thoughts or the flowers?

He was the face that I cupped in my hands when I kissed him. He was the hands that I held when I was walking on dim-lit streets. He was the blanket I covered myself with on cold nights. He was the breath I smelled first when I woke up in the morning. He was that man. He was those sweet memories.

With my body bent towards the ground, I thought, it would be easier to pass out without grabbing attention. I think he saw me too and I saw that the recognition of the other was mutual. I smiled ‘faintly’ and he returned the smile. I was afraid that those old buried, hidden away memories of him will come back to haunt me with his smile.

He was taking the same train as me. Should I casually invite him to accompany me? Would he think of me as frail-minded?

With these thoughts running in my head, we threw and caught occasional glances at each other. His glance seemed more inviting than mine, I thought. So, I walked up to him and did some small talk. I’m usually the one who is less shy and more blunt about my feelings only to fail miserably at keeping the moment and the man!

It was time for us to take the train and the thoughts resumed jumping around in my head. Will he hop in along with me? Will he invite me to hop in along with him? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we rode together even if the journey meant silence and sighs?

But we hopped into our respective compartments without another glance. Strange! The train of thoughts began to race this time. Was he thinking of me too? Would he get off at the next station and get into the compartment that I was in? Why would someone take such an effort? After all, it has been a while since we said our goodbyes! The thoughts saw no halt or pause even at the stations. Our destination was the same. It has always been. But we never travelled together. We were not meant to be travel companions. We often fell apart only to tumble into each other’s path again. Like the day at the railway station!

The train arrived at Mylai. We got off only to be instantly lost in the moving crowds. Perhaps we missed our chance. Perhaps I was the only one who was thinking of chance.

Would I have found him if I searched a little harder? As I asked myself this question, I woke from the dream. I woke up too soon not knowing whether or not I found him among the crowds. Whether or not he had patted my shoulder and found me.

May be I should not let an old flame burn me into ashes twice.

*Mylai is short for Mylapore, a place in Chennai, India. Image: Painting by Yvan Favre

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