It was late January and a holiday. The tropical weather was mild and comfortable at that time of the year. And besides, being little over couple decades and more ago, the severity of climes have not begun to be felt then. The sea breeze that came from the west when blowing in over the inland lake and caressing the bamboo shrubs in the perimeter of the church, ensured to bring along heavenly spell and mirth. Or was it the sheer presence she lend or the gaiety that accompany a wedding- the wedding of a close friend?
It must have been early dawn, well before sunrise and I was woken up to the clutter and chatter, the excited shrieks and exhilarated talking, shouts that results when dear and near ones meet. She had arrived by the early morning train that must have laboured in some time before then. Not being quite congenial and comfortable with young strangers of the fairer sex, I chose to stay a little longer than usual in my bed And when I came out of my room it was with some pleasance filled excitement and curiosity and caution. Something told me that I must not betray clownish discomfiture that can envelope me when unfamiliar young woman are near. A woman who I have only seen in photographs and not seen or personally acquainted before!
I saw her lazing down the stairs and I guess the first smile, nod of the head and the “hello” was not too bad. It was apparent that photographs captured in a camera are sometimes a faint image of what the subject actually is and can be grossly unjust too. Something inside pumped the excitement and heightened the heartbeat. Strange, I thought. All through during the couple of days she stayed at the apartment ,whenever I could grab and create an opportunity to be near her and engage in some conversation, I ensured the chance never went begging. I wonder if others noticed the sudden oddity.
Something always kept telling me, there was a mutual attraction, but more latent in her!
She came back a few months after. There was no communication between us in that short interregnum. However the second meeting was a friendlier and alleviating affair. She had come for the wedding that afternoon of my close mate. Though social prescripts did not require her presence at the wedding, I was thrilled that she was there in any case. Perhaps she was gracious to accept the invite and be there as the representative of her parents’ .Perhaps, looking back destiny enticed her!
After the wedding we all moved to the adjacent banquet hall for the grand feast that the bride’s father had richly organised. I and a few friends amongst us proceeded out after the sumptuous feast and the brief revelry involving indulgent drinking of wine. We took off towards the pier to take the boat ride across the lake to the island. She was the last one to hop on to the boat and I offered her my hand to hold on while jumping on to the rocking watercraft. Which she unhesitatingly accepted!
We had a refreshing couple of hours on the island. The optical illusion in the west caressing the ocean- of the sun set and the magical shadows the illusion provided on the lush green foliage and trees that fondled the island and also the sparkling waters of the vast lake that straddled the piece of land we stood- all, was wonderful for the occasion. There were three women in the group besides her. It was exciting. All the more for the two of us, which we knew and we alone knew in our hearts, unbeknownst to each other and the rest. Modesty demanded that I must be cautious not to reveal any sort of excessive care for her comfort or needs. Lest her brothers would notice .Quite timid I felt of myself, but could not go any farther than being so.
It was dark when we returned to the boat that would ferry us back to the mainland. The journey back to the apartment had to be sorted out as some of us had taken a taxi to the wedding and now all had to reckon with the few motorbikes we had. I was the loner on my bike and wished I could suggest that she could travel pillion with me. But timidity stamped out the grit to say so. As luck could have it or destiny having its say, one of her brothers suggested that she travel pillion with me. And he reminded me to take care of her while on the road. She accepted the suggestion without hesitation. It was perhaps a relief for her too if she were wishing so. I chastised myself for thinking for her. Stupid Cupid! But she travelled the distance back with me.
I rode the bike with great caution and sensed her timidly holding on to my shirt, while I maneuvered through the traffic. On the way back she suggested that we stop at the church of the Saint Antony .She enquired if I had any difficulty in doing so. I answered absolutely in the negative. I smelt that doing so would fetch me more time with her on the road. We went in to the shrine. The shrine of the Saint was a popular destination for the faithful who believed that their supplications and petitions will get favourably disposed by the benevolent Saint. One’s wish is sure to be granted! I wondered what wish and favour she might have had in askance submit to the holy saint. She bought candles and flowers from the vendor outside and I joined her in patiently lighting them at the altar. It was indeed a good feeling to be in the shrine with her .I wished that time stood still.
When we began our ride back I was disturbed and annoyed that the distance to the apartment appeared shortened. I frantically thought of ways to stretch the distance and time, so that it could be a long never ending ride with her.
Did the Saint see my thinking?