MUMBAI LOCAL – #4 – The Awkward Glance
Mumbai Local – Stories From The Lifeline Of Mumbai. A series of short stories that explores the life of a citizen in a local train. Stories, about relationships, about culture and about the undying spirit of the people, just like the lifeline of Mumbai itself. Some real, some experiences, some fictional and many mere an observation. The many a faces, that seem strangers, draw me close to them. Some ambitious minds, some deceived, some real, some fake. Some young, some old, some hot, some cold like stone. I am one among them, and that’s what draws me more close to them. That’s what draws me towards their face, because every face has a story to tell.
Akash and Ankita were climbing the stairs of the crowded footbridge at Bandra. They were in an intense discussion about relationships and the pleasures and troubles they bring to one’s lives. It was that crucial age, where one makes important decisions about one’s life. About marriage, relationships, commitments, companionship and compatibility! From issues about celebrating anniversaries to buying gifts, they discussed all. All in the span of the ten odd minutes (or even less) that they walked to reach the platform.
The bigger aspect of the conversation was however when she opened up on a fact that – talking to your ex either means that one still loves him/her. Or that one hasn’t stopped trying! That seemed an interesting dimension to the whole discussion they had. Little did Akash know that Ankita’s these lines will impact him, quite like how the nail feels when struck by the hammer!
They bid goodbye to each other and Akash boarded his train to Churchgate. It was the opposite direction at 5:30 or so, so it wasn’t as crowded like the rush hour. Akash stood by the footboard enjoying the cool breeze and the slight drizzle of the rainy evening.
As he pushed his silky hair swaying in the breeze from his eyes, he saw someone and was baffled for a second. It was quite a familiar face that caught his sight. It was Divya, his EX! And in a flash of a second all the memories triggered back into Akash’s mind, as the train slowly and steadily passed from one station to another. People came in and out of the train, but Akash was lost in his own thoughts of looking back at what was lost. He remembered Ankita’s lines, “talking to your ex means you either love him/her, or you haven’t stopped trying.”
He didn’t want to strike a conversation. It was two years since that evening when Akash and Divya had finally parted ways. Weeks of crying and convincing over the phone had yielded no results. With a heavy heart Akash had flown to Bengaluru and immersed himself in making his career to forget Divya and the times spent with her.
Akash and Divya had dated for six years. Quite confused to give their relationship a ‘committed’ status, they were like best buddies, spending time with each other. Sharing small and big secrets. The irony of their relationship was there was one who had feelings for the other, but the other was just treating it like a casual friendship. It was only when Akash decided to go ahead in his career, deciding on doing his masters, did it strike him that he had strong feelings for Divya. He realised that he is soon going to go away from her. He was obviously going to miss her!
He proposed his feelings to her a few weeks after his application to one of the leading MBA schools in Bengaluru was accepted. But Divya wasn’t really happy at the way Akash took a decision about their life. So sudden, so immature she thought was Akash to make his mind, without not even considering what she thinks of their relationship. But the real fact was Divya liked someone else. She was committed to someone else and she hid this ‘BIG’ secret from Akash. The same Akash, with whom everything was shared, big and small. She didn’t react to Akash’s grand and loving proposal.
That night a SMS was sent to his phone, which read:
I don’t want to give you any false hopes. But I am committed to someone else. Let’s not discuss this any further. Bye
He called her back not bothering what time of the night it was. But her phone was switched off. The next morning, afternoon and evening was only spent recharging phones at the mobile tapri. Akash had texted her, spoken to her. She had too called back. But guess it was all over!
Akash wrote back:
Divya we have shared all our secrets. I suppose we were the best of friends. I must have at-least got a hint that YOU are going around with someone. I just want to meet you once. I am heading to Bangalore tomorrow! 6:30 Please Meet Me. Same Place where we used to meet.
All the memories, good and bad, the time at the movies, the crying and convincing over the phone all came back to Akash, as he avoided the sight of Divya sitting right in front of him. He saw that Divya was with someone. Did she notice him? Did he see me? Thoughts rumbled in both minds, quite like the boisterous crowd that barges into the train for a seat.
Akash tried avoiding Divya’s glance. But somewhere amidst the confusion and chaos of the train, the people, the two eyes met eye-to-eye. It was probably the first glance in the two years. Or maybe second?
A similar situation had happened at the market a year back. Akash had come down for Diwali holidays and was shopping with his mother. Divya walked from the opposite side and ‘The Awkward Glance’ was all it took. A flash of a second was all it lasted. No words exchanged. No emotions. Just a mere, silent glance.
During Akash’s stint in Bengaluru, Divya had called several times, enquiring about his health, studies. Akash did chose to ignore calls initially but spoke on a few occasions. One evening the two did try to sort their differences and start afresh. Divya asked if they could be ‘good friends’? But Akash wasn’t in a frame of mind to live with that feeling. Especially when the two of them, for six years stayed inseparable and more or less together at most times. He hung up abruptly and that was their last conversation.
All these flashbacks made its way through Akash’s eyes as he was seeing Divya in front of him. It was Divya, his –ex at the seat. As Mumbai Central arrived, the man sitting next to Divya got up. He clasped her hands for a second or two and released it, smiled and walked towards the door and got down.
As the train sped away, his eyes avoided Divya and Akash was back at enjoying the breeze, which now had got a tad too fast. Quite like how Akash’s mind was rumbling in the flow of thoughts!
What surprised him was Divya walked in a few moments later and started a conversation.
“How are you? When did you come back to Mumbai? You were in Bengaluru right?”
Akash didn’t know what to say. He was surprised at the sight of Divya. And now it was her coming and asking him questions, which again was as awkward as it could get.
“I came back last month. I am working for Deloitte in their Analytics wing”, he said with a light smile, wiping little droplets of water over his face. Thanks to the drizzle outside.
From once informal, buddies it was now a situation where an employer was interviewing his prospective employee. Formal. She kept asking questions about his days in Bengaluru, his parents, answer to many of them, which she already knew.
Meanwhile Akash kept answering them diligently, (just like a confident interview candidate who will impress to get the job!) keeping it short.
Churchgate had arrived. The last station and it meant that it was time. To cross paths again in different directions. Akash smiled and said, “It was good to see you Divya.”
He wasn’t sure how much he really meant it.
They got down and walked in opposite directions. Only to turn back once again and stare at each other once again what was ‘The Awkward Glance’.
Was it really over between them?