The final year classes were over for that day and I came out of the chemistry lecture at around 4.30 pm. Others were leaving in twos and threes and soon enough the room and the corridor were devoid of anybody.
I had hoped that Aadhira would stay back to talk to me but no, she with two of her class mates were the first to leave. This made me somewhat depressed as I felt that she had been ignoring me intentionally.
Did she not know how I felt for her?
Her very presence near my vicinity made my heart palpitate; thought process getting awry – parching of my throat… ! Considering that we had been in the same class for almost the entire session, this was beyond my understanding or was it? As if it was not enough – soon after the classes, always, my yearning for her intensified many folds that did not subside even after I reached my hostel room! God knows during most of my waking hours she was in my thoughts in various intensiveness!
Her beauty was a subject of much awe and discussion in the college. For me she was the ultimate beauty! Her large dreamy eyes, curling eye lashes, beautifully arched eye brows, a sharp nose, pink lips, creamy whiteness of her heart-shaped face crowned by a halo of black wavy hair falling to her waist… all spread an aura of mesmerizing and mystifying exquisiteness around her.
It was beyond doubt that I was deeply in love with her!! But this feeling I had kept to myself and not even my friends had any inkling about this. I knew that someday I would have to express my inner thoughts to her… but when?
During none of my tete-a-tetes with her could I ever tell her anything of my desire …nor did I get any indication from her ; what she thought or what she felt about me – all were in the realm of unknown.
That afternoon I felt that the time had come to meet her and let her know my love for her. In my heart I had a faint hope that she would positively respond, but who would know the mind of a woman? But I couldn’t wait any longer! I had to know!
I called Smita, her friend, on her mobile, “Do you have any idea where Aadhira is?”
Smita, an ever helpful girl replied, ”She has gone to her hostel room, not feeling well- has severe headache.” Thanking her I came out of the college campus.
In two minds whether it was a good time to visit her I took out my motorbike from the stand and drove towards her hostel about 10 km away- near the outer part of the city.
The afternoon traffic was relatively light and I could reach my destination in about 45 minutes- parked my bike near her hostel and stood contemplating. It was about 5.50 pm and the winter sun was already setting ; its red glow was lighting up the far end of the sky; the birds were flying away in flock; the chill was increasing and the cool breeze – making me shiver. Opening my heart to Aadhira was something which I had always wanted to do but never could garner enough courage. This might be the day!
Her room was on the first floor and I could see the window from where I stood. It was open and the gentle wind was slowly moving the half drawn curtain; the sunlight was reflecting on the glass panes lighting up the interior in patterns.
I stood motionless staring up at the window. Saw her moving in the room, her face was lit up by the sunlight for a very brief moment- then she couldn’t be seen. My heart had started beating, very faintly, probably in anticipation – clearly I was not able to decide my next course of action!
I couldn’t be standing on the road like that- looking around I noticed a small park across the turning. The green lawns could be clearly seen- dotted with benches. I glanced up towards the window, then slowly started walking towards the park.
It took a few minutes. There were many vacant benches. Only one at the other end of the park was occupied- it was a girl. She was facing the other way. I walked towards the nearest bench, this side, and sat down. My uncertainty very much prevailing, I closed my eyes for a moment … thinking … then opened them… inadvertently looking towards the occupied bench.
Darkness was rapidly descending by then and the trees around the park made it more difficult to see. It was a casual glance but with sudden realization my heart seemed to quiver again… that girl was perhaps Aadhira! How could that be? She was in her room, just a few minutes ago I had seen her! Who was this girl?
Getting up I walked towards the girl- light was fading to an extent that the girl appeared to be a shadow. Coming nearer I became sanguine that she was indeed Aadhira!
She was looking down… her open hair had covered almost half her beautiful face… ! My throat was now parched in nervousness and expectancy; I could barely speak, “Aadhira…Hi… how is that you are here? …thought you are in your room…saw you little while ago.”
She didn’t reply. She didn’t move.
But something amazing started happening at that time !! My voice died down as I noticed that she was disappearing – as if melting in the thin air- then and there before my eyes; the darkness of the evening accentuating the strange phenomenon!! I couldn’t believe my eyes – am I going insane ? Or my eyes were playing tricks with me? But this was downright spooky… nothing I had ever experienced!! My nervousness was giving away to a feeling of scare … I was afraid…very much … I had to escape from this place!!
With a startled cry I turned and ran out of the park, my breath coming in short bursts!!
I was back on the street, lights were burning, crowd was milling around, it was a usual evening. I stopped near a corner, my fear was receding … could control myself. With some coherence I could think, “My God it is unbelievable… let me check out her hostel.”
Was she in the hostel ? I was not sure. She didn’t take my call. The Warden said she was in her room, so I requested her on the intercom to come downstairs.
She came out, appeared to be her normal self and asked me,“Why have you come ? You have never been this side? Any thing you need? “
I stared at her for sometime, “Aadhira, will you please come to the coffee shop round the turning point? I want to talk to you. Can we walk down there?”
She studied me for several moments; my general appearance must have indicated to her that something was not all right. She nodded and we came out and reached the Cafe ; occupied the table near the far corner where we wouldn’t be disturbed.
I remained silent for some minutes, took hold of myself then directly looked at her, “Aadhira, will you please tell me where have you been- the last two hours?” I thought my voice was not right.
She looked surprised, “Why?”
I gulped and said, “Saw you in the adjoining park… just about half an hour ago… I spoke but …but… before you replied …you just disappeared into thin air before my eyes …I couldn’t believe …am I going mad? “
My voice choked!!
She looked at me with a strange look in her face … then extended her right hand and took my hand- softness of her touch sent a sensation throughout my body- it was the touch of a woman who cared … who loved…! Did she love me? How could that be? She wouldn’t know of my love for her! I never had told her!
With a low melodious voice she said, “I know how much you care for me… want me… love me! I can understand …” She smiled at me, “ …I too love you… more than a woman can love a man… I am and will always be yours… but ..”
She unbelievably, then, touched her lips lightly on my hand, kissing!!
She thereafter got up abruptly and walked out of the Cafe… leaving her words -actions – unfinished!!
I too got up almost immediately, taken aback – my mind in a whirl, quickly followed her; but by that time she was out of the door- turning left. When I looked around for her- there was no sign; frowning I walked fast towards her direction. Simply she was nowhere to be seen! She had vanished, as she had done a few hours ago in the park!!
I went back to her hostel, she was not in her room, I was told that she had left for the city airport.
Curiously it was at about the same time she had come out of her hostel to go with me to the Cafe!!
Many years have since passed… she could never be found .. not even her parents could do that… but in all likelihood she was alive!! Yet the incident of that fateful day has always troubled me.
How could she be at two places at the same time when I saw her in her room and minutes away also met her in the park? Little later that night how could she be with me in the Cafe when she had already left for the airport?
Was Aadhira I met a spirit of her living self? Was it that whom I saw was only her phantasmal double? She had said that she loved me!! She kissed me!! Did her living self or her double do that? Why did she disappear – because I understood her secret? Will she ever return to me?
I eternally wait for her!!