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A Serendipitous Journey

By Manish Reddy

ARJUN

Honestly, I don’t know any good love stories. But because you are so interested, I think a small story of mine will suffice.” I said.

Wow! That’s nice Arjun, start from the very beginning!” she said.

She was more than happy; it was obvious from her smile.

I’m telling you right now that you might be disappointed at the end, because there is nothing like romance or anything in this story - just a boy and a girl, okay?” I warned.

"What? At least a few kisses?
", she asked smiling.

No, not even a kiss!

Hmm… its ok, I get a feeling I’ll like this story anyway” she said with a smile but less warmly than before.

I better get something to eat before you start. Do you want anything?” she asked.

Yeah, Lays and a coke- Wait I can come with you.

It’s ok, I’ll get them, meanwhile, brush up your story by memorizing your girl” she said giggling.

I smiled back at her as she got down from the train checking her mobile for any messages, probably. She smiled again at me from outside the window. Looking at her I could say one thing for sure - She was really beautiful as was her smile. She’s a typical girl; talkative, open minded and easy going. Never before on a train trip have I got to know anyone this well - especially someone this beautiful.

Her father came to the station with her. She apparently likes the window seat too and sat opposite me. When her dad spoke to me, I found out that we were heading to the same place - Delhi. Before leaving from the station her dad kissed her on the forehead. In India, normally, many teenagers get embarrassed by the way their parents express their love in public. But she smiled fondly at him and that struck me more than her beauty.

She was wearing a grey t-shirt and a black overcoat with sleeves running up to her palm so that only the tips of ten dainty fingers are visible. She tucks her hair behind her ears but it refuses stay there and comes tumbling down her face over and over again.

She was the one who started talking. She said and I must quote - "only scholars can be silent because they are full of wisdom but idiots like you and me should talk and share our knowledge, right?" with a smile. She smiles and blushes a lot but I’m not complaining.

Her name was Nithya and she’s doing her graduation in Delhi University while I told her that I was doing my engineering in Bits Pilani Hyderabad Campus. Then we moved on to our mutual interests like movies, books and football. It came as a shock to find a girl follows football. She likes Messi but here we both differ as I’m a diehard fan of Ronaldo. She told me how she fancies love stories and started pestering me to tell one. Somehow, she persuaded me to tell her my non-existent love story.

Any other time, a situation like this would have made me tense but with her, I was calm. As soon as she left, questions started popping in my head. Does she like me? Am I boring? Why did she talk to me in the first place? What love story was I to tell her?

As my mind badgered me with these questions, the railway announced that our train was to leave soon. The woman who makes railway announcements always depresses me. Why don't they ask Shreya Goshal, Sadhana Sargam, Swetha Mohan or Chitra to record these? Doesn’t that count for some kind of community service?

She’s not back yet. The situation tenses as the train sounds its horn. “What perfect timing”, I mutter to no one in particular, “I don’t even know her number to call her back.” I went to the entrance of the compartment but there’s no sign of her yet. The wheels of the train start moving and I strain my neck to catch sight of her but in vain. I mounted an empty bench on the platform and resumed my search operation. Finally I see her as she quickly tries making her way towards the train.

NITHYA! NITHYA…!” I yelled, waving my hands to get her attention. I never thought that I would have been able to scream like that but I did. She saw me, the relief apparent on her face. But she wasn’t going to make it. This was no Hindi movie though. “Nithya! Get into that compartment!” I yelled as I pointed to the adjacent compartment. I realized that everyone around was staring at me, probably because I was gesturing and screaming like an idiot. Then I looked at Nithya who had mercifully gotten on board. The train is speeding up and I was just standing there, looking at her.

ARJUN!!” She shouted, waving, asking me to get into the train. Now this was something - Never had my name sounded this sweet or this unfamiliar. I snap out of it and make a dash for the train. We had ended up in different compartments after this train chasing episode. She’s at the doorway of the next compartment, waiting for me, actually laughing. I knew it was funny but I could not make out if she was laughing at me yelling like a clichéd Hindi film hero or if she was simply thanking me.

As there’s a pantry car between our compartments, we can't meet until we reach the next station. I thought that the next station would be about 15 minutes away but a middle aged woman told me that it was an hour away. I don’t feel normal. I think I miss her already, how could that be? I told Nithya with gestures, that I was going to check on our luggage and she nodded her assent.

And our fate was sealed for the next 1 hour. 



NITHYA

I hate this. I felt terrible about nearly missing the train but the optimist inside took control of the situation - Things could have been worse if Arjun wasn’t there or if I had been a minute late. At least I have chips to eat but poor Arjun has nothing. I laugh at the thought. I would be listening to his love story if not for this thrilling episode, I thought. After asking a passenger next to me I find that it’ll take another 40 minutes to reach next station. Why did this happen to me? I must have done something wrong today or yesterday. Yes, now I get it - I should have never left home without taking blessings from Ma. We had a small tiff before I left and I was angry but now I’m not going to see her till semester vacations. I dialed her number on my phone,

Hello Ma.

Hello Nithu , it’s Dada.

Dada, I want to talk to mom - is she there?

Yes she's here, but she is quite upset that you left without even speaking to her this morning.

Oh Dada! Please tell Ma I’m sorry.

I could hear Dad talking to my mother in the background and she immediately comes on line.

Nithu, how’s your journey going on? Is everything ok?” She speaks with such intensity that I wish I hadn’t been petty enough to fight with her.

Everything’s fine Ma, I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you this morning. I’m really sorry.

Forget it Nithu - I wanted to call you too.” She said.

Aha! Then why didn’t you call me?” I teased her for a while and then hung up. I felt much better. The phone rang again but it wasn’t Ma who usually called me back with some advice or the other. It was an unknown number.
Hello Nithu, where are you?” a growling male voice said, on the other end.

I’m sorry - Who’s this?

Nithu enough of your jokes! Where are you dear?

Excuse me, who are you?

You already forgot me? Please don’t say such things Nithu.

I am going to hang up if you don’t tell me who you are.

Oh god! Nithu, this is Siddarth, your classmate from DU.

Siddarth? I don’t know any Siddarth, how do you know my number?

Nithu what’s wrong with you? When are you coming back? I want to talk to you in person about our relationship.

Hello! What relationship? Is this some kind of prank? Honestly, I don’t know any Siddarth.

Please Nithu don’t say such things.” He was almost crying.

Oh God! Seriously man, I don’t know any Siddarth! Why are you crying?

Nithu we loved each other. I’m your boyfriend- sorry I was your boyfriend- Don’t you remember anything? what happened to you?” He was still crying.

I was shocked but his words sounded true; do I really have a boyfriend? But I had never dated anyone in my life.

First stop calling me ‘Nithu’ and I’ve never had a boyfriend. I don’t know who you are! How did you get my number? What do you want?

Finally, you asked the right question” said a normal male voice on phone.

What do you want? “I asked again.

MyCoke and chips - I am waiting here.” said the anonymous voice.

And then, it struck me.

You idiot, Arjun! You scared me.

Wow, I scared you? I take that as a compliment” said Arjun sounding very amused.

Go to hell, how did you get my number anyway?
I have some special powers Nithu. How are you doing over there?” He sound like a child.

I was fine here until an idiot named Siddarth called me and spoilt my mood.

It was just a joke. I wanted to cheer you up since we weren’t together”, he added, “By the way, who’s Siddarth- your boyfriend?” He was teasing me.

I was annoyed. He seemed like a sincere and decent guy - that’s what made me talk to him at first. I found him to be cool and sensible. I easily get bored with people when I spend much time. But I never thought he would fool me. I couldn’t believe he played such a good one on me.

After a long pause I answered “Whatever it is - this isn’t funny Arjun. Bye.” I hung up.

After a minute or less I got a text message from him.

Really sorry if you are hurt.
P.S. Do bring my lays and coke.
Hoping the next station comes soon.
Yours lovingly, Siddarth
haha sry sry...... Arjun

I couldn’t stop laughing after seeing the text. He was playing with me and I had to get back at him. Just then, I saw a small child begging. I thought of giving him some money but instead, I gave him the coke and chips that I had bought for Arjun. The kid smiled at me and thanked me with his eyes. He did not need to say anything.

Of course, the train’s slowing down. I wished train would stop so that I could go to my compartment and beat up Arjun.. Luckily, there’s a red signal and the train stopped before we reached the next station. Without any delay I got down with my cover and I checked my mobile again and started walking .

/*ting*/
I got a text message from Arjun (as expected): Welcome back Yours lovingly .
.

. (I scrolled down expecting Siddarth again)

..


.


Arjun
I don’t know if it meant something or if it was one of his jokes. Something in it struck me but I liked it.

ARJUN AND NITHYA

As she approached their compartment, she saw him get down and wait for her eagerly. But neither of them said a word. This mutual silence went on for a few minutes. He couldn't bear this silence but he doesn’t want to speak first. But he did take the initiative.
/*ting*/ Her mobile received another text: Silence is meant for scholars not for idiots like us.
We must share our knowledge by talking.
A gorgeous girl once told me so.
What do u say Nithya?
She read the text, lifted her head up and looked unflinchingly into his eyes. He was trying to make her laugh by pulling funny faces and miming. Inside, she wanted to burst with laughter and joy but she didn’t want to break the silence either.

There was an old man in the compartment who had observing their antics. “Where were you all this time, my dear?” he asked Nithya.

I was in another compartment Grandpa - I almost missed the train.

Oh Thank God! This young man here was sad and I thought it was because you were gone.” He pointed to Arjun he added, “You will not believe me but he even cried, poor soul.

Arjun’s face turned red.

Nithya turned to Arjun and asked “Did you really cry for me?

Arjun said “I missed you and I was sad about that but never cried.

She’s inwardly very pleased but still persists on teasing him. The old man stared at them and then gave up trying to understand to the joke and went back to his book.

So, why did you cry Arjun?” Nithya asked.

Hmm.. It wasn’t the same without you, this place felt so dull, I felt like I lost something important then I even thought of pulling the chain to stop the train, but didn't cried” He said.

How sweet!! She thought, “Aha then why didn’t you?” she said with a smile which he was waiting for all this time.

The charm in her smile made him remember why he actually cried,

I’m sure that you’ll hit me if I tell you the real reason”, Arjun answered smiling.

It’s ok tell me why, I won’t beat you

Actually it isn’t me who cried.

Who’s it then?
It’s your boyfriend Siddharth” he added “When I was playing that prank on you, I cried to just make it look more real, That’s all.” he burst.

They both laugh for what seems like forever. Finally he asked “Ok, where are my chips and coke?

Nithya doesn’t know how to answer that question. Suddenly she realized the kid whom she offered them was walking right next to their window. With an innocent expression on her face she pointed towards the kid eating lays and drinking the coke. Arjun’s out of words, he couldn’t believe she did that just to tease him. The train whistled and slowly left the station as the real journey started…

After 12 hours they arrived at Delhi. But as it later turned out, they were destined to make many more journeys together.

SIDDHARTH

After 14 years Arjun and Nithya are blessed with a 10 year old son whom they named Siddharth.

And each night they would tell him their story.

And they would remind him that in life, the journey is the destination.

 

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