Encounter With True Love by Sonali Pradhan

I didn’t want to miss my usual bus today, yet again. I was grabbing every piece of my belonging which had surprisingly sprung out of my bag, which had landed on the nearby chair last night after I had given it a hearty flight. I try so hard to reach my destination at the specified and the decided time every morning yet fail at it every day, relentlessly. Today was yet another attempt trying to save the embarrassment to thyself.

I rush out of my home and reach the bus stop. I had the reached the stop just seconds before the bus arrived. I smiled and felt a sense of accomplishment. I get on and immediately find a vacant seat and grab it opportunistically. Next seat was occupied by a frail looking in his late twenties person, who did not have a pleasing personality but had comfortably occupied the seat. I pulled out my earphones from my now sorted tote bag and escaped in a world of music.

I arrive at my destination and notice the boy seated next to me getting up to descend at the same very stop. We alight the bus and head our way in different directions. As the day progresses I forget about my every morning struggle to reach my art class. I was in the creative field and people around me weren’t stickler to a daily disciplined schedule. It made me look   not-unusual around these souls. I get home dead tired and desperate to doze off, I fall asleep as soon as I land on my dearest bed.

Next morning, alarm blaring at a point range near my ears, I wake up startled and dragged myself out of bed to start my day.

Today was yet another day of accomplishment. I scurried and managed to get to my bus stop on time. With a new day and nothing new that happened with me since morning, I was my usual self. I look around the bus to find a seat and notice the same boy that I saw yesterday seated on the last row of the bus. He glanced at me and passed a smiled. Not knowing how to respond, I managed a silly smile at him and looked away. I got down and saw him following suit. I saw him walking away in the other direction in oblivion. Well, this was different today, I saw the man who till yesterday was a stranger and today became a known face. Few days passed by with the same routine and we exchanging glances and sometimes smile at each other.

I was getting regular at my routine and saw him every day now. There was a subtle urge to talk to him and get to know him now. There wasn’t anything enticing about his demeanor apart from we sharing the same route every morning. I thought to myself he could be my next friend on the bus, not that I had many. A few minutes of mindless banter every morning won’t hurt.

I stood close to him while boarding and asked him if he is going to the same place as I was. Replying with a simple nod, he got on first and a reserved a seat next to his.

Such a gentlemanly gesture, he definitely would be my friend. With a little excitement, I sat next to him. Finally, the moment where I would get to know his name and other things in life.

He said his name is Ahmad and he stays very close to my place. Small world. We stay close, we take the same bus and we get down to the same place. I wondered if there was any co-incidence here or that we just had to meet!

We started talking and he shared that he was a freelance writer and wrote for a local news daily majorly short stories and the usual regular stuff. There wasn’t anything extraordinary and enlightening in his existence but just a noble human along by your side. He shared some of his work and I mentioned that I would read his writing.

I asked him if his travels to work every morning to the place where my art class is. Following my question, there was a moment of silence which I thought was an unusual response to a very clichéd question. I wasn’t asking him the nuclear launch codes!! I was waiting for him to reply. The wait made me curious. He took a deep breath and let out a sigh. Anxious, I asked him again also asked if he was ok.

 I stood close to him while boarding and asked him if he is going to the same place as I was. Replying with a simple nod, he got on first and a reserved a seat next to his. 

He looked me in the eye and began talking.

I go to Sun Memorial to see my fiancé. Well, this didn’t sound anything close to a suspense and the thrill he had generated just moments before. I asked him if she was working there, thinking there was nothing wrong and to worry about her fiancé.

He fell silent yet again. Now he got me curious and I was getting restless in my seat. Subconsciously I was fidgeting with my handbag and was shifting its base from one leg to another.

For someone who was a stranger to me until yesterday, today I know his name and know what he does for a living, a midget in his appearance he made me interested to know more about him. The thought of all being well with his fiancé kept knocking my brain and I was waiting for him to assure me in some way.

He started addressing her as Megha, not wasting too much time I calculated it to be a story full of drama and happy ending given they belonged to different fraternities. It would be an interesting story before they landed up together.

He was visiting Megha at the hospital for exactly 11 months and 5 days now. She has been at the hospital since then. After a protruding silence, I had to ask now what had happened to her.

Ahmad paused a little, this time, I let him take his time. He said she has been in an induced coma for close to a year following an accident in which she had suffered a brain injury.

This time, I was silent.

I let him talk without any further interruption. Megha was a lively girl, he recalls. They had met at the journalism course as undergrads and have known each other since then. The fell in love and spoke to the respective families. It wasn’t a surprise that there were initial apprehensions to begin with the families, but they had come around following an unrelenting pleading by the couple in love. They agreed on an engagement date followed by a wedding date set aside 4 months.

It was going well just like a fairy tale.

I felt comfortable listening to him. His words were well thought and he explained with hand gestures.

Then he stops for a brief moment and starts again.

On the day of 12th September 2015, Monday, Megha had started from her home to meet Ahmad on the way. They had planned to shop for the wedding with their savings. They didn’t want their decision of being together to be a burden on their families in any way.

He had my rapt attention by now. I pictured his story mentally. I imagined Megha to be very beautiful with sharp features and a smiling face.

On that Monday, he waited for her at the same bus stop at which we got down every day. She had taken a train on the way there.

Megha had reached the place at the said time. She was standing at the zebra crossing on the opposite side of the road waiting for the signal to turn red. Ahmad and Megha could see other now. They waved at each other. The signal had turned red for the vehicles and green for the pedestrian to walk. With her complete attention on Ahmad, Megha had started walking along with other people.

She reached the middle of the road and he had seen her smiling. He remembers thinking how beautiful she looked. Looking at her mirage he had a faint smile on his face. His smile made me smile as I had lost myself in his narration.

He recollects the image of her being just a foot step away from him and the pavement and suddenly there was a loud noise. All he remembered was a flying figure in the air.

The smile on his face had vanished by now.

Before he could notice and understand anything, he saw Megha lying all bloodied and soiled on the ground and a lot of people running to her. Chaos and commotion.

The car which had come out of nowhere, speeding beyond control had left a waft of the wind behind it.

Ahmad reached for Megha and saw her gasping for air. The smile on her face was now replaced with despair for help.

He managed to get her to Sun Memorial on time and save her life. He reminisced she was his life and how could he not do anything to save it.

The doctors had performed many and onerous surgeries on her to revive her. She was alive. She was breathing. She had suffered a head injury and would need a precarious surgery to be performed. Families were called upon and a joint decision was taken and the surgery was performed.

The doctors were elaborate in explaining the magnitude of the injury and how difficult it would be for her to cope out of it. All of them were trying to understand the sudden turn of events in their lives which could not be fathomed. She was put in a coma by the doctors.

So she was alive and breathing without the sense of being alive.

From that day on, Ahmad had visited Megha at the hospital every day and spending the day by her side. He was not always a freelance writer he says. He became one.

His story just didn’t touch my heart it pierced through it. It left a mark like never before.

My mundane journey was never so long. I tread each step forward keeping all my attention on Ahmad. Unknowingly I was walking by his side in the opposite direction to my destination.

He concurred he wanted to spend his rest of his life with his dulcinea, his lady love, as he fondly called her. He said, when they decided to get married, they promised each other to be together in health and in sickness. How can he now his turn back on her?

I was thoroughly overwhelmed by him and his story and learned the true meaning of unconditional love. A stranger taught what it means to love someone and be with that someone unconditionally. All he wanted was to be with his love when she needed him the most. He said she didn’t ask me to be by her side but I know she would have done the same if I was in her place. That’s true love!

About the Author

A self-proclaimed eccentric, loves to read, favorite reads have been HarperLee – To kill a Mockingbird, Karan Bajaj –  Johnny gone down, Tehnima Durrani – My feudal lord, Hello Love –  Karen Mcquestion, The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins etc. A Management graduate who couldn’t fit into a cyclic 9-to-5 routine. Sonali stays in Mumbai with her husband and is currently a proud homemaker.

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