Sometimes i feel i am one tactless person who invites trouble and i wonder what goes wrong and how is it that even now i'm unable to prevent myself from falling into a trap if i encounter one. That part of the brain that goes into work and senses danger clear and present, maybe i'm not too blessed with. Or maybe my reflexes which are smart in some areas is rather dull or slow in this particular area and i sit assessing the entire scene one by one.
As i sit and wait my turn in Shankar Netralaya (Name of the prestigious eye hospital in Chennai) for the secretary to call my name i see this poor old lady walk in all alone with a polythene bag which probably housed her essentials. She looked around to see if a seat was vacant and i followed her gaze. Wiping the sweat with the border of her handloom saree with one hand and shifting slowly she was surveying the room which offered no vacant seat. So i got up from my place and called out to her.
"Amma why don't you sit down here", i stood up and made way for her. She looked at me with a smile and i moved away surveying the room myself now.
On the other side of the L- shaped room concealed from the reception area was a comfortable three seater and informing the receptionist that i was going there i proceeded to make myself comfortable.
A lone person in his army garb was already sitting on one end of this sofa so asking him , "May I ?'' to which he nodded in affirmative, i lodged myself in the plushness and the comfort of this piece of furniture. Preparing to read what controversy is associated now with my favourite Shashi Tharoor i straightened my Times of India and was just glancing at the transparencies when i heard my neighbour, the army man ask, " Aap kya Baahar se aaye ho ?" ( Have you come from outside implying if i was not from Chennai but like the so many from the other part of the country who come to the prestigious Shankar Netralaya for their eye check -up or any other treatment for ailments related to the eye)
Surprised at how he could speak Hindi so well as Hindi as a spoken language in Chennai is a rarity happening once a while i turned to that voice which spoke my mother tongue and with such lovely accent.
"No, i stay in Chennai ", i answered now having a full view up and close. He must've been in his late 20's or early 30's and had a pleasing smile.
I felt a sense of warmth now as i looked into this man dandy and smart in his respectable and most admired attire.The warmthness more for his occupation than for the actual person honestly. Now i was beginning to notice his brass batch which said AMC and before i could ask him about AMC he opened a casual conversation with me informing me that he was from Kerala and that he was married and had two kids.
I noticed his identity badge too which had his name as Shakeer Mahmud.
"Are you working ?" followed by questions on my marital status and kids, my husband's occupation to which unhesitatingly i answered correctly with ease.
Next he informed me that he and his family were put up in Pallavaram ( the name of an area in Chennai close to the airport) where they have their quarters and that his kids go to Kendriya Vidyalaya ( Name of the Central School ).
i was very comfortable till this part and hence knowing that he hails fron God's own country i told him how beautiful i found Kerala and informed him of all the places in Kerala i have visited and also enquired about those falls in Kerala that i have yet to see which many have dubbed as the Niagara Falls of India. Talking about Kerala i also mentioned as to how much i love the cuisine too especially that preparation of whole fish marinated with spices and cooked wrapped in a banana leaf apart from avial and appam and stew.
He was all smiles as he told me the name of that preparation of fish as Karimeen Polichidathu. i knew the name of the preparation but was happy to get the correct pronunciation although i will never get to pronounce it correctly.That requires some sincerity and practice that is lacking on my part.
Conversation flowed between the two of us and i realised that he was one of the junior officer/staff who had accompanied/escorted the senior officer's wife and mother to the hospital. The mother has had a surgery earlier and was here today on a follow up. He gestured towards the two ladies sitting on the opposite side of the room and i saw them.
When he asked me where i was put up in Chennai i was comfortable enough to tell him that but when he asked for the mobile number i started feeling uneasy.
On his insistance i gave him my husband's mobile number which he keenly stored in his mobile. i thought i was being polite and was not in the least bit wanting to be rude.
Army Medical Corps (AMC) took me by surprise by showing me his wife's photo stored in his mobile and when i asked, he with a proud smile told me her name was Sajina.
Now he said,"Please give us a visit and we'd be delighted to take you around. The army canteen has good food and you'll love all the preparation."
This was not difficult and it is so easy to accept a casual invitation. We never say no to such.
He was eager to give me his number and to have mine so he asked me for my number and i succumbed to my stupidity. Why i call it a stupidity is because only a stupid lady will give her number to the person she has just met.
He gave me a missed call and urged me to store his number and i did it.
Only thing is now i was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Have i done the right thing? How much do i know of the person? Hope he is a thorough gentleman....thoughts now started creating a maze of doubts.
It would've been so much better if i could say, "Sorry i do not give my number to just someone i have met " instead
like an absolute idiot i obliged and was shifting in my seat for this error on my part.
My name being called out ended my agony and still not wanting to be rude i hurriedly got up and pretending to be unfazed said,"Bye now, it was nice to meet you."
As if by automation both of us shook hands and i scooted from that part of the L- shaped room which was causing uneasiness inspite of it's cushy sofa and good air conditioning.
After the optometrist had dealt with me and as i proceeded towards my Specialist's room i saw him sitting still in that same place and flashing a beaming smile to which i nodded with a faint one and entered the Doctor's chamber hoping that when i'm over with the doctor he should be gone.
i wanted this socialising to be over now mainly because i feel i had one error already to my credit and was in bad need to prevent myself from more knowing very well that i am such an idiot.
To my relief when i emerged from the doctor's chamber his absence gladdened my nervous self and holding my new prescription and with better spirits now i was seen exiting Shankar Netralaya with a promise to myself that i shall be more careful next time i befriend a stranger.
There was nothing important in my agenda so as usual i walk into the Oxford Book House next door more for this wonderful Darjeeling tea that the Cha Bar ( Name of the Cafe) there has to offer than for the lovely coffee table books that you can flip through undisturbed.
Settling down with these books of my choice i was all set to pass the rest of the day with joi de vivre so i smiled across to Steve who mans the Cha Bar along with his other companions. Steve is a very sweet , neat and soft-spoken kid so unlike many of his age who are aggressive, too talkative or flamboyant. Since i frequent the place quite often and order the same tea he was pleasantly amazed at my indulgence when i ordered the basket of fries too along with my Darjeeling Tea.
As i digged into those really yummy and sinful fries of all shapes and kinds occasionally looking into the glossies i realised how hungry i was. Ubiquitous fries never tasted so out of the world before. i was in a world of my own enjoying food, books, music and the aroma of fresh first flush golden tea making me more 'taazaa' (refreshed) than any tea could do to anyone.
Chewing on to the spiral ones now and reading more about Kalighat paintings i was sinking into a reverie of some sort when "thunder only happens when it's raining" by Andrea Jan Corrs of this band called Corrs brought me back from this place called Medinapur in Bengal.
Surprised and bewildered it took me a while to realise that nobody knows about my interests in the Corrs here and it was only my mobile seeking my attention.
i was stunned to see the name that flashed on my mobile screen.
Shakeer Mahmud Calling flashed on my mobile screen all the while as 'Dreams' crooned.
Battling nervousness and the so many doubts which i thought had fleeted it took me a while to muster sensibility and answer,"Hello Shakeer ji"
"Maam hello and i'm sorry i left without meeting you."
Then there was a pause and
''Have you reached home?'' he enquired.
i was losing out on my patience now but in no way wanted to be rude to an army man so i answered,'' No but why are you asking ?"
''What time are you going to be home?" he asked.
i wanted to yell now None of your business instead i lied "mmm maybe by 4."
God alone knows why i was allowing all this to happen to me when i could nip it in the bud. If i could...
" Maam when you reach home will you call me?'' said Shakeer, the army man.
''Why anything urgent?'' i asked still making myself gullible to more.
"Nothing just that i couldn't talk more and would like to talk to you more", he said and that should've been the final call for me to give him a piece of my mind.
But no! i gave no such piece and instead said " Ok and bye for now " and did not wait to hear his bye and disconnected.
After that i had lost my appetite for the rest of the fries and that second cup which waited in the smart pot with all that golden liquid surrounding the perforated filter holding the aromatic tea leaves.
Heavy and burdened with the misery perpetrated on me by none other than myself i paid my bill and rushed home to talk to my sister and tell her how badly i have defaulted on such a simple situation.
Her opinion more than relieving me left me high and dry. According to her i was so ridiculous and maybe i have led Shakeer into thinking that i am a 40 something bored woman who wouldn't mind such diversions.
Needless to say then that i was now armed with annoyance and pity and sat there staring at the walls contemplating as to what should be my next move. This time if not better it MUST be sensible.
So my sensible move was to do nothing. But nothing was giving me no peace because i was anticipating a call from Shakeer on not getting a call from me. i was rehearsing these sentences in my mind how best to convey to him that he is being a pest now. Too much effort in my part this phrasing and rephrasing because i was still not sure if i was forming the correct sentences or not.
Nothing sounded proper, some sounded rude and others were too bleak in it's message.This went on the entire afternoon and it was an anxious way past 5 when i could breathe freely.
Thankfully no call came and i hope no call from him ever comes.
That respect, that admiration i have for the uniform i don't want to lose that. i am having my own doubts and i hope that my sister is wrong in her assumptions.
i don't want to trust my female intuition which wonders if that army man was coming on to me.
i am exasperated at my own silly self who cannot handle situations smartly and in most ways has inflicted misery upon herself.
Once again i pray Oh! God make him sensible and make me wise and please make him not call me.