Anuradha Bhattacharya
# 310 Sector 22-A, Chandigarh - 160022 (India)
Ph. 89681-73906, Email: an6radha@yahoo.co.in

 

 

Bus Stop
a short story

Sneha was undetermined when she climbed down the stairs and made for the bus stand. She had washed her long hair and done it in a pony tail with a sky blue scrunchy which had two beads dangling from strings along with her luxuriant black hair. She wore a sky blue churidaar-kameez set to match and her sandals were high healed. She was not sure if it was the right choice because now she had to board a bus.
In the bus, she stood next to a middle aged lady who was sitting with her right knee thrust out from behind the seat in front of her. It made Sneha part her legs and the crowd made her bend a little over the lady. She did not seem to mind it at all. In fact she seemed to be eagerly awaiting her destination stop and she craned her neck to peak through the front glass of the bus rather than look out of the window next to her seat. This expression made Sneha hope to get her seat as soon as she gets up.
But in this position Sneha was very uncomfortable. Her dupatta clung to her neck and she was not sure if anybody could peep into her bosom from above. She dared not remove her hands from the rods of the seats that she was holding. One little jerk and she would drop into auntyís lap and aunty was not exactly in a mood ready to accommodate a grown up girl in her lap.
Sneha was heading for a rendezvous. Puneet was coming to see her for the first time. Sneha had reached out to Puneet through a letter to his official address after reading an article by him in the newspaper. To her surprise, Puneet had promptly replied. She was in a hostel in Kurukshetra, in her third year. He sent her his phone number and she called him. After two months of interaction on the phone, they decided to see each other. But by then, college was over, exams approached and the summer break made it impossible for Sneha to continue conversations with him over the phone. She decided to send him one last letter, a long letter before postponing the rendezvous to June. In June, Sneha would be in Lukhnow to visit her grandparents. Puneet belonged to Lukhnow and he could come to visit her there.
Today, Puneet answered her phone and suggested that they meet at the bus stand next to the central library. Sneha had a membership card and remembered that there was a small canteen next to the library so she thought that Puneet might want to sit there. So she waited at the bus stand for him to alight from one of the many busses that stopped here. He came, but not by a bus. He came directly from the canteen. He said,
Hello. Waiting long?
No. Five minutes.
So?
Shall we sit somewhere?
Letís goÖ
No. There are no chairs inside; are there?
pause
Letís go somewhere else.
I donít have much time to spare. Just half an hour.
O then stand here itself!
So?
Did you read that?
Yes.
Why didnít you reply?
I didnít get time.
Is it okay with you?
pause
It was long back. When I was in school. He was also in school. A different schoolÖ I wasÖ
I donít want to hear about him.
Angry.
Of course.
Why should you be angry? I was in love.
So it was by mutual consent?
Well, I just felt fond of him and he used to drop some hints. But by the time I confessed to him school was overÖ
Then how did it happen?
I told him simply, ĎI love youí. In fact I wrote a note. He just smiled.
But what did you do?
We talkedÖ
About doing it?
Doing what?
What you did.
What?
Your Ďexperienceí, as you wrote.
Thatís the experience!
But what happened after that?
Why, we just talkedÖ I used to go to his house. We got only three weeks. Then he left for Delhi.
Oh!
What did you think?
Iím sorry. I thoughtÖ somethingÖ elseÖ
No!
long silence
Iím sorry, really. I was angry so I didnít reply. Why didnít you explain properly?
And thatís why you forced me to come out here. ĎI donít want parents aroundí hah, how could you justÖ
Well, what do you want to do next?
Iím just waiting for the IIMC result.
That will come out in the first week of July. But M.A.?
No. If I get admission in the IIMC, Iíll become a journalist.
Journalism is not for girls.
Why?
Itís a dogís life. Look at me. Got absolutely tanned.
Sneha noticed a circular spot on the thumb nail of Puneetís right hand. She was standing on his left. She remembered reading in a book on palmistry that if the moon of a thumb nail was too large it signified that the subject suffered from heart problems. She thrust her hand out and pointed to that nail.
Whatís that?
What?
On your thumb nail?
What, nothing.
A scar.
So you donít want to go into academics?
I want to become a journalist.
If you could do your M.A. andÖ
I might have to do M.A. first. But not teaching.
pause
Iíll finish my M.A, if I donít qualify for journalism this year. And this is something I wanted to ask of you. Will you be in Delhi till July?
Yes.
Will you please see if I have got through?
Uh, yes, I can.
I donít have any relatives there.
Okay, I will see it.
Sneha looked at his face. There was a complete absence of the warmth which had permeated through his phone-calls. She remembered that she had sent him an article on sugarcane farming for an appraisal but he had never mentioned it in his conversations on phone. She said,
You liked the article I had sent you? What do you think? Will I qualify?
You are very immature.
You found that in the article?
No. One can tellÖ
By my looksÖ
No, even by your manner of talking.
And you are disappointed.
Uh.
Had got a different image of me till now, hm?
Uh, uh.
Certainly I donít know lots of practical things. But Iíll learn. I managed my own affairs quite efficiently when in Kurukshetra. It wasnít a small thing three years back to come out of the security of oneís home and live as a paying guest. Of course, he was my fatherís old friend but I never depended on him for anything and told him very few things, in fact! Itís Delhi that I am unfamiliar with. But see, Iíve come here alone. I feel nervous while crossing the road. Donít know which bus goes where. But at least I can tell the man in front of me.
laughs
laughs And one thing I came to tell you.
pause
I donít want to get involved now.
You donítÖ
Want to get involved.
Oh!
pause
Iíll be leaving Delhi on seventh.
And youíll stay away tillÖ
The end of July.
ButÖ
Yes, that. Well, Iíll ask a friend of mine.
Oh.
Best of luck then. Which way will you go?
O Iíll just take a look in there. Got to read a bit if I should learn to converse convincingly.
Yes, learn that well, will help you later. But Iíll still say, an M.A. degree helps.
And learning to live in a metropolis.
Eh.
Bye.
Write if you find time.
Sure.

***
© Author

(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Summer 2013)