March 31st, 2016, Doha
She chucked the idea of going back to the book store to buy herself a book to divert her mind; instead, she decided to feed her obsession of figuring out who the girl in the pretty black dress was.
She carefully began to observe the girl.
‘Observation makes no sense to me at all, because what exactly are you trying to deduce, I have no clue. You are trying to confirm if a certain person is actually the person whom you’ve never met before, and whose Facebook profile you obsessed with about 3 years ago? Isn’t that plain pathetic?’ her mind made a feeble attempt to persuade her to sway away from the path she was going down. A path that was capable of bringing her more gloom than gain.
She rolled her eyes and looked at Rush Me Not who hadn’t looked up even once while her own brain had just swum through the past nine years of her own life in nine long seconds. Through the first two years where she had been in a wonderful relationship with him, the next three years where she had been in an off and on long distance relationship, followed by the last four years where she felt that she hadn’t ever gotten over him in the truest sense.
‘What on earth is she doing on her phone? People aren’t even able to connect to the wireless internet at this stupid airport. And why would anyone undertake a 27 hour journey dressed like that. You know, in a pretty black dress with tiny pink roses teamed with plain, black stockings and finished with black high heels. They are not even travel friendly clothes. I wonder whom she’s going to meet when she lands in Bangalore that she had to be this dressed up,’ she smirked in spite.
She buried the memory that was starting to sprout in her head; the one where she recalled how he liked his girl to always be dressed up and pretty, the time when he had expected her to wear her black kurta and striped pink patiala pants when he took her to the temple, or the time when he chided her for wearing an old t-shirt when he took her to Xtreme Sports Bar. And mechanically, she looked down at her navy blue sweat shirt that said OK, BUT FIRST COFFEE, and her extremely comfortable pair of old travel jeans and tennis shoes.
‘Or Rush Me Not must have just gotten off from work and directly boarded the plane. You know, had no time to change in comfortable clothing,’ optimism tried to talk to her pessimism, and she chose to ignore the brighter perspective instantly.
Boarding had now begun. She watched Rush Me Not hastily put her phone away and get in the line and she waited for this girl she was starting to loathe to disappear through the gate and wished she never saw her again, because, if that were to happen, she would never have to nourish her desire to find out if Rush Me Not was the enemy or not.
She looked down at her boarding pass, Seat 15E. She went inside, wished the air hostess a good evening, waited for someone tall to help her 5 feet 1 inch-self place her backpack in the unreachable overhead cabin. 15E was a middle seat in the middle row but a for a four hour flight journey that wasn’t bad at all. She looked to her left and it was empty. To her right side was seated an older middle aged man in a red and blue striped polo shirt. She made herself comfortable and buried her head into the magazine that was available.
It wasn’t until a good 30 minutes later that she noticed the person seated diagonally to her right, in the row in front of hers, in Seat 14G, reading a book. She tried to casually catch the name of the book but instead saw tiny pink flowers as the girl set the book on her lap.
‘Oh no! Not again. I am done with this chapter. I just wanted a quiet three hours to myself before I get home and now, you send this menacing riddle again. You put her in my face where I can clearly see her so I can entangle my thoughts all over again,’ sleep screeched grudgingly.
She wished, that very second, that she was traveling by train with Rush Me Not instead of in an airplane. It would have been so much easier. She could have just gone and checked her name on the list of passengers pasted on the compartment door.
Her distressed and pitiable conscience watched Rush Me Not reading ‘A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin’ and screamed from within, ‘You are supposed to be stupid. The kind of person who couldn’t tell the difference between moment and movement. How on earth are you reading one of the bestselling series in the world especially when even avid book readers have actually taken to watching the series on HBO owing to the fact that reading these books is a herculean task since it involves extensive dedication of valuable time.’
‘Or this is just some random person and not the Rush Me Not like you expect her to be. And even if it is her, why does it matter to you, after all these years. It could be a fateful coincidence that you are traveling together, I would just ask you to thank your stars that he isn’t traveling with her which would be even worse, watching them together for four full hours,’ her haughtiness tried to drill sense into her pathetic, judging self.
She was now starting to get hungry. The entire travel had messed up her food and sleep timings. Besides, she needed food as a distraction from this nonsense that was churning in her head. Soon she was served breakfast or dinner, she wasn’t sure, but she decided to let other standard types of entertainment interrupt her. She turned her TV screen ON and decided to watch something. She wasn’t really in the mood to watch a movie, so she selected an episode from Modern Family and began to watch it and eat her meal. About 20 minutes later, she involuntarily glanced at her rival seated in Seat 14G. Rush Me Not had closed her book and was preparing to eat her meal, but before she did that, she switched on her TV too and began to browse the list of movies. She scoffed in contempt and thought, ‘Yeah, come on, select one of your saccharine infused Bollywood crap like Maine Pyaar Kiya or Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. After all, they are the kind of movies you like.’
Rush Me Not began to dig into her meal while selecting the very episode from Modern Family that she was watching. ‘No, this is absolutely preposterous. It cannot be happening. Aren’t you supposed to be this stupid and immature woman who does not even speak fluent English and watches the kinds of movies that require you to leave your brain outside the theater? What is happening? Okay, adding most of it up, it seems like this person I have been giving a lot of attention to might actually be Rush Me Not, in the technical sense,’ her lunatic heart chirped erratically.
‘Or you are trying to match a person’s face and personality with a name. First things first, you were not even provided with this person’s full name four years ago. So for all you know, you could have been ambushing the wrong profile when you checked it out. Two, people are not what they seem on social networking sites. So even if you found the right girl on Facebook, all you did after that was grasped pieces of hay and straw with words like moment and movement and her love for Bollywood and chalked out her personality in your head. Three, even if she was all those things you imagined her to be, four years ago, she could be a totally different person now. People change, situations change, your personality is a direct outcome of your circumstantial subjugation,’ lectured her gray matter, in a serious tone.
Forty Five minutes later, the captain announced that he was preparing to descend in another fifteen minutes. She began to get restless. Not knowing who the stranger in Seat 14G would haunt her for a long time. But she decided to let it go. Come to terms with it. Find peace in the choice she had made four years ago. It shouldn’t matter to her anymore.
April 1st, 2016, Bangalore
The plane landed in Kempe Gowda International Airport and continued to taxi towards the gate. Meanwhile, most of the passengers had started to get up from their seats and open the overhead bins and remove their bags as they prepared to hop off the plane. She stood up. She had been traveling for the past 27 hours and her feet were swollen from the continuous sitting. She tried to edge herself completely out of her seat and pick up her backpack but the man in the red and blue polo shirt wouldn’t budge and let her out. She looked around, bored. She tried her best to avoid looking at the woman in the pretty black dress still seated in 14G.
‘Just give it one last shot. One more time. Maybe you will catch a glimpse of her boarding pass or her phone? Hey, she is definitely the cheesy-romantic types of women, the kind who would use a couple picture as the wallpaper on her phone, you know?’ her fragile and scarred heart echoed with vulnerability.
‘Are you serious? Everything you have predicted, designed and played in that absurd playground of your brain has been proven to be wrong. Can we just move on, finish immigration, collect our bags, stretch ourselves and go home?’ her self-esteem thundered in anger. It had had enough of this futile rubbish served to it over the past several hours and was extremely exhausted, mentally and physically.
Her phone was still useless to her since she didn’t have international roaming. So she plugged in her headphones and began to listen to some music as she got her backpack and was ready to get off the plane.
She was standing and at a good viewing distance and could easily look into the sitting Rush Me Not’s phone. She didn’t intend to peep but when she did look, it was right about when Rush Me Not was in her phone Settings and went to turn the Airplane Mode OFF. She watched as the woman seated in 14G quickly texted someone, and then hit the back button making visible to the standing her, the phone’s wallpaper.
She stared. It was HIM, sporting his ordinary smile, in an orange polo shirt, with his one arm around the woman seated in 14G. The girl was wearing a pretty black dress with tiny, pink roses printed on it.
It was as if her world had frozen right there, and could perhaps never be thawed back to normalcy ever again. The plane full of people getting ready to disembark, noisy children pushing their way to the exit door, the man in the red and blue polo shirt, her backpack, the bright lights that lit up the international airport at dawn, the loud and shrill neighboring airplanes that were either screeching to a halt or racing on the runway for takeoff, the captain announcing the local time in Bangalore, some people, readjusting their watches to Indian Standard Time, some people making phone calls notifying their friends or family that the flight had landed, a woman trying to wade her way backwards to get to the restroom at the last minute, everything came to a standstill, like a hazy paradigm. She couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything anymore.
And then, she realized it was because her eyes had become blurry with tears, and in her ears, A.R. Rahman had burst into a passionate New York nagaram urangum neram thanimai adarnthathu, and in her head, very slowly, Rush Me Not had distinctly turned into Rashmi.