I had not seen her in over 20 years, not a glimpse not a word, just an occasional tidbit of news about her and other college friends but … there she was simple and graceful in a peach colored sari, looking beautiful. To me, she would always be beautiful.
Some moments are precious, such as this one, that left me short of breath and words and a pleasant churning within. Old memories and long forgotten emotions associated with them rose to the surface. I could not avoid them however hard I tried. I didn’t.
We had been college friends who had shared a wonderful rapport and a highly volatile relationship or friendship as she had insisted on calling it. We would argue and differ on almost everything and I had always envied her, her sharp wit, intuition and her remarkable ability to read eyes. I could do neither, except probably charm girls with my chivalrous behavior and humorous disposition. To her that classified as zilch. Yet we had hit it off so well sharing easy conversations and being sounding boards for each other. It had been a good friendship. Until we had completed college and moved on in life to higher degrees in different countries, work and careers and then settling down. We did keep in touch but over the years it had become intermittent until it reached a stage where I didn’t know where she was and what she was doing. Time and circumstances do create bridges which we fail or forget to cross.
Now as I walked towards her, my usual self confidence seemed to dissolve and my heart skipped a beat or was it many beats .I felt a silly urge to just turn back and walk away. I didn’t!
Age hadn’t touched her or perhaps I was blind to it. Her laughter lines and beautiful wrinkles only seemed to enhance her grace. Nothing could make me look away from her large expressive eyes and at that moment I wished with all my heart that I could read her mind. Even reading eyes would do.
I greeted her with a warm smile, “Hello Rhea. How have you been?
She seemed a bit disoriented and put her hand out to touch me. The familiar tilt of her head, her touch on my arm, her smile -to me it seemed that the last 20 years just melted away in that moment.
“Rahul, is that you? My long lost college pal? she exclaimed. And her face broke out into a wide happy smile.
We spent the next few minutes talking about old batchmates, teachers and a little about our lives. She didn’t speak much except that she had shifted to the city about a year ago and was with a NGO. She just listened; very unlike the “Rey” he had known. Maybe time changes everything. Maybe she didn’t even recollect his nickname for her-“Rey” like the rays of the sun. Too many maybe’s! We were like two friends who had become strangers and were now on the brink of renewing it all over again. The thought made me happy. We exchanged numbers with promises to be in touch. I had every intention of keeping the promise, now that I had found her.
Time was short. She had an appointment to keep and had to leave.
As we bid goodbyes, I could not stop myself from asking her, “Do you still read eyes?”
She smiled her warm lovely smile and replied, “I’ve stopped reading eyes, I read voices instead”.
I watched her leave.
I joined the group I had left.
“Do you know her?” my colleague Naren asked
“I do, we were friends in college”. (I was about to say good but refrained, don’t ask me why.) “I met her now after 20 years”.
“Rhea Patel, right...she runs a NGO, “Drishti” for blind children, actively involved with education for the blind. Just saw a brochure with her picture few days ago. And no one would ever know that she is blind herself. A lady of courage and spirit, without doubt.”Naren continued.
I was left speechless.
A piece of fiction.
Any resemblance to Rajendra's story or characters is purely coincidental. However his story inspired me to write this piece.