Saturdays are normally busy for us Bank people and many customers, mostly from rural areas come to withdraw money, pledge their jewels to take loans and come for other transactions so that for the next day and a half, they feel safe with enough money to pay for the farming supplies and to labourers.
Being a probationary employee, I normally take permission from the Manager to catch the bus at 3.15P.M. to go back to Mysore so that I’d reach Mysore at least by 5.30P.M. and meet my Mangalorean friends at K.R.Circle and spend some time talking about Mangalore. Later we’d go to ‘Das Prakash’ or ‘Madhu Nivas’ roof garden and eat ‘Channa Bhatura’.
This Saturday was special for me. Chandrakanth was to introduce me to his senior madam and her lovely daughter whom I was going to talk to, for the first time!
I spent some time in the Bank attending to ledger summations. Narayan Moorthy, my officer who always used to look at me with little animosity on Saturdays, looked at me and exclaimed ? "Today the Sun must have risen in the West!"
I didn’t bother to answer him and went on doing my job!
When the clock chimed 5.30P.M., I put down my pen, closed the ledger and started walking towards the Railway Station.
Suddenly I had a feeling that I’m being tailed by some people. I acted as if I didn’t know about it. I stopped near Venkob Rao’s ‘Chamundi Medical Stores’ and shouted ? "Hello Mr.Venkob Rao! How are you? Did you get that Military Rum from your Brother? If you did, please reserve that quarter for me! See you on Monday."
Then I noticed a group of four Taluk Office staff walking past me and Sadulla was with them! I called out to him and asked him to keep a place for me in the train! He smiled and nodded, but was looking little disturbed again!
I waited for Chandrakanth at the station and he arrived at exactly 6.00PM with his senior madam, her daughter and son.
I felt butterflies moving in my stomach. Is it going to be a friendly meeting or will it turn out to be a disaster for me? Was it necessary for me to get involved into such complications? Questions, nothing but questions haunted me for a while.
I closed my eyes and made up my mind. Walked slowly to the Jatka from which they were getting down. I joined hands with Chandrakanth to unload their belongings and carried a trunk along with them inspite of madam pleading me not to!
We reached the ‘Ladies’ section of the split compartment and loaded their luggage. Chandrakanth introduced me to the family.
"Madam, this is Rameshchandra Sharma, whom they call Amitabh Bachhan! Sharma, this is Madam Nazeema Begum, senior teacher in our school and this is Ayesha Banu, her daughter!"
Ayesha Banu! So her name is Ayesha! I pondered over the name for a while and Chandrakanth was still talking ? "?and this young man is Azeb! Don’t you think he looks a bit like Tareeq in Yaadon Ki Baraat?!"
I said Namaste to the madam and hello to her two children. I also patted Azeb on his back. Ayesha was full of giggles and Azeb was curiously watching me!
Madam Nazeema Begum told me ? "Son, Ayesha is so fond of you, she has drawn your pencil sketch and has mounted it on the wall! She says, I have found my Bade Bhai Jaan at last! She insisted that we should invite you home for lunch after Ramzan, and I am going to arrange a nice lunch for you, Chandrakanth and all your good friends in our home! Before that, I wanted to give you something!"
She removed a stainless steel tiffin box and gave it to me. On inquiring about the same, she said she had cooked some chicken curry for me as per Ayesha’s orders! Ayesha looked shy and she bowed her head down while scratching the floor with her toe nails!
I could not believe myself! Such an affectionate family getting close to me within such a short span of time!
‘Koooo??..chug..chug..chug??’ the train started and I jumped into the general compartment with Chandrakanth.
I was in a trance while Chandrakanth went on telling stories about madam and her family.
I don’t remember most of it, for I was carried away by the affection shown by Ayesha and her mother for me! 10 months away from home, I always yearned for a family to call my own and now suddenly all this happened!
I traveled to the main Railway Station and got down from the train to see Ayesha and her mother off. I helped them to carry their luggage to the Jatka and said goodbye. The Jatka faded out into the darkness and suddenly somebody patted me on the shoulder!
A chill went up my spine and I realized that this is no affectionate pat!
Sadulla and his friends were standing behind me and looking at me seriously. A man in his early twenties said with vehement protest in his voice ? "Mr. Amitabh Bachhan! Leave Noorie alone, will you? She is going to marry our friend Anwar here and you are not going to come in between!"
I was nervous but I gained little confidence, looking at Sadulla. I knew that Sadulla wouldn’t let me down.
I said ? "Just now I found a family so affectionate where the mother calls me son and the daughter calls me Bhai Jaan! What do you know about relations?"
Sadulla clapped his hands and told his friends ? "Listen! I told you many times about his genuine intentions. You guys never listened to me! Now you know what their relationship is!"
They all bowed their heads in shame and Anwar, the boy who claimed to be Ayesha’s fianc? came forward, held my hands in his and apologized to me and also requested me not to tell Madam Nazeema Begum about his claims about marrying Ayesha!
I assured him I won’t.
"Tomorrow, madam has invited us to her home for lunch on account of Ramzan" ? Chandrakanth announced suddenly as our train came to a halt at Badanaguppe.
I was in a stupor, apparently due to lack of sleep the previous night. I had been to "Thank God! It’s Friday" at Ganesh Cinema for the second show!
"Oh! That! But I have planned to go to Mangalore tonight!".
…Difficulties often swarm into one’s life like that, never giving chance to think twice or take decisions…..
I told him with innocence!
"C’mon Sharma! Madam had told you many days ago about it and you agreed to accept her treat. Ayesha will be very sad and angry if you don’t come!"
I imagined about my mother waiting for me with all the goodies at home. On the other hand, also imagined Ayesha and madam Nazeema Begum waiting for me at their home for lunch!
Difficulties often swarm into one’s life like that, never giving chance to think twice or take decisions!
I said ? "OK Chandrakanth. I’ll be there with Naidu and Mahadevappa. Madam had asked me to bring my close friends with me for lunch!"
Chandrakanth was happy and he didn’t say anything else.
That evening, I told Naidu and Mahadevappa where madam and her family stay and requested them to attend the Ramzan party on my behalf and also requested them to apologize to madam on my behalf for not attending!
I caught the 10.30P.M. Super Deluxe to Mangalore that night.
After three days of fun in my home town with my family and friends, I returned to Mysore, Wednesday morning.
Naidu and Mahadevappa told me that they had a nice party at madam’s home with
Biryani, Chicken fry, Masala Tea and China Grass sweet! They also added that both Madam and Ayesha were very angry at me for not attending the party!
Chandrakanth didn’t say a word about it in the train and he avoided my company.
Sadulla and others were curios and asked me if something bad has happened. I didn’t say anything!
Same evening, Chandrakanth called me aside as we were on the platform to catch the train back to Mysore. He told me that Saturday was their School Day and Madam had asked him to personally invite me for the function in the evening! I was very happy that day!
I stayed back at my colleague Kumaran’s room at Chamarajanagar and at 7.30P.M., we went to the School to attend the School Day function. We were treated like VIPs there and Madam personally showed us to our seats in the front row!
After the speech and other formalities, entertainments began. The second show was real surprise for me with Ayesha performing the song ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’ from the movie ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’! She did it so well, I gave her a standing ovation! She was bubbling with sparks in her eyes and looked very charming and contented! She disappeared from the stage as she did ‘Salaams’ to me!
I met her back stage, and praised her for her talents. All she said was ? "You didn’t come for the Ramzan Party. We ate everything in your name!"
I liked her innocence and her straight forwardness. I had betrayed the family by promising them that I would, but didn’t even attempt to tell them that I couldn’t!
In spite of that none of them raised the point and question me why I didn’t attend
I went to Madam Nazeema Begum and apologized for my inability to attend the Ramzan Party at their home for which she said ? "Son, It is all as Khuda’s wishes. If he permits, we’ll have the opportunity to eat with you. If you are not able to come, we all say your name and eat your share so that your portion of food doesn’t go wasted!"
I couldn’t talk further, for tears obscured my vision and my throat was stuck with shame and gratitude!
A few months later, I was transferred to Bangalore. Before I left, I paid a visit to Madam’s home. I also met Sheik Saab and had tea with them. Sheik Saab was a wonderful person with anecdotes about his great grand father serving for Tipu Sultan! Ayesha was sad and sullen at the thought of my going away. She said ? "I know, you’ll forget me and ammi. You are going to a big city and you’ll get lost there!"
I consoled her and said ? "I will never forget you people. You all have shown me so much of love and care which I’d not have got from anyone else here! I shall come during ‘Raksha Bandhan’ every year and you shall tie the ‘Rakhi’ on my hand. That’s a promise!"
Ayesha’s eyes brightened and she graced my hand and took me inside to her room. She showed the pencil sketch of me mounted on a card board sheet on the wall. I noticed two hearts drawn on the sketch, adjacent to each other!
She said ? "You will always be in my heart and in front of me, Bhai Jaan! Until you come back again, I will keep talking to your picture!
Ayesha was right. I didn’t look that side for the next two years. Nor did I remember the family! The Big city euphoria had me engulfed in its superficial charm, thus paralyzing my inner visions and human values!
One day, my roommate in Bangalore suggested that we both should go to Mysore to see his uncle who was under transfer to North. We rode all the way to Mysore on my scooter.
Next day, while we were prowling around Bamboo bazaar area, I suddenly remembered Ayesha and I decided to visit her house. I went to a nearby cassette shop, purchased two cassettes with Ghazals and went with my friend to see Ayesha and her mother.
Ayesha was overjoyed to see me and couldn’t believe herself! She held both my hands, placed them on her head and said ? "You missed Rakhi, but atleast give me dua now! Bless me that I should pass SSLC with good marks!"
Innocence oozed out of her eyes and I was very happy to have her as the best sister in my life!
I gave her the cassettes and she said, that was the best gift she had ever received in her life!
She kept watching and waving at me, standing at the door as we left her and rode the scooter down the corner.
I opened my eyes, watched the TV screen with the raster and the fast moving particles within! Looked at my watch and the time was 12.30A.M.! The date was February 14th, 1999.
I slowly got up, switched off the TV, ejected the VCD from the player and inserted it into the sleeve on which ‘NOORIE’ was printed.
I also saw the picture of two hearts on the sleeve!
Walked over to the window and gazed at the black sky full of stars. Suddenly I saw a shooting star that moved in my direction and before it reached me, it had vanished into the horizon! Was it a dream or reality? Do these things happen or was it my imagination running wild? Who was she? My friend, my sister or my lover?
Why did she take me so seriously?
‘Strange Relations, indeed!’
Sighed deeply, went to bed and covered myself with the blanket and started to count sheep!
Post Script: Fellow readers, I have narrated this story based on a true story but partly I have fortified the contents with fiction and all the names depicted here are fictitious.
This has been written without malice towards any person living or dead. The prime intention is to bring out my inner emotions about certain unexpected and unknown relations that happen in every man’s life and linger on for a short while, maybe that he wants that temporary emotional support to make him stronger.
The strength that he gains out of such a relationship is so intense that he becomes extra confident and starts to lead his life independently!
It is after a certain period of time that he realises the importance of long term maintenance of such relations and just when he tries to go back, he is lost and lonely!
There are many Ayeshas in our lives but the one I knew is different!
About the Author:
Author: Rajanikanth Shenoy- Mangalore