It’s not love, after all!
Though it is a coffee break only, the ten minutes they spend together in the canteen turned out to be the best time for them. And, may be, because of the delight that it offers, talking to each other, more than the coffee, both of them never missed the opportunity to be together.
Ram liked her features – lean body, dark and long hair, the face a bit longish – to match with the body structure and the perpetual smile on the face, all of which would attract anyone from the opposite sex, particularly when the body is draped in attractively designed, bright colored sari, of course, with a matching blouse. For him, it was not ‘the beauty arising from features, complexion and shape, but the sweetness of temper, benevolence, innocence and sensibility which her face could express, and which really formed her beauty’ which he appreciated.
Ram was the one point in the Section (call him the Secretary, support staff or whatever) where all else comprising that group had to invariably go – for administrative tips like getting a particular contact number, leave matters, deductions in the salary slip and so on – not to mention collecting the salary slip itself from the common point where such slips are normally delivered by the Accounts Division.
Very often, the tea/coffee break would result in ten or members of the group gathering together like herds of elephants marching towards the river for their fun time bath. But every one in the group would not forget inviting Ram also to join the group. And very often, it would be Sarita or Anita, who would personally approach Ram. ‘Come on I say, let’s go to the canteen.’ No need to say Ram would reciprocate such invitation with all the glee. And, quickly leaving everything on the table as they are, jump at the opportunity.
Sarita used to visit Ram very often, even when there is no special need to meet him; apparently she liked him – liked for his appearance, liked the way he talked, the occasional jokes he indulged in, and, most important he had also an appearance which will magnetize whoever came in contact with him; no wonder he too liked such ‘togetherness’ with Sarita. May be in his mind, he had some lurking thoughts which, perhaps, he himself could not easily figure out.
Days moved, months moved, two years gone – for time just flies. In his free moments, Ram’s thoughts would wander and finally stop at the thought of Saitha. Not to mention that each time he thought of Sarita, something from inside his mind seemed to puzzle him. Whenever, both left office, that togetherness continued – waiting for the same bus (though each had to reach different destination, after changing bus), sitting close to each other. None suspected anything when a boy and a girl shared the two seats. Such things were not uncommon, in that city. Often, Sarita would be the first one to stretch her hand to the bus conductor, holding back Ram’s, to say, ‘two tickets to….please.’ Of course, the conductor also would take some time for issuing the tickets, since his eyes would get riveted to the ‘good-looking couple’ – or so he would have thought.
Not only that, when in a’high’ mood, just to enjoy the company, Sarita, on a few occasions had invited him to restaurants for enjoying snacks together. It was difficult to imagine what kind of thoughts were inside her mind. At the same time, something was brewing in Ram’s mind, ‘is she really trying to get closer to me?’
While Sarta knew that Ram was an ‘eligible’ bachelor, he did not know the full details of Sarita, including her marital status; she still had her father’s name attached to hers. He fantasized getting married to Sarita and hoped that the day may not be far when this could materialize. So intense was his liking and love for her, though he had not dared to open that topic. Only when Sarita was frantically trying to get a transfer to a distant place – and that too for a ‘re-union’ with his estranged husband, did he start realizing that he was just dreaming about her. She was living alone, separated from her husband for some strange reason; and now every thing seemed to have been sorted out.
And, after some days, Sarita broke the silence, and gave Ram the impending news of her transfer to the city where the husband was working. He wished her all the best and never gave even the slightest hint of his ‘dream love’. Sarita finally left for her reunion with her husband, and bade farewell to all in the Group. Her feelings, at the time of saying good-bye were perhaps more pronounced in the case of Ram. Did she also contemplate of an alternative in the event of her not succeeding in her efforts to reunite with her husband?
No one could say, but the long association between Ram and Sarita and the so-called ‘togetherness’ moments remained only a dream leaving him disappointed. . For many months, the thought of Sarita (which had been glued to his mind) continued to haunt him. And, finally, the realization dawned on him – this is not love, after all!