THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

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Arnav couldn’t believe how cliched and filmy the whole scenario was. In fact every time he’d seen something like this play out onscreen he’d groaned loudly, “Come on. This is so cheesy. Can’t they think of anything else?”

And as if as payback for his scornful words Fate had made that very same scenario play out in his life. Only with him as the protagonist, it didn’t feel cheesy at all, just agonizing.

Perhaps some clarification is in order. Arnav was a collegian and like so many others of his ilk in Mumbai, used the suburban train system to bridge the yawning geographical gap between his places of residence and educational edification. Today, like every other college day he had boarded the train at Dadar station (a hub station somewhat centrally located as far as the ends of the city went, provided one didn’t consider how far its frontiers had expanded in the last decade). As usual his mind was preoccupied with multiple pressing concerns – had he got the last question in the maths paper right, what song should he sing at the auditions that were scheduled for the morrow, was there any way he could convince his father to cough up the 10 grand that represented the shortfall between him owning or not owning, the smartphone his acquisitive heart craved so much.

All these were wiped clean out of his mind the minute he saw her.

Yes. We kid you not. Arnav Saxena, sworn enemy of cheesy romantic cliches had seen a girl standing in a train and his heart had done the proverbial skip, jump and double Cartwheel with a Fosbury Flop to seal the deal.

Only problem. She was in a train heading Southwards and he in one that would be winding its way exactly opposite. They were truly the railway equivalent of ships that pass in the night.

Now if this were a movie Arnav could have leapt off the train, scampered up the few 100 steps of the connecting bridge, up and down, run about ten compartment lengths till he reached the one in which his inamorata was and jumped in with a perfect ice breaker line to win her over at first witticism. All of course in less than the 15 seconds that remained before her train chugged off.

Except this wasn’t a movie. And Arnav wasn’t the Flash or even Usain Bolt.

He could have tried to get her attention with some raucous sounds and then having established eye contact told her she was the most attractive girl his eyes had ever beheld or would ever behold. Except in the time available and over the existing melee the introductory sounds were all that she would register. In which case he would at once be clubbed into the category of sleazy, cheapie eveteasers who couldn’t see a double X chromosomed individual without resorting to some form of depravity.

Arnav realized that his love story was doomed before it had even begun. No form of communication was going to be possible. The girl would go on with her journey, rail and life, oblivious to the fact that she had almost encountered her soulmate who would never be. And Arnav would carry the memory of her charming countenance forever. Ok this is the new millenia, so until another PYT set his hormones into a tizzy.

But then the stuff that dreams (and romantic tales) are made of happened. Just before the trains set off in opposing directions the girl looked up. Amd her eyes fell on the boy who hadn’t taken his eyes off her since first spying her. In other circumstances perhaps she may have been offended, dismissed him as a lech. But not today, not in this magic moment…

Something no science can quantify, no logic can explain, took place. She knew nothing about him and he had no opportunity to change that. But somewhere in another dimension beyond our ken, their souls reached out, rejoiced for they had recognized each other and a powerful connection was made.

In tangible terms she looked at him and smiled, not just any average curling of the lips but the kind of flashing of teeth that says – where have you been all my life, I want to be with you.

And without knowing how, what, why Arnav understood exactly what her eyes, her smile were conveying. So he smiled back.

The deal was done. Without words, without a song or even background music, the couple had connected. The seeds for the budding romance were sown.

As the trains pulled away, Arnav, without thinking, gestured to his watch and then the train. A simple communique – Same time, same place tomorrow? She nodded. And then was gone.

It didn’t matter. The date had been made. Arnav was in the seventh heaven of delight. He had fallen in love and the girl of his dreams seemed to feel the same way and would be with him in just 24 hours.

He never saw her again. The train in which she was travelling was one of those in which some misplaced zealots had placed a lethal heap of RDX. She became just another statistic in the saga of terrorist violence.

Movies have happy endings. Not life…

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