Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chapter 9: Re-Encounter

It takes a lot of courage to accept your own weaknesses, face your own demons, and deal with something you’ve been running away from. Once we decide to face it, and deal with it, a lot of guilt and pressure within subsides. A lighter heart, then holds nothing but love.
***
“We have our next caller online, friends”, RJ said, as she checked her system for the name and details of the caller who was put on hold until RJ took it forward.
She saw her system read “RAFEY”. She sensed her heart pump faster. She couldn’t believe that he had indeed called her up.  A beep brought her back to her senses and made her immediately take the call.
She had mixed feelings, and she was completely clueless how to begin.
“Hello..Rrraafey”, she mustered courage to take out the name aloud.
“Hello..”, the other party said.
“So, Rafey… huh…nice name”, RJ tried to form sentences.
“Yeah.. thanks”, Rafey sounded casual.
“Where are you calling from?”, RJ asked.
“I am calling from Station road”, Rafey said.
“So.. “, RJ found it difficult to ask further questions as her mind went completely blank.
“I heard you talk about dreams, and the Gulmohar tree”, Rafey spoke realizing that RJ wasn’t responding.
“Yeah..”, RJ recollected the theme of her show and caught the link, “So Rafey, tell me, have you seen a Gulmohar tree?”, RJ desperately waited for an answer.
“Yess.. Gulmohar tree and I are like relatives, close and bonded. I love the shade under its branches. It takes care of me. I have always loved to climb up to the biggest branch and spend time staring at the busy road”, Rafey said, sounding dreamy.
“And..”, RJ appened, starting to get emotional.
“All my childhood, I had this one tree who was a parent to me. It served as a replacement of my best friend, later, who I don’t know went where”, Rafey said, hitting the right chord.
“I see”, RJ replied.
“And now when I heard you this morning talk about a Gulmohar tree, I thought I should call you and share my happiest place with you”, Rafey said.
“Hmmm”, RJ responded wanting to listen further.
“Would you like to come with me to my happiest place, RJ…RJ?”, Rafey asked, struggling to use the name RJ instead of Raji.
RJ felt euphoric. “Sure. I would love to”, she said, and professionally continued, “and while I find Rafey’s happiest place and share my nostalgia with him, y’all listen to Rafey’s favorite track, Right here waiting for you, by Richard Marx”, RJ finished reading the details on her system and wondered why did Rafey mention this particular song.
Offline, she continued talking to Rafey, as the song played in the background, “Rafey, where do you want me to come?” she asked uncomfortably.
“You come to the left entrance of the Railway Station. I shall pick you up”, Rafey said, sounding straightforward.
“Do you know me? How will you recognize me?”, RJ asked a vague question.
“Raji, just meet me at the left entrance, ok?”, Rafey sounded comforting and dominating at the same time.
Raji gave in and replied, “Right after my show, at 11.30?”
“Yes.”, Rafey said, “See you”, he added and hung the phone.
***
“Chachu, what was I like, as a child? Was I too troublesome?”, Rafey asked Mansoor.
“Don’t even get me started on that you Dumb fellow. You were not even half as mischievous as your Chacha jaan. You defamed me”, Mansoor said.
“So was I docile? Was Raji naughty? Did I get beaten up by her? Did she pull my leg? Was I too innocent?”, Rafey asked.
“I get where you are going!”, Mansoor replied, staring at Rafey.
“Chachu, I called her up. I am seeing her in an hour”, he said.
“Yeah Yeah, I can see that. So why these questions, all of a sudden?”, Mansoor sounded a bit serious.
“I don’t remember what I was like a child. I do remember the games we played together, how we celebrated our birthdays, how aunty fed both of us together, how Raji saved me from unjustifiable tasks that aunty gave me. But I don’t remember whether we fought, whether she bullied me, or I bullied her, I only remember her as my first and only friend I ever had”, Rafey went on.
“You know how much you just spoke?”, Mansoor asked, him.
Rafey smiled. “Chachu!”, he simply sighed.
“No other kid would have been as wonderful as you were, and as sweet as Raji was. I don’t know what she grew up to become. But all I can say is, what existed then, if it exists now, then it’ll be really really wrong”, Mansoor hinted.
“I get you Chachu”, Rafey smiled and felt at peace because he heard what he really wanted to hear.
He got ready for work as he decided to reach the Pizza outlet right after meeting Raji.
***
Rafey waited at the left entrance of the station, on his bike, as he scanned every face that passed by him.
While he was busy scanning faces, he felt a pat on his back.
“Rafey”, she called out.
Rafey turned back and saw Raji. She wore sleeveless khadi kurta over jeans. The aviator sunglasses hid her expressive eyes. Her waist held her stance as well as a funky mobile phone.
“Raji!”, Rafey exclaimed.
The both stood there speechless exchanges glances, and intermittently looking around.
Raji pointed out to her car and asked, “You want to park your bike and come with me in the car?”
“Is it okay if we go on the bike?”, Rafey asked.
“Not really, but I need to park the car somewhere, that may be a problem”, she said.
“Ok, let me park my bike then. The gulmohar tree is not really far”, Rafey said, smiling at her and finding a common topic to break the ice.

Raji smiled and observed Rafey intently. After parking his bike, Rafey tossed the keys in the air and found himself in a comfort zone. Raji smiled at him and thought, that now she can finally fit in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

***

"Can you drive a four wheeler?", Raji asked, as she got into the car and signalled Rafey to get into.

"Yes. I am a driver's son, Madam. I can very well drive a car", Rafey joked, not realising that he was slowly turning back the pages of his life.

Raji looked at him and gave him a sad smile.

"I am sorry Rafey. Shareeq Miyaa was a wonderful person!", she said, as she drove past the railway station.

Rafey smiled. He looked straight ahead, out of the glass and gauged the traffic.

"The road isn't busy. We can take a right from here", Rafey said, changing the topic and guiding Raji to the Gulmohar tree.

"Do you know what month this is?", Raji asked, sounding sardonic.

"Yeah, March!", Rafey said.

"Do you know the time?", Raji asked again, with a hint of smile.

"It's close to noon?", Rafey replied.

"Do you know what season is it?", Raji further asked.

"Summer!", Rafey sighed, guessing where the conversation was going.

"Do you care to have a cold coffee at Barista, rather than going to the park right now?", Raji proposed.

Rafey turned his head and looked out of the window. He thought, that indeed a lot of things had changed. He was ecstatic about meeting Raji and talking to her under his favorite place, but she desired something else.

Rafey realised, that people who work in Air Conditioned atmosphere, seldom feel the heat of the soul.

He simply, nodded and exclaimed, "As you like it, Ma'am", just the way he talked to his Pizza Customers.