“Lets meet at 8 pm, the usual place. Okay?” Shalin chirped happily into her mobile phone as she stepped into the local train. Talking to Abi was always a pleasure and she would cherish every moment of their meetings. It had been more than two years since she first met him, but his presence still had the same strange effects on her. Her cheeks would warm up, her palms would perspire, and her heart would skip a beat and then double its beat after every memory. She loved the way he winked after his every joke, she loved the way he moved his head, slightly inclined, listening attentively to her every word. She loved the way he teased her. He made her feel so special, holding on to her arm, protecting her in that special way. As the train began to move, she adjusted her dhupatta over her shoulder, walked carefully into the train compartment and plopped into a space between two ladies. The trains at this hour were always packed and she was lucky to find a room.
‘Tonight, after dinner, I shall ask him to come to meet my parents’ she thought as she surveyed the train compartment. The compartment was full of ladies and children. All the seats were tightly occupied, and there were many ladies, who stood unsteadily in double rows. There was not enough room for them to stand and they kept swaying from side to side as they held on to the handle, on the bar above, while clutching their handbag with the other hand. Her attention was diverted by shrill cry of a blinded beggar singing a Bollywood tune. Some women took turns to stretch their arms to place few coins into his outstretched palm. A lady on her right was busy rummaging through the box of assorted clips and ear rings. A youth had squeezed his way through the crowd and had dumped the box of his wares onto her lap. In Mumbai, the local trains may be packed with flesh to flesh, but still; beggars and vendors always managed to find their way in.
Shalin found herself focusing on a dandy long earring in the box containing the wares. The red stone shone so brightly. ‘Maybe I could wear it today, I am sure Abi will love it’ she thought as she remembered how Abi always commented on everything that she wore. Whenever they met, he always started a conversation with a flattering complimen