I ran with all the energy I could muster … I did not want to miss the bus and be late in office. Bus route number 388 came only once every 22 minutes. If I missed this, I was sure to be late. Plus the college crowd will increase by then, drastically reducing the possibilities of me getting a seat in the bus.
I made it, just as the bus was pulling out of the stop … I was the last to board the bus, just behind “Miss Bookworm”. ‘Miss Bookworm’ was my nick-name for the girl who also caught the same bus daily. She gets off just 2 stops before my destination. She probably works for the big TV channel who have their office near the stop where she alights — after all she looks every bit the creative & artistic type. And, she is always reading some big fat book. Even if she does not get a seat, she would lean against the side of one of the ladies-only seats and soon get lost in her book.

Wonder if she has some nick-name for people. Maybe she thinks of me as “Mr. Walkman” 🙂 – always having the earphones plugged into an old, ancient SONY Walkman.
She sat down in one of the last few vacant seats. I luckily got a seat next to “Temple Uncle”. Uncle smiled at me, I smiled back, and as always, Uncle brought out his religious-discourse book and started reading.

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Today there is a huge crowd at the bus-stop … much more than usual, and not just the usual faces. Wonder whats wrong with the bus service ?
“Excuse me” said the voice, and I jumped, surprised by the sudden-ness of the sound. “It seems the B.E.S.T bus employees have called an indefinite strike since today morning. No buses are running, and there is no point in waiting any longer” said Miss Bookworm – and she was talking to me.
She continued “We could catch an Auto and share the fare. Are you interested ?”
“Sure. If the bus is not going to come, why wait. Lets go”. And then, in my grand, baritone voice I hail an auto – ok, I did not have to call out, the auto was standing right there, with the idea of minting money at the cost of us poor bus-passengers.

She does work at the TV office, but nothing very creative about her work. She is in their legal department. She said their department had some agreements & other usual legal documentation to take care off. And once in a while, when there was some celebrity threatening to sue the channel about some defamatory news-item, they had to do the necessary research to keep things under control.

And, she thought that software engineers (like me) did not do much at work, apart from spending most of the time net-surfing (how can she make such silly assumptions! ) All this and some more — part of our conversation in the 45 minute auto journey.

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All my usual lunch mates are on vacation. I am sitting alone in the big restaurant, where we go for lunch only on Fridays. I still decided to come over here, as I did not like today’s menu in the office canteen.
Then, I see her enter … she has her book in hand, and is looking around.
She sees me, smiles, pauses and then walks over to my table. “Can I join you ? Or are you waiting for somebody ?”
“Sure, sit down. No, I am only waiting for somebody to take my order” (bad attempt at comedy … she didn’t even smile)
“Do you come here daily? I have not seen you here before. Isn’t this a little far from your office ? I come here often, especially when I want to have lunch alone, with only my book for company”

She would have gone on talking, had the waiter not interrupted.
“Ek Veg. Biriyani”, I said. “Ek Mosambi Juice”, and then looking at me, she said “Every Friday, I eat only once – for dinner. I do it both for my religious beliefs and for health reasons too”.

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“Ek Veg. Biriyani. Nahi … nahi, ek minute. 2 Mosambi juice. Haan .. bas itna hi, aur kuch nahi”
Turning around, I say, “From today on, I also will fast on Friday. If my wife is still doing it, how can I continue eating”
“Well, if you could eat lunch with me here, every Friday, through 3 years of marriage, why not continue. Why the sudden change of heart” she jokingly asks.
“Arre … better late than never. Anyway, I should do it for health reasons, before I get too much ’rounded out’ ”

I ask her, “Do you remember the first time we ate here? Well, that was the day I felt that you were the one – the person to be my soulmate for the rest of my life”

And still it took you almost a year to tell me that. Plus all the countless bus-trips, a dozen odd movies together, couple of bowling-alley visits and even the one-day Matheran trip. I was beginning to feel that you might not even mention it. You know what, guess when did I fall in love with you

“Ok, go on .. tell me … when ?”

The day of our first auto-ride together. And do you really think I used to come to this expensive restaurant regularly – you must be joking. I had come to know through my neighbour Anjali, who was your colleague then, that you came here every Friday – and that most of your lunch-mates seemed to be on vacation that particular week.”

” …………. and yes, Happy Anniversary

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