“Would you prefer the chocolate biscuit or the vanilla one?”, asked the service man.
Nikhil replied, “I shall take the chocolate one for my daughter and we would prefer the vanilla ones for us”.
The Volvo bus has just begun it’s journey at 8.30 pm from Esplanade, Kolkata. It shall cover a distance of 550 kilometres and reach Siliguri the next day.
Nikhil and Mahima are married for 5 odd years and are parents of a 2 year old child. They have planned to book a cab from Siliguri and reach their destination at Gangtok. It is their first trip together with the child, they had a single trip in all the years of their marital life, that was their honeymoon trip to Goa.
Mahima is sitting by the window side and gazing at the moving cars and buses. She had an arranged marriage with Nikhil. Her parents found the match from a newspaper article and contacted Nikhil’s family. Her husband keeps telling her that she was the first woman he had met for marriage and he decided to not search any further.
Mahima is a homemaker, she spends her days in mothering her child and cooking several delicacies for Nikhil. He works at a software firm in Kolkata and earns a handsome amount to sustain their livelihood in the posh area of Ruby Park. Although Nikhil is very amiable, but he carries a cold vibe with him all the time, Mahima can’t help but wonders what would make him ecstatic!
He loves his daughter and spends most of the time at home, playing with her. Mahima can’t have any complaint against him because he is too good to be real. He helps her in household chores, he takes care of the child even during his busy schedule! He bought his flat in Ruby park and shifted there with Mahima and his child, leaving behind his joint family in the suburbs of Kolkata, only because Mahima was facing troubles in adjusting with a joint family.
In Mahima’s head, Nikhil looks like a dream in his black shirt and his velvet blue tie.
The bus moved swiftly and Mahima was day dreaming with her eyes open, suddenly Nikhil asked, “Do you want something to eat, like a snack, as the bus shall halt for 15 minutes in Karunamoye because more passengers would board in.”
“Get me one packet of Lays please, I shall munch on it till we have our dinner”, said Mahima in a babyish voice.
Soon the bus stopped and he placed the child in Mahima’s arms while getting up from the seat.
“I would bring lollies for you now, stay calm with mommy “, said Nikhil and he got out from the bus.
Mahima looked outside the window and saw Nikhil swim through the crowd of passengers and reach a nearby retail shop. In the meantime the bus was getting packed up with people. She noticed couples, friends and families taking their seats one after the other.
Suddenly her little daughter stretched out her arms as she had already crawled from Mahima’s lap to the aisle seat, towards a woman who was placing her hand bag in the adjacent seat, in the left row.
The child said “mama” in a shrill voice, that made the woman turn around and gape at her.
She was smiling at the child while she bent over and touched her chubby cheeks.
The woman wore a knee length navy blue dress which showed her arms and her beauty bones. Her hair was long and curly. She had brown beady eyes which sparkled behind the rimless glasses. Her cheeks had dimples when she smiled and her lips were painted red.
Mahima looked at her and said, “Really sorry, she called you ‘mama’, she is just learning to speak and throws random words at people!”
The woman in blue chuckled as she took her aisle seat and said, “She is a lovely child, her smile has an uncanny similarity to someone very dear to me, also I won’t mind being called a ‘mother’, by a child anyway! Well I am Pakhi, it’s really lovely to talk to you and your daughter”.
Mahima exuberantly said, “My God! My daughter’s name is Pakhi too. Such a lovely co-incidence it is. Her father chose this name as he is so fond of the word ‘Pakhi’ which translates into a ‘bird’, and birds as we know fly high in the sky and never get chained to the ground.”
Pakhi replied, “Oh how sweet it is to know that now I have a little Pakhi with me. But I fear some people like chaining their ‘Pakhis’. Well I assume you are travelling with your husband and he is nowhere here yet, and the bus shall start moving in no time”.
As she finishes her sentence, Mahima said, “There you go, here comes my husband, Nikhil. He took forever to bring me a packet of chips“.
Pakhi froze for a micro second and that seemed an eternity when she heard the word, ‘Nikhil’, it reminded her of thousands of memories associated with that name. She was scared to turn around and look at Mahima’s Nikhil, because a part of her wanted to see a face of a complete stranger, and the other part, ‘the vulnerable one’, wanted to glance at that old familiar face she used to wake up with every morning.
She gulped for once and straight way looked into Nikhil’s eyes as she turned around. She saw a little scar in the corner of his left eye and it was, as if just yesterday when he had an accident riding his bike and got 8 stitches for the cut. Now she realised why the child’s smile seemed so familiar to her! The same smile she could see in Nikhil’s face which slowly faded when he glanced at her. His eyes moistened and he was about to utter a word but his lips just moved without making a sound, though she could hear it very clear, his unuttered word was ‘Pakhi’. While they stared into one another for a few seconds or some hours, they would never know, Mahima broke the silence and said, “Come sit here, why are you standing awkwardly? Meet Pakhi, she is also travelling to Siliguri. I was just narrating her how you chose the name ‘Pakhi’ for our child.”
Nikhil handed her the pack of chips without even looking at her, he probably couldn’t hear her speak.
He sat in his place silently, gazed at Pakhi and asked in his heavy voice, “With whom you are travelling with”?
“I am alone, I am travelling by myself”, Pakhi replied very firmly in her shaky voice.
She then hurriedly took out the water bottle kept in the pocket next to her seat, and wet her throat. Her voice was cracking up while she said to him, “Your Pakhi is very beautiful”.
Next episode comes up tomorrow!