The girl in the window seatAlthough her face seemed happy, her eyes told me a different story—they were bright but they lacked the light.
I had just finished my board exams when I hopped on to a bus. Euphoria filled my heart as I looked for an empty seat. My exams had finally finished and I was ecstatic. As I scoured the bus for an empty spot, I noticed the seat next to a strikingly beautiful girl was empty. She looked about my age and while I approached the seat, she suddenly looked up and our eyes met. Her eyes were intoxicating and innocent. She smiled at me and I too returned her smile, but in her smile, I found something missing. They had in them a longing. Although her face seemed happy, her eyes told me a different story; though they were bright they lacked the light. Her eyes clearly told me that there was a lot of sorrow and pain beneath her smile.
After a minute, the bus started moving and I took out my phone and started watching a Bollywood movie starring Shah Rukh Khan. I had watched the movie multiple times before, but I kept watching it just to pretend to be doing something. I figured the girl on the window seat too was a Shah Rukh Khan fan, as she was constantly looking at my phone. At that moment I thought of breaking the ice and asking her a question, but my plan shattered because at that same moment my phone died. So I was compelled to listen to the song that was playing on the bus. After a while, I got so bored that I took out the only book I had with me, a novel by Chetan Bhagat named Half Girlfriend. I was not really in the mood to read.
All I wanted to do was talk to the girl beside me, but I didn’t know how to start a conversation. While I was thinking of ways to initiate conversation, she asked me a question in a low voice: “Do you like love stories?”
I replied yes, with a little hesitation, as I did not know how to respond to the question. She asked me who my favourite writer was; I answered Paulo Coelho. She then asked me, “Do you read love stories but with sad endings?”
“I read them, a lot,” I said. I added the ‘a lot’ to lengthen our conversation. After a long pause, she asked, “Do you want to listen to a story?” I nodded my head yes, for how could I say no?
I did not understand why she was telling me a story. I didn’t know what she saw on my face or what was there inside her heart which made her want to share a story with a stranger. Maybe she wanted to lessen her grief by sharing it with me in the form of her story? Maybe she just liked telling stories? Whatever the reason, I was intrigued. After a long pause, she started narrating her story:
After securing excellent marks in their SLC exams, two close friends, Indu and Mira, went to Kathmandu with big hopes and dreams. They enrolled in a good college and started attending classes. In their class, there was a boy named Aman, whom Mira started liking. In class, she’d look dreamily at him. At home, she’d think about him.
Slowly over time, Mira gathered enough courage to message him on Facebook. A conversation that started with a simple ‘hi’ turned deep as the months passed by. They would talk about everything under the sun—life, nature, love. Aman would hint that his feelings for Mira were maturing by the day, and Mira felt happy about it. Yet, she refrained from falling in love with him.
“Why are you so afraid?” Aman asked her one day while they were chatting.
“Afraid of what?” said Mira.
“Afraid of falling in love with me,” said Aman.
“You wish,” said Mira.
One of the good things about messaging is that oftentimes you can mask your real feelings. Aman’s message compelled Mira to think more closely about him. But she could never muster up the courage to be with him. The year passed by this way, with Mira unable to come to terms with her own feelings. In class, Mira, Indu and Aman were in the same group and they would often spend a lot of time together. The second-year brought more intimacy and magnetism between Aman and Mira; the bond between them was an open secret in class. Some girls used to gossip about them and Mira used to enjoy that.
Aman had by now become an expert on her. He knew how to hurt her, and how to console her. Months passed by, and their relationship deepened, but Mira felt incomplete. She wanted more out of their relationship, but she felt Aman did not. The magic between them never diminished, but as they completed their second year, nothing happened between them. On the last day of college, while everyone was busy taking selfies and saying their goodbyes, Aman was nowhere to be found.
Mira was looking around, asking everyone about him. Among a huge crowd of people, Mira finally found Indu. She was glowing. Mira asked Indu why she was all cheerful, to which Indu replied in a low voice, “Aman proposed to me.” Maybe Indu wanted to make her jealous, she thought. “Good joke,” said Mira. Immediately Indu took out her mobile and showed her Aman’s message.
A quiet rage in her eyes clearly told me that she was Mira. She didn’t speak for a while, and I kept quiet too. In the quiet, we didn’t realise how much time had passed. The bus had arrived at its final destination. We both got off the bus quietly. I could not even bring myself to turn around and say goodbye.
A few days later I received a message on Facebook. It was from Mira.
“Hey smiling stranger, I have to tell you something. I just got a message from Indu. She says Aman doesn’t love her and he proposed to her just to get rid of me. She thinks it is because he cannot tell me about his love. I also realised that some stories are better if they are incomplete. Everyone wants a happy ending, but not everyone deserves it. And just because a story has no happy ending does not mean it is bad. You may be wondering why I am telling you all this. I couldn’t leave you hanging with my story. P.S. You must be shocked as to how I found you on Facebook when we didn’t even exchange names. I saw your name on the first page of your book when you were pretending to read.”
I don’t know if the story Mira told me was actually her story. Or something she just made up to amuse a stranger. But one thing was for certain, maybe some things are better left incomplete. Like my story with the pretty stranger on the window seat.