Five00-3

Not a Stranger

“How are you?” Neelam held out a steaming cup of coffee.

I nodded, “Better.” The fresh coffee aroma filled up the room and my soul.

I took a sip of the bitter liquid and closed my eyes. The pitter-patter of the rain on the tin roof next door was creating a beautiful background music.

“What exactly did happen yesterday?” Neelam interrupted the music. My roomie wasn’t going to leave me alone I figured.

“You know,” I took another sip of my coffee, “Soon after I started this job three months back, I noticed this gentleman standing near arrivals in front of our counter. He would be there every Wednesday, around three in the afternoon.”

Neelam’s eyes were strained at me.

“He would come formally dressed, but the suit seemed old and worn and out of fashion. He would stand there looking at me for about ten to fifteen minutes and then leave. Last week I asked a colleague if he knew who that gentleman was, he said he didn’t remember seeing anyone. I enquired with a security guard but even he said he didn’t notice anyone. Maybe they didn’t notice I thought.” It was straining to talk at a stretch. I stopped to take a break but Neelam’s eyes wouldn’t leave me alone.

“What did you do after that?” Neelam was eager.

“I could not see where he came from or where he went, one moment he was there and then suddenly he would disappear. I was also busy with work to follow his movement. But it was a routine, every Wednesday he was there. I was intrigued. I decided to talk to him and yesterday I tried doing exactly that.” I took another pause and the event played out in front of my eyes like a movie.

“And then?” I could feel the tension in Neelam’s voice.

“So yesterday, I was waiting for him, still couldn’t see from where he walked in. There was a long queue of passengers waiting to check-in. I crossed all of them and moved closer, I noticed a worn out diary clutched in his hand.”

“Just as I was about to approach him, a passenger came out of nowhere and pushed her trolley right through this gentlemen and he vanished instantly! Then I fainted.” I stopped.

Neelam shot up and moved to my desk and pulled out a worn out diary, “Is this the one you saw? You were holding it when you fainted.”

I nodded, “I think it is.”

Neelam flipped through the diary and froze mid-way. I moved closer to take a look. A picture of a young woman in saree, decked with ancient jewellery, in a black and white close-up photo was pinned there. The date on the page was 10th December 1919. It was me!

“I found you this time too, but my second chance…”  This unfinished note was written next to the picture, in fresh ink.

*****