She was my five feet tall dream that made me look forward to getting up early every morning. I did not need an alarm to wake me up as the very thought of getting a glimpse of Anita made me wake up at four every morning. Her presence brought cheer into my dull and listless life.
Anita paid special visits to the kitchen garden patch behind the dormitory to get Basil leaves in the evening. She would carefully select the leaves and pluck them softly. I had seen her at the patch several times but could not gather courage to speak to her. I wanted to let her know how I felt about her and about us but my words would get muted whenever I saw her. Her presence had me dumbstruck.
It was an extraordinary evening. Mehta Sir was travelling to Devon. I was taking a stroll behind the dormitory when I heard soft footsteps approaching behind me and was delighted to see Anita walking towards the kitchen garden. She walked up to the Basil tree and I walked towards her.
“Do you like Basil leaves?” I asked her. “Yes, I like to take them with me for my morning tea. It keeps me healthy. Do you know it helps fight the germs, and you can only pluck them in daylight,” she said with a smile. I smiled back and said, “Yes, I have heard about it.” “I like my tea with Basil leaves. My mother always used basil leaves and ginger for our tea,” she mentioned.
I stood there waiting for her to pluck the leaves. I was trying to gather some courage to speak to her but was not too successful in my attempt. I saw her pluck the leaves and as she was about to leave I managed to open my mouth to let some words out.
“I …..I wanted to ask you ……….. ask you… about your parents,” I tried stating in a single breath as I did not want her to be reminded about her loss but could just manage completing the sentence with some hiccups.
“I lost them a long time back. I do not wish to talk about them Suraj else I will break down. I need to leave now else I will be late in reaching home,” she said in a hurried tone.
“I am sorry. I did not want to hurt you at all. I apologize for what I said. I really am.” I really did feel sorry and was angry with myself as I saw a tear in her eye. I had been stupid and insensitive in asking her such a touchy question. I had wanted to start a conversation but unfortunately picked up the wrong question in my nervousness. I was annoyed with myself for having such a bad start to a new relationship. “I can walk you home if it is ok with you,” I asked her hesitatingly to make up for my stupidity. “I will manage, it is not too far,” she smiled and looked away. “No, I insist, I will walk you back home,” I said to Anita. “You do not have to Suraj. I know you want to apologize but it is ok. I am used to the question and honestly speaking, I am fine, please don’t bother. Don’t worry about me Suraj. I will be ok. Thanks anyways. I will leave now, I have to,” she said to me and moved hurriedly towards the Mansion gate.
I was surprised at how she had been able to read my mind and that made me feel great. It was not such a bad start after all. This was the first time she had spoken to me. I was thankful for the dormitory being close to the kitchen garden and also to Mehta Sir’s absence from town which had given me this opportunity to talk to Anita. I wanted the conversation to last a little longer but could not think of anything to ask her. I was thinking hard and fast and suddenly came upon an idea to start a conversation with her.
“Anita, how do you select the basil leaves? I have seen you look at them closely before you pluck them but I cannot figure out what is it that you are looking for?” Anita smiled and said, “I look for bigger leaves that are soft and not too dark in colour. I avoid plucking smaller leaves.” “Oh, now I know,” I said to Anita. “I have to leave now,” Anita responded and turned towards the main gate.
It must have been two minutes but they were like a rainfall in a desert. I held those two minutes in my palm like a prime possession and walked back to my dorm as I saw Anita returning to her home. I wanted to lock these two minutes in a treasure chest and hide the key in some secret place where no one could find it. I was mesmerized by her presence and dreamt of her that night. Life had suddenly become very beautiful, happy and full of hope.
Excerpt from my novel “God Walks My Dreams” first published by Partridge India on 18th Feb 2014.