"Trains are liable to make up or loose time" the painted foot note read - on the little black board she used to write the arrival timings of the trains in that small town Railway station she worked in. She would look at the sentence and cringe. "loose time!" "loose time"? Really?How could a picky language lover tolerate the confusion? But no one ever seemed to notice it like she did - or no one ever seemed to bother if they'd noticed it in the first place. Till he came in to the picture on a bright weekday. The crowd thickened around her counter window- but he waited- till he got a chance to come closer to speak to her from the other side. "But it has to read Lose, Not loose!" He pointed out. She looked at him with immense interest, almost like she had found a voice resonating with her own. Almost as if she was in shock to realize that there was another person existing in this world that looked and noticed the little things the way she did.
"It is painted that way" She offered her explanation, her acne accented cheeks which were already red from the inflammation turned a shade brighter as she spoke. Her perfectionism making her wonder if he thought she'd painted the letters that way. She suddenly remembered the way one of her uncles asked how stationary was different from Stationery when she was in primary school. She remembered how she felt insulted that he'd think she'd not know. This young woman, all of eighteen was a lover of all things perfect and Her language topped the charts.
"Just saying!" He smiled. With a twinkle in his eyes and disappeared into the busy platform. She looked in his direction and smiled without her knowledge.
"What are you so happy about?" A colleague's question brought her back to the moment and she got back to her work in the enquiry counter.
"Is the east bound train coming in anytime soon?" A familiar voice made her look up from the book she was reading. She was in her night shift and the relatively free schedule of trains allowed her to dig into books. She looked to find him again - her face broke into a beaming smile.
"oh, you? How are you"
"Yeah, the train will be here momentarily"
"Thanks - By the way, what keeps you so engrossed?"
"Oh- this book" She lifts the book into her hands and flashes the cover.
"Anna Karenina?" Nice read. Heavy, tragic - but nice read!"
"You read it?"
" I think I did!"
"You read a lot?" Her heart was racing now. There is a connection with this person.
"I am bound to. I teach"
Now she got up from her seat.
"Awesome!" She squealed in joy.
"Don't tell me you teach English"
"Yes, my dear! I do!"
"No kidding - So tell me we can discuss 'Paradise Lost'
"Sure we can. Tell me when and where?"
She wanted to say "Right here, right now" but contained her excitement and said whenever you can spare some time.
Now it was obvious he loved her. Like his own, and how would a hopelessly romantic eighteen year old not love him back? They were walking back to a nearby coffee shop to get refreshments.
"Get something" he insisted. " I think I am okay" she excused herself. She was lost in the way he sang to her on the platform - a divine hymn singing the glory of Goddess Shakti. She got off her schedule to meet him on the platform while he waited for a train to arrive. They both sat on one of those benches planted into the concrete of the platform, oblivious to the world around them. From a distance, it was an amusing scene - for no bystander would understand what connects them so intensely as to make them lost in each other on a busy platform with all the hustle and bustle thrown in.
The train arrived and his guest who was passing through the station, got off the train to wish him. "Meet my friend" - he would introduce her to the guest. "Meet Daya Mata - the head in our Ranchi headquarters - he told her, as she joined her hands to greet the guest. He was heavily into spirituality and meditation - one of the other aspects that intrigued her to no end.
"I am dropping you home" he confirmed as the train took away the passing guest - without asking her if she wanted him to.
"I'll take the bus" She insisted.
"Follow me! No arguments"
They drove home on his motorbike - lost as ever in their own world.
He drove to her home with the copy of his Thesis. Read it - you'll love it" He offered. And then he asked her to come over to meet him at his work - in the nearby Degree college.
She walked to his work - found the college peon and told him that she was here for the English professor.
"Sir told me Miss" The peon would flash a grin. "Please wait while I get you some tea" He'd walk her into the staff room and offer her some tea.
"There you are" He said - with unmistakable joy in his voice.
" I hope the peon recognized you"
He pulled a chair to sit next to her and lowered his voice to a mock whisper "I told him there would be a girl looking for me in the evening - A strikingly gorgeous and poised one"
His love and awe for her out did the collective efforts of the all the boys who hit on her. His words made her feel beautiful and confident.
She managed a silent embarrassed smile.
"What are you smiling about? You know right? - You are a very pretty and sensible young woman, and I wanted to warn the peon beforehand so that he would get ready to lose his heart"
Her smile stretched from ear to ear...is it not enough that this man taught her ' Paradise Lost' and made her discover Milton? Is it not enough that the man connects with her like magic and sings to her and awes her with his outlook on life and endears her with his gentle kind ways? Is it not enough that he charms her with his intellect?
She collected her notes that day and walked home feeling like a pageant winner.
It is their usual place of meeting. The coffee shop opposite the railway station. A man walks to him and wishes him
"Good afternoon professor, what brings you here?"
"I had to meet some friend passing through"
The man looks at her and recognizes her.
'So, she works here with the Railways?" the man asks him.
"yeah she does - what might interest you is that she is a student of literature as well"
"My daughter is a student of literature too - the man adds. It is endearing when daughters take up their fathers' passions"
She understood the misconception going through the man's mind and attempted to offer a clarification.
"Yeah, it is endearing - he cuts her off" and hurriedly takes leave of the man saying he has some work to attend to.
She follows him while saying bye to the man they just met.
On her way back home, sitting behind him on his motorbike, she asked him
"But the man thought I was your daughter - it is funny though, one of my traffic controllers called me the other day on the network line to give me some work related info and he assumed the same thing as well - telling me he was your student and he never knew that I am your daughter, it seems the other day he saw us in the coffee shop together."
"What did you say to him?"
" I told him you are my daddy's friend. You know what was funny? He was telling me how handsome you were in your day. Funny cause I think you are hands down one of the most interesting and handsome men I'd met so far"
He let out a loud laughter.
"Thank you I guess?"
"But anyway, why did you not tell this man I wasn't your kid?"
"Because I feel you are mine"
She smiled to herself - one of those beaming smiles that bloom on her face when she is in his company.
And they drove back home lost in one of those conversations.