lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bus-stand romance

He was never on the bus. But he was always there at the bus stop, when I got off.

I grew up very sheltered. I'd never used public transport until college. A school bus collected us sisters and and delivered us back home through most of my school years. Then my parents bought a car, and we sisters were dropped and collected by the car. It grew a bit complicated as we started college, as we went to different colleges, and school and college times clashed. There was my father's requirements of any given day to consider, too.

It took me a while to persuade my mother to let me take the bus, at least when coming home. It was never formally agreed on, or even discussed, but the unspoken debate went on a while. Because it was unspoken. I mean this is India and I am talking about the mid 'seventies; we didn't use to bond or talk things out or address issues then. Anyway, it was ages and ages before I got to taking a bus back home.

There were problems with routes and frequencies. There were buses that would deposit me practically on my doorstep, but the bus stop from my college was a longish walk, and it would be a lonely walk,too. I could take any bus to Luz and change buses, take any of the 12s, but for some reason, I used to take the 13s. It was a longer walk home from the Vani Mahal bus stop, but I didn't mind that.

I don't remember when I first noticed him. But there he was, when I stepped off the bus, walking the in same direction. At Pondy Bazaar he used to turn right, and I'd cross the street. I don't know who speeded up or who slowed down, but soon we were walking at the same pace; not looking at each other, not striking up a conversation, but just walking down the same road.

For months. We never spoke. We hardly looked at each other. But he'd be there. I didn't know which bus he took, or why he was always there at that time. I didn't know if he was in college like me or where he went after turning right at Pondy Bazaar. But walking with him became part of my routine. My friends used to call him my bodyguard and tease me about it. They'd egg me on, dare me to talk to him. But we just walked.

On days I was delayed by Buhari Hotel chat sessions and took a later bus, he'd still be there; with a slightly worried frown that'd clear as he saw me getting off the bus. I used to wonder if he'd ask why I was delayed, but he never did.

One day, I heard a kitten mewling in the ditch. I stopped. It was tiny, about a month old. It was bedraggled and had fleas. I couldn't even decide what colour it was, it was so dirty. I walked closer to the ditch and took a closer look, to see if there were its siblings with it. It was alone. Abandoned.

We had some sixteen cats of various ages at home then. Our matriarchal Mother Cat had recently had a litter. She wouldn't mind an addition to it. I picked the kitten up, petting it and soothing it.

I was vaguely aware that he'd stopped when I did and was looking quizzical. He looked aghast as I picked up the kitten. I started walking, the kitten cradled on my books. He started walking too. He turned right at Pondy Bazaar, I crossed the street and took the kitten home.

The next day I got off the bus. He wasn't there. The walk home felt lonely. The day after, I changed buses and started getting off at Pondy Bazaar proper. The walk was shorter and I didn't have to wonder if he'd be there or not. I never saw him again.

The kitten turned out to be white with a ginger tail, quite the bushiest tail I ever saw on a cat. We called him, with stunning originality, Gutter. He was the best tom we ever had.



Anonymous Badari Narayanan said...

Maiden spurned by a feline-hating cad - what a shame!!!

1:07 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Actually, if I had known he wasn't a cat person, I'd have changed buses earlier. ;)

1:55 pm  
Blogger Rohan said...

Very very...nice.
Was that all? Is there a follow up post...(yeah I want more).

If there isnt, let me know, I will write a follow up Postcard


1:57 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Why is it that I keep running into cat-persons? They blighted fluffballs never give me the time of the day, as much as I adore them :-(

Incredibly sweet, L. But now we want to know how L met K. We want! We want! (yes, that's the bratty Princess you never knew)

2:20 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rohan, what do you mean you want more? I never saw him again. Go on and write a follow up, I will look forward to that. :-)

Rimi, you are a cat person? Oh, Princess, how lovely.

You are not going to believe this, but I met K because of a cat. :D

3:24 pm  
Blogger shaunak said...

I am still wondering what compelled that poor man to be driven away ..

surely all those months of persistence couldn't have been undone by one small, innocent, helpless, little kitten ..

But guess we will never know ..

10:04 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ah, Shaunak, you underestimate the cat person and non cat person divide.:D

Picking up a filthy baggage from a gutter is perfectly acceptable among cat persons, but :( people who don't like cats get put off by all the germs the lady love is collecting. I can understand his revulsion about getting anywhere close to a young woman who picks up fithy kittens from gutters.

I hope he found a fastidious woman to match his heart. :D I wouldn't shed a tear if he hasn't though. :D

10:33 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

You are not going to believe this, but I met K because of a cat.


3:58 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

:D You want chapter and verse? Of ancient history?

9:55 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Yes! You tell an intriguing story. Do give us chapter and verse. I've been wanting to ask ever since K theory.

10:43 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh, thanks. Let me take an audience poll. :) Write in, folks.

12:05 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Yes, I do. And what poll? I, Resident Queen of It Awl, want it. Isn't that reason enough??? Some people! *exits in a huff, blog-left*

3:26 pm  
Blogger Siva Sivaaa said...

We dont need another poll. Its unanimous. Tell us the K-L love saga.

10:17 am  
Blogger shaunak said...

what poll are we exactly referring to ??
my brains are in their 'normal' useless mode .. so cant figure out .. help !!

1:49 am  
Blogger Praveen said...

hehe..mayb he wanted to know if ud EVER look away from him and notice the poor kitten thats been stuck in there! He left after the task was accomplished :D

the poll content...If its on Preets mailbox, I can check it right away and wouldn mind if its not blogged! If not, me with the other ppl here, start music! :)

12:15 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Shaunak, are you sleepwalking? :)

:D Prav, that puts a different perspective on the matter, doesn't it? How is pretty Preethi? Still unwell?

1:22 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Siva, okay, you will get your wish.

Rimi, ditto. Best of luck with your exams, both of you. Oh, and you too, Prav. Best of luck.

1:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purr, Purr, am a big cat, a Leo, Matilda. Love anything and everthing about the cat family....

And you really brought back lovely memories of Luz and Pondy Bazaar, specially when I was there too in the late 70's.

9:54 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Anon- Hi there, big cat. Yup, fond memories were exactly what I was trying to recreate. Of Luz and Pondy Bazaar.

10:08 pm  

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