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Friday, 21 September 2012

Angel Eyes

Pranab frequented 'Sip' more than he consciously wanted to. His desperation to indulge in romance puppeteered his volition in arduous and often unabashed pursuance of that ambition. Pranab's visits had earned him the glorious distinction of a 'Royal Guest' in an eatery where perhaps one would only rarely find a second visitor of his age group. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the vibrant and juvenile gathering. But for the fact that waiters always kept hovering around Pranab, the guests would have found out his motives. Most passed him off as someone related to the business of that eatery. It's a good thing that a clandestine scheme had been devised between Pranab and the floor manager of 'Sip' owing to his apparent customer loyalty. The waiters had been instructed to keep the table at the southern end of the lounge always available for the man. He was never to be returned for the lack of accommodation. That was the instruction.  Also the waiters of 'Sip' memorized Pranab's choices in the menu card like their bed time prayers. Ofcourse it had more to do with an edict of their immediate boss and a habitual repetition of the same servings, than any truth about the analogy 'Customer Is God'. In those countless times Pranab ordered the 'cappuccino', 'apple's ale' or 'grilled chicken sandwich', the waiters broke into hiss hiss disgusted by his repetition of the same old treat for his tongue every day, day after day.

"Sip" had bagged itself the niche of being the most visited frolic zone for youngsters of the near and far corners of the city. The distinction was not however equally welcome among elders of the town. All kind of foolhardy indulgences were heard of being encouraged inside the place. Be that as it may it held its pride for being an addiction among the adolescents of the town. It was often remarked by it's most avid admirers that one must personally visit the place and spend some moments there to get a real sense of why the place is such an incredible rage among teenagers. Pranab never cared about or met with those reasons. He had his own reasons. It was in many ways the most fundamental of all. He looked out for meeting some girl and befriending her, with no dubious intentions whatsoever. He considered himself purged of all evil motives, especially ones with which those boys in the darker parts of the eatery pecked away at the necks of their female companions.

The eatery had two distinct zones tailored to cater to the desires of its two 'most visiting' categories of guests. The bedazzling lighting buttressed by vibrant upholstery and airy spacing among the tables in the eastern part of the cafeteria, just around the entrance, made it the 'look -no-further' preference of the friendly gangs. They flocked there, treating it like some extension of their living rooms, with their legs mostly not on the ground and their words mostly heard by even those to whom they were not spoken. Everyone moved beyond their personal grudges and remorse in the embrace of the enveloping aroma of the bakery. Much unlike the farther part of it where the lighting was near dark and the whole zone was cut off from the rest of the place by a huge wall of translucent glass, allowing partial imagery from the other side, just ample to tease one's imagination. The glass separation allowed it all the exclusivity that would suffice to entice pubescent hormones. They said that the ambience beyond it was euphoric forever. Glimpses of the alluring ecstasy stole its way out, the maddeningly loud decibels escaping everytime someone opened the glass doors. It'd gradually die down with the gradual closing of it. It was amazing how the two spots, sharing the same roof over their heads (not the ceilings for they were strikingly distinguishable from each other) shared nothing when it come to their purpose and their occupants.  

Pranab walked into 'Sip' on a Thursday morning, something which he never did. His homemade brunch was his favourite. He wore a fade proof smile. He drifted to his designated couch, simultaneously eyeing for promising tables. He noticed none. His grin left him like a disgruntled ally as he settled down. He closed his eyes and thought of his dream of dawn. He sat on the exact same chair where he was seated, staring  away at someone. Everytime he tried to make out who he was looking at, a power cut would ensure that everything turned to blinding dark. Power would resume the moment he would turn his head somewhere else. This went on for an uncomfortably long time before he saw two people walk out hand in hand. By the moment he was summoned by his senses to the real world he had managed to discern a beaded bracelet on the girl's slender wrist which had the words ANGEL EYES embedded on it. The climax of his dream was the cause of his chivalrous smile. He'd been led by it to expect that it was a sign of soon to be found romance. The smile had of course faded when he'd noticed that 'Sip' was teeming with couples that day. He hadn't noticed carefully.

The table fork slipped out of his fidgety fingers and met the granite floor with head turning levels of clink clank, jumping on its four pointed tips and turning over its head and musically tossing itself around before it was finally disciplined by Pranab. When he resumed his seat he discovered that his fork had distracted many eyes. He quickly nodded his head gesturing at all of them, his wordless apology. As he was steadily shifting his pleading eyes from one table to another, unlike the usual fleeting glimpse he affords himself, that he saw her.

He was fairly surprised on having missed her the first time around when he'd surveyed the tables and their claimants. No one could miss noticing her even in the most congested throng swarming with distracting faces. Pranab was seated at about ten feet away from her just in the mid of her right and her north. She didn't seem to have noticed Pranab, much less his toddler gaze fixed on her. Pranab savoured the glimpse and sat stunned under her spell. He didn't mind. It wasn't easy to penetrate beyond the reflecting surface of the goggles she'd worn. Somehow he caught her as she blinked her dreamy eyes behind the transparent glares and with each blink something inside Pranab succumbed to her allure. She looked lost in some distant by gone land of fairies. Her gleaming hair cascaded on to her perfectly broad shoulders and lay collapsed like benevolent admirers swooning about her angelic face. When she closed her eyes momentarily, everything priceless turned worthless. He was fixated on her visages like a infant glued to the plastic spinning merry go round, suspended right on the top of his cradle He had no doubt that her face was the most unblemished formation of the Lord's hands. Her faultlessly carved nose ran for just the adequate length, before silently surrendering it's feet to the depths of her face. Her moist lips reminded him of unplucked fresh red berries in dew drenched gardens. For a moment he felt something gentle flutter inside him and challenge the calm of his heart. It made him weak.

Pranab guessed she must be averagely built, may even be petite. Her fingers seemed like unbloomed lotus petals, supple and fragile. Her nails were prominently polished in magenta and portruded non menacingly from her fingers, a feature he hadn't seen about many girls. As his eyes roved along her contours and were on their way to her heaving bosom, they were distracted instead, by glimpse of a  open book on her table, besides the other usual lady stuff. She kept reading its pages and looking at the glass walls over at the entrance in alternate turns. She did it in infinite pattern. Pranab was amused. He wondered. What precisely was she doing ? May be she was learning by heart something for her exams, or memorizing vereses of her favourite poem. She did it in such kiddish fashion that Pranab found himself giggling, something he was not accustomed to doing in 'Sip'. She put her index fingers pin pointedly at the words and glided it across the page row by row,every page. Pranab was rapt by her elementary mannerism. He had been lured to inadvertently break out of his self imposed grave disposition, A smile had long dropped by and remained hung to his lips. Pleasantly startling the staff of 'Sip' who had concluded that their place of employment and Pranab ji's joys were mutually exclusive naturally doubtful therefore of his intentions behind his unusually recurring visits to their restaurant.

His eyes were keenly anticipating her next move. The palpable curiosity in them, was like that of a twelve year old. God knows what she read. A glittering smile consumed her face which in turn infused in Pranab such ethereal bliss that he was transported heavens apart in a moment and in the next, pulled back by her magnetism. Pranab sat charmed just like he'd figured he would be, on his first encounter with the fairy from his treasured fable, one whom he secretly planned to marry and make his beloved wife. The waiter in maroon costume brought her a glass of fizzy carbonated liquid teeming with restless bubbles, eager to swim up to the brim and find their freedom. The waiter didn't stop to take her gratitude but simply turned and marched away. The girl slowly moved her hands in the direction where the glass had been placed without taking her left hand off the pages she seemed to be engrossed in. All along she kept her eyes shut and chanted something. It all seemed weird.

Her cellphone began to buzz aloud. Thrice, four times, six times. She didn't pick it. The ring died. It rang again within seconds. Her hands didn't leave the surface of the pages. Pranab was getting restless. A waiter passed by and Pranab caught hold of him and commanded pointing his finger at the girl 'Could you please tell the lady over there that her phone is ringing ? The man resumed his erect posture and exclaimed with spotless politeness 'Sorry Sir, Can't do that...can't disturb her like that.

'Can't you see, she is not picking up her phone.

 I think Sir, maybe she doesn't want to take the call.'

'What ? Are you kidding me ? She's in a restaurant, chilling out, why wouldn't she take a simple call ? ' Pranab shot back in purposeful tone.

'I wouldn't know why Sir'  exclaimed the poor waiter

'Well then just go tell her and we'll find out'

'Sorry Sir. I don't think I can do that'

'Alright I get it' Pranab remarked with a half grin and reached for his wallet. He forked out a twenty and pushed it right into the hand of the waiter, whose palm had by now fully blossomed for receiving the nourishment it sought.

After offering a bow of obligation, the man went straight to the table where the unsuspecting lady was lost in her own world of words, and spoke to her. She didn't budge. She was simply seen making some serious facial expressions followed by some rapid movement of lips. The waiter was struck with nervousness and scampered away, not to be seen anymore. Poor Pranab could not even know what was happening. She wasn't raising her head from the 'God Knows What' book she was drowned in, she wouldn't take her calls and even won't look at the glass when she drank the blue liquid inside it. Pranab decided to himself unravel the mystery. He got up and began walking towards the washroom. She was settled on a table en route to the loo. He planned to steal a swift glance at the book. He had a good twelve feet to cover before he crossed her table. Just when Pranab had reached midway, she shut her eyes again letting out a steady gasp right from the depths of her lungs and began sinking back in the chair, her spinal frame falling towards the wooden support. In a lateral movement of hand she flipped the hardbound cover of the book and closed it in one go.

'Damn', a frustrated Pranab murmured to himself as he crossed her seat exasperated. He caught her fragile musk laden fragrance. It spread in his veins like a rising ecstasy. He strolled away hastily on his path.

Fiercely committing himself to the task of starting a conversation with her, Pranab strode out of the washroom. He'd spent a good fifteen minutes before the mirror in there, choosing and picking from the innumerable introductory expressions that he knew of. Nothing had changed about the lady. She sat embraced by the same enticing aura about her.

Pranab summoned one of the attendants and instructed him to serve the lady with a glass of their best mocktail. He specially instructed him to make it visually enticing. He thought of the colorful glass of whatever she was having a little while ago. He also tutored him to politely point at him and hand over the piece of paper to the lady if she wanted to know who bought her the drink.

Off went the waiter. He was trembling. It was his first day on job and to add to that this tricky deal. In five minutes he returned with a frosty glass of orange colored fluid with tits and pieces of yellow solids floating on the brim besides a diced lemon eating the rim of the glass. A rainbow like straw bobbed up and down the mocktail as the waiter lifted it off the tray and courteously placed it for being savoured.

There was no response. The waiter stood dumbfounded waiting for his cue. He could not decide whether to stay or leave after saying 'Enjoy your drink'. How about giving away the piece of paper anyway ? ' he thought. How would it alter the scheme of things ? he feared and stopped.

What's this ? the lady asked without even opening her eyes.

'That's your drink Ma'm. Sent over by the gentleman over there' came the waiter's reply as he turned around to slightly raise his finger towards Pranab.

Pranab's fingers were restless to gesture a 'Hi'. That would happen as soon as she would turn about, under the guidance of the attendant. That moment never came. The waiter stole a glance at him and sought his order regarding the scrap of paper. Pranab signaled at him and he placed the neatly folded piece on the table and walked away. Pranab looked on, as she neither touched the condensing walls of the glass nor inched her fingers towards the note which was fluttering in the breeze waiting to elope with it from under her ignorance to some place better. Pranab was flabbergasted at the inexplicable non chalance of a seemingly decent lady who'd just been shown a gesture of interest by a man. He would have considered himself fortunate if she would have responded invitingly, but admittedly he was expecting  resentment, some resistance, at least. She didn't even care to read the note which he'd sent along. Pranab decided that he must approach her personally. May be she doesn't believe in indirect propositions, he convinced himself before hand pressing his tousled hair and rectifying creases on his shirt. He got up nervously.

Lost in scheming Pranab didn't notice that a man, about his age, had come up to her. He bent over her table and began picking up her articles. Pranab saw him plant a gentle kiss on her head and take her hand in his. Pranab froze. They began slowly walking out of the restaurant. A speechless Pranab followed their leaving figures like a statue with roving eyes. The moment they stepped out, Pranab noticed that the woman slipped her hand out of the man's grip and pulled out a pair of dark glasses and put it over her eyes replacing the transparent goggles. A moment later she took out a steel rod and stretched it to full length. She began walking beating the rod on the path, partly announcing her movement and partly making out her way forward. Every time the man would extend his hand to guide her, she'd gently shove it away, claiming her independence despite her torment, though unable to make him give up. Ultimately, the man began to walk by her side, step by step, like a silent shadow, eagerly guarding her from any hardship that might fall on her way. Colour faded from Pranab's face

One of the senior attendants, who had been witnessing the whole event, walked up to Pranab and interrupted his thoughts

'Sir, She can't see.'

'What ?' Pranab broke out of his contemplation. 'Yeah'

'Her name is Kamla. The man is her fiance'.

A startled Pranab gaped at the waiter.

'Amazing. Isn't it ? They met at this place a year ago. Matters moved fast. They do when feelings are mutual, don't they ? Mr. Shantanu proposed to marry her exactly a month ago. She lost her eye  in a fire that broke out in her office. She surely lost quite a few things with her eyes. Love wasn't one of them.'

They have been coming since a year. Why the heck didn't I ever see them ? probed an aghast Pranab.

Your schedules never met, till today. replied the attendant.

Why the transparent goggles ? I mean why not the ones which she put on outside. Pranab queried out of perplexity.

Oh. That, Well, I had that figured out before anyone on the staff. 
It's because she doesn't want anybody to know about her handicap. She obviously doesn't want anyone's pity. She wants to live as normally as she can.. She doesn't want those unsuspecting vigorous noises around her to die out of sympathy for her.. Hence the normal goggles. the attendant explained with a warm smile

Someone yelled the waiter's name and he rushed off with the untouched glass of mocktail after shoving the small unopened note back into it's author's hand. Pranab unfolded it slowly. A smirk found its way to his lips as he read the words he'd scribbled for her.

It read 'Till this very moment I thought I knew who had the most beautiful eyes   :) '.



                                                                                       *************



"Angel Eyes" is a work of fiction and any resemblance in it, to any person (alive or dead), place or incident etc. if any, is only coincidental.

12 comments:

  1. Nice story. I couldn't understand much in the starting but as I scrolled down, the story just got interesting and I seriously started reading.
    The title just suits the story. Good one!

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    1. Thanks Snehal for reading "Angel Eyes"

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  2. I loved the story in the beginning contrary to all the readers ,may be because I had no inkling to the next part,but somewhere in the middle I guessed where this is going.You will keep most of the readers guessing though...great narrative and impeccable detailing.
    regards
    a reader

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    1. Thank You for reading "Angel Eyes" and encouraging me by your kind appreciation.

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  3. your story hold me till the end and the way you describe about "kamla" is brilliant!!love this piece..

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    1. Thanks Rohan. Your kind remarks are always quite encouraging

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  4. This made for a wonderful read. I like how it unfolded at it's own gradual pace. I don't know if you've read it, but it reminded me of a short story called 'The eyes have it' by Ruskin Bond. Good job!

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    1. Read it after you mentioned. Its really moving, typical one by Bond.

      Thanks for reading

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  5. Oh how I loved this story. Simply beautiful.

    Very nice work Anupam. You have got a new follower.

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    1. Thanks Sugandha. And Welcome to 'reflections'

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