May 5, 2002

Coincidence? Or Murphy's Law

I was sad. I was going to Samtse for the first time in my life and the prospect of new faces, new people and new places seemed scary. I don't know how to put it into words but deep inside me something was amiss, as if I was waiting for something to happen. Maybe it was the fear of going somewhere, alone. 
Anyway, I started from Thimphu on a direct bus to Samtse, with a little help from my brother. I never felt so alone and lonely in my life. And above that I hadn't said goodbye to my best friend Ugyen Lhamo Tshering. I planned to call her from Samtse after I reached there.
The road was bad, the weather worse. I got deeper into my coat to keep myself warm, hiding my tears of sadness. The journey was monotonous with the clanking of the engine, and the blare of the speakers playing some unrecognizable music. After what seemed like half my lifetime, when my eardrum had nearly burst and my teeth nearly dropped loose from my jaws, we reached Tshimatsham.
I got out of the bus, swearing at the cold and went inside the nearest restaurant where I bullied somebody into giving me half his seat around the Bukhari. I ordered Suja, which brought some warmth in my system. I also ordered Bathup and a double omelet and was eating it when a horn blared. I thought my bus was leaving and hurried out but it was another one, which had pulled up behind ours.
I watched the occupants get out of the bus, hurrying into the safety of the warm restaurant. Most of them were a bundle of clothes. Almost all got out but my eyes were not following them. They were on someone who was still inside the bus - a girl of around 19-21. She was staring out of the window; lost in her own world, and I can still swear that those were real tears in her eyes. I was simply struck by her beauty. Why should a creature so beautiful be full of tears? But I had no time to stand there and stare. It was time for us to go. I paid for my meal and boarded the bus. But before that I caught her eyes, and smiled briefly at her.
We were off.
I was haunted by that face, and my companion must have seen that distant look because he didn't even try to engage me in any conversation. Thus I slept, rocked by the monotonous clanking of the engine, and a full stomach. In my brief dream, she was there and she was smiling at me. `Hello' she mouthed the word but I couldn't hear her. `Hello' she pushed at my shoulder.
I woke up with a start. We had reached kharbandi. I got down to relieve myself when another bus pulled up behind ours. And she was looking out of the window. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me. Encouraged I went towards her window and said `Hi'. `
Hi' she replied.
`Where is this Bus going?' I asked, making conversation.
`Samtse', she replied.
'Why to samtse? Any work??' 'I am going for training' `NIE?' I feigned surprise. `Yes, I am taking the B.Ed. course'
`Oh, I see' I was happy. Here was a potential buddy at NIE. I saw my bus about to move, so I said `bye' and boarded my bus. Our bus moved to Phuntsholing.  Stopping briefly at the frontier check post we were soon speeding down the Indian Highway, burning rubber. It didn't take long to reach Birpara, and I was having Chicken Rice' when the other bus screamed to a halt behind ours. The passengers alighted to have lunch. Hurriedly I finished my lunch and went  looking for her. She was asleep in her seat. I contemplated waking her up but something stopped me.
So I brought some snacks and kept it beside her with a short note.
"Hi, had a nice sleep? You missed lunch. Have these instead. (signed) the guy from the other bus."
My bus moved. She was left behind.
 When the bus pulled up at the station I was weary and sad still I managed to keep a straight face while I fetched my luggage. I caught a taxi and was on the road to NIE when I saw her. Her eyes were shining. I waved to her and continued onwards.  
That night cramped in a small room, temporarily allocated to the new comers, I dreamt about her. The next morning, we went to register our admission when I saw her ahead of me in the line. She saw me but showed no sign of recognization.  
Now we are in the same class. I don't mingle with the ladies anymore but sometimes I still see that face in my dreams. A face I seek solace in when I am sad, a face to remember her by - her true face.
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