She came to the bus stand on that Sunday. No office, nothing to do. But she came for nothing to the bus stand. Out of a habit! On reaching bus stand she realized that it started drizzling and she forgot her umbrella at home. She used to love rains but now in the bus stand she feels that rains are not pearly drops trickling down the cheeks of heaven.
One stranger offered her an umbrella. She could not accept the offer. In India, women are not that free to accept such offers and nowadays dirty incidents are occurring on the highways. There were few waiting at the bus stand, but no familiar face. The stranger introduced himself, ‘Ruchita I also work in the same building where you work.’
‘DLF?’ − she now gathered some courage to speak to the young man in blue jeans.
He looked shy but confident. One bus sped away fast without any passenger dropping down from it.
The young man told, ‘You can take the umbrella for now. I don't require it.’
That seems nice on the part of the young man. But Ruchita could not take it so easily. She wanted to take the umbrella. But could not. There was no reason as to not to take it. The man works in the same building of her office. They could be friends one day. On Facebook she might have invited him to be friend. But here on the open road, in the nearly empty bus stand, she felt all the hesitations.
The young man seemed to have lost all enthusiasm. He again wanted to offer the umbrella to Ruchita. But this time something stopped him, ‘The woman does not have a free mind, she looks innocent though’.
Things which happen on the film screen, do not easily occur in our daily life. This kind of offer of an umbrella can make a grand beginning of a romantic love story in a Raj Kapoor film. But here the expectations are only belied. The young man did not have any such feeling when he offered the umbrella to the beautiful woman who might have got stuck in the rains. He has seen this woman nearly every day while entering the office or boarding the lift. She looks so jovial and jolly, but here on the lonely bus stand, she is so different. Different situation changes a person in so different ways. Life is strange. The young man was about to leave.
Ruchita tried to be normal. She wanted to ask, ‘you live nearby, I think’, but could not utter a single word. She refused the offer of umbrella so rudely. Now all these words will sound hollow. The umbrella prevents rains from touching her. The young man might have felt jealous of the rains and did not want rains to touch such a beautiful woman. The care and concern is not much uncommon in a young man’s heart for a young belle. But Ruchita posed as if she liked rains more than the umbrella.
Was the umbrella a symbol of love? Ruchita was thinking so deep, she forgot to say even ‘thanks’ to the young man. She out of courtesy wants to take the umbrella, but waits for the young man to offer it again to her. Silence prevails for quite some time. One beggar urchin looking blank and was watching the drama.
If the young man says just once, she may accept the offer of the umbrella. In life things do not happen so easily. But the young man got to go without saying anything to her. Why did he offer the umbrella when he himself needed it in the rains? It might have been simply a gesture of courtesy. May be there is some element of chivalry. May be nothing; just a human call to help a woman in distress on the highway. But how rudely Ruchita refused the offer and cooled his enthusiasm to help a woman. The young man might have come to a common conclusion that beautiful women are a little rude and unkind.
Even a poet like Keats told the story of an unkind woman in one of his beautiful poems, La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Ruchita is not much different from this fairy woman. She too is unkind to the gentleman offering her the umbrella with such a great concern. But she felt comfort in the thought that nobody helps anybody in this world without any purpose. She has chosen it right not to take help from any unknown person although the umbrella is among the don’t − touch list of things which police usually notifies as dangerous for the safety of people in the Metro and Railway stations, even in airport lounge. What is done is done, and cannot be undone.
The rain did not stop that much. Drizzles drenched her while she started walking in rains alone. Ruchita felt not much bad now. She felt she was not alone anymore. Rain like loneliness is with her now. She has no need of umbrella, no need of any help of any stranger. Only uneasiness is that the thought of not taking the umbrella is not easily erased. Human memory is like that. 10% retention occurs of any incident in human memory. Suppressed memories will later become dreams. One day Ruchita may dream this incident. A young man offers her an umbrella and she takes it. Then she returns it to him next day in office. The man invites her to take tea in Barista. They talked, took phone numbers, Facebook account link and email. Ruchita even warns not to call her after 10pm as her father does not allow it. The young man can text message to her.
The story did not end in that way. Ruchita, nearly washed in rains, was walking on the road. She could still see the bus stand. The young man was not there. Rain washed out all the dirt from the road and all the sadness from her mind. The image of the young man was not washed out fully. This time the bus that came stopped and nearly for no reason. No passenger came down, no one boarded. The bus aimlessly waited and then slowly sped towards the next stop. Ruchita could take the umbrella from him. She could take it, but why would she take it? Arguments cannot lead to a conclusion, but to confusion. The rain washes everything, but not memory.