Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Couple

There are couples, and there are couples. But this couple was different.

He was tall, and broad. He had a swarthy face, and hair that could have been a wig used by the villains of yesteryears to hide a bald pate. Except that he didn't really look like a villain - he was grim, but mild. He walked stiffly, and his hands were always in his pockets. He always looked at the ground.

She was thin, almost frail. Her salwar kurta hung from her frame like from a clothes hanger. Her wavy hair was tied back with a clip, she walked with a slight stoop, and was slightly pigeon footed. She always had a handbag on one shoulder.

My sis and I met them every evening on our way back from music class, walking on the uneven footpath of 8th main.

There was something different about this couple. As persons, there was nothing striking about them. They were both plain looking. Individually, you wouldn't have taken a second look at them. But as a couple, there was something that drew you to them.

They always walked, whispering softly to each other. They never ever smiled, but they didn't look sad either. It was as if they were always having a calm, serious discussion.

They never looked at each other. The man always looked at the ground, while the woman's head was half turned towards the man, at an angle of 45 degrees. She never looked at him, either, she looked at some far away point.

Their ages were indeterminate. As teenagers, we weren't experts at guessing ages, but we couldn't place them in any decade. We finally decided that they must be in their thirties - they definitely looked old enough to be married. The man could quite well be forty, but we weren't sure.

Every evening, it was the same sight. The two of them walking rather aimlessly on the crooked footpath of that busy main road, very occasionally sitting on the steps of a commercial complex and talking unhurriedly.

Were they married? We thought not. We didn't know any married people who would go out in the evening, walk without purpose on uncomfortable footpaths and sit on steps of buildings and talk, and then go back home. They looked more like office-goers, or colleagues who met after office hours and had discussions.

Another strange thing about them was that we couldn't fathom from which part of India they were. Having lived in a colony with people from all over the India, we were quite good at guessing which state a person hailed from. With these two, we couldn't even guess whether they were from the north of India or the south or the east or the west.

Once, we decided to catch them in conversation so that we would know what language they spoke in. For half a dozen evenings, we slowed down when we crossed them, and deadened our ears to the sound of traffic to try to catch what they were saying. But they always stopped speaking when anybody was around. Just once, we heard the sound of the woman's voice trailing off - a soft voice, with a neutral tone. But it was too less of a sample to take a guess at the language.

There they remained - the strange mystery couple, walking together every evening, for years.

I am sure you are looking forward to a surprise end - you are thinking that I am going to tell you that I met them again after fifteen years, Chintu-Mintu in tow, or something like that. I wish I could.

But this is one of the stories that you strive to complete by yourself, one of the mysteries that you solve in your head and convince yourself that you have the right solution.

This is one of the stories without a conclusion.

18 comments:

Shyam said...

If you were to meet the again, though... would you speak to them? :)

Anu said...

That was Cheating!

Altoid said...

I've had similar experiences. There used to a bus-stop across from our place. As expected a lot of regulars used to commute to and from there. There used to be a Coorgi lady that taught at a nearby school and always arrived on the 8am bus and left at 5. She was always seen, neatly dressed in the Coorgi style saree, with a matching brooch, hair well-done. I used to look at her and imagine..where does she live? does she have kids? What do they do? She had a handful of books, a handbag with a tiffin box and a water bottle, an umbrella.

Such interesting sights right? Like you said, I might never find out, but even now, after all these years, curious I am :).

~nm said...

Quite an interesting account.

I'm sure you wish you would meet them again. And if ever you do, do talk to them this time :)

Anonymous said...

I think most of us have such experiences while growing up that someone catches our attention and we keep wondering who they are and what they do and never end up finding answers to those questions for the rest of our life.

When I was in middle/high school there was a lady whom I saw every day while walking back home from school. She was tall and always well dressed and what caught everybody's attention was her perfect hairdo. She had one of those hairdos which the stars of yester years wore with a raised top,curly side locks(Madhubala,Kalpana type). Rumour had it that she had lost her hair to some disease and she was wearing a wig. She used to walk in such a way that she never looked anywhere but straight ahead. I have never seen her turn her head even once. It was very strange to see her walk the way she did. I wondered if she was scared that her wig would come out and fall on the ground if she turned her head. Always alone, always quiet, never smiled at anyone never saw her anywhere else except on my way back from school and she always disappeared walking across an open play ground into the other side where there were some houses.

After so many years I still wonder if her hairdo was real or a wig, well I may never know.

Good post.

Vish
NY.

Sushma said...

I agree with anu.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog to say the least.

Like the good bard said, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name smells just as sweet." So I will be anonymous for now. For your reference, I will be Praan (from "A Suitable Boy")[I read one of your blogs about anonymous comments]

Usha said...

Now I want to meet them and know more about them.

Anonymous said...

hey shru,

Do you remember the smiling lady who would pass by the township .. we were curious if her mouth was shaped that way or was she smiling all the time .. phew .. I still wonder about it.

Nice post.

-C (BHEL)

Kadalabal said...

your ability to carve the post with so much minute details after so many years is amazing your must try more in writing and start with giving to magazines. I was just engrossed in reading the full post and loved it yes in everyone's life someone like this will come but all will not remember as you did. so you have brought memories back to so many your colony friends. no comment from ur sis yet hope she remembers/recalls all and gives her side of comment.
pranesh

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

They were a married couple who were curious about the two nosy girls who spied on them every evening! :)

P.S. - Word verification: "urcute" :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi.
This is Shrinidhi, who had long back writen a post on making public toilets free for usage...

You'd asked if that will ever be implemented.

Glad to inform you we are working seriously towards implementation of that idea under the umbrella of Dream India Project and US based Jeevan Dhara foundation.

Consider checking the discussions going on at http://www.orkut.com/Community.aspx?cmm=45390632 and give your suggestions/feedback if any

Thanks.
Shrinidhi

Kadalabal said...

concluding part higairbahudu
you along with family ( not with sis) saw them t ur surprise in jayanagar shopping complex and u just rush to them and check up they look at u and confirm they are the same and asks where is your other one who is to be with u that cute smart girl. bla bla
then they tell u they were watching both of u a sort of following and they decided they will also have some fun and started all whishpering etc., and made u to wait eagerly for their identity.
at the end they inform at the time when u saw them they were not married marriage was to take place after a year or so and they choose malleaswaram with less crowd in this part and came there regularly when u both started spying on them so they took u for fun and added their part in making u to guess
at the end everything was fine and now u r friends ah ah ah!!!!!!!!

LAK said...

Awww, I was waiting for the surprise ending--

Anonymous said...

The mystery deepens ....


G'bye Agatha Christie , PD James

Hullo Shruthi




jm

Swati said...

Ohho ..you left us thinking ..what you have no answers for and nor will we have :(

brocasarea said...

its like in a suspense movie?..u know the ending??:)

Anonymous said...

Grrrrrrrr

- -