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.