A Mallu Woman

 

Yes, you can make it. Yes. Go, go, go. Oh-ho. Damn, no!

The brakes shriek, the car immediately halts, and my body – surprised by the turn of events – momentarily hovers and then sways backwards and finds its comfort in the seatback. I am stuck again, at a crossroad. It has been such a year. And the day. And now, this. The traffic signal, standing shamelessly in front of my eyes, reads – sixty seconds. I wish I had the option to skip the time.

I curse the driver in my head, who could have jumped the signal at the last moment. Why didn’t he?

I shake my head and turn towards the window and see her standing all by herself. Our eyes meet, only momentarily though, before her face turns towards the shop she is standing at. It’s strange how our eyes choose to notice certain people and completely ignore others.

She is draped in a golden-white saree, which is in stark contrast to her perfectly black hair. The hair are curly and wavy, and seem to flow in all directions apart from that one point behind her neck, where they are loosely knitted with a white garland. I wonder how they smell like, and try to imagine the smell of the oil they were soaked in. I close my eyes, for a second or two, and take a deep breath. From here, I can only see the right side of her face and a glimpse of her back, so, I try to complete the picture in my head.

Forty seconds left. And now I am hoping that time could slow down.

“Excuse me,” she says to the shopkeeper, followed by a stream of words sailed in Malayalam. She is only a few feet away, but then, space is neither the only nor the right method to measure the distance between two people. Her contralto voice has found its place in my heart, her identity is still a mystery. I look closely. The brown skin is shimmering under the setting sun.

Who is she? What is she doing in a small place like this? What is her life like?

Twenty seconds to go. Can’t someone stop this timer?

She glances at me. Our eyes meet, again. Normally, a girl would look away. Normally, I would lower my gaze, out of embarrassment. This time, neither happened. We gazed at each other. A hint of smile appears, not on our lips, but in our eyes.

Five seconds…

I have a choice to make. That will decide the fate of our story.

Three… Yes.

Two…. No.

One… It would be really weird if I walk up to her and say hello, right?

 

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