Just to clarify to all those expectant readers, I apologise for the delay, it was purely because I never had both the time and the mood simultaneously to write it until now. In the end, it just took a little more than 2 hrs. You see, the delay wasn’t intentional at all.
“U1A”. I spluttered. I had meant to say it normally with a confident voice. But it came out all wrong. Jolted by the sudden interruption the girl gave me a bewildered look. “U1A, That is the bus you should catch”, I repeated. She understood now, smiled and said, “Thanks, so I am at the right place?”
“Yeah, the bus would come here. Even I am waiting for that bus”
“Lucky me!! I thought I should be at some other place!”
“Where exactly do you want to go in Swaythling?”, I probed.
“The Swaythling station” , she replied.
“Oh”. I didn’t have much of an idea where the station was, though I was pretty sure that my advice was correct.
“Aah, here it is .. this is the bus”, I said pointing to the beastly vehicle coming towards us. We then joined the multiple queues that was emerging from the random movements of the people at the entrance door of the bus. (There was an exit door also from which a few people disembarked) Everyone got in one by one, swiping their cards or showing their passes to the driver. She also got in and settled down on a seat next to the window and gestured me to take the one beside her. Obviously, I took it.
“So, you going to catch a train?”, I continued the conversation.
“Aah ..(little laughter) no, I am going to receive a friend.” Yet another girl with a boyfriend? I wondered.
The bus started and we both sat silently, she looking outside the window and I not looking at anything at all. “So, you study at the university?” I turned to find that she was now looking at me. I replied, “Yeah, computer science. You?“
“Well, Literature. Not here. At the
“Oh, then you aren’t new to
“Actually I am. I just joined the university. My classes haven’t started yet.”
“You been here a long time?” She asked.
“No, not really, I just came here a couple of weeks back. I too have just started now”
“So where are you from?” I continued. She replied with some name which I couldn’t grasp. I just let out a “Oh”, unsure of what to say.
“You know the place?” She wondered. “Never heard!” I grinned. She grinned back.
“I am guessing you are from
“Yeah .. is that so apparent?”
“No offence, but I gathered that from the way you speak” She replied. And I used to think that I had no accent. Well, maybe no accent means its an Indian accent?
“So, where in
“Well, I didn’t expect you to” I stated.
“Why? Is it a small town?”
I let out a laugh. “Small town!! Its population is at least around 60 to 70 lakh, I mean 6 to 7 million. So that’s like 30 times the population of this city?”
“Oh!! Must be a very big city then”
“It is, I think it is the 5th or 6th largest city in
“Indeed, So you an undergrad?” She continued the conversation.
“No, am starting my phd” I grinned.
“Phd!!” She seemed flabbergasted. “wow!” And then examining me closely she remarked “but you don’t look like that at all!!”
“Like what? Phd students are also just normal people you know” I replied grinning though I perfectly knew what she meant..
“I meant you look much younger, no offence again”
“Aah, I know” I shrugged.
“So you undergrad or postgrad?”
“Postgrad. I will be doing my masters.” She replied brightly.
“MA it would be right? So you would be reading and analysing Shakespeare stuff?”
“A little bit. But the focus would be on other authors too, even some modern ones. You read Shakespeare?”
“No. Never read. I do read fiction, but mostly modern kind.”
“Any favourite authors?” She continued the line of questioning.
“Not really. I do like Wodehouse though. What about you?”
“Me? I read all kinds.” And she rattled out a dozen author names which I had never heard before. Looking at my nonplussed face, she asked surprised, “you don’t know any of them?”
“No” I had to reply with a sheepish grin.
“Its fine. Many of my friends have never heard of these authors either” She remarked and continued “So what do you do with computers?” I always hate answering this question, but had to answer anyway.
“Well, I work in artificial intelligence.” Noticing the blank look on her face, I continued, “Its like developing some intelligent systems, like say developing the intelligence for robots. Though I don’t actually work on robots.” There was no better way of explaining autonomous agents in layman terms.
“Umm, I don’t know much about computers. I only use Internet explorer and for writing documents”, She confessed.
She kept the conversation going, thankfully, “So, this is your first time in
“Good. Its fine.” I nodded again. Then, I looked at her and remarked “you know, everyone keeps asking this, and you give the same answer to everyone irrespective of how you actually feel.”
She laughed and said, “It is customary I think. You know, the kind of ways in which to get conversations going. So what is your real answer then?”
“Well, I think it would be I-don’t-know. Because it is too early to say. Though I am pretty sure I shall like it. New experiences are good.”
“I wont be too sure about that. I have had some real bad new experiences”
“Oh! In what way?”, I was doing the questioning now.
But, I saw her glancing at her watch, “You getting late or something?” I enquired.
“I mean at what time is the train? Are you getting late for it” I rephrased.
“Oh, I don’t think so. Anyway, she would wait. How far is it?”
“Actually, I don’t know” I confessed. “I do know that we will be in Swaythling in the next couple of minutes. That’s where my halls of residence is. I guess the station would be another few minutes from there”
“Oh, Would this bus actually go to the station? You sure this is the right bus?” she looked alarmed.
“Well, this is the only bus that comes here.” I stated matter-of-factly. Now the bus turned from the main road and the buildings of the campus residence halls came into view.
“Umm. So you would be getting down now?” She asked intently.
“Yeah” I replied and then added slowly “unless you want me to accompany you to the station” and smiled. As I had told you readers earlier, I had nothing to do that day.
“Ah no, that would be wasting your time. Its ok, thanks” She replied.
“Its fine actually, I have never been to the station either, I would get to see some more of
“That would be nice” She smiled.
So instead of getting down at the stop, I continued the conversation with her.
“So, who, you going to meet?”
"Chris, my friend. She is also going to start her studies here with me.”
“Ahan.” This was followed by some silence.
Once again, she took the onus upon herself to restart the conversation, “What do you do other than tinkering with computers?”
I contemplated protesting that I don’t tinker with them at all, that I am not a hardware person, I just use them to develop new stuff and so on, but instead replied with the lame answer, “Mostly spend time on the net, reading stuff, chatting with friends and so on.”
“But that’s still computers” She exclaimed.
“But its not work.” I smugly informed her.
“So, you are a geek eh?” She quickly added “Sorry! It wasn’t meant to be offensive or anything.”
“Ah. that depends on how you define geek. But yeah, I am addicted to pc, I mean computers.” I continued “and is being called a ‘geek’ offensive or anything?”
“I don’t think it should be. But you never know. Some people take offence to anything.”
“Yeah, it depends upon the person. Don’t worry, I don’t take much offence. I don’t like offence very much to actually take it.”
She stared at me totally confused, vainly trying to make sense of what I had said. Evidently my ‘joke’ was completely lost on her. After all, not everyone is used to them ;)).
“Sorry. I didn’t get you.” She said finally.
“It’s okay, it wasn’t anything.” I couldn’t go on explaining the humour aspect in that statement, could I?
I turned to the other side just in time to notice the board on the road announcing the railway station name and I informed her, “Hey, It looks like we are there.” So we get up from our seats and get down the bus.
Once outside, with the chilly wind blowing, I asked her, “So, where do we go now?”
“Into the station obviously.” She replied with amused look.
“Where exactly in the station?” I persisted. We started walking into the station.
“What do you mean?” She looked at me. I realised that she couldn’t figure out what I was asking.
“I mean, where did you tell your friend to wait” I hoped it would clarify matters.
“In the station! I think I told you that” She gave me a weird look. Suddenly, I realised my folly. Being used to those milling crowds in huge stations, I had presumed that I would be difficult to locate a person. But there she was, a girl standing, waiting. The only one in the station. I presumed it was her friend. And it was.
“Hey Chris! Hi!!” She exclaimed and waved at her.
Chris spotted us and walked towards us letting out a “Hii!!”
Once Chris reached us, she said pointing to Chris, “This is Chris. And Chris, this is …”
We both realised it at the same instant. We didn’t know each other’s names!
Nice story eh? Well it didn’t happen like this at all. What actually happened was:
I opened my mouth but suddenly found my view blocked by the old lady. The old lady had stepped in between me and the girl. She asked her in her drawn out British accent “You want to go to Swaythling eh? Which part of Swaythling?”. The girl replied, “I need to go to the Swaythling station.” Hearing this, the lady provided the required enlightenment saying “Then you need to catch the U1A, aah, here it comes. Yeah this is the bus”. And then, they both board the bus. I follow them. I walk past them in the bus, and settle down at one of the back seats as usual. And forgot all about it. After a while, when my stop arrived and I was getting down, my eyes chanced upon her hair and then at her beautiful face and I got down the bus wistfully thinking what could have been.
‘ M eh!’ He sighed. Airports no longer fascinated him as they used to. He strolled around the departure lounge seeking a comfortable se...