The face was familiar but not quite the face I remembered. I was not sure whether it was the same person or someone else. Even in the sea of people thronging the Sunday Bazaar I couldn’t but help gaze at this countenance and muse on its familiarity and unfamiliarity.
Suddenly he looked around and his eyes met mine. Conflicting thoughts of identity still racing through my mind, I was not sure whether I should have smiled at him or waved a ‘hi’. But the long span of years that stretched like a mighty sea between my last meeting and this one seemed to lessen my courage to go and seek him and say, ‘Hello! How do you do?’
A young boy of three or four years came running upto him and clung to his hand. He walked forward with the child still clinging onto his finger. I hurriedly turned my attention to the vegetables I was buying. The huge gulf of time that persisted without contacts would never permit me to say ‘hello’. What if he says he doesn’t know me? Why can’t he come and meet me if he recognizes me? Never did I think that he too may be thinking along the same lines.
My mind raced back in years when I was a young, shy, teenage girl. It was during a picnic with a local club that I first came across this face. It was my first trip with the group and I hardly knew anyone.
“You seem to be a silent type. Why? What happened? Are you not enjoying?”
I just smiled back; embarrassed that someone had noticed me.
“It’s O.K. I’m alone too. You can give me company.” And he took the seat beside mine.
With his gentleness, wit, humour, joviality and kindness he made me feel comfortable and made my journey memorable. He was always there beside me like a caring elder brother whether it be in the restaurant where we stopped for lunch or in the beaches where we splashed water or in the king’s palaces and government museums which were there on our itinerary. For one whole day he was my sole companion, my best friend and the loving elder brother I have never had.
The trip ended and so did the relation. I didn’t see him for a long time and when I did glimpse him in the locality, I never escaped my shyness to go upto him and greet him. He too never greeted me. As time passed and memories like paintings began to fade, he too receded from the front of my mind. Studies and higher studies occupied those spaces and took me to different places. Success in career and achievement in life became prima faria and these small relations lost their place. But occasionally when some one mentions an elder brother or when I watch movies or read stories of brother – sister relationships, memories of him once again re-surface; but only to get buried deeper as other things occupied my time and mind’s space. Maybe in accordance with the saying ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’, he would eternally remain my brother.
As years ran backward in my mind’s picture frame, I had the sudden urge to turn back and see if he too had felt the need to turn back and look once again for any recognizing lines in my face. I turned and my heart leaped to see his face turned too. Our eyes met once again. Was there recognition in them?
He carried on forward. Time had done its job.