The tempo stopped with a shriek in front of the building.
Neel got down with his new purchase of furniture and another household. It was a hectic day. Shifting to a new city and a new house is always tiring. But at the age of 30 bubbling with life, new opportunities and big dreams, a new city is just another horizon.
“Take care of boxes please”, he instructed the packers and movers guys.
Neel was a software engineer working with a renowned company. With a muscular built of 5.9” and a smiling face and a deep gaze, he can easily be termed as handsome.
The building had 3 flats on each floor. One was occupied. Rest two were vacant, out of which Neel is shifting into one.
His flat was more like a bachelor’s pad. His one BHK was an extension of his personality, warm, efficient and no fuss.
Minimalistic yet efficient furniture adorns the living space. The big window was a gateway to the balcony too.
His favourite part was the balcony, facing the road and the garden and adjacent to the next flat’s balcony!!
He had grown up in Government colony with a lot of greenery, so just to revive those memories he chooses to keep few plants and a small seating arrangement to utilise during his work from home days. This neat arrangement was unlike any bachelor’s pad but then he was different.
His days were usual, early morning gym, office and back to home. Sometimes he used to hang around with friends or call them over to his flat, but usually, it used to be him alone in his balcony, with a long chat with his mom.
Neel’s mom, his best friend!!
He shared everything with her. Just like other moms, his mom was also worried about his food well being and yes marriage!! A topic which he very cleverly diverted every time.
It was a Saturday evening and Neel was talking to his mother when he first saw her.
A slender figure overlooking the railing of the balcony. Long mane hid her face but he was still intrigued. His chat was over and she was also gone!
The next day Neel took a look at the nameplate of the adjacent flat.
Why do I need to look at the nameplate? A thought just passed and Neel shrugged it.
Few Days passed and Neel saw an old couple coming out once a while but not her.
It was again a Saturday evening and after few work related calls, Neel made a cup of coffee and sat down to work. It was a bit late, approx. 11:40.
The same figure was there. Long open mane and a beautiful face. Although it was dimly lit but he could still make out the sharp features. There was something but, what?
He stared at her for quite long, and as if the gaze touched her she turned towards him and smiled.
“Hi” Neel smiled back
“You shifted here?” She asked
“Yes, just a month back.”
“Hmmm…nice set up you have.”
Just a few seconds of chat and she went inside.
Since then, Neel used to look forward to seeing her in the balcony, but again a fortnight went by.
It was early morning and Neel thought to take work from home option. It was too good a weather to go to the office.
He was talking to his mother when he saw her again. First time in daylight. Wearing an off-white dress with open hair and no makeup, he skipped a heartbeat.
He smiled at her and said a hurried goodbye to mom.
“Hi” Neel waived.
“You seem to be very busy? Didn’t see you since so many days.”, said Neel
“You waited for me?” She asked smilingly.
There was something about the face, eyes or maybe the smile, or the unexpected question, Neel was dumbfounded.
“No! I mean, I saw your parents coming in and out but not you, so just asked. You Work somewhere?”
“Hmmm, I come out occasionally.”
“Hmmm, I am Neel and you?”
“Neel..” she said thoughtfully gazing him.
“I am Alankrita”
“Alankrita… exotic kind of name, a bit long too. Isn’t it?”
She smiled tucking a long strand of hair behind her ears. ”My Baba calls me aalo”
“Aaloo !!” Neel laughed amusingly.
“Not Aalooo, its Aalo..”
“Bhalo, Bhalo”, Neel said amid his laughter.
“Oh, so you understand Bangla?” She asked with a broad smile
“No, just this and the universal Bangla phrase.”
“…..???” There was an expression of question on her face.
“Ami tumake bhalo bashi. Thanks to Amitabh Bachchan’s song.”
She had a hearty laughter, ”I hope you know the meaning too.”
He smiled, and his heart skipped a beat again!!
Days passed. Neel saw Alankrita occasionally. She generally used to come out for few seconds in late evenings, to get fresh air.
They used to have chit-chat. Generally lasting few minute but there was something that was binding Neel with Aalo.
Her thoughts were different and so was the take on life too. She was mystic and beautiful. Her eyes were deep but there was something, Neel was not able to see, or wanted to see up and close.
One evening, Neel was talking to his mom. It was regarding his marriage which was now getting a constant point of tug between them and as usual Neel decided to end the conversation but this time his tone was harsh and rude too.
He just sat on his chair, passing his fingers through hairs in exasperation and turned his face to the adjacent balcony.
Aalo was standing there, facing him.
“Hi, Long time.”
“Whom you were talking to, so rudely?” she asked.
“Oh that! My mom. She is just after my life for getting married. Why don’t parents give us some space?”
“You should immediately say sorry to her.”
She said in a stern voice.
“What?? Ok, I know I did wrong but I will say tomorrow.” He said with a smile.
“How have you been? It seems you never have an argument with uncle aunty. Do you?” Neel said, trying to divert the topic.
“Mine is a different story, but you say sorry, now!” she insisted.
“Okay” His arrogance was gone and he dialled his mom’s number.
“Sorry, Ma!” They had a chat and Neel put the phone down.
Aalo was still waiting.
He turned to face her.
“Yes,” She said.” Never wait for tomorrow to express emotions. Say it now. You love, you hate, you need, everything is in now. Tomorrow sometimes never comes. Bas bol do, just say it”
There was something magical in that moment. Something beautiful, intriguing.
There were a couple of minutes of silence. A silence which was stretching through the horizon. Not a single noise, but only an necho of silence.
“Can you come for a coffee with me tomorrow?”
Aalo took a long gaze at Neel,“Ask baba.”
Before turning to go she stopped, ”Neel,you are genuine at heart. Just live for the moment. Don’t plan much.”
Before Neel could ask the relevance of statement, she was gone.
Next day was Sunday. Neel took a whole day to decide and finally decided to knock the adjacent door, and ask for permission from Mr Subodh Chattrejee to take his Aalo for a coffee.
He knocked the door.
An elegant lady opened the door.
He said that he wanted to see Mr Chatterjee.
Inside of house had an artistic décor. He sat waiting to see a glimpse of Aalo.
Mr Chatterjee came, ”Yes?”
“Hi sir, I recently shifted to the flat next door.” With this Neel gave his introduction about his job and family.
“I saw you a couple of times in balcony and I used to have a chat with your daughter too. I was thinking to ask for permission for coffee with Aalo, I mean Alankrita. Can I take her out.”
Mr Chatterjee was perplexed and a bit annoyed too” Is this some kind of joke.”
“Why Sir. I am a decent boy.”
“Aalo is dead long back.”
There was a silence. But a noisy silence. A noise so loud that it was deafening for Neel.
He could not utter a word. After few minutes, he narrated his whole story and described aalo, which matched to the picture on the wall.
Alankrita’s picture with a garland.
“It was the first time I had an argument with my daughter. She wanted to marry someone whom I didn’t approve off. She left home in anger. Later, I decided to call her and she I guess was feeling sorry and she messaged me that she is coming back. She was riding her scooter when someone banged her from behind. She died on the spot. I could not say sorry to her.”Mr Chatterjee explained, once Neel was a bit normal.
“She was sorry too, sir. She also wanted to say sorry to you. I guess that’s why she chose me.”
Neel, and Mr Chatterjee shared something beyond explanation. Both regret of not saying something on time.
Neel still sits on the balcony, waiting to see her again someday. To look into the eyes and just say it!