My father met my mother at a bus stop.
He had been late that day. He’d gotten late because a pigeon had entered his apartment and he had had to shoo it out before he left. How fate works, he muses, every time he tells us the story. So after a terrible morning, he had left home cursing the Universe, a young adult travelling to get to his first job with sleep on his mind and a calculator in his hand.
At the bus stop he saw an entirely different set of people today, being there himself an hour later than usual. He saw a girl standing with her friend, in a long green skirt and with a flower in her hair. Not a gajra that would hang by a plait the way it did on most Indian women. No, her hair was open and flying all over the place and the flower was pivoted right above her ear. Hibiscus, he says. But mom swears it was a rose. Anyway, it didn’t serve any real purpose except to attract his attention.
“The bus reaches by 10 everyday, I don’t know why it’s so late today!” she whined, half-smiling. It was 10.10 then, dad says. And then, he says, she looked at him and smiled, oblivious to the light emanating from her soul and the little hipster city she single handedly created inside the ventricles of his rural geeky heart. I think he meant he fell in love but it seemed too abrupt a decision, so he decided to go with being poignant.
I’d seen pretty girls smile at me before; he says when we accuse him of being easy to please. He says this was different. How? We ask. Oh I don’t know. I just wanted to see her smile again. And again. Forever.
And as it happened, for weeks and weeks he’d leave home late and work late just to see my mother at the bus every day. He wouldn’t talk to her or even make eye-contact. He’d just wait for her to smile. And she did, his 50 year old cheeks still blush as he tells us, Every day she’d turn and smile and make my mornings beautiful.
Finally one morning it was raining and my mother’s friend was absent. She saw my father standing under an umbrella and asked if she could share it. It’s not like he offered it or anything, he was so shy, my mother usually likes to join in the story at this point, after a few minutes of blushing and ‘oh-you’ing. That’s when they spoke for the first time, and my father learned that mother would cut morning class every day, and so he asked her to attend it so he could go to work on time. Then onwards, she’d catch the 9 am bus with him every morning.
And he’d buy me a rose everyday for my hair, mum says as if to wrap up the story.
They narrate this so often, I begin to think they are trying to make a point. I finally ask them after one of their routine Sunday morning narrations of how they met, what is it they are trying to tell me?
Wait for someone who’ll put effort into you, says Dad.
Mom smiles and takes me to the kitchen. That’s true, she says, I didn’t even notice him much to begin with, but I’d see his eyes light up when I smiled at him, so I smiled at him. I knew he was getting late. Every day. But once I’d smiled his way he’d stop fidgeting with his pocket pen and checking the time and just sit up straight and beam at nothingness.
But even though the effort bit is true, that’s not my intention of telling you the story.
Well what is it? I ask.
She smiles her miracle of a smile at me and says; Never touch anything with half your heart.