“That is so sweet… would you mind if I took a photo?”
“Not at all”, and I narrowed the 3 inch gap between me and the bear-faced dog sitting by my side. We were perched on a road-side skirting, overlooking the deep valley in Landour, Mussourie.
I watched her as she fussed over her camera, trying different settings and angles to get us just right – average height, slim but not thin, hair to her shoulders, not much of a model thankfully but with eyes that would melt butter. I liked her shoes… white sneakers with bright orange laces – perfect with her jeans and white tshirt – just the right amount of colour. It was I who should have been photographing her.
“That’s lovely… give him another hug… oh I’m sorry – is it a male or a female?”
“Umm… I’m not sure actually…”
“What do you mean? What’s it called?”
“I think you think he or well she is mine…”
“And he…or she… isn’t?”
“No no… I just met him…her…oh what the hell…”
And I gingerly felt the underside of the dog, lifting the leg and peeking below.
“Ok so it’s a he…!!”
She laughed and came closer.
“So what are you doing with him?”
“Nothing really. I was walking by and I saw him and wanted to pretend for a few minutes that he was mine so I sat down next to him – and he of course didn’t stir, let alone wiggle a bushy eyebrow. And that’s when you came along.”
“Such a shame… you both look lovely together.”
“Really? Wow. That’s the first time I’ve been told that vis-a-vis a dog.”
I noticed how free her laugh was – not loud but with complete abandon which can only make others laugh, even if they don’t know what the joke is. She came right up to us and let the dog smell her hand. Strangely enough, I felt as much of a dog (or bitch in my case) as he did and could smell a faint mix of perfume and cream – he however had the advantage of running his cold nose and giving a lick of appreciation. Oh to be a dog in my next life!
“So should I freely assume that you have a significant other with whom you look nice?”
“Well, you can freely assume because it truly doesn’t cost anything last I heard, but your assumption would be partially wrong.”
“The significant other and I looked good yes, but is no longer the significant other.”
“Oh I’m sorry…that was silly of me to pry.”
Was I so desperate or was that said with a smile, a slight sense of relief? It was time for me to ask:
“What about you? Are you a tourist?”
“God no… believe it or not, I live here.”
My heart gave a loudish thump for I had only just come to spend the summer in the cool hilltops of Mussourie. Trying not to seem too eager, I continued:
“That’s lovely… where do you stay?”
“You know the Sister’s Bazaar?”
“Just a couple of minutes from there – take the road up and there’s an old bungalow – belongs to an uncle and since he hardly stays here, I thought I’d make full use of it.”
House. Alone. A hop from where I stayed myself. This was too good to be true. But I needed more…
“But what do you do? Do you work?”
“I’m doing research on mountain folk-lore, so I keep shifting my base and jumping from mountain to mountain.”
This girl was after my heart. I gestured next to me inviting her to sit and she took me up on it, straddling the cement border, one leg on the road, the other hanging over the valley, giving me the strangest sensation inside – it was a lethal combination of erotica and vertigo.
“How long have you been here?”
“Oh, about 3 months now.”
“So have you settled in… made friends….?”
Please say no – say no – say no… In my head, I was already visualising myself as her new best friend.
“Yes I have… I guess it’s a small town so it’s not very long before everyone knows who you are. They will all gravitate towards you out of curiosity – most leave because they think I’m a bit whacko getting into grandma’s tales but there are a few who have stuck around.”
Trying to sound cheerful, I say, “Great… it can only help to have some company and friends.”
“Oh I wouldn’t go so far as to call them friends. I mean, I’m a little shy so I don’t usually go for the weekly soirees – it’s a little stuffy this community. Lots of teachers from the schools and some old timers with jaded Raj accents… there are a couple of writers and once in a while a richy rich comes from Delhi to brag the weekend away.”
“You seem perfectly at ease photographing strangers – rather forward for a shy person I would imagine.”
“Oh that…”, she laughed that gorgeous gorgeous laugh again. “Yeah, that was a strange thing to do but you just looked so great with Bushy here and since I had the camera…”
Silence descended on us for a few, long seconds. The she spoke,
“Besides, I felt a little drawn from the moment I saw you.”
Oh god no… could she really have said what she just said? What am I supposed to say now… god….help!
“What do you mean?”
“Well you could just as easily have said you felt drawn to the dog and that would have been the end of it.”
Smiles all around with even Bushy lifting his lip to join in.
“What did you mean by ‘the end of it’ – end of what?”
Damn. I couldn’t figure this one out – was she playing me or was she seriously oblivious of the madness that I felt deep in my tummy right now. With an intense but straight face I say:
“End of our getting to know each other.”
And with no change of expression on her face, not the faintest hint of surprise or shock, she says:
“You generally chat up passing strangers?”
“No. Only those who use a dog as an excuse to take photos of me.”
“A-Ha!… Well done. You are quite forward yourself, aren’t you!”
“I’m an Aquarian… they tell me we’re supposed to be like that.
“I’m a Piscean.”
“And what are you supposed to be like?”
“I don’t know… just thought it was a relevant tit-bit, given how forthright you have been about what some people consider is the most important bit of info during stage one – star signs.”
“Of getting to know each other…”
I smiled. She smiled. Bushy wagged.
And that, was that…
Such are the dreams that one conjures when a passing stranger steals your senses for a few seconds, so much so, that even though she looked through her lens to capture a scene of the wonderful valleys behind you, you in turn, end up writing an entire story on her. Bushy at least remains real.