The airport in Hyderabad was a huge building, organized beyond my expectations. The cold draft from the air-conditioning system wouldn’t give a hint that outside was a hot summer. I was waiting for my luggage to appear, thinking how to make possible a short trip to Arga and Taj Mahal in between the conference and the meetings in “MotoSound” that I came for. It would’ve been a shame to come all the way to India and to not see the marble mausoleum built from the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife.
The purple suitcase, with my initials on, appeared and I headed towards the exit gate. On the other side, in the waiting hall I saw a girl and a boy holding a card-board with “MotoSound” sign and I figured, they were the welcome people. Going close to them, I saw the name tag on the girl’s clothes and I recognized her- Sabeena Malor, I was communicating with her all this time via e-mails. I had no idea she was so young, she looked no more than 20 years old, so cute in her dark blue, office dress. I don’t know why I expected to see her in colorful saree and a scarf tied elegantly into her shiny, black hair. I smiled and said:
— Hi, I’m Erica Lazaridi from “Motosound” Athens.
–Welcome to Hyderabad Ms. Lazaridi, the car is waiting for us.
The boy took my suitcase and walked after Sabeena and me. I didn’t need a second look at young Mr. Neel Gadha to notice the butterflies floating around, every time he looked at Sabeena. I hoped she knew that too. There was no better gift for the eyes than the sight of these two love souls. In the car I was half absorbed by the Charminar and the Golconda fort, passing on the way, while Sabeena informed me about the conference scheduled for the next day in the afternoon and the meetings for the day after that. I had almost 24 hours free. She offered kindly assistance for entertainment, but I said I will relax tonight and get ready with my notes and maybe tomorrow we can do something together, she and Neel can show me the town around.
Hotel Viceroy, architectural masterpiece, with view the Buddha statue in the Hussain Sagar Lake, couldn’t be a better choice to stay at. Sabeena and Neel helped with checking-in and then I was left alone in the luxury room. The hot bath was what I needed after the flight. Once in comfortable clothes, sitting on the four poster bed with a folder of papers it felt nice, almost, if it wasn’t for the boring details about codes and mobile programs. The time was passing by so slowly, I was tired, but it was early to sleep.
The twilight looked so innocent from the window, pretty colors holding the rhythm of someone’s first love and as the curtains moved with the breeze coming from the open balcony, the smell of turmeric and coriander intruded the fragrance of the wealthy hotel room. There was this sudden urge to go out and find where the scent was coming from. I slipped into a white sundress and Jipsin sandals and left the techno world on the papers behind.
“Dakshin” was the name of the little restaurant where the smell was coming from, right under the balcony of the hotel room. I went straight to it and sat on one of the outside tables surrounded by white bougainvillea plants. A waiter, with guffy expression on the face, speaking broken English came right away and started advertising the famous Indian dishes. The way he was talking, sweet, with enthusiasm, I bet no client could leave unsatisfied. On the end he convinced me that the best I can order is a curry chicken with jasmine rice and ” sambar” lentil gravy, not that spicy for me.
I was enjoying the dinner, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the shop on the opposite side. Engraved in golden colors the name “Pothys” was like a happy sun, inviting you to go closer and get lost in the silk and cotton sarees. I didn’t finish the whole meal, I had to go and see that shop, I paid the bill and wished Munna, the waiter, a pleasant evening and promised him I will be back tomorrow to try the Roti bread and the Masala tea.
Blind from the colors and the materials of the nine yard dresses, I crossed the street without looking around. One moment I was euphorically walking to reach “Pothys” and next moment the sound of screeching wheels broke the air in a very ugly way and I felt heaviness pushing me down, hands and arms trying to protect me and the asphalt injuring my back. The fall to the ground was vicious. I lost orientation, the pain made me absorb all the voices of concerned people around.
When I managed to concentrate and ignore the spasms, I opened my eyes to see what the weight on top of me was. At first I saw his face and the honey eyes, looming with fear. Then it was the voice- calm, deep Bel Canto voice, not in a harmony at all with the anxiety he was still holding me with.
— I saved you, this time I saved you. – his lips kept on repeating and his unusually cold fingers touched the skin of my face like butterflies touching the blush of rose petals. He helped me to stand up and I heard him telling the people around to move away, that I’m ok. The driver of the car asked tons of times for forgiveness, I assured him that everything is alright, it wasn’t his fault and on the end he left relieved.
My savior wouldn’t let go off me, we sat on a bench near and the reflection of Hussain Sagar Lake lighted his face in such a beautiful way. I was still shaking from the accident but in his company my trembling legs and hands didn’t seem to matter. I leaned on his arm, rejecting my heartbeat, listening to him lecturing me about crossing roads carefully, about being alert in foreign countries where everything is unknown and unpredictable. The sound of Vivaldi’s Winter was coming from somewhere and I couldn’t help it but close my eyes and combine the music with the presence of the man sitting next to me. He covered my back with his leader jacket and I wondered if he hears the cold violins too. Moments later when I regained my normal breathing and I wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore, I looked at him and I spoke:
–I believe, measuring the streets of Hyderabad and saving silly foreigners fond of car wheels is not exactly your full-time job, is it?
— No, it’s not – he chuckled- but I’m glad I was on this street tonight.
— What can I do to thank you?
— Just stay out of troubles, I might not be around next time. Now, if you’re feeling better, I’ll walk you to your hotel.
— Will I see you again?
— Maybe, in your dreams!- he turned his face away, but I saw the sadness there. Strange.
— How about tomorrow, for real?- I hoped he’ll say yes.
— I’m afraid it’s time for me to go, to be finally where I’m supposed to be.
— Where is that? I might be able to join you.
— I’m sure you wouldn’t like the place where I’m going to. Ok, let’s take you to the hotel.
He stood up and pulled me with him, not giving me the chance to answer back and try one more time to convince him that we should meet again. Few steps and we were to the hotel doors. He hugged me, tight, desperately and whispered in my ear:
— Stay safe. And remember, there is always someone looking out for you, even if this someone doesn’t know how to show it or doesn’t have the right words, beautiful enough to say it!
Why did I feel that I lost him long before I met him? He came closer to me, his face leaned dangerously near to my face. I closed my eyes to stop the leaking salty drops, his lips touched mine and when I looked at him again, I saw him walking away into the lights of the night. Back in the room I noticed that he forgot his jacket. I searched the pockets to see if I could find something and yes, there was! A wallet. Inside the wallet was his ID. He never told me his name, neither did I ask about it. It felt good to see his honey eyes looking at me from the picture on the ID. His name was Sid, Siddharth Sharma. And there was his address too. The idea of finding him in the morning with the excuse to give him back the jacket gave me the motivation to go and sleep and to wake up as fast as I could.
In the morning the first thing that I did was to call Sabeena. I showed her the ID and asked her to take me to the address given there. What a surprise to find out that the address was not faraway, a house on the other side of the saree shop that I liked last night. We knocked on the door and I prayed when it opens to see his face, I wanted Sid to be the one to open the door. But no, it was a woman, in her mid sixties, with extremely tired and sad look. She didn’t speak English so I asked Sabeena to say we are here to see Sid Sharma and to give him back the jacket and I took the jacket out of my bag.
As soon as Sabeena spoke to her the woman stared at us in shock, the words of the Urdu-Hindi language flowed like bullets from a gun. For some reason the woman was angry, upset, hurt. A girl, with the same honey eyes like Siddharth’s came out too, puzzled by our presence, she mingled in the conversation with Sabeena and the old lady. I stood, holding dearly the jacket, not knowing or understanding what was going on, waiting for someone to enlighten me. The honey eyed girl took the crying woman inside and came back when Sabeena asked me:
— Where did you find that jacket?- the way she asked made me think before I answer.
— I just wanted to give it back. I thought with the wallet inside, he might need it- and I pointed at the ID.
The honey eyed girl closed the door behind her back, took a deep breath and spoke:
— Siddharth is my brother, was my brother. Today is one year since he died, we are just about to go to a temple near by and do a “shraadh” to honor his memory.
— Dead? How come? How did he died? One year? It’s impossible!
The two girls were surprised to see me so distressed with what I’ve heard. And how could I explain why was I? I, myself, was sure there was something wrong with me, probably the hit from the accident made me hallucinate, there was no other explanation. I handed the jacket to Sid’s sister and told Sabeena that we should leave, but then … I couldn’t just leave, there had to be some logical explanation to all this, to how I got the jacket in the first place. I stopped Sabeena and asked the girl:
— How did your brother died, tell me about him, please!
At first she hesitated, but then she invited us in. Sitting in a their living room, Sabeena and I listened to the story. Sid was a very shy guy, smart, handsome, but not that good when it comes to communication with other people. He was in love with a girl called Indira, the girl was the owner of the saree shop “Pythos”. He could’ve find a descent job anywhere, he had a master degree in electronics and computers, but he wanted to be close to her, to see her everyday. He was a waiter in the “Dakshin” restaurant, hoping that one day he will have enough courage to reveal his love to Indira. Last year, on this day, there was a car that lost control near the saree shop, Indira was out on the pavement. When Sid saw the car heading towards her, he ran from the restaurant to try and save her, but he couldn’t. They were both hit badly and died hours later. His last words were: ” I couldn’t save her, please, let me have a chance to save her”.
I don’t know if the story is any good, but thanks to Sonam, Olivia and Lingam for the help with the information on India.
And thanks to my silent muse … There is always a second chance, for all of us!
© 2011 Broken Sparkles