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Trisha gazed at her mobile phone. It was the month of May, and she was in one of those of her marathon solo trips with a purpose. She had just got over with a Yoga retreat in Rishikesh and reached New Delhi in the morning. Visiting some friends and also some places to click was on the cards. She was staying with an aunt. After a hearty lunch, she had slipped into a comfortable siesta. When she woke up in was around 4:00 pm.

She scrolled through her Instagram feed. She stopped at quite an interesting shot. It was a shot of a narrow lane, somewhere in Portugal, that was covered with a canopy of colourful umbrellas. Particularly fond of playing with light and colours, Trisha smiled. “How I wish I could take a picture of such a place” – the thought crossed her mind.

Ting. A Watsapp notification. It was Rohit, one of her old college friends.

“Are we meeting?” he wrote.

Trisha nearly jumped out of bed. They were supposed to visit Hauz Khas village that evening.

“Yes we are.”

“Cool. Pick you up in 20 minutes.”

Rohit was Trisha’s go-to person whenever she needed some help in the city. He too loved to play the “Main Hoon Na” role. True, he was someone you could count on.

True to his words, Rohit arrived exactly after 20 minutes.

Hauz Khas Village is a historic habitation around the region of Hauz Khas complex. Trisha was particularly amazed by the graffiti that adorned the walls of the neighbourhood. Some of the most popular bars, cafés, and restaurants in Delhi were all jostling for space here. She gleefully clicked some shots of the streets and walls.

Soon it was time to leave.

“Where do you want to go for dinner?” Rohit asked.

“CR Park please!” Trisha nearly squealed.

“Ok, let’s make a move then. Got to drop you home too”.

“Yeah ok Daddy!” Trisha rolled her eyes at Rohit.

Suddenly a lane caught her eyes.

“Hey we didn’t go that way”, she said.

Rohit turned to face where she was pointing at.

“Yeah kinda the same. You want to go?” he asked.

Trisha’s gaze was fixed on that street.

She nodded a yes.

It was post sundown and the twilight would not support natural light photography anymore. Yet, she felt something pull her towards the lane.

It was a comparatively non-descript street leading to a parking area for cars and bikes.

Suddenly Trisha stopped on her tracks.

“What?” Rohit asked.

Trisha did not answer. Just few yards ahead, was the entrance door to what looked like a cafe, and outside that, hanging down from the trees were... a number of umbrellas – red, orange, yellow and white – all lit up, transforming the area into one beautiful aura of heavenly light!!!

Trisha let out a gasp and covered her mouth with her hands in disbelief.

“I pictured this scene this afternoon, Rohit. I wished for it. With all my heart and soul. And here it is,right in front of my eyes...” Trisha’s voice was nearly a whisper.

“Photo...” Rohit said softly, reminding her of the obvious next step.  

Click. Click. The shots went on. Different angles, various exposure settings.

“Shall we move?” Rohit said, finally.

“You know what?” she began.

“Yeah?”

“When you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. It’s a line from the book called – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho”

“Thoughts create reality?” Rohit said with a wink.

Both of them walked back in silence.

(This is a work of fiction and is not intended to resemble anyone. Copyrights of story and pictures are reserved by the author) 

A sultry April afternoon. Fragrance of jasmine and roses enveloped the environs. Sheets of white, pale green and purple adorned the walls, pillars and bushes. Children ran around the lawns, amidst the sound of the song “Chittiyaan Kalaaiyaan”...

“1...2...3...4...” directed Trisha, as she animatedly showed the steps to the enthusiastic group of girls, who were, as they call them “Dulhan ki saheliyaan” or Friends of the Bride... Trisha’s colleague Prashant’s younger sister, Sanjana was getting married, and it was her Sangeet in the evening today. Most of the office colleagues were already here at the venue, while the others would arrive in the evening. Knowing Trisha was into choreography, Prashant had requested her to take over the reins as the dance director of the show, an offer which she had gladly accepted.

At a distance, Trisha spotted Ishita, looking at the dancers. She sat alone on one of the benches, away from everyone.

“Ok girls, let’s take a 15 minute break”, said Trisha. She walked upto Ishita, and sat by her side.

“Ishita, I didn’t see you earlier today. You too are dancing, right? You haven’t rehearsed even for once today?” she asked.

Ishita was one of Sanjana’s best friends.

“I don’t think I would be dancing, Trisha,” Ishita said, her head hung low.

Trisha was surprised. “Why so? You’ve practised so much for this day! Tell me what is the matter? Are you feeling unwell?”

Ishita shook her head. All of a sudden she covered her face with her hands and began sobbing.

Taken aback, Trisha held her from the side in a hug.

“Hey girl, what happened?” Trisha said, her voice softer than a whisper.

For a minute or so, Ishita sobbed. Trisha let her cry, while holding her all along.

Finally, Ishita gathered herself to speak. Her head was still bowed down.

“Trisha, I feel so bad about myself,” she said, in between tears.

Trisha frowned, but did not say anything.

Ishita suddenly looked at Trisha and asked her, “Trisha, do you think I am fat?”

Trisha grimaced at the question. She looked straight into Ishita’s eyes.

Beautiful, hazel brown eyes. Pearl skin. Shoulder length curls for hair. She was heavier than usual, but God, she was beautiful! 

“Who told you that you are fat, Ishita?” Trisha said, her voice turning stern.

“Most of my aunts do. One of Sanjana’s relatives, Romila Aunty told me not to dance, because it looks odd! But I love to dance! And today, even Sanjana told me that I’d look better if I cut down some weight!”

Trisha felt a rush of emotion go through herself. This was so not done. She soon collected herself.

“Look at those uncles and aunts dancing over there, Ishita.” Trisha said pointing to a group of elderly people swaying merrily. “Do you think it really matters to them even if they are two, three or five kilos heavier?”

“But they are past their prime, Trisha! They don’t need to think about building an image, or getting a guy to get married!!!”

“True, but they have crossed your age as well. They too must have felt like how you’ve been made to feel. But today, nothing really matters to them. Ever thought how’s that? They are still the same people, right? It is only because they’ve chosen to see themselves differently now. However, that would not make some of them stop judging you, because sadly, they want you to feel as bad as they were made to feel someday in their young age! It just makes them feel better about themselves.”

“But that’s so wrong, Trisha, how can you demean someone just so that it makes you feel better about yourself?” Ishita murmered.

“Yes it is wrong. There is only one way you can tackle these comments. Please see them just like the music in between the lyrics of a song. See through them. Understand where they’re coming from. It is not you they are judging. It is a reflection of their own judgement towards themselves, that find a way through judging you, Ishita. Are you getting what I am trying to say?” Trisha smiled.

Ishita looked on at her, wide eyed.

“Are you saying, I too might become just as judgmental as these Uncles and Aunties when I grow older, and make someone else miserable, like how I feel now?”

Trisha’s smiled widened.

“Yes dear, absolutely right! Do you want to become someone like them, or do you want to become someone who encourages others, loves them just as they are, while genuinely wanting them to get better for their ownselves?”

Ishita wiped her tears. “I never thought about it this way. You’re so right. I should be confident about who I am.... But what about Sanjana? Why did she have to say that to me?”

“What about Sanjana?” someone called out.

Ishita and Trisha looked up, Prashant was standing right in front. Both the girls stood up, and looked at each other. Trisha nodded at Ishita.

“Prashant,” she bagan, “We need to talk to you about Sanjana and Ishita.”

In five minutes, all three were in Sanjana’s room.

“God, Ishita, I didn’t know you took my comment to heart! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad!” Sanjana said, astonishment ringing in her voice. “I just want you to look better.”

Ishita crossed her arms. “That’s fine. But you know that since my teens, I have been listening to people telling me things about my weight. Don’t you think being a friend you should have been a bit more sensitive? What if I told you someday, Sanjana, it’s high time you put on some weight. You’ll look better that way?” Ishita chipped in. Trisha was amazed and happy at the boldness.

That stumped Sanjana. She was someone who was quite proud of her own slim frame. She had nothing to say.

Trisha walked upto her.

“Everyone is beautiful in their own way Sanjana. You, Ishita, everyone of us. It is your wedding tomorrow. Let this be the beginning of a new friendship between you and Ishita. The friendship was always there, but perhaps you both need to truly understand each other now.”

Trisha and Prashant, then left them alone.

Back in the lawns, Prashant said to Trisha, “I just hope they sort this out like mature people”.

“They will,” Trisha smiled.

She then clapped her hands calling out the girls.

“Let’s get back girls!” and the music began again.

Five minutes later, both Sanjana and Ishita emerged. The group stopped and looked at them.

Sanjana broke the silence.

“Our main dancer is back!” she said, a broad grin adorning her face, while she held Ishita’s hand in hers.

Giving her a hug, Ishita soon joined the group. Trisha clapped jubilantly and side glanced at Prashant. He smiled, giving her a Thumbs Up sign.

Soon, Romila Aunty walked up from behind Trisha.

“Ye Ishita kitna achha dance karti hai, hai na? She dances really well,” Romila Aunty said with admiration.

Trisha turned at her and said, “Aap bhi dance kijiye na Aunty, why don’t you join?”

Romila Aunty shied away and murmered “No no, I used to dance earlier. Abhi kahaan ho payega beta?”

Ishita spoke up. “Arre Aunty ji, please come. Saath mein dance karenge!!! Let’s do it!”

Even as Romila Aunty shook her head continuously, Ishita walked up to her, took her hands and pulled her towards the group. They danced like crazy while everyone looked on in amusement. Romila Aunty gave a hug to Ishita.

“Thank You Ishita Beta. You took me back to my younger days.”

“Love you, Aunty!” said Ishita, hugging her back, giving a quick glance at Trisha. “Thank You,”she lip synced, looking at her.

Trisha smiled back.

“You truly make magic, Trisha,” said Prashant.

She looked at him and said with a wink, “We all can make magic. Some of us know that already, while some need to be told”.

Turning back to the group of girls, she called out, “Okay, one more time!”

....Chittiyaan Kalaaiyaan ve....

(This is a work of fiction. The story and images copyrights are reserved by the author)

An April morning. Kurseong. West Bengal.

Trisha loved the mountains. Perhaps it was more than Love. She identified with the beauty of creation in its entirety. The rolling hills, cascading waterfalls and deep forests attracted her like how honey would attract a bee. So, when she took a break from work, a journey into the mountains of Bengal was but an easy choice.  

She walked out of her hotel after a sumptuous breakfast of hot momos with the red and green chutney and black Darjeeling tea. Kurseong is a sleepy little town dotted with dainty cottages along the hillside, and steep narrow alleys. She noticed agility among the people when they swiftly moved through the height with ease without a sign of fatigue.

She soon caught notice of the high walls that had been built to hold the hills together. Interestingly, from the walls grew a line of white flowers. It was strange how in such adverse conditions, the flowers grew out of nowhere and thrived! Trisha clicked a couple of pictures.

“So much to learn from Nature... Resilience being one of them” she thought.

Trisha smiled to herself, as she passed a young couple that was struggling to walk thanks to the height.

"God, this hike is terrible!" The woman said. "I can barely walk!"

"Arre, but this is nothing, we have another steeper hike coming up tomorrow!" said the man.

"I told you let's go to the beaches, but no, you just had to choose only the hills!"

"But our last vacation was in Goa, darling!"

The woman gave a stern look. "Yeah, okay fine."

Trisha sensed the tension in the air. She approached them.

"Hi, could you please take a pic for me" she requested, extending her mobile.

"Sure," said the man.

"Please keep the wallflowers in the background." Trisha pointed to the flowers.

The man took a couple of pictures, and handed the phone back to Trisha.

"Thank You so much". Trisha smiled at them. She continued. "There's a museum up there on top, do you want to accompany me till there?"

"Yeah, we are going there only," said the woman. "But it's too steep. I don't think I'll be able to make it".

Trisha took a moment, walked up to the wallflowers, as she called them, plucked one and handed over to the lady.

"This is for you. Nice flower, no? Growing out of the wall? Like out of no where? Still so beautiful?"

The woman took the flower and looked at it.

"Okay, let's do it this way." Trisha began. "Let's keep watching the line of wallflowers as we move up. We'll take picture breaks too!!! Let's enjoy the walk itself. Sounds interesting?"

The couple exchanged glances with each other and then back at Trisha, who looked at them one by one, waiting in anticipation.

The woman was the first to speak. "Yeah, I think that sounds great. Let's do it."  

Fifteen minutes later, the three high fived. In front of them, was the museum. They had done it.

The lady turned at Trisha and said "Thank You, please stay this way. Just like the wallflowers."

Trisha smiled and gave her a hug. "I will," she said. "We all will."

They took a selfie of the three of them together and walked towards the museum.

Later that year...

A December morning, Dawki river. Meghalaya.

Trisha had heard a lot about a place called Dawki, located along the Indo-Bangaldesh border. There was a river that had gained popularity for its crystal clear waters that made even the deep river bed visible.

Trisha and some of her friends... in the midst of the river...taking a boat ride. 

The boatman did his job in perfect harmony with the river. The surrounding hills stood gaurd as if even a whisper couldn’t be heard by the world outside. They reached a spot where they got off the boat to chill for sometime.

Trisha touched the water that reflected the rocky bottom. How often do we get intimidated by the rock bottom scenarios of life? What we see is the bottom, but we ignore the water flowing over it. Why can’t we be like the water? Touching rock bottom, yet unruffled, calm, poised... just being?

She picked up a couple of rocks from the banks as memory, something to remind her to not be afraid of the rock bottoms, but take strength from them and adopt a rock solid attitude towards life.

Soon it was time to go back to the boat for the return ride.

As they sailed through the tranquil waters, the boatman started to hum a tune...

“Allah mujhe dard ke kaabil bana diya,

Toofaan ko ki kashti ka saahil bana diya, 

Bechainiyaa samet ke saare jahaan ki, 

Jab kuchh na ban saka toh mera dil banaa diya...

O sathi, tere bina, Raahi ka raah dikhe na,

O sathi, tere bina, Saahil dhuaan dhuaan..."

The hills along the sides echoed, sending goosebumps across Trisha’s being... 

The lines meant "Lord, you've made me strong enough to endure the pain, the storms and the shores have now merged as one, my heart seems to be filled with doubts you've collected out of the entire existence. My Friend, without you, the traveler has no direction. Without you, the shores can't be seen in the haze..." 

She closed her eyes and took in the song. The only sounds were the echo from the hills and the water lapping against the boat as the boatman steered with the oars.  In her mind, she listened, as she felt the Universe speak to her.

“You are a traveller through eternal Time and Space.

The Heart is your navigator.

It is the source and centre of your attitude, your thoughts, your emotions.

It’s on you, what you wish to hold in your heart.

What makes you feel like a winner?

Let that feeling be your guide.”

Trisha sensed tears of joy well up in her eyes. Isn’t it just amazing? The experience called Life?

(This is a work of fiction and is not intended to resemble anyone in particular. All stories and pictures are copyrights of the author.) 

Intrigued about how I met Trisha? Read the first of the series here.

Confidence. Calm. Poise. Words, that send through you a gush of inspiration, don’t they? Even if mere words they are.

When Trisha and I had met for the first time, one afternoon somewhere in the hills of North East India, she had sounded wonderfully mysterious about her profession, telling me that she was an “observer”. This story that I share today, gives me a hunch that perhaps, at some time, Trisha would have been working with some corporate company.

It was a day of celebration. International Women’s Day. The office was all decked up with soft pinks and purples, blues and peaches – colours that showed up in balloons, streamers, lights! The workstations of lady employees were specially decorated with inspirational messages and words of gratitude written by colleagues, anonymously. Yes, it was different than the usual. Trisha wore one of her favourite purple handloom sarees.

She walked in her cubicle and looked around.

“You are an amazing human being”, someone had written for her. Did the person actually know the depth of that statement? Or had he or she run short of words!!  She smiled. Another chit read – “Mesmerizing dancer!”, while another – “Colleague turned friend”... Trisha herself, like the others, had written down a few chits for some people and put up the previous evening before leaving office, without them watching. The whole set-up was cute overall.

After sometime, her two deskmates arrived.

“Happy Women’s Day!!!” Natasha nearly screamed, spreading her arms and even before Trisha realised, she gave her a hug. Trisha hugged back. “Happy Women’s Day, Nuts! You look great!” That’s what they used to call her. Nuts wore a dark pink shirt with a cute bow paired with white trousers. 

Shravan looked on, amused. When the excitement of the two women died down, he smiled shyly and wished both of them.

“Happy Women’s Day to you too, Shravan”, Trisha and Nuts chimed together. Shravan wore a light pink shirt and black trousers. His gelled hair shone in the lights.

Shravan looked puzzled. “Why are you girls wishing me?” He said.

Trisha and Nuts gave animated glances at each other. And then turned back at Shravan.

“Why? Aren’t you celebrating the women in your life?” Nuts chipped in.

Shravan’s face lit up. “Of course, Thanks!” He said in glee.

After sometime, Trisha went up to the washroom to freshen up. There she met Ruby, who was checking and reapplying her lipstick. She looked radiant in a full-sleeves light pink anarkali.

“That’s a beautiful dress, Ruby! You look lovely!” Trisha remarked.

Ruby gave a wry smile, and said a crisp “Thanks”, and continued. “But I wanted to wear a saree.”

“So why didn’t you wear it?”

“My arms are not waxed.”

Trisha raised her eyebrows.

“So?”

“It doesn’t look good. People talk. They notice.”

“Did anyone come upto you ever and tell you that?”

“Not really... but it does not look good...”

Trisha gave out a sigh.

“Ruby, are you saying you wanted to wear a saree, but did not, because you thought people would talk?

Ruby shrugged, nodded, and continued applying the lipstick.

“Ruby,” Trisha said softly. “So, would you yourself talk about someone who you notice hasn’t waxed her arms?”

Ruby turned at Trisha.

“I would. Everyone should know how to look good”.

Trisha folded her arms across her chest.

“Well then, how come you weren’t able to wax your arms then?”

“I didn’t have time yaar.”

“You should make time then, since it is important to you.

“I know.” Ruby looked a bit apologetic. She sighed and shut her purse.

“Can I ask you something?” Trisha said.

“Sure dear.”

“I don’t thread my eyebrows. What would you say about that?”

Ruby gave a comparatively longer gaze at Trisha.

She shrugged again. “Well, I didn’t notice that. But you look fine. Perhaps you don’t have time or maybe, it’s your choice.”

Trisha smiled. “Would you then judge me saying that I don’t know how to look good?”

Ruby stiffened.

Trisha continued. “If you feel great about yourself, and can place yourself with belief to the world outside of you, how does it even matter if you thread your eyebrows or wax your arms? How does it matter what people think of you? They might actually think quite well of you, you know. And here you are, losing opportunities for yourself, just thinking about some story that is only an assumption cooked up by you.”

Ruby’s expression softened.

Trisha splashed some water on her face, it felt pleasantly cool. She then turned towards the door.

“Happy Women’s Day, Ruby. See you around.” She said, and stepped out.

 Towards the evening, the office was agog with celebration. There were impromptu performances, cake-cutting, gifting of roses, and a few games. Everyone gladly participated.

It was soon time to leave. Nuts had left early as she had to take her mother to the doctor, they had an appointment, while Shravan was in the adjoining cubicle, having a discussion with a team member. Trisha finished an article for the company monthly newsletter, sent it across and switched off her laptop. She picked up her bag. Someone knocked at her cubicle.

It was Prashant. In keeping with the essence of the day, he wore a dark violet shirt teamed with beige trousers.

“Hi, you leaving?” he said, smiling brightly.

Joy was Prashant’s first nature. He was that “someone who spreads smiles wherever he went, he didn’t even have to try to be impressive.”

Trisha smiled back and nodded. Somehow she wasn’t able to forget the washroom incident.

Prashant noticed something was amiss.

“You okay?” he asked.

Trisha stood up, pushed her chair back in place and said – “Yeah, am fine. Just thinking of how wrong some people can think.”

Prashant looked at her and frowned.

“The Trisha! Thinking about what people think???! I don’t believe this!” he said, mocking surprise.

This had Trisha laugh aloud.

Prashant looked intently at her.

“Keep smiling Trisha. Happy Women’s day.” He said.

“Thanks so much Prashant. Same to you.”

Prashant turned to leave. He stopped for a moment, and turned back again.

“By the way Trisha...”he began. There was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Thanks for being the amazing human being that you are.” Flashing his trademark smile, he turned and walked away.

Trisha looked on, smiled, shaking her head, unable to understand the reason for this sudden statement. Then it dawned to her.

“You are an amazing human being”, someone had written on a chit, for her.

The message! It was him! It was Prashant.

Trisha smiled to herself, picked her bag up, and walked away.

An inspiring story indeed! As I finished it, my thoughts went back to the day I met Trisha. Coming to think of it, I actually don’t remember whether her eyebrows were in shape! I didn’t even notice that. What I did notice and still remember, was Trisha – the girl, the human being. Confidence personified. True, so many of us spend so much of our valuable time judging people and ourselves, that too about things that do not even matter.

My fingers inadvertently reached out to check if there was any attachment in Trisha's email. There was! A picture of the rose Trisha had received that day during the celebrations at her office. The attachment was named – “For You.” Thanks Trisha. I smiled.

“Happy Women’s Day, Tiara”, I said to myself.

(This is a work of fiction, and is not intended to bear any resemblance with anyone in real life. Story and Image Copyrights are reserved by the author)

Do you wish you read how I met Trisha? Here is the first of the series.

It was close to 3 AM. I had been drifting on and off slumber, when I let go of trying my best to sleep. I switched on the light. 

Just a couple of days back, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. My phone was filled with messages about praises of how strong and resilient women are, how the world needs more empowered women, and how the menfolk need to prepare themselves for women who are already aware of themselves. All said and done, all I asked myself was – “Do I feel free?”

I turned my laptop on to check my inbox. A familiar ting. Trisha’s email. I smiled and opened the mail to read.

Kolkata. Durga Puja. A time when the city gets decked up with lights, and the flavour of the festivities are felt throughout people’s homes, neighbourhoods and their food. A few weeks prior to the festival, Trisha, armed with her DSLR, visited a particular area, popular for artisans who make idols of Goddess Durga and her children. It was around five in the evening. It had rained briefly in the afternoon, so the streets were quite mucky. The colony though, was bustling with activity.

“Didi, please move!” someone called out to Trisha from behind. She looked around to see two artisans carrying an idol of Ganesh.

“Oh, sorry!” she said, as she moved to give them way.

Further on, she spotted some youngsters taking selfies and shooting portraits of each other in front of the goddesses in the making. Trisha smiled at the scene. 

She walked on through the alleys, taking shots of artisans at work. She soon got engrossed, and lost track of time. Realization struck when she found herself in a deserted, narrow alley which had caught her attention because of an eerie dimly lit surrounding. She took a shot, checked it on her camera screen and sighed, satisfied at the click. As she was about to turn around, someone caught her attention. She was nearly startled.

A little girl, dressed in a white, red-bordered sari, stood smiling. There was a red bindi on her forehead. With long hair flowing upto her waist, she held a pink lotus in her hands.

Trisha looked around, and walked upto her. She looked radiant. Trisha bent and kneeled so as to face her.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you stay here?”

The girl nodded vigorously, still smiling. “I was born here”, she said.

“I see you’re all alone. Where are your parents?”

“My father is a rickshaw puller. You know he drinks a lot and beats up my mother. So, my grandfather has asked him to leave the house. He doesn’t stay with us anymore.”

Trisha’s face hardened in a frown.

“And your mother?”

“She makes idols. She sometimes helps my grandfather in his tea stall, right across the street”.

The smile returned on Trisha’s face.

“You should not be here alone. Go back to your home”. Trisha said, softly.

The girl giggled. “I am not alone. Are you alone?”

“Yeah, I came here alone”.

“Now you’re not. You are with me!” Pat comes a reply.

Trisha was amused at the worldly wise little girl.

“Are you scared of being here all alone?” the girl asked.

Trisha thought of joining in the playfulness.

She rolled her eyes, and said – “Yeah, it is a bit scary.”

The little girl smiled, extended the lotus and touched it gently on Trisha’s heart.

“You won’t be scared anymore”, she said, and even before Trisha could react, she turned and ran, soon disappearing in the indigo twilight.

Trisha rose and turned around and started to walk back. “What was that all about?” she said to herself.

“Didi, please move!” someone called out to Trisha from behind. She looked around to see two artisans carrying an idol of Ganesh.

“Oh, sorry!” she said, as she moved to give them way, and froze. The same scene had happened a few minutes ago, right before she met the little girl. Had she been hallucinating everything that occurred in that alley?  

Soon she crossed a tea stall. An old man poured tea in small earthen pots and served to customers. Instinctively, she walked upto the stall. A young woman sat beside him, and was busy preparing tea.

“Chai, didi?” the old man asked. Trisha nodded. The man handed her a cup with steaming hot tea. It tasted like heaven.

“Thank You.” She smiled. She glanced momentarily at the woman, and continued, “Dada, I have heard so much about the woman artisans here. Is it not taboo for women to work on idol making?”

The woman looked up at Trisha.

The old man replied, “Didi, if someone does the work well, and does it with love, who are we to say No? My daughter-in-law here, she is an idol maker too. We get to export her work as well. Look at my son, he is a drunkard and he used to beat her up. I drove him out saying, go and show what you are worth. Then come back to her.”

Trisha stared at the man, speechless. Tears started to sting the corner of her eyes.

Regaining her composure, she turned to the woman. Something nudged her from within and she asked  “Do you have children? What do they do?”

The woman’s face lit up. “Yes, I have a daughter. I have put her in school”.

“What’s her name?”

“Durga.”

All of a sudden, like a flash, the scenes rushed by Trisha’s mind. The little girl. The red bordered sari. The flowing hair. The red bindi. The lotus flower.

Trisha rummaged her backpack, and fished out a chocolate bar. Handing it over to the woman, she said – “Here, this is for your daughter. For Durga.”

The woman looked a bit puzzled, and then smiled and took the chocolate bar.

Trisha paid for the tea, said a “Thank You” and resumed her walk back.

Without warning, it started to rain. People, mainly the photographers ran for cover, more to protect their cameras than themselves! Trisha swiftly opened her umbrella, and continued walking. Few steps ahead, she spotted a bright pink lotus lying on the mud. She recalled seeing a photographer shooting the portrait of a woman with a lotus in her hand sometime back. They must have dropped it. She picked up the flower, and smiled. Covered with mud, but bright and beautiful still.

The tea-stall owner was watching all this. He called out to her.

“Didi, it’s raining heavily. You’ll get drenched. Come inside.”

Trisha half-turned, smiled and said with a wink - “Dada, I am not scared anymore!”

And, that’s how Trisha’s email ended. She had attached a picture of the narrow alley, where she had encountered the little girl.

I closed my eyes and pictured myself in that scene. Suddenly the darkness felt comfortable, it was the solace of subtle freedom that filled my heart.

“I am not scared anymore”. I whispered to myself.

(Note : This is a work of fiction. It is not intended to resemble anyone in real life. Copyright of stories and images is reserved by the author) 

What is the first thing you do when you feel thirsty? You pour yourself a glass of water and drink. Ever thought of the correlation between your need and the water? You didn’t, right? Neither did I. Not until I met her.

Last December, I was holidaying with my friends in the North East of India. We were walking back after visiting a waterfall. I was walking slightly behind, stopping on my track to click pictures. The environment was divine. It was past mid-day. Birds chirped, and sunlight trickling though the foliage of the surrounding trees making it a perfect setting for a movie scene. It had rained the last night thus making the path a tad slippery. With utmost care, I treaded along the steep hilly terrain. A few steps ahead, I noticed a girl, her back towards me, taking pictures on her mobile. She also tried taking a few selfies, that’s when I went up to her and said – “Do you want me to take a picture of yours?”

She turned to face me. She was of my height, with dark brown skin, big dark brown eyes, black crisp waves for hair.  She was dressed in a grey tee, blue jeans, and wore sneakers. A beige cap sat on top of her head. She carried a trendy red sling bag. She gave me the brightest smile I had ever seen.

“Sure!” she said. I took a couple of pictures for her.

“You look like you’re travelling solo, are you?” I asked, not quite being able to hide my curiosity.

She threw her head back, laughing.

“Is that written all over my face?”

“No, I just...”

She held her hand up, stopping me midsentence.

“Yes, I am travelling alone. You?”

“With friends, they are just a few steps ahead”.

She nodded.

“So what do you do?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “Well, I have just given up my job...and I am now taking a break for myself.”

“Ah, exploring!” she said knowingly. “Good!”

“And you?” I asked her back.

“I am an observer”.

I gave her a blank stare. Did I hear it wrong? “Explorer, did you say?”

“No.” She looked intently at me. “You heard me right. I observe. But you could call me an explorer too. Kind of the same thing!”

She half-laughed, half-giggled at her own joke. I simply nodded, and smiled, just because not smiling would seem rude.

She looked at my camera. “You like taking pictures?”

I was taken aback by the sudden change of topic.

“Huh? Oh, yes, very much! I am a writer as well. In fact, I have just launched my website!” I blurted out.

“Wow! What’s it about? Let me guess, your photography?”

“Yeah!” I suddenly felt embarrassed, like I was blowing my own trumpet.

Sensing my uneasiness, she asked me the name of my website. I told her. She instantly looked up on  her mobile and found it. Around a minute later, she sighed and looked back at me.

“Hmmm...the main page picture – it is named as “Into the Unknown”. Nice. You like adventure, don’t you?”

“Well,” I shrugged again. “Yeah, I guess so. Isn’t life itself an adventure?”

She nodded. Her brows rose a bit; I think it was a look of admiration.

“Yeah, so just relax and allow things to unfold. Just as you breathe in, you breathe out. You trust the process, right?” She said.

We looked at each other briefly. She was the one to break the silence.

“So what next?” she asked.

I smiled and replied “That’s my favourite phrase”.

She laughed and said – “Hey, I kinda like you. Would you like to do something for me, if I request you?”

“Me? What can I possibly do for you?”

“Write my stories.”

“Sorry?” I looked at her quizzically.

“Yeah, I mean it. I want you to tell my stories to the world. How you wish to do it, will be your call. Don’t worry, I won’t ask for credits or anything!”

I shook my head.

“What kind of stories?”

“Moments. Anecdotes. About life. Love. Lessons.”

“Well, I am sorry to say this, but would people read?”

She placed a hand on my shoulder. “I like your curiosity. Good, keep that up. We all need to take leaps of Faith sometime or the other. Into the Unknown, your words, remember?”

I got her point. I smiled back and nodded in agreement.

“Why don’t you share about them yourself?” I asked.

She took a deep breath, looked around at the sky above, the trees around, as if to take in the fragrant air.

“I am too busy observing, my dear. And I know you’ll do a great job. You can take this as your “What next”...she winked.

“I am Tiara,” I said, extending my hand.

“Trisha”, she said. We shook hands and exchanged email ID’s.

“Let’s go back up”, I said to her.

“Well, you go ahead Tiara. I wish to spend some more time here, taking pictures. Go, join your friends.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, please!”

“It was amazing to meet you, Trisha. Can I get a hug?” I was blunt enough, but I did say that.

We hugged for a brief moment. Some strangers, I tell you.

“Just be careful okay? It’s quite steep in here” I said.

“How does it matter, when you know you’re on the right track?” she said, softly. The twinkle in her eyes suddenly enveloped me in tranquil confidence.

We said goodbyes and parted. As I walked ahead, I felt a sudden surge of hope gushing through me. Was it the embrace? Or her smile? Or her words? I suddenly recalled I never asked her where she stayed. I stopped and turned back to ask.

She was not there.

I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen.

“Trisha!” I called out. There was no answer.

I was nearly getting worried, when her words came back to my mind.

“How does it matter, when you’re on the right track?”

I smiled. I don’t know how, but I knew she was okay.

A moment later, my phone beeped. It was her email, as if she had read my thoughts of concern that she was fine or not. The email had an attachment. It was one of the pictures that she had clicked a while back. She wrote a message – “Here’s my picture, whether you want to include it or not, how to include it, it’s your call. It is always your call.”

I walked back, smiling at the picture. She was a bit weird, somewhat like me. I was happy with the encounter. My curiosity heightened but comfortably calmed at the same time. To me, meeting Trisha was like the water that my Soul had been thirsting for, since a very long time.

(Note :- This is a work of fiction and does not mean to resemble anyone in real life. Images and story are copyright to the author.)