ME – That’s a nice book.?
SHE had buried her face in a fat novel. We were in a flight, SHE was my co-passenger and that was how I chose to kindle our first ever conversation.
SHE – (smiles) I Know.
She adjusted her large round glasses before returning to her novel. She hadn’t answered my question and I had to bother her again.
ME – Oh no.. That was a question..!
SHE – (acting surprised) Ah.. Was it?
ME – Yeah. See. that’s the thing..
SHE – (confused smile) That’s the thing about what?
ME – About spoken English..! It’s different from novel reading. You need to master the art of picking question marks and punctuations..! I asked ” That’s a nice book?” and you thought it was a compliment.
SHE – Ah.. ! All this while I thought mastering the art of basic grammar helps. For instance, had you asked ‘ Is that a nice book?’, it would’ve made both our lives a lot easier.
Was she being sarcastic? I grew confused and forced a smile. I returned to my silence and she returned to her book. After a while..
ME – Is that why you read novels, to learn the grammar?
SHE looked at me and this time the smile had grown fainter.
SHE – Na.. I read novels to kill time. But right now, I don’t think there’s any such need. Because you are anyway killing my time and mood..
Awkward silence. She was about to resume reading.
ME – (confused) Did you mean it in a good way or bad?
SHE – (sarcastic smile) Ah.. I am sorry. That was me offering compliments.
ME – See that’s the problem with mastering the art of grammar. People with poor grammar, the ones like me, can’t sense the mood and understand the meaning..
SHE – Ah..! Perhaps paying attention to the tone and expression of the person would help.
My smile dropped, mind grew numb and repartee went dry. She turned the other way and to the next page of the fat fiction. Or maybe it was a non-fiction.
ME – You are irritated..
SHE – (irked) I am sorry.. Was that a question?
ME – Ah.! No.. Your crash course on grammar has helped. I said ‘You are irritated’ and that was a statement.
SHE – Good.!
ME – What’s good? Me learning the grammar real quick or you looking irritated?
SHE – The fact that you could finally sense that I am getting irritated, is good.
Both of us looked at each other for a while. Odd silence.
The airhostess arrived at our seats with the drinks cart. I grabbed a beer and she an orange juice.
ME – cheers
SHE took a real deep breath and put up a straight face.
SHE – You do know that you have been irritating me, right?
ME – ( stutters) Yeah I guess.!
SHE – And you still continuing to do it, you know what is it called?
I began to think for a while and when nothing crossed my mind…
ME – I don’t know.!
SHE – This is stupid.!!
I returned to silence for a moment and then..
ME – (sighs) Man.! Thank god.! I thought you would mistake it for indecency. You know what, you are not only good at grammar but also good at reading faces.!
SHE – So does that mean you are stupid?
ME – Stupidity is a very subjective thing.
SHE – (irked) Care explaining how?
ME – Do you know that light shifts its path when it travels from one medium to another?
SHE – Yeah I had chapters on ‘refraction of light’ during my primary schooling..
ME – Yeah.. and you do know that light travels at 3Lakh km/sec
SHE – In Vacuum yes. but in air it’s a little less..
ME – Good.! Now see, the person behind us who is overhearing our conversation would think that you are a science genius..
SHE quickly turned back and the passenger behind us panicked. He smiled uncomfortably and rushed to the lavatory. She looked at me and laughed Mildly. I shrugged my shoulders and continued.
ME – But you thinking that I am stupid and yet discussing the high school physics with me. Now I would see that as stupidity.!
Her smile disappeared, but then it returned, rather quick and with far greater intensity. She burst into laughter.
SHE – That was offensive, you should know that.!
ME – Well, I do. But the fact that you are laughing, your right shoulder favouring me now and you no longer crossing your legs, tells me that you are interested in furthering this conversation.
She grew conscious, shrunk her smile and crossed her legs again.
SHE – So you think your poor sense of humor piqued my interest?
ME – (winks) Na.! I think it was the high school physics!
SHE – (smiles) And what else could you decipher about me?
ME – The one common between you and your book.
SHE – (confused)That both of us are fat?
I thought for a while.
ME – Okay. Now I know two common things about you both. One, that you are fat. Tell me the other.
SHE – (laughs) That was offensive again. But anyway.. I’ve no clue.. You tell me.
ME – The names.. I don’t know both your names..!
She laughed like she hadn’t in years and then held the book towards me. The title read ‘Chicko – The street boy’.
ME – That’s a nice name. And what’s the name of the book?
She laughed again, but I chose not to. That was the thumb rule – Don’t laugh at our own jokes.
ME – Ah.! That’s the name of the book.! So what is yours? Would I find it on the first page of the book?
SHE – Why would my name be on the first page of the book?
ME – (curious) So is it there in the last one?
SHE – (laughs) Nooo..! Why would it be there?
ME – I don’t know.! People with large round glasses have this habit of writing ‘THIS BOOK BELONGS TO’ and their name, with a dirty looking signature.
SHE – (laughs) Sorry to disappoint you. But I haven’t picked the bad habit.
ME – (winks) Ah.! I can help you pick habits.!
SHE – That was kind.! But no thanks.!
ME – Lady.! What should I do to know your name?
SHE – May be wait.!
ME – And for how long?
SHE – May be until we cross paths again.
ME – That we would.!
SHE – Was that a prophecy.?
ME – Na. That was me praying! ( laughs mildly) And your grammar wouldn’t help you understand that.!
We smiled and took a sip from our respective drinks can.
ME – So if I decide to write about you, what should I be calling you in the story?
SHE – You could call me ‘SHE’
ME – SHE is beautiful.!
We both smiled.
SHE – And what should I be calling you?
ME – The first adjective that came to your mind, when I first spoke to you.!
Silence…. and then she smiled.
SHE – That was Stupid..!