All that glitters is not gold!
On a Monday morning Arusha woke up late suddenly. His mother who normally acts as his morning alarm clock had gone to London on holiday .
“Gosh! It’s already 6.50 am and I am going to miss the express train, Samudra Devi, that takes me to Colombo at 8.45, giving me ample time to get to office before that swollen headed Chief Clerk runs a red line across the attendance register two minutes before”,
Murmuring to himself, he rushed to the washroom, brushed his teeth quickly, got dressed in a jiffy, skipped his normal morning shave and ran to the Kalutara South railway station.
Samudra Devihad arrived on time and was just leaving the station as Arusha entered the platform, yet he made a desperate attempt to get on to the footboard of a carriage by running parallel with the train; in the rush he accidentally collided with a passenger on the platform, an office girl, causing her to roll on the platform with him.
Embarrassed Arusha got on his feet, stretched his hand to try and help the girl to stand on her feet and then made an apology :
“I am very sorry miss, I was trying to catch my usual train, otherwise I would be late for work. Are you OK?”
“I’m all right, but you are taking risks with your life, aren’t you?” she replied with a charming and shy smile.
She was good looking, tall and stood out among the other girls. She wore a silk pink blouse and a tight fitting skirt to wrap her curves. Back of her hair was made into a long plait and she wore a white Jasmine flower on the apex of her plait to make it more attractive.
“She is young, must be in her mid twenties and has a magnetic appeal”, thought Arusha.
The meeting with this stranger at close range in a most awkward fashion was a rare opportunity which made Arusha’s mind to go spinning, his heart to palpitate and mouth to suddenly go dry .
When the next train approached the platform he battled with passengers and managed to grab a seat. The train started to move and his thoughts moved even faster than the train in another direction. He could not help thinking of the little accident on the station platform.
My Kind of Girl
“How strange is that that each one of us has our own particular choice of girls in our mind - some prefer girls with a well developed bustier or big shiny eyes; graceful fingers, curved hips, beautiful facial bone structure, pearl white teeth, mesmerising smile and with all that a slim body”!
“I have my own preferences of course. My eyes have once caught the shape of the nose of a girl , but I suppose each one gets attracted in a different and peculiar manner. ? But this girl looks definitely my type of girl – 99% of her features blend with my kind of choice of the girl I would like to have as a girl friend! Boy! She is a beauty.”
Arusha was marooned in a minefield of thoughts about the stranger whom he bumped into less than fifteen minutes ago!
He did not feel the long journey until the train came to a stop at the Slave Island station. He looked at the time and was happy that there was still enough time to walk up to his office without being late.
Next moment he could not believe his eyes when the same girl alighted from the train at Slave Island station. Arusha followed her at snail’s pace, watching her every move from behind. She started to walk along the Union Place and he followed her up to the Staples Corner Na gas junction where she turned off towards her office.
The 7.20 train from Kalutara South to Slave Island arrived in good time which gave Arusha a chance to have a glance at his new found attraction daily and get to office in time, so he decided to skip travelling in the Samudra Devi.
Seemingly it became a kind of a ritual for Arusha to follow this girl from Slave Island station up to the Staples Corner every morning while admiring her beauty but refraining from approaching her bravely.
“This is the ideal girl for me. Yeah! Good looking... just look at her beautiful walk ..... Isn’t she a picture of innocence.....? Oh yeah, she is my favourite type.....”
“Actually I never had the chance to have a good look at her during that few seconds when I helped her to get up from her fall at the railway platform. I don't know..... really.... I can't seem to remember anything in detail about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts......!”
"Strange.....Yeah. Strange......" "So why don’t I go and talk to her? No point in just following her.......!" "Wish I could talk to her. Wish I have the guts to do that.... at least to talk to her for five minutes every day from the Slave Island station up to Staples Corner”. Arusha’ thought.
“Five minutes would be plenty .... Just to ask her about herself and tell her about myself. What I'd really like to do is to explain to her the complexities of fate that we had to meet after a collision on a railway platform!”
In the evenings on his way back home, occupying a window seat inside a home-bound train, Arusha would keep on staring at the sea and go into his own fantasy world.
“May be I could take her out for lunch and to see a film at the Liberty cinema! With any kind of luck, we might end up engaged and get married.....................!”
Nearly three months of this obsession of Arusha living in his own dream world and isolating himself from friends made his best friend Palitha visit his home one evening.
"So, with new friends you have forgotten your old chums just like that, eh?” Palitha touched on the subject without beating about the bush.
“What you are you talking about....?”
“I have been watching you, my friend, going behind a girl every morning like her shadow in Slave Island-....!”
“You are talking nonsense. I have not even spoken ten words with her.”
"Oh my God! Look at him! Anusha, pardon me, but you know very little about this girl, chum. All what I can say is that you are heading towards a precipice. If you don’t know, let me tell you something. Her name is Malkanthi, she used to live in Moratuwa and now travels from Katukurunda. Don’t be a dupe..... Just come back to your senses and be in the real world...... and that is my advice to you.” Palitha stunned Arusha.
“Now this is ridiculous. I'm not going to buy a word what he says just like that! Anyway, how does this guy know about her and all her details? Even I don’t know much about her”, thought Arusha.
“Wonder whether she is his girl friend then....? Goodness me! With friends like this, who needs enemies...? What is he up to? Why is he so keen to ‘save me from a disaster’?”
Arusha was still in deep thought when Palitha snapped at him:
“I am still your good friend, whatever you may think about me. Please remember that. I will make one humble request to you.....can you meet me next Wednesday at 10.30 in the morning at Moratuwa Railway station?”
With this question and request, he vanished from the scene quickly. Arusha could not believe what was happening. It was so sudden and a shocking experience for him.
“How could this kind of a thing happen to me”, he thought, and found himself in a situation never to recover from the shock after this sudden meeting with Palitha. He gave much thought to his friend’s words and finally decided to meet him at Moratuwa station on Wednesday at the fixed time, expecting whatever the outcome.
“I don’t know why I agreed to meet him on Wednesday. This is utterly unnecessary. I should never have undertaken it because I do not have anything to do with that girl, leave alone an affair as he tries to put it. True...., I have been admiring her beauty all along, but that’s all to it. I still think it was a miracle that I bumped into her at Kalutara station accidentally. But how is it possible for Palitha to know all about her....? And my movements.....! Has he been spying on me? Oh boy! Is she then his girl friend..?” Arusha felt the cold. Were indifferent waves of fate proceeding to toss them unmercifully?
Time passed and Wednesday arrived. Palith was waiting for Arusha at the Moratuwa Railway station.
“Ah! You are on time. Let’s go to the platform,” Palitha suggested. Each felt a grumble inside their chests - one knew exactly what was going to happen while the other was thrown into confusion!
Palitha reigned silence while seated next to Arusha on a bench while they waited for a Colombo bound train. Arusha became worried and confused at the silence of his friend who requested him to meet up at the station and then for keeping mum.
“What is this guy up to?” thought Arusha.
Their thoughts no longer had the clarity although they had been good friends from childhood. Without a word, they waited till the Colombo bound train arrived at the platform. Palitha quickly grabbed his friend by the wrist and guided him to an empty compartment. There was hardly any movement or talk coming from Palitha who organised this programme. The velocity of the train and the grinding noise of iron wheels on railway lines were almost similar to that of Arusha’s heartbeat.
“What on earth is this guy up to?”Arusha was seemingly but surely losing his temper when the train reached Bambalapitiya station.
“We are getting off here,” Palitha spoke out for the first time. Then in a flash he held Arusha by the hand and pulled him back on to the seat again.
“What’s up mate?” Arusha became impatient.
Passengers who got off from the train were now walking towards the exit, and in the midst what shocked Arusha was to see the girl whom he sees every morning getting off at Slave Island Station coming out of a different station that day at an unusual hour and walking along the Bambalapitiya station platform.
Malkanthi, draped in a sari, walked graciously along the station platform towards the exit. Paliatha controlled Arusha’s movement until she went pass their compartment.
“Come...come.. come on now......., and be quiet, ok!”Palitha commanded.
As the two came out of the station, what they saw was the girl getting into a bus which did a shuttle service, passing through the Lipton Circus. Palitha guided his friend carefully and got into the same bus from the rear door and signalled Arusha in a sign language to sit quietly.
Imagination Running Riot
Arusha could see the girl seated in a front seat. It was the first time he saw her in sari. Gazing at the Jasmine flower on her head, Arusha began to think how different she looked in sari – like a mature woman. Then thinking of what Palitha was up to, he became angry.
“What is the kind of hide and seek game this fellow is playing with me.....? Look at the graceful way she is seated even inside the bus – looking straight ahead. This is what I like about her. But I bet this fellow must be her boyfriend, now trying some monkey pranks to embarrass me in front of her so that I will never be able to look at her face again and to put me off completely. Why did I agree to this idiot’s request and waste my time today like this..?”
Arusha was drowned in a sea of confused thoughts.
“Es wattuwa langa bahinna! (Eye hospital junction),” the bus conductor announced to the passengers. The girl gracefully got up from her seat along with some passengers and started to walk towards the main entrance of the Central Hospital. Palitha tightly gripped Arusha’s hand and signalled him to get off from the bus with him.
“Come on, get down quickly!”
“Honestly, tell me what are you playing at Palitha? I have been patient enough to put up with all your nonsense from the time you came to see me at home. I even decided to come on this trip with you because I thought you wanted to tell me about some mysterious activity, but I really cannot understand your child’s play, to tell you the truth”.
“ I will ask you something direct Palitha, right now, just give me a straight answer. Is Malkanthi (that’s what you call her) your girl friend and are you getting ready to ridicule me in her presence? If that is the case, you don’t have to go on bullying me like this. It is really annoying and irritating, you know. You are my best friend, otherwise I would have by now thumped you, do you realise that?”
“Wait, wait... wait just a little bit more. Have patience Arusha, please....!”
“Why is this girl doing an unusual trip today without going to office? In fact, how come that Palitha was aware of her movements? Why did he boldly ask me to come to Moratuwa station and take me through this painful ordeal without telling me straight if this had anything to do with this girl? Is he really jealous of me...? Is he also after her or is she already his girl friend?”
In a moment his thinking took another turn.
“I am sure she must be going to see a patient at the Central Hospital today. Otherwise there is no need for her to come to hospital surely! She is definitely walking towards the main entrance of the hospital and it is almost visiting hours. I bet Palitha must have been misled by someone or an incident. Isn’t it even sinful to connect her with this trip and think about all such nonsense, but then why is Palitha behaving in this funny way? He is definitely playing a double game...?” Arusha thought.
As Palitha and Arusha followed the girl and approached the entrance of the Central Hospital gate, the girl had already entered the hospital building and was walking gracefully along the corridors of the main building. Palitha became excited.
“Come on boy, come on, come quickly...... and we can’t lose track of your friend after all this. Come with me..... come... come...!”
As the girl took several turns from left to right along the long corridors of the hospital, Palitha grabbed Arusha by the hand and followed her with enthusiasm as if both of them were going to catch a thief on a high street.
“Come on Palitha, stop this nonsense. I can’t take this anymore. You are bloody nuts man.....! Have you gone bonkers? What’s up....? That’s it, and that’s your lot. I am not prepared to act silly anymore to whatever pranks you are up to from this point onwards. I have had enough, it’s up to my teeth if you ask me. Just get lost will you?”
Arusha finally flew off his handle.
“My dear Arusha, I have been your friend from childhood. I am still your best friend. I would not do anything against you. Now I will tell you something. My mission is complete and successful. It’s up to you from now onwards my dear friend, and the ball is in your court and you take pretty care of your life mite. Just follow her for a few more yards and you will know what I mean and what I meant all this while.”
Having said that Palitha left his friend in the middle of the hospital corridor and disappeared.
Confused and irritated Arusha looked around not knowing what to do. Then he spotted the girl entering a consultation room and closing the door behind her gently. Excited as he was, Arusha rushed to the entrance of the consultation room. There was a notice above the entrance which was hardly legible.
Arusha got close to it..... Read it once, read it twice..... Then he took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes and tried to read the notice for the third time and to his amazement at every turn he could read the same lettering on the Notice Board:
‘Women’s Unit – Sexually Transmitted Diseases’