It was the first time I was travelling in a ship. I was on my way to Andaman and Nicobar, hoping to find a job there. It was late evening and the rocking of the sea wasn’t helping me. I was terribly sea-sick. I was cursing myself for not travelling by a flight instead to the islands.
There was a knock on my cabin’s door. I did not want anyone to see me in my condition, but I wanted a change of sheets on my bed. I opened the door. It was a lady; she seemed to be another passenger.
“I overheard you throw up. I am Mrs Sushila Kumar. I am staying in the cabin next door. I have some pills, if you want.”
I did not realize the walls were so paper thin. She seemed like a kind lady, reminding me of my grandmother – stooping slightly, white-haired, bespectacled.
“Sure! Thank you. Why don’t you come in?” I invited her in.
After taking the pills, she helped me find some housekeeping staff, who cleaned up my mattress. She then sat with me for some time and we had a conversation. She then said, with a little pride and a little blush that one of the things she considers an achievement in life is the fact that someone had written a book about her. It was a love story, of hers and the author’s. However, fate had other plans and they had to go their separate ways. She told me the title of the book. I gasped!
“That was written by my grandfather!”
For a minute, we both could not believe what a coincidence it was that we were sitting there in the cabin and talking about the little things in our lives! Then she embraced me, asked me about my grandfather, about my parents. We spoke some more. It was quite late by the time she decided to go back to her cabin.
We arrived at Port Blair the next day and I never saw her afterwards.
Three years later, I sat in a library while researching for some material for my next book. I requested for copies of some old newspapers. While going through the yellowed sheets of a newspaper from about seven years ago, my eyes caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was a photograph, in the obituary.
“Sushila Kumar, aged 67…” the rest of the lettering blurred before my eyes as I suddenly felt faint. Seven years ago. And I had met her just three years ago.
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