Strangers in the night
You meet a random person and start talking… What happens next?
Strangers in the night exchanging glances
Wond’ring in the night what were the chances
We’d be sharing love before the night was through
Was it coincidence or the powers of the Universe playing its usual game thought Gopal as the familiar voice of Frank Sinatra crooned through the babble of sounds at the party. He looked nervously at his watch. She was late as usual and he was trying hard to keep his cool. Sheela was always sloppy about keeping time and ever since she changed her job her time sense was getting worse – particularly when it came to going out.
“Chal,” he thought to himself. ” I think I’ll get myself a drink ,” he said making his way through the crowd.
“One large whiskey please,” he told the barman.
” Will that be a single malt or blended, sir,”
“Oh!,” thought Gopal, ” So this seems to be another of those parties with all stops pulled out! Single malts seemed to be the rage these days, with even Black Label being relegated to the ranks of also rans.”
“Do you have a Laphroaig?” the only name he could remember
“Sure, sir,” said the bar tender and turned around to fix his drink.
“Unh, unh, ” said someone clearing his throat and Gopal turned round to face a handsome old stranger. “You’ve got good taste lad,” said the gentleman as he put forward his glass to raise a toast.
“Cheers!” said Gopal convivially, his eyebrow raised questioningly.
” Col Thapar, old chap,” said the gentleman profering his hand.
Gopal shook it firmly and wondered how long it would be before Sheela showed up. In the meanwhile though, the old man showed no signs of moving on………..
“So, young man,” said the Colonel. ” What do you do?”
” I’m in the Merchant marine,” said Gopal. ” I’m sailing as the Chief Engineer.”
“Aah,” said the colonel, ” That explains why you look lost out here. Coming ashore after a long time?”
“The usual sir, ” replied Gopal, ” I said six months on an six months off. This is my off time when I socialise with the land lubbers.”
“Oh yes,” said the Colonel. ” I remember how it is to come back to civilisation after months at the border. I really used to look forward to it. Imagine spending day after day hundreds of metres above sea level. And in the icy winters too. Do you know it takes at least twenty four hours to get anything up to the post from the nearest Army depot? And our poor soldiers, they have nothing to do but stare out into the whiteness looking for infiltrators. Sometimes I think they welcome that activity. “
” Yes, I know that feeling. There is a kind of disconnect isn’t it? I know we make land fall every now and then but sailing for days on the endless sea can get to you. And going ashore is not always fun. I remember the last time I was in Russia I was actually mugged.”
” Good God,” said the Colonel, “How did that happen?”
“Me and my mates had gone down to the Marine club for a spot of dinner and while returning to the ship we were accosted by some thugs. It seems all that they wanted was our passports – that very desirable American Visa.”
” Well, in comparison a posting at Kargil during peace time seems really dull and boring.”
Just then a svelte young woman came up to the Colonel, “there you are Papa,” she scolded him, “How many times must I tell you not to talk to strangers?”
“But we’re not strangers, he’s Gopal, a Chief Engineer who is on six months’ leave.”
” Of course not!” protested the old man, ” I’m your father and don’t you dare talk to me like that,” he said beligerantly.
” Now, now,Papa, calm down,” shushed the young lady slowly taking him aside whispering a soft apology to Gopal as she shepherded her father away.
“Sorry,” broke in Sheela’s shrill voice, ” I got held up in traffic.”
” No problem, sweet heart, ” said Gopal offering her a kiss. ” I was having a great time chatting up with this old man,” he said pointing out to the gentleman’s retreating back.
” Oh my God!” said Sheela ” You were talking to God himself!!! How come you know him?”
“Don’t talk rubbish. He’s not God; he’s Col. Thappar.”
“What nonsense!” said Sheela, ” he’s not! He’s Prateik Mehta a k a as God, the head honcho of Blue, the hottest ad agency in town. At least he was till he met with a nasty accident last year. Poor guy, he lost his wife in that ghastly accident. Some say he lost his memory too……..”
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