01 02 03 Reflections: The Lady with Laughter Lines 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Lady with Laughter Lines

"It hasn’t been done yet? Then get it done, god dammit!" The red lights flashed as I barked into the phone. The heavy rain on my windshield made it difficult for me to hear even my own voice. "If I don’t see that report on my table the first thing when I reach office, then forget me awarding you with a bonus, I shall get you demoted!" I hung up, and tossed my phone to the backseat of the car.
My boss had submitted his resignation, which put me in a rat race to succeed him as the next man in charge. I had two close competitors from my team- each of them, formidable contenders. To top it, I barely had a month to prove my worth to the management.
Today was a bad day. It was 5pm and I was returning to office after a meeting with a particularly difficult client. The all important project report which could make or break my career lay incomplete on my office desktop. Like the past couple of nights, I would have to stay back in office till late tonight. Overworked and under slept, the heavy rain and traffic was adding to my woes.
I honked at the cars in front of me. 'When will I be able to afford a driver? Soon, only if that project report......'

"It’s raining men, ALLEHLUYAH!!!"
A female voice screamed close to my window as a bike came to a stop next to my car. I cursed audibly, irked by the sudden disturbance caused to my train of thought.
The lights turned green and the biker took off. They were headed on the same route as I was. I started my car, determined to chase the car and give a piece of my mind to the ill-mannered lady seated behind.

Still muttering expletives, I tried to get as close as possible to them. The road ahead was clear and I positioned myself behind them. The bike was swaying merrily from side to side. 'I'm sure they are going to skid', I thought.

Another red light.
I stopped behind them. I saw she had headphones plugged into both her ears. Her head was swinging; perfectly lip syncing the song in her ears.

It was then that I began to get intrigued by this rather unusual woman. It is one thing to sing along while on a leisure trip to Goa, along the clear, sea rimmed highways, and another to do that on a rainy day, amongst rush hour traffic.

She wore no raincoat, completely ungaurded against the rain. To top it, she was dressed in a soaked white kurta, rendered translucent by the downpour. Her hair was tied up in a messy bun, water dripping from each stray lock of hair.
‘White, on a rainy day like this? Bold!' I thought, as the lights turned green again and I took off behind this elusive young lady.

A little ahead, their bike hit a pothole, spraying murky water all over the back of her dress. ‘Huh! There goes her white dress.’ I thought, cynically.
I expected her to turn and assess the damage to her pristine outfit, be mad, show anger, disappointment. Instead, she threw her head back and laughed! There were some splashes on her face as well, and she wiped them with here wet, bare hands. Those hands in turn, were rubbed clean on the same white kurta.

My mind was instantly filled with flashes from childhood, when we rubbed cleaned chocolate stained hands on our fresh uniforms.....
Once my favourite thing to do, when was the last time I jumped into a puddle wearing rubber boots...?
Picked up and pocketed slimy earthworms on my way back from school?

"...and it rain and rain, it RAIN and RAINS...."
Lost in my thoughts, I hadn’t realized that my car had grown close enough to be able to distinctly hear her songs again.

I saw she wore a lot of silver bangles, about a dozen in each hand. They made a clinking sound as she snapped her fingers to the beat.
Soon, she began flapping her hands- in a way that a little child would in a school drama, if he were to play a bird. There was water dripping even from the thin metal surfaces of her bangles. Yet she seemed be in her own world, dancing to her own tune.

By then, she had grabbed the attention of many other fellow motorists like me.
She was a rock star on the loose.
At one time curling fingers into a  fist and beating into the air, playing a couple of imaginary drums; at another she was a swooning audience all by herself, admiring the music with arms stretched out.
On a whim, I turned on the music system. 'Gosh! these songs are old.' I thought. ‘When was the last time I updated the playlist? err, when was the last time I listened to music?'

Red lights.
I sighed with sheer pleasure as a familiar Bryan Adams track began to play.

'Summer of 69' happened just when I graduated from college and friends made futile promises inspired by the song.
So lost was I, that I did not realize that the lady in white had halted right next to me. She was set to turn right, I was to go left.

The lights went green again and I screamed "THOSE WERE THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE!!!!"
On hearing this, the lady with laughter lines turned, to smile at me. Then we went our separate ways.

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