She wore the same broad black framed spectacle today as well. Unlike the last time we met, slight portion of her not really thick hair was clutched on the right side. It was the same clutch I think or perhaps not. But she wore Indian attire today too. And the same flats that made me curious of the range of footwear north Indians have. “Punjabi Jooti Anna,” she had told me in the college canteen the day she came for her interview at Asian College of Journalism.
The jooti never left my mind. The very moment I saw it, I had decided to buy one for Bela. “I’ll get it for your daughter once I get selected,” she had promised. “The same,” I had emphasized. It was embroidered at the part which covered her toes. It was done intricately with threads of pink, yellow and some shades of red. Like a boat, edged at the top, slightly flat at the bridge and again edged covering the ankle. It seemed a perfect piece of art to me.
“Five feet four inches tall, thin waist but broad bottom, dark skin tone and thick black hair, foot size 5,” I had told her all about Bela while she had asked just the foot size.
Though we didn’t offer lemonade at canteen, I had made one for her while she complained of the tremendous heat in Chennai compared to Himachal. “Anna, it snows there,” she said right after gulping the drink. I overheard her telling her Daddy that it was too sweet. But nevertheless, she smiled while returning the steel glass.
I kept my eyes on her when she stepped on the red tiled floor of the canteen carrying a brown leather bag which I had previously seen. This time she seemed confident. Probably because of her selection.
The only thought I witnessed was if she remembered her promise.
Of course she hadn’t meant it, I told myself.
But there was a butterfly in my stomach that poked and said “maybe she had”.
That ‘maybe’ lit my eyes. I timidly looked at her bag a couple of times eagerly.
Once she even caught me. I withdrew. But my eyes couldn’t get off the leather bag she carried. The bag was overflowing as it lay unzipped on the granite table.
Was it because it had the Jooti inside?
I had decided to keep my eyes off the bag for a few minutes.
The curiosity was a big hindrance.
I looked at the first table of the second last row only, to find it empty. My eyes looked to the left side of the canteen. Then right. I only found her absence.