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the stranger i knew
One of the things i’d liked in the movie ‘Dhobhi ghat’ was the part where Aamir Khan reconstructs the story of the girl. I found myself doing something similar, albeit under not such mysterious circumstances as the movie and, i hope, with realizations not as profound.
The cubicle that gives me company daily was earlier occupied by a lady (whose name i don’t wish to disclose and hence i’ll pseudo-name her Sahiba) who left the organisation before i joined.
My tryst with unraveling her began when one day, after almost a month since i’d joined, i was informed about how Sahiba had been the previous occupant of my cubicle and what role she had been in. And how, in a way, most people in the office were Almost immediately, there arose in me a curious urge to know about her - what she did/thought/said; i saw her as a jigsaw which i had to put together. Btw, i’ve always been big on Jigsaws. The bigger the boundary with smaller the pieces, the more it draws me towards it.
So like a sniffer dog on the prowl, i’d keep antennae up for any sort of clue which would unravel the new mystery of my life. With hints strewn across space and time, i managed a rough sketch too.
Then yesterday, i was given the keys to the drawers in my cubicle. Quite nonchalantly i turned the key, expecting to see mostly empty space with unwanted remnants left behind. The first drawer revealed, well almost that only, except this cubical black box sleeping in the corner. I lifted the lid and found small paraphernalia peering back at me - a broken key ring, old erasers, pins, snubbed pencils, a small booklet with quotes on ‘sisters’, sachets of low cal sugar, numerous visiting cards, sticky notes scribbled into furiously, and more.
I explored it gingerly, like i was afraid that i might spoil it. I moved through the full set of drawers, excited. And touched. Sahiba had left behind things which told me her story. Things about her which, i dare to assume, no one in the office would be aware of or would have noticed. Her belongings told me more about her than any human knowing could tell me there. Contrary to what i’d thought, it seemed as if Sahiba had left in a hurry and hadn’t really sorted or touched most of these things. I sat in the middle with everything stacked around me neatly in categories defined by me. They exuded a feeling, a language which can’t be understood through words. Suddenly, i felt that i knew her as much as i would have wanted to and the intensity to finish the portrait evaporated. I quietly put most of the things in a box and had it taken away by a staff guy. A part of me didn’t want to, like i was dislocating something of its rightful place. But old must make way for the new.
What all i saw and what i gauged from it, i don’t feel like disclosing that. Let’s keep it sacrosanct. I’ve kept some of the things, for remembrance or usage or both. It’s also my way to keep a part of her intact in that space. I have a feeling, totally irrational and baseless but acute, that she didn’t mean to leave. She didn’t intend nor was inclined to. I hope i could tell her that she never left…
The song for tonight is “Crack the shutters open” by Snow Patrol which, weirdly, endears to me mostly because it talks about cold winter hands on a warm body. I love that sensation. :)