September 21, 2005
It was the ninth month of the calendar. The rainy season had already kicked in and all the few friends finally managed to make time for this 6 year long planned trip. Six? Yeah. It was in our to do list since six years. After Graduation we boys never had a chance to spent a hike or a proper vacation. And after six long years of struggle we pulled in the conviction of negotiating with the most excusing friend of ours. At last, He was ready.
The memory of that holiday week is crystal clear in my head. It was so important and special that it shall be with me for a long time. The adrenaline rush of hormones flushed inside me while I boarded a flight to Bombay. The whole time I kept on wondering how extreme and wild will we guys behave and once again become true to ourselves, just like college days. I stepped out of the airport only to find weird and familiar faces who were on time for the first time. They hugged me tight and roared a laugh in the air while two of them stretched their shoulders and playfully rested them on mine. The journey has only began.
We shortlisted on the Kanheri caves since Raj suggested us on a Trek and a short camping out there. He’s wanting us to fall in love with caves since a few years. Raj had a thing for the forests, I know. Although, All I bothered about was our get together, the place was always a secondary factor for me.
During the day time, the Birds, the Greens and the Lakes diluted their scent with our senses and played their magic to intoxicate us to the deepest level. Monsoon is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit Kanheri. I recall it well, that even on the last day, nobody wanted to move any inch of their body outside the luscious dark forest, which proudly surrounded the caves. Life for the five consecutive days looked like it was enclosed by nature itself. Spending nights under the stars and days around forest was a surreal experience.
However, On the last day, we were taking the last round while I was busy browsing our pictures we took. I looked up and realized that I was quite distant away from my nomadic troop, and that I was left behind. They all went ahead and I started capturing as much as I could, to keep some memory after the last day. I still have a smile on my face when I recall what happened next.
The camera allowed my curious eyes to capture the captivating landscapes. I was busy narrowing my frame, when I saw this delicately beautiful God-made creature in front of me. Those were two anxious girls lost in the forest and they were desperately looking for a similar face out of their scared eyes. They were looking at the deeper forest. The taller fragile girl was so gentle and attractive that I couldn’t resist the fact of coming into her notice. She was accompanied by her little five to six year old looking friend, or maybe sister I guessed. I managed to predict the situation rightly and took small steps towards them, so that I could help. I didn’t intend to impress of course, well, I am lying. I hoped I made an impression there. Unfortunately, as I took my steps ahead, she stepped back a little. Scaring her was never an intention, I said to myself. The little one even hid behind the elder, only to make me even more nervous. “Oh, Do not worry”, I uttered consolingly. “You can either wait at the entrance or take that left to see the exit gate, Standing here ain’t safe” She heard me patiently and relaxed her shoulders. “Here, I can walk you till the entrance route.” I offered. She looked impressed. Phew!
I just finished my sentence and found 3 similar aged girls addressing her loudly to have her attention. They were standing some 20 foot behind her and waiting for her to respond. “Sandhyaaa”, the girls roared. And so did the echo from the caves. I was delighted to know her name. SANDHYA, it was!
Sandhya heard them but chose to keep her attention on me. I was already flying as she kept her gaze on me. Another call from the girls, “Sandhya, where were you? Lets go, come on”. The little one took no time to take Sandhya’s finger and drag her to safety. “Chalo, didi” the little one asked. But something already happened to both of us, She knew. And she didn’t even pretended, she did not. My sharp eyes and her innocent blush. Oh lord. I have fallen for many girls but this one just took away the ground.
“Do not go, just stay for a while” I said in my mind. Maybe she heard me, but she had to go. She kept walking away. The time went Slow and Silent. I kept looking at her and she kept walking away. But, before disappearing into the forest she turned back and her eyes gave a different look, Once and for all. Those alluring eyes were like drug. They looked at mine and smiled briefly. I assume they said, See you again. I appreciated and smiled back and in no time she disappeared back into the forest.
I have her memory captured with me till date. Should I be happy to meet her, or sad to have her go? Its all about the perception. Since that day, I have been even more grateful to life.
Just one thing. I didn’t hear her voice. But her name still echoes aloud, Sandhya.