The phone rang relentlessly during the wee hours.
“Who is calling?” bit uneasy I picked up, seeing an unknown number.
“Sorry. I am unable to.” I tried hard. The voice sounded familiar but I couldn’t remember.
“You once told you can identify my voice in a crowd.”
“Yes. You loser.”
I chuckled. Felt so good to hear from an old friend. “Where are you?”
“Listen I have just come to KL.”
“Idiot, you are telling me now.”
“Am with a tour group. Will stay at Colmar Tropicale till Sunday afternoon. And then we’ll proceed to Kota Kinabalu. Can we meet today?”
“Yes. I will message later in morning. My Freaky Ali wants to go for golf. But I like to catch up, we’ll go for a trek may be. Come please, no excuses.” She hung up.
“Which girl friend is missing you now?” Kuhoo mumbled, half asleep.
“Disha and Rohit have come to KL”.
“Great. Coming here? When?”
“No. They are in a group staying at Colmar Tropicale. Rohit is going for golf in morning. Disha will stay back, wants us to join her.” I told about her plan.
“Ira is coughing. I think I won’t be able to come. Tell them to drop by on their way back from Kota Kinabalu.”
“Alright then.” I went back to sleep.
I met Disha in August 2001 in Mussourie. Average looks, bit tomboyish, very cheerful. She was part of a scout group that stayed in same hotel where I stayed during Janamastami weekend. In evening the hotel had organized a common bonfire for hotel guests. Scout boys and girls sat and sang there till late. That evening Disha also sang, and sang quite well.
Next day, I saw her again during breakfast. Complimented on her voice and suggested her to record some songs and send for auditions. Later we roamed around Mall Road, Company Garden, Gun Hill etc. And from that day on we have been in touch over e-mails, which became sparser since 2008, around the time she got married.
That Sunday, I realized that behind the aura of an abrupt and cheerful girl, Disha was a very sensitive person. She could see every little thing; she could explain difference between a fir and a pine tree while both appeared like a Christmas tree to me; she knew them by their aromas. She could talk about leaves and flowers and of hills and roads. Of people far up, and of places oblivious to this mad world. And of connection and her ability to carry those connections inside her. And finally of her wish that her heart could always be wheedled, for she always wanted to be happy.
Colmar Tropicale, 2016
I reached Colmar Tropicale around 9.30 AM. Saw Disha waiting near a cafe. She looked chubbier, and a bit fairer.
“You have got mature looks now.” She smiled. “Where is Sher Khan?”
“Thanks.” I wasn’t sure whether that meant I looked too old. “She couldn’t come. She has asked you guys to drop over”.
“OK. I will talk to her.” She said.
“So, how is Dubai?” I started, trying not to appear clumsy.
“You really want to know that?”
“No. Dubai would know better.” We said together and laughed.
There was a lot to catch up on. We continued to talk as we had breakfast, and then walked around Japanese gardens and Organic farm. Disha had stopped traveling, spent most of her time at home, and visited her local friends and those in India, occasionally. And she’d stopped singing long back. She wasn’t the same person I met 15 years ago.
I blabbered more, while she was thinking or observing. And then she asked.
“What do you like more? The waves or the shore?”
“Depends.” I wasn’t ready for such question. “At times, I will like to ride the waves; and then perhaps, will like to be at the shore.”
“Have you found the shore?” She looked into my eyes.
That got me zapped. Finally I spoke, “No. I am still learning to live through. People and their expectations affect me. Sometimes I do get hurt.”
“So what have you learnt?”
“The waves always find a shore.”
She smiled, her eyes shining. We sat quiet for some time. Later we came to the hotel lobby. Rohit returned around 12.30 PM. After lunch with them, I drove back home.
Disha messaged in evening, “Thanks for everything. Indeed, there are no quick fixes. Just needed some motivation, some reason to continue. Been looking for the shore all the time, now I have a reason to stay with the waves. They will find my shore. See you soon.”