December 18, 2004

beautiful people

it was wet, windy, cold and dull for over 36 hours without a break, the perfect excuse to snuggle under a 13.5-tog quilt and a nice book to read. but i couldn’t escape my physiotherapy appointment with tatenda at 10 in the morning, so i set out for berkhamstead grudgingly.

i wished the supposed-to-be-one-hour-long appointment would go on till the rain stopped, but 30 minutes into the session, tatenda was already handing me another date and time and telling me to run along. i should have taken her advice seriously, because the only bus that i know runs from berkhamstead to hemel, passed right in front of my eyes.

i whined under my windcheater-hood, dug my numb-with-cold hands deep into my pockets and crossed over to the bus stop anyway. i was trying to read through the thick condensation on the glass-cased bus schedule, when an old lady under an umbrella slowly approached my side of the footpath.

concerned old lady: oh dear, you just missed the bus…
me, surprised at first but smiling at her: hmm i know…i guess it’s another half-hour’s wait now.
old lady, now stopped to talk: awww, where do you have to go?
me: hemel…
old lady: you’ll freeze to death out here in the rain darling…why don’t you start walking in the direction of the next bus stop now…
(leans her umbrella between her head and neck and tugs at the sleeve of her own coat to glance at her wristwatch…)
…if you get there in 15 minutes, you’ll get the small bus that will take you home. it’s a longer route but it will get you there. you won’t be very wet i promise…

brightening up at her suggestion, i thanked her as she waved goodbye. then i wondered why she stopped to help, amused by her accent and grateful at the same time. walking in the direction she had pointed, i soon realised she was right about the 15-minute part…because i never seemed to get there! i couldn’t even see clearly behind the curtain of rain and i was thinking of how welcome it was in india…i never carried an umbrella then, or a raincoat, and everytime it rained i would rush to the terrace (be it my office or home) and offer my face to the clouds happily.

the sight of several red lights along the road brought me back to the streets of berkhamstead, and i could finally make out the faint silhouette of a bus stop in the distance, a traffic jam, and cosy people inside bright cafes and dark antique shops nodding their heads and sharing their feelings about the weather. about time i thought, shrinking further into my jacket and looking around for the bus.

two minutes later, there it was! just as she promised, just like the bus from one of forster‘s stories…a small bus appearing through the mist, full of very old and beautiful people aboard, armed with scarves and coats and walking sticks and umbrellas…

it took me over an hour to get to hemel, but the route was a more scenic one. i saw a content woman take her four dogs for a stroll, and a broken down wall of what must have been a castle long ago. the bus stopped for every old person on the road who even lifted his or her hand a little. it stopped for one very old woman who took at least four minutes to wobble to her seat, and it was then i caught the face of the driver in his long concave mirror, his eyes following her to see if she was safe and seated, and comfortable.

that was when something touched me inside, and the rest of the journey was not so cold anymore.


  • Sukanya M said:


    I hv been following your posts regularly for sometime now. And I must congratulate you. you certainly hve a way with words. Thankyou for a beautiful post and a beautiful blog!

  • Reshma said:

    Beautiful people indeed!

  • anumita said:

    Gosh! That’s so beautiful and so graphic. Could almost see the entire scene in front of my eyes… along with the famed English winter and you walking through it!

  • najeeb said:

    Good read. I always thought old people were fixated with weather and they always have wonderful ways of getting around it.

  • Sree said:

    You always got the right words to narrate anything and everything. Like everyone I peep once in a day to check for new entries. I might be selfish, but wish you could post everyday.

    Hey! I read ‘the namesake’ and ‘ladies coupe’ because of you and The video stories too.
    And just made Batti and learned to make baangi bath (from Praveen’s). Thanks a lot.

    I really enjoyed your beautiful people post .
    Waiting for more & wishing you both the merriest, the happiest and healthiest New Year!!
    The Temperature is -9 C here and it is snowing out side.
    and after 5 years stay in Michigan I finally learned how to dress for winter, and never bother what my friends think

  • radhika said:

    reshma, sukanya, anumita…thank you so much everyone, for your comments and encouraging words 🙂

    najeeb: most english people i’ve come across do start the conversation with something about the weather. and yes, i’ve talked to people as old as 90 and 96 at the pharmacy where i work…they walk in themselves and don’t seem to be bothered what the weather is like!

    girija: my writing class tutor thinks so too! and if i’ve been posting more often this month, it’s because praveen has been holding a gun to my head, forcing me to write everyday, so i get into a ‘discipline’…something that my tutor really thinks i lack. so if i ever get to write that book, it’s yours (to market ;-)!

    sree: i’m waiting for the snow too! and hoping for a ‘white christmas’ like everyone else here.
    i’m glad you enjoyed the baati and vaangi bhath, and the books. and trust me, i am working towards an entry-a-day. honest!

  • Chakra said:

    very well written Radhika.

    btw, y don’t u hold a gun to praveen’s head forcing him to write.. its more than 2 months since he wrote anything.

  • radhika said:

    excellent timing chakra!!

    i was *just* telling him that i will NOT post another entry again until he also writes something on his journal :-))

    now to wait and watch 😉

  • altezza said:

    hey all, best pages

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.