The music was teasing me inside my mind. The tune was lilting; enticing, yet with a hint of sadness hidden beneath a wave of joy. Light, high notes mocked me, interspersed with deep resonant ones. Around me the first class compartment was empty, dark and lonely.
I closed my eyes, something I do to fully enjoy any music, to get to its depth, its meaning. Immediately an image sprang to mind, a beautiful, white, ornate fountain with a little pool around it. As the music played, I could almost sense the scene unfolding before me. Around the fountain was dancing a little girl, her back to me. She looked young, no older than seven or eight. With the grace that a professional would have been jealous of, she danced around the pool, her curly hair blowing in time with her motion, carefree, innocent. As the music continued, so did her dance.
I wanted to see her, her face – the face that was mocking me so. Finally she spun around, and her sheer beauty took my breath away. She was the vision of peace, an angel, eyes closed, almost as though she were asleep. Her every move seemed to radiate a breath of light, cool, fresh air. I watched, entranced, as she continued to dance, blissfully, unaware of the existence of anything, of the world around her, of sadness, desperation or depression, of poverty, of evil. Lost in the swirling maze of my thoughts, I had not noticed that her beautiful, brown eyes were now open, and that slowly, rhythmically, gracefully, she was heading towards me. Even now, she tormented me, taking one step back for every two that she took forward. Slowly, but surely, she was coming to me. Soon, she was just a few inches away from me, now dancing slowly on the spot. The music was now beginning to fade, as the track reached its end. When the music did stop, so did the little girl. She reached out a hand to touch me, and I did the same.
I was suddenly jolted out of my vision by someone tapping my leg. I opened my eyes in surprise and blinked, caught unawares by the light that was surrounding me. I turned angrily on the intruder, the defiler of my sacred space. I almost died of shock when I saw the beautiful face before me.
She looked up at me with eyes filled with hope. She smiled at me then, the most beautiful smile I had ever seen in my life. I couldn’t help returning it. Seeing me smile, she burst into a giggle; almost as if we shared a secret that no one else knew. It was then that I heard a woman’s voice saying, “Come here, don’t disturb the poor bhaiya.”
Those hopeful eyes filled immediately with disappointment, as the girl went back to the woman. Almost instantly I felt a wave of loneliness and dismay. Hurriedly I shoved my earphones into my bag and said, “No, no it’s fine, let her be.” The woman smiled. “Thank you, it’s the first time I’ve seen her laugh today.” And she let the child go. Her eyes were shining, but it was the little girl’s eyes that I couldn’t help gazing into. Those beautiful brown eyes were lit up, full of happiness and excitement.
She skipped over to me, sat down next to me as if she had known me all her life, and started talking about all sorts of things, from the ‘funny uncle’s moustache’ to the wind, from the window to aeroplanes. After a while, she told me she was sleepy. I told her that she could go and sleep with her mother. She looked up at me with those stunningly brown eyes and an expression that would have melted a rock and said, “Can I sleep with you?” I couldn’t find it in my heart to say no, even though I knew I had to get off only a few stops ahead. She clambered onto my lap, threw her arms around my neck, and soon, dozed off on my shoulder. As I felt her grip loosen and her body relax, I too closed my eyes for a moment or two. I heard the music once again playing inside my head, and knew that I could feel myself being filled with light and energy.
Five minutes later, I got up with her still in my arms, walked over to where the young woman was sitting. Kissing her lightly on the forehead, I handed her over to her mother. She smiled at me, mouthed a soundless ‘Thank You’, and waved me goodbye. As I got off the train, I smiled to myself too, for I knew I had just met innocence herself.