A Missed Opportunity

Graphic by Priyadharshan A.

I sat in a sea of phones; headphones, earphones, phone calls, and reels catching up on the latest soap or a random YouTube video with a cute baby on it; you name it, we’ve got it. The Bengaluru Metro isn’t the Saturday night party space where you meet strangers who turn into friends, here everyone has a purpose. Each person has somewhere to be. Some students, some homemakers, others working professionals, I shared the ladies’ coach with these bright people who, despite coming from different walks of life had one thing in common, their phones.

I have nothing against phones, in fact, I often use the Notes app on my phone to write. During my 45-minute commute to college every day I see tons of phones, old and new, smartphones and button phones, Oneplus, and iPhone. Not people, but phones. I make it a point to not do anything digital during that time, these acts of rebellion sate my need to escape the social media addiction pandemic. It was during one of these days that I noticed a man who embodied intentional presence so completely that I knew it the moment I saw him.

The first thing I noticed was the elegant man bun that rested on his head, his tall stature, and his serious-looking face. He looked to be around his early 20s and stood out because, in a sea of restlessness and the urban urge to be productive, he was completely still. Art at its best are the words to describe him and when I saw him on the platform of the Metro station he was reading “Coromandel – a personal history of South India” by Charles Allen. The moment I saw him reading Indian history I knew it was meant to be. I must’ve been staring at him because at that time he looked up straight at me and smiled the warmest and most beautiful smile I’ve seen to date.

Now I’ll let you in on an open secret, I am a pure, class-A introvert and this just upped my anxiety levels. I turned away and went back to reading “Ariadne” by Jennifer Saint, hoping that I hadn’t embarrassed myself. But a couple of minutes later, he walked up to me and asked me if I liked Greek Mythology. I hesitantly answered him, he was still a stranger on the metro who could easily turn out to be a psycho-killer. He then said that he only asked that because of the book I was reading and that my hair reminded him of Medusa’s before she was cursed. I was surprised and impressed that he knew the original story and not just the whitewashed story that ended with Perseus slaying Medusa the ‘monster’.

The conversation flowed from there on, it was as if we’d known each other for years and that twenty-minute ride to my station felt like two. At the end of it, as we said our goodbyes, he offered to take me out for coffee, and I froze. It was like the plot of a romance novel; he was simply too good to be true and for someone who did not believe in the ‘magic’ of life it was alarming. I looked at him blankly as the doors of the train closed between us, paralyzed by fear and doubt and before I knew it the train began moving and it was only then that I realized that I had missed my opportunity because I let fear tie me up in a moment when I should have been brave. We probably wouldn’t see each other again and we didn’t. I still scan the crowds for him on my daily commute but with no luck.

Every now and then, the universe sends us a sign, a sign that it is on our side and that we have nothing to fear. That boy was my sign and I let fear overwhelm me. Caution is good but what good is it if we don’t let ourselves live a little, love a little; learn from this experience of mine, and believe in the magic of everyday life, for missed opportunities hurt us more than rejections can.

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