Rendezvous at Sunrise
( a short story )
Sunrise, on the eastern coast, is a special event. I stood at Dolphin’s Nose, a spur jutting out in to the Bay of Bengal, to behold the breaking of the sun’s upper limb over the horizon of the sea. As the eastern sky started unfolding like crimson petals of a gigantic flower, I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia – vivid memories, not diminished by the fact that almost ten years had passed.
I was a young bachelor then, and Vizag ( Visakhapatnam ) did not have much to offer. Every Sunday morning, I used to rise before dawn and head for Dolphin’s Nose to enjoy the resplendent spectacle of sun majestically rising out of the sea. The fresh salty sea – breeze was a panacea for all the effects of the hangover caused by Saturday night excesses.
After the viewing the metamorphosis at sunrise, I used to walk downhill along the steep mountain-path towards the rocky beach for a brief swim. I used to notice a flurry of activity at a distance, in the compound of a decrepit building, which I used to ignore, but curious, one day I decided to have a closer look.
It was a fish market. Most of the customers were housewives from the nearby residential complexes. They were in their “Sunday-worst” – sans make-up, slovenly dressed, faces unwashed and unkempt hair – what a contrast from their carefully made-up appearances at the club the previous evening.
I began to walk away, quite dejected, when I first saw her. I stopped in my tracks. She was a real beauty – tall, fair and freshly bathed, her long lustrous hair dancing on her shoulders. She had expressive eyes and her sharp features were accentuated by the rays of the morning Sun. I was struck by the thunderbolt and instantly fell madly in love with her.
But I knew in my heart that I stood no chance – she had a mangalsutra around her neck. She was married – probably happily too. Nevertheless I went close to her and made her pretense of buying some fish. Smiling cannily at me she selected a couple of pomfrets and held them out to me. I managed to briefly touch her hands – the feeling was electric. She communicated an unspoken good-bye with her teasing dancing eyes and briskly walked away.
I was too delightfully dazed to follow her. I returned to my room and had fried pomfret for breakfast. Needless to say they were delicious. I religiously followed this routine every Sunday morning. She never missed her rendezvous with me – same place, same time, at precisely the same time, Seven o’clock. But not a word was exchanged between us. I was too shy and she probably wanted to keep it this way – a beautiful ethereal relationship – a love so delicate that one wrong move might destroy everything. Meanwhile, I have developed a taste for fried pomfret – quite creditable, considering that I had never eaten fish before.
I left Vizag. Time passed , I had sailed around the world , but I never forgot her : A man’s first love always has an enduring place in his heart. And now I was back in Vizag almost ten years later. As I walked down the slope towards the beach, in my mind’s eye I could still vividly visualize the playfully sublime look on her face - her gentle smile and communicative eyes – although ten years had passed. I could not contain the mounting excitement and anticipation in me. I was desperately yearning to see her again. It was a forlorn hope but I was flushed with optimism.
As I reach the beach I noticed that the Sun was well clear of the horizon. I glanced at my watch. It was almost Seven O’clock. I hastened my step – almost broke in to a run – and reached the fish market and stood exactly at the same spot where we used to have our rendezvous at sunrise.
With tremors of anticipation, almost trepidation, I looked around with searching eyes. Nothing had changed. The scene was exactly the same as I had left it ten years ago. Only one thing was missing - she wasn’t there. I had drawn a blank. I was crestfallen. My mind went blank and I was standing vacuously when suddenly I felt that familiar electrifying touch. It shook me to reality, as quick as lighting. She softly put two promfret fish in my hands. I was in seventh heaven.
I looked at her. I was not disappointed. Her beauty had enhanced with age. But there was a trace of sadness in her eyes as she bid me an unspoken goodbye. I was too dumbstruck by the suddenness of the exhilarating event to react or say anything. For a moment we looked at each other in silence – a deafening silence.
It was only as she was leaving that I noticed that there was no mangalsutra around her slender neck.
I am going to stay in Vizag for a week. And next Sunday I shall rise early, behold the majestic sunrise from Dolphin’s Nose and run down to the beach fish market to be on time for my rendezvous at sunrise. And then, dear reader, I shall tell you what happened.
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