The crisp morning air was fragrant with blooming flowers, ripening fruit and most soil. As Alina, strolled lazily around her Uncle’s farmhouse, she felt happy and relaxed. The fresh breeze, surrounded by lush green luxury, was such a welcome break from the madding crowd and the maddening work life she leads. She had arrived very late last night but the cool morning air and the sound of birds and mooing of cows had made her get up early. She wanted to explore the several acres of the gated community of farmhouses, his Uncle and Aunt lived in.
She walked on the pebbled path and crossed the poultry. The hens and chicks were bustling with frenzy, chirping and at the same time picking on their food. Alina watched them for a while, and her attention was drawn towards a tiny chick, perhaps the weakest of them all, making enormous efforts to feed itself. The tiny fellow was almost run over by a bolder and older hen, but it managed to get up and started feeding again. Alina made a note in her mind, to check with her Uncle or Aunt, whether she would be allowed to take that particular chick out of the cage and take it to her room.
She watched them for a while and then made her way through the vegetable garden towards the cowshed and stable. There were many kinds of vegetables growing, you could see varieties of chillies, okra, egg plants, leafy creepers of pumpkin or gourd. The prominent amongst them were the ripening tomatoes, hanging there, bright red in color, as if beckoning her to pluck them. The vegetable garden was surrounded by orchards of mango, prune, berries, guava and many others providing a welcoming shade and a green hue. Beyond the orchards the ground banked suddenly towards the river which formed the outer edge of the community.
The sprinkler was still in action and the mild jet of water drizzled on Alina and she laughed in glee. She was mightily startled when her laugh bounced back into her ears with the laughter of another human being. She turned around and her heart skipped a beat.
There stood a very handsome young man, with saddles in his hand. He was tall, tanned, with a sharp aquiline nose, broad forehead and a well chiselled jaw. He had an amused smile on his lips and his eyes, oh his eyes, perhaps attracted Alina, the most. She felt drawn to that powerful yet soft brown gaze. Perhaps he was the one who had laughed …
“Oh, so you laugh for no reasons and all by yourself?”, he teased.
“Well, hello Wali, how are you?”
Alina spotted her Aunt, dressed in farm overall, with spade and cutter in hand, addressing the handsome young man. So, his name is Wali!!
Alina’s heart missed two beats.
“Good morning, Mrs Ray”, responded Wali, with a slight nod and politeness. “How are you today?”
“I am good,” her Aunt responded, “and I am glad both of you have met. You two should get along well,” she said as she waddled off to tend the favorite part of her garden, where the tomatoes and aubergines were ripening.
Alina was still blushing, and had she been in front of a mirror, she would have noticed that she was red faced. Oh why, she isn’t one of those giggly girls who blush and stammer in front of handsome boys, so what happened now? She has always been that overachiever and multi-talented, and unlike her other girlfriends, found gossiping about boys a super waste of time. But now? She was puzzled.
“Well, as you heard, I am Wali, and I am visiting my Father’s farmhouse for my vacation. Hope I see you around.”
Alina could only just nod. She watched Wali march towards the stable.
That was the direction she planned to go too, but felt too shy to go now. Instead, she changed her course and joined her Aunt and helped her around her garden.
There the two women chatted, and even though, Alina didn’t ask, her Aunt told her all about Wali and his family, their next door neighbor in the gated community. Trying hard not to blush anymore and trying hard to show that she really didn’t care, Alina absorbed all the information.
So Wali was an engineering graduate from Europe and now has joined his Father’s firm, which was doing exceptionally well. Wali managed the firm’s operations in the south of India, and if his parents were to be believed, was bringing in a lot of positive changes and the results were showing. Well, he seems to be an overachiever like Alina then!
When her Aunt changed the topic and started discussing some annoying habits of his Uncle, Alina lost interest. She excused herself saying she wants to explore the farmhouse more and walked away. She felt bad for behaving so selfishly but was also aware that her blush and shyness will not escape her Aunt’s eyes, and she didn’t want to spend more time with her.
Days passed blissfully. Alina would spend her time in the gardens and the poultry. In a few days, she had become an expert in tending the chicks and collecting the eggs. She spent some time in the gardens, throwing away stubborn weeds. She would walk past the stables and the cow sheds and her eyes would always search for someone.
She would keep bumping on to this someone. Every time she did, her heart would skip two beats. Wali, what a name and so handsome! Is she falling for him? Does it become apparent to others? So far, their conversation hasn’t progressed much beyond wishing each other good days and admiring the weather. Every time Wali would have his amused smile on his face, his eyes would twinkle in unsaid humor, but that is where their conversation languished.
Alina’s favorite past time, other than the new ones she picked up at the farmhouse, was also to do nature painting. Something she was extremely good at and has won many accolades during her school days but never pursued professionally. And she had ample time and bountiful subjects around her now. She had carved out the solitude of the afternoons to do her sketching and painting. One of them was the current landscape and it was coming out really well. It showed the pebbled steps coming out of her Uncle’s villa, it showed the mango, berry, guava trees in the periphery and had glimpses of the hen and chick plant. Towards the edge she had put the stable and towards the horizon a glimpse of the river flowing at the outer edge of their farmhouse. One day, while she was at this picture, she noticed Wali riding his horse on the bank of the river. Her heart skipped twice and she captured that image in her canvas. So shy and conscious was she, that she made that as a silhouette instead of adding any distinct identifiable features. To everyone else, it would be a man riding a horse. To her, it would be someone special, thinking of whom, always made her heard skip two beats.
Why two beats? Is she thinking long term with Wali? She hasn’t even been able to talk to him. In the get to gather which was held over the weekend, she hung around with few girls of her age, all the time following Wali, from the corners of her eyes, but never plucked the courage to go up and talk. Once or twice their eyes had met and every time she was greeted by that amused smile. Wali didn’t come up to talk either and that was that. What will her family think of this relationship, oh gosh, relationship, that is so farfetched!! They have never even had a decent conversation together or spent any time with each other!
A curious thought crossed her mind, does Wali also feel the same? Is he also so shy that he is not able to approach her? Her heart skipped two beats again …. Should she, the strong-minded, career-oriented, high flying individual that she is, make the first move? After all, only few more days are left of her vacation!
Stay tuned to learn what goes on in Wali’s mind and what happens next!!