This is the story of a boy and a girl. They were strangers at first, then friends. Later, they became family. And this is a story about when and how it all happened.
They both had curly locks, belonged to God's Own Country and worked for the media. But the similarities ended there. Where he was aggressive, she was passive. Where he was the angry young man, she was the charming quiet lady. Where he loved cycling and the outdoors, she loved curling up with a book indoors. While she lived with her family in Chennai, he lived alone, away from his family that was in Kochi.
One Diwali, when he was to visit home, she decided to accompany him. It was a last-minute plan, the tickets were for the general class. And like most Indian trains, theirs too decided to make them wait. So they waited on the platform where she lay on his lap while he brushed away the bugs that were trying to suck blood out of her. Finally the train arrived and with the influence of their press card and their combined charm, they managed to get seats in the AC compartment.
The journey was long, but one of discovery. They discovered tidbits about each other and about Kerala too. They clicked photographs at stations where the train made unscheduled stops. And they talked – about life, love and everything in between.
They reached Kochi the next evening. It was her first time. And he was the proud yet patient guide. Being the natural explorer that he was, he knew every lane of his city and almost every street corner held special memories for him. Memories he hadn't shared with many. Memories he was sharing with her now.
After a 40-minute auto ride, they reached his house. And what a welcome it was. His mother welcomed her with a warm hug and a kiss. And his father, with a sweet smile and a handshake. Within no time they were sitting happily around the dinner table, feasting on the choicest of Kerala delicacies.
The next day, they got onto his bike and went to visit his friends. But before that, they made a pitstop at his college. He told her stories of the pranks he would play, and introduced her to his old teachers. Later, while he caught up with his buddies, she ventured into Broadway, one of Kochi's oldest shopping areas. Some stores she peeked into, some she entered and some she stared at with open awe. It all seemed so quaint to her. By the time her Broadway adventure ended, evening had set in. So they decided to go on a boat ride into the bay. The boat ride was beautiful and funny at the same time. Beautiful because it was a boat ride in the Arabian Sea. Funny because of the people (read typical tourists) that they had for company. Between bites of Shawarma that he had magically procured for her, they admired the Kochi skyline and giggled at the gaffes of the tourists.
On their way back home, he decided to give her a taste of the famous ferry rides. And though it lasted all of five minutes with vehicles and people jostling for space on the cramped ferry, it was one helluva ride.
On their way home, he had a brainwave. It was Diwali and she was away from home. So he took her to his friend's house where four little kids were celebrating the return of Rama with some crackers. And they joined in on the fun. When you are around children who are enjoying themselves, you become a child yourself. And that rainy Diwali night, the two twenty-somethings looked more like two eight-year-olds.
The next day was spent lazing around at home. And in the evening, they went for a bike ride. To describe it in words would be doing it injustice. It was on a long road running along Fort Kochi. And it was delightful. They passed many churches along the way. At some, they stopped and prayed. She for him, he for her. It was a largely quiet ride though. They didn't talk much. But if you were with them on the bike, you would agree that silence indeed speaks.
On Sunday, they went for a walk to the park nearby. And there she walked barefoot in the grass, watching him wrestle with his brother at a distance. Later in the afternoon, she did some regular sight-seeing. He had people to meet so he sent her a replacement guide to show her around Jew Town, the synagogue and the famous Chinese nets. She did the regular touristy things. She clicked pictures, smiled at persistent shopkeepers (“Please come inside madam. No charges for seeing”), visited art halleries and sipped on ordinary tea in fancy cafes.
Soon it was the last day in Kochi. They decided on doing a farewell tour of his haunts. And on this tour, he opened his heart out to her. Throughout the trip he had regaled her with happy stories of his childhood. But now, he chose to tell her about the agony of leaving a place as beautiful as Kochi. And though she had been in Kochi for only 4 days, she had seen it through his eyes and she had fallen in love with the city.
Along the way, she also realised that blood might be thicker than water, but sometimes, water is more essential for life than blood. And when water meets blood, it becomes red too. It was at that Eureka moment that she realised something else. that in him, she had found a brother – a brother for life.