Railway station..seems like an old word now a days but when you are sitting there waiting for the train it is your whole world..well may not be now but way back then, in 1989 it was like that. Eighteen years is a long time. There were no cellular phones and wireless laptops disturbing the beauty of silence. It was such a beautiful chilly Saturday morning of mid December. Sitting at this Colbert station in Limerick city I was waiting for the train to Dublin. It was very wet and cold day; the tea shop was not yet open , nor was the ticket counter. 6:20 was too early for the first train that was scheduled for 8 o’ clock. I did not want to be late and miss the train as I had noon meeting at Regional hospital in Dublin.

I was looking at the coffee shop glass door that was supposed to open at 6:30. “Still 10 minutes” I thought while rubbing my hands. It felt much more cold even at 4 degrees Celsius.

“ Sorry, where is the ticket counter?” I heard a beautiful voice.

I turned back and looked at the person. For one moment I forgot everything. That one moment seemed like months of dreaming….where you just watch complete story while still remaining an outsider.

“ woh…” only Urdu words could come out of my mouth, but immediately I corrected myself

“ ..I mean go straight and turn right after the third pillar. First window on right hand “

“ Thank you” she started walking

“ but it will open at 7. I am also waiting for it” I just wanted to talk to her.

oh, where are you going ?”

“Dublin, and you?”

“ I am going to Waterford” as she looked around “ no tea or coffee either?”

“ I hope they will open in 5 minutes “

“ Do you live here?” she asked sitting next to me

“ Yes, near the post office on O’Connell ….you?”

“ near the dock ….you from India?”

“ No, I am from Pakistan”

“ really!, doctor?”

“ yes, how do you know?”

“ all Pakistanis I have seen here are doctors “ she smiled

I felt satisfied and even proud about being a Pakistani.

“ where are you from?” I wanted to know more about her

“ do you know Tipperary?”

“ yes”

“ I am not from there” she laughed …. I joined her when I understood.

“ I am from waterford ” she was still smiling

“ No doubt it is the city of crystals” I looked at her

“ oh thank you!, our crystals look delicate but they stay with you for whole of your life.”

…and thanks for the compliment……I am Ciara”

“ Nice meeting you Ciara, I am Kashif”

“ Do you want coffee?…tea?” I saw the shop lady opening the doors.

“ Lets go there, we can sit inside. It is cold and this rain!!…it never stops!”

“You should be used to it. You are an Irish,?”

“ I am an Irish but I was not born here. I moved to Ireland 6 years ago. We were living in Spain before”

“ ohk, that is why you don’t have Irish accent.”

“really?..then what accent do I have..English?…or Spanish?..”

“hmmm….I guess Chinese!” we both started laughing.

“ you know, sometimes we meet people who are complete strangers and yet we feel that we know them for a long time” she looked into my eyes while sipping from her coffee cup.

“ Yes…and then we realize that they are in fact our next door neighbours”

She burst into laughters… and for me it was like listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony….soothing to my inner self”

“ You know you are funny. I have not laughed this much in months. Thanks”

“ I am gad that I could bring out those laughters…they must be buried for months”

“ Are all Pakistanis so witty and funny?”

“ No, only half of them…the other half is audience ” I smiled

“ I am serious!”

“ so am I”

“ Do you live with your family?”
“ No , my family lives in Pakistan. I am alone here”

“ My mom lives in Waterford. My mom and dad moved to Spain after they got married”

“ and what do you do here?”

“ I am in the college of nursing. I will graduate in ’91”

“ Thats nice”

“I can help you if you want then”

“ o sure, I would love to have you assist me”

“ so tell me Kashif, what else do you do? “

“ well lets see, I like to play squash and being Pakistani I think I love playing cricket. I like to read too”

“ really!? I love to read. What kind of books do you like ?”

“ mostly literature, classics”

“ me too. I love Jane Austen, Bronte, Eliot, Henry Fielding and so so many.”

“ I like those too. I love Russian and French literature. I like James Joyce. I guess being Irish you might have read him too ”

“You know I tried to read ‘Ulysses‘ but hardly went beyond few pages. I am Austen’s girl. I feel myself to be her heroin when I am reading her”

“ yea? She must be close to your nature?”

“ yes she is “ she paused for a moment then said “can I ask you something?”

“ yes?”

“have you ever been in love?”

“ what!??”

“ sorry, I know it is a personal question. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to”

“ ok, I don’t want to answer”

She looked at my serious face, then smiled.

“ Why are you smiling?”

“ will you believe if I tell you the truth?”

“ don’t have any reason not to”

“ I have started to like you”

“ you are funny too”

“ I am serious “

“ oh ok, sorry. Well, I am flattered to know that a girl as pretty and nice as yourself likes me, but I fail to understand why, specially when you know me only for last 30-40 minutes. You don’t even know me”

“ can’t you like a stranger?”

“didn’t your mom ever tell you never to trust a stranger?”

“ she did but she had not met you till then”

“ oh ok. Hold on!. now it is getting serious”

“ Do you believe in soul mates?”

I only believe in Check mate” I laughed but she did not, rather she ignored my comments

“You know they say ‘everyone in the world has a soul mate, who can be regarded as a life traveler. Soul mates have known each other in past lives and will know each other in future lives. They are destined to be with one another, may even meet at a very late stage of their life. But unfortunately, sometimes their paths may not cross. Sometimes two people who are truly meant for one another never make contact in this lifetime.

But if and when we do meet our soul mate, even if it’s for a brief moment, the two of us will know instantly. The chemistry, the feeling, the easy conversation will be there. As you look into each other’s eyes, you will know. You will have the feeling you’ve known this person before…and it’s true. You really have known this person before. “ her eyes piercing through my soul.

“ Wow…. am impressed…I mean I don’t have words”

“ Do you understand what I said”

“ Yes I do….and honestly I can not disagree with you. I feel you are right” I smiled. She smiled too.

“ Kashif, here is my contact in Limerick and Waterford. I will be back in town mid January. I would love to stay in touch. Please do, if you like to” she wrote her contacts on a paper and gave it to me.

“ Thanks Ciara. Have you heard that they say ‘ don’t trust Irish weather…and women. They can change instantly” I could not stop teasing

“ Yes I have heard that. I think the people who say that don’t know how to enjoy what either of these offer….”

“ and till now I have only seen weather and I have enjoyed that” I could not resist

“ One day you will know about the other part too……see.! I told you, you are witty “

“ I was witty even before you told me that”

“ok Mr. Witty- funny train will leave us if we don’t rush .”

We walked towards the platform

“Alright Kashif, I will wait for you. When you feel the same way, come to me, you will find me waiting for my soul mate”

“ Ciara, I can not lie to you. I like you but don’t know you enough and we have many basic differences. Let the time take its own course”

“ I told you what I have felt in last one hour. I had no idea when I came to the railway station but now I know who my soul mate is……. ”

“ Ok. Bye Ciara…take care of yourself”

“ Bye for now Kashif” she hugged me.

Two weeks later I got call from home. I had to go back to Pakistan. Same family and estate feuds forced me to abandon my idea of returning to Ireland. It took few years to take care of everything. Sometimes in the night when I used to lie down and read a book, I would think of Ciara.

“ she would have forgotten you by now” I would tell myself but my inner self never believed in it. I don’t know why.

Years passed by. Mom and dad asked me to get married now as I had crossed 40 . There were still good proposals from nice girls from similar families. I thought about it seriously but could never convince myself. Whenever I thought of soul mate, Ciara’s face appeared in front of me.

One day in year 2003, I decided to go back to Ireland for a visit. On a rainy eve of November I landed at Shannon and headed to Limerick city. Things had changed. European Union and IT boom had changed the country but the beauty and innocence of nature was still there.

I stayed at my old friend and colleague Javed’s place. In the night we sat down near the fire and talked about old days. He started telling me about what everyone was doing.

“ By the way , I remember now. Few weeks after you had left, a girl came looking for you. She said she had some personal thing to discuss with you.”

“What was her name?” I got excited

“ As far as I remember it was Ciara.”

“ What did she say?”

“ she just told me to tell you that she was moving to waterford. She never came back again and neither did you….and I forgot to tell you.”

“ its ok, it doesn’t matter”

Next morning I was at the same railway station waiting for train, but this time it was train to Waterford.

It was long 3 hours. I still had Ciara’s address in my wallet. I don’t know why did I keep it with me all the time. It was a bit outside the city. Finally I was there, at front of her house, an old Irish house with colorfully painted walls and flowers everywhere. I pressed the bell button. An old lady showed up

“ Who is there?”

“ Is this Ciara’s house?”

“ Who are you?” She looked deeply at my face then said “ you must be Kashif!!”...then started shouting “Ciara Ciara…..you were right. Kashif is here”

“ how do you know who I am” it really made me happy

“ Ciara told me everything about you. You are exactly like she painted your picture. I am Mary, her mother.”

“Where is she?”

She looked at me trying to find something on my face then said

“ She lives near the church. I will take you there. “ she held my hand and started walking “ you know I never believed her but she always said that one day you will come and she should wait for you. I thought she had gone crazy but she said you will come back one day…she also started studying Islam and Pakistan but..”

We passed by the church and entered a gate

“ There she is…my child…waiting for you…”

I looked at her with pain in my heart

“she could not fight cancer” she pointed to a grave stone that said “ waiting for you… Ciara O’ Mahoney”

I looked at Mary, she had tears in her eyes. I felt warmth of my own tears on my cheeks as I touched the stone.

“ You were right Ciara, I had only experienced Irish weather but now I know Irish wo….” I started crying loudly…my body seemed to jerk while I was trying to control my emotions. I did not have power or will to move as I felt Mary’s hands on my shoulder.

Its been four years since then. I run a hospital in Waterford named after its own girl “ Ciara Hospital”.

I do come to Limerick quite often and always use train. The Colbert station reminds me of many things ..but more than anything it reminds me of my soul mate… soul mates…and waterford crystals….they stay with you forever.

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