The day was drawing to a close, and I found myself sitting aimlessly on a nice roadside bench. Well, I call it ‘nice’ because it provided me a quiet atmosphere to read a book while waiting for a bus. The sun was doing its best to provide all the light it could before sinking into the horizon, but I knew that I’d have to put down the book in a little while. The bus I was waiting for was not very frequent, and after having waited for twenty minutes, I started balancing the idea of having to walk home. It wasn’t very far off, but I wasn’t keen on walking the distance alone.
As soon as the story I was reading ended, I looked at the sky and was startled by the darkness that had already surrounded me. I looked at my watch; I definitely had to give up my hope of catching a bus and start walking if I wanted to reach home before nightfall. I was hastily putting my book inside the bag when I felt someone else sit down on the bench. I looked at the stranger, and even in the low light, I could see his tall, lean figure in a frock coat and a deerstalker. I couldn’t help but gasp out loud, “Dear God! You!”
The tall man looked at me and was utterly unabashed by my shocked face. “I see you know me. In fact, after my biographer published his little accounts, I don’t see why you shouldn’t. It’s a pleasure meeting you, miss. Titli Bose. Hmm… I can’t quite pronounce it, can I? You won’t get that bus you’re waiting for, but you know that already. How was the examination today? Good, I presume? Yes, of course, it was good, no doubt at all.”
I stared at him open-mouthed for a while. “Mr. Holmes, how can you possibly know that?” I asked, thoroughly amazed.
“Elementary. Suppose you’d only observe and not ‘see’ the world around you! You have been waiting here for a while, and I don’t see why else you would care to sit down on a roadside bench. When I arrived, you looked around and appeared surprised, and you’ve been too engaged in the book to see the sun go down. You looked at your watch and hurriedly packed your bag, and intended to get up; obviously, you had given up on the bus ride home. Your fingertips are smudged with blue ink, your pen leaked, and you wiped it on your hand rather than a stray piece of paper—pen leak and absence of a piece of paper to wipe the ink- an examination. You see, I am oversimplifying things here. And how do I know that the examination was good? This is the most obvious one. You’re sitting on a bench reading a storybook; you are not depressed, which is usually the response to a difficult question paper.” he stopped for a second to look at me, “The name? My dear girl, you are wearing your identity card. God, these inferences are boring.”
I didn’t dare to speak for a minute. Then I mustered up all the strength that I had and asked him, “Will you walk with me since you obviously have nothing better to do?”
It was his turn to be surprised, “Why, yes! It would be a pleasure. And you are so absolutely right! I don’t have anything to do apparently, funny how it took me so long to figure that out! So this way, I presume?” he asked courteously as he stood up and started walking. I didn’t ask him how he knew- the identity card. Obviously.
So the long walk began. At first, I thought that I’d have to take a break somewhere mid-way because I was so tired, but slowly my companion’s energy and curiosity penetrated me. I had to race slightly to keep up with his pace because of his long strides, but I didn’t tell him to slow down because I knew each of his moods very well. His bright eyes had a sharp, penetrating quality about them as though they could read what you were thinking. He asked many questions about me and questions about the neighborhood throughout the journey, and I was most embarrassed because I knew none of the answers. I had not expected him to be a friendly man, and he wasn’t. But he was ever so gentlemanly and slowed down whenever he saw me running out of breath.
“So, you know me from Dr. Watson’s books? Of course, they were famous in my time too. Though I will be forever indebted to him, I always asked him to cut down on romanticism. He should have merely contented himself with stating the facts. “, he remarked suddenly.
“I disagree with you. Watson was a true romantic, and without his beautiful description of the entire cloud that surrounded the mystery, the mystery itself would lack its spark. Your precision and coldness towards some matters are only admirable when they come in contrast with Dr. Watson’s poetic view about things.” I said somewhat aggressively to defend dear Dr.Watson.
Sherlock smiled slyly, “Watson did appeal to your kind, then and now. Well, perhaps you are right. But it’s all about perception. For example,” he said, pointing at the dimly lit houses scattered in the dark valley beside us, “what do you see when you look there?”
“The countryside. Beautiful. Free from the black fumes of the city. You can see the stars from here.” I said fondly.
“All I see is the isolation and the terrible deeds of the people which go unnoticed because of it.”
“You said that on your journey to the Copper Beeches. But I don’t understand you. Should we not see the brighter side of things just because there is a darker side? Should we always be afraid because there will always be some reason to be so?”
“You know me, do you think I am a pessimist? I am a mere realist. I don’t think we should be afraid of everything, but I hold the opinion that we should know what to be afraid of.”
I could not disagree with this because this was something I’d never considered before. After a while, I spoke again, “What about the element of surprise? Do you ever get surprised?”
“Of course I do! I was mightily surprised when you told me that I had no better work than to walk you home! Knowing things that others don’t know, seeing things that others don’t see while standing on the same platform as you, is not as terrible as you think.”, he said mischievously.
“I know it’s a talent. But if you don’t mind, I’d admit that I’d rather see the world through Dr.Watson’s eyes rather than yours.”
He looked at me again and appeared to be surprised. “Women of my age didn’t have opinions like yours. Or perhaps we didn’t listen properly. But I am glad that you told me what you really feel.”
“Irene Adler outsmarted you,” I remarked.
“Yes, she was quite a lady—the Woman. I could never forget that case. I gave her less credit than she deserved.” he said fondly.
Our conversation continued for a while, and then he suddenly remarked, “India has changed quite a bit since my time. When I lived, it used to be a mere colony. It’s surprising how it has turned out considering the political instability that we witnessed.”
“Thank you, Mr. Imperialist, we’ve done very well for ourselves indeed,” I said sarcastically with a mock bow.
“I didn’t mean to offend you.” he said quickly, “I have got nothing against Indians as you’ll remember from the Sign of Four.”
We had almost reached our destination when he asked me, “One last question. Why am I here? And why do I have this strange intuition that nobody but you can see me?”
A slight drizzle had set in, and I ran to the door of my house. “Your intuition is right as always, Mr. Holmes! I’d invite you in for supper, but that’d be rather pointless. Of course no one, but I can see you! You are in my head! Funny, how it took the legendary ‘consulting detective’ of 221B Baker Street so long to figure it out!” I said as I rushed into the drawing-room. One last glance at the rain-lashed street showed me the tall, austere-looking Sherlock Holmes smiling at me.