Tuesday, August 11, 2009
After much thinking, she had finally summoned the courage…
The air was cold and in this part of the city had certain freshness to it. The cool air had cast a rosy effect on everyone and everybody seemed to have ‘pink- pink’ cheeks. But hers were a pale yellow. They were both sitting across each other on the open terrace of the coffee shop… he had picked up newspapers from the rack and was glancing at the headlines, scourging for interesting news… a cup of coffee -black and strong- held casually between his fingers and she was playing with the tumbler-shaped ice in her ice-tea.
She looked up and glanced towards him. He seemed to there but not with her. A shiver ran up her spine and she turned her eyes.
There were a number of people around. In one corner there was a young & boisterous gang of friends celebrating the day with plate after plate of ‘chocolate fantasy’ –ies and in another, two men munching on chicken burger and discussing… maybe yesterday’s tennis match or the upcoming World Football Championship or their work or boss or maybe the four women sitting 2-3 tables away from them. The women were all in their late twenty’s and had an animated conversation going on between them. They were dressed well and looked cheerful. For a second, she thought of friends and her mind frantically sms’d them saying that she was missing them. As her gaze shifted she saw a very old couple sipping tea and enjoying each other’s company with the ease of old friends and the passion of new love-birds and tucked away in a corner… thinking that they are hidden from world’s view, was a very young couple… around 17-18… sitting beside each other… holding hands under the table and blushing.
She looked back at her fast-turning-warm ice-tea and sipped a little.
“Vibu, shall we go for movie?”
…she desperately wanted him to agree, as today she wanted to spend as much time as possible with him…
“Hiya, I have some work. I have to go back in an hour. Some other time.”
“But Vibu, we have met almost after a week today and you promised you will spend the day with me. Please. I’m not going to let you go”
“Don’t behave stubbornly Hiya. I have to go no matter what you say”
“Stop it jaan” …and he went back to his newspaper. Hiya closed her eyes.
As the haze cleared Hiya saw herself… cheeks pink, eyes bright, a confused smile on her face and a phone stuck to her ears. She could feel her heart pounding in her throat as she heard his question.
“Hiya, do you love me? Please tell me Hiya… do you love me? I know you do… but I want you to confirm. Once. Just once. Tell me Hiya. Tell me.”
She could feel each beat of the moment gone by with the same flurry of emotions… until some days back she had never felt time had passed… but today, as she closed her eyes, the moment brought with it a stab of pain… and a realization, that it had been 5 years ago!
“What do u wanna eat?” Vibu’s voice brought her back into reality.
Hiya waited to hear a warm ‘jaan’ at the end… she had become used to hearing it in every sentenc … but then she realized, “nothing lasts forever” and it had been time her habit of expecting, changed.
“I will have a paneer role Vibu”
She quickly returned to sip the remaining ice-tea and heard Vibu say “One chicken burger and one paneer role, please”
“Aaj ke newspaper mein there is an interesting article on the 3 women of India- Mayawati, Jayalalitha and Mamta Banerjee. You ought to read this.”
By the time she said okay, he was back to the newspaper and gazing at the greenish liquid that had become a lighter green because of the melting of ice she saw a beautiful image in the round of the liquid at the bottom of the glass.
“I love you jaan”
Her face lit up hearing his words, and in his warm embrace, she softly asked, “how much?”
“khud se…” he spoke in her ears promptly.
There was so much warmth in those words that her eyes swelled up and two tiny tears rolled down her eyes.
His grip around her firmed and he said, “I thought tum mere words sunkar khuhs hogi, but tum to silly ho, rone lagi. Sshhhh… don’t cry. I just can’t see tears in your eyes.”
Presently she felt a slight wetness on her cheek and hastily wiped it with her fingers.
She had taken a tough decision and she would not show how weak she felt. Her decision demanded her to be strong and more than that his words. “ye rona- dhona band karo, please. Stop your drama.” Never ever would she cry infront of anyone ever again. Never ever.
The paper had been kept aside and also the memories. The order had been served and Vibu opened both the ketch-up sachets and gave it to her. She picked up one and squeezed out the ketch-up into a ‘smiley’ on her paneer role. Vibu smiled and so did she.
“So how was your birth day Vibu? Had fun?”
“Yeah. But I missed you a lot. I wish I could have been with you.”
Hiya smiled and said, “C’mmon yaar. You were doing things you enjoy, having things you like and for a change had so many friends with you on your birthday. I’m sure with me it would have been pretty routine. Aur Baby, if you were wanting to be with me so much, you know we could have met. Tum to itne busy the ki baat tak karne ki fursat nahi thi tuhare paas”
“Tum to jaanti ho na mere friends aaye hue the. Phir college ke bande bhi aa gaye. And I had so much work to do. Almost all day i was busy. And we did talk. You were the first to wish me dear.”
“Oh! I forgot to tell you that tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Mahabaleshwar with a few friends for 2-3 days.”
“What? Tomorrow? You mean again we are not going to meet”
“Just for 2-3 days yaar”
For a second she did not want him to go, but then she thought that it was good that he was going. This would give her time too.
“Vibu I had to say something to you. I mean I had to give you something.” She took out the red envelope from her bag and placed it on the table.
She could see him smile as he asked “Whats this sweetie?”
And she could feel herself fighting to keep her tears back as she teased him in reply, “Don’t call me sweetie.”
She managed a smile on her face and finally added, “Whatever it is, its for you. But if you want it, you have to promise that you will open it tomorrow, on your way to Mahabalehwar. And I expect that you will atleast keep this promise.”
“No buts Vibu. You promise, you get it. Else it goes back with me in my bag.”
“Ummm… okay. Promise”
As he was about to pick it up from the table, she moved her hands and held his in hers. She just loved it. Holding his hands with their fingers inter-twined. But today, their clasped hands over that envelope were so ironical. She was thankful at least right now he was patient. She tightened her grip and said with a little smile, “Have fun their sweetheart. I’ll miss you a lot. Be safe and happy.” And silently in her heart she added, “Always”
She tightened her grip one last time, closed her eyes, felt his hand, his whole being and then, she let go.
Vibu picked up the envelop, paid the bill and said “Now my dear, should I leave?”
“Yes, you may. But remember, you cheated me again. I was supposed to have you to myself for the whole day”
This time he laughed, “Are you ever satisfied?”
Hiya smiled, “Funny. And yeah, I am going to my aunt’s place tonight. So my phone is going to be switched off. Okay? Take care”