I was standing in his house, holding a copy of his first novel in one hand, and my wedding invitation card in the other. My eyes were stuck on the 200-page book. After gazing at the novel for a while, I asked, “When did Rohit write this novel, Mumma?”
“I don’t know what this boy is up to. He is probably not in his senses since a long time now. We are tired of telling him things, but he doesn’t want to listen,” Rohit’s mother said, sighing.
Where is he now?” I said, flipping through the pages of the novel, and then looking at its cover. It had the images of a boy, a girl, and a crowded auditorium, and only a mike on the stage. On the top was written ‘The Stupid SOMEBODY’, the name of the novel.
“Don’t know exactly. But he called yesterday and said he was somewhere near Amritsar. He is there for his novel. His publishers are telling him to change the end. And, this mad boy has gone to find an ending for his story. I mean, who in this world goes to some faraway place to find an ending to a… stupid novel?” Mumma’s frustration was evident in her words. “Anyway, what would you like to eat, beta? You have come home after a long time. I am happy to know that you are getting married.” Saying this, she made her way to the kitchen.
I followed her, lost in my thoughts.
“What did you say is the date of your wedding, Sherly?”
“25th. Exactly the date Rohit and I were supposed to…” My words reduced to a whisper and I just could not complete the sentence. “Lemongrass tea would be fine, Mumma,” I said instead.
Mumma set out to prepare my favourite, aaloo tikkis with some tea.
“Can I take this copy with me? I have some publisher friends. I can ask them. Maybe it can work.”
“Rohit has printed a few copies. This is the only one I have. You take it,” she said with a smile.
After having those snacks and going down memory lane, I left, asking Rohit’s mother to definitely come to the wedding with his father. I was getting married in four days.
Sometimes, I wonder, how life sets the stage, and then all of a sudden it changes the characters in the play called life. Rohit was far away in Amritsar then. Maybe, as his mother said, he was there to connect the dots of his life.
It was almost one in the morning when I picked up the book, put my spectacles on, sat on my favourite couch with a glass full of milk, and started reading.
On the first page was written:
For the most powerful force on the planet — Love.
The next two pages were blank; there was just a heading: Acknowledgements.
Confused, I turned the empty acknowledgements page, and proceeded to the first chapter.
~ 1 ~
It was a rainy day when Jignesh bhaiya called me to his house. His place was right in front of ours. Even though it was raining that day, I went quickly as I was fed up of staying at home. My cricket match had been cancelled due to the rain, and not to mention, I hated it. Those days, you just could not predict the weather. In the morning, it would be a bright sunny day and by afternoon, it would become as cloudy as if we were in Cherrapunji.
“Haan ji, bhaiya?” I said as I stepped in his house.
“Come, Rohit, come. How are you?”
He was sitting on the couch with his friend. My entry had halted their chit-chat and laughter.
“I am good, bhaiya,“ I said, brushing away water from my wet hair.
“Which school are you in?“
“R-R-Rameshwar Vidyalaya,“ I replied.
“Ummm… I am in 8th standard.”
He looked here and there, thinking of another question that he could ask me.
“What’s your name?“
“R-Ro-Rohit,“ I replied, wondering what could be the reason behind this volley of questions.
“Why are you asking all this, b-b-bhaiya?“ I asked, stammering.
“Nothing, nothing. You carry on,“ he answered, looking at his friend with a sly grin.
I turned and left from there. As I came out of his house, I heard him saying, “See, I told you, na? Some kids actually stammer like they show in the movies.”
This was nothing new to me. I used to encounter lots of such funny incidents every now and then. They taught me a big lesson at such a tender age — not to take life too seriously, otherwise you could end up hating everyone in this world.
I was now twelve years smarter, studying in the 8th standard. My world revolved around three things. My school, my friends, and my mother, who I lovingly call ‘Mumma’. The former and the latter consumed almost 90% of my days’ time and attention. And in the ‘friends’ category, I had only one with whom I hung out most often. His name was Birju.
After an hour of doing the boring homework neatly and properly, as asked by my class-teacher, I showed it to Mumma. Then I asked her what to do next. Her reply this time was an unusual, “Jao Khelo!“ (“Go play!”) Like, she never appreciated my sketches which I believed — and also lots of people suggested — were exact replicas of the originals. In the same way, hearing “Jao khelo“ from her was like a certificate that I had really done my homework well. I mean, maybe. Her appreciation and praise was what I looked forward to most of the time.
That day, Birju and I were having our second favourite time-pass of the rainy season, which was making bubbles with soap water using a stick from some plant. The first time-pass was watching everyone’s faces when their vehicles got stuck in the potholes filled with water in front of Birju’s house.
Birju, by the way, belonged to a Brahmin family, who were strictly and purely vegetarian as per their customs. He was such a hard-core vegetarian that he did not even discuss any non-veg jokes, which were quite the fashion in our class. His Dad worked in a private company and was quite particular about his studies. He almost hated me and my friendship with Birju. But he never showed this, at least he thought he didn’t. Birju’s mother, on the other hand, was full of love for me. Her favourite thing to do was to make me eat the dishes which debuted on her menu. In short, I was the rat of her experiments. And then, her next favourite thing was to force me to appreciate it. Duh!
“Your Mumma is just like Hitler, yaar! How do you manage at home?“ Birju said, making bubbles. “Yesterday, I came to your house and she asked me thousands of questions, and all of them about studies.”
“She’s not like H-Hitler! Actually, she wants me to be successful, and not to become any A-A-Anna or Tapori who runs after kites the whole day,“ I justified my mother’s behaviour. No matter how much you curse your own product, the minute anyone else does it, swords must be drawn.
“Yes, that’s why she keeps on telling me the same thing again and again — Study hard, else you will also have to run thelas to earn a living like those kids… what are their names? Anna and Tapori,” Birju said, trying to imitate my mother’s accent.
“Look, I love my m-mother very much and don’t want to l-l-l-listen to anything against her. Also, she tells me to look after positives in everything in life. So, I think it’s for my best that she worries about me, and also for you… you B-Babba.”
Babba is the name I had given him. Actually, that has an interesting story too. Birju was totally opposite to what his name implies, which was a bit desi. He was a big fan of Hollywood movies. When we were in the seventh standard, he had watched Forrest Gump, the movie starring Tom Hanks. After watching the movie, he started calling me Babba which he said was the name of the protagonist’s best friend in the movie. Next day, I announced in the class, before he could do the same for me, that Birju’s new name was Babba from that day onwards. He hated me for doing that. But the whole class called him Babba after that. And I just loved the way it was been said, by punching both lips together, twice. ‘Babba’.
“Achcha, tell me Rohit, what sort of positives do you find in your stammering?” he asked.
“Good q-q-q-question. Hmm… I like the q-q-question. Let me think.”
After about two minutes and blowing almost twenty bubbles, I started.
“F-First one is that people remember you easily. If they don’t, you just have to stammer a single time. For example, if people call at my p-place and ask who’s talking, all I need to do is to stammer and they quickly say, Rohit beta!“ I laughed at my own joke.
“And…“ asked Birju. blowing another bubble.
“And… aaand… haan… You become a pioneer at teaching people Dumb Charades.”
“A-A-Actually, see. Most of the time, even before I can complete my s-s-sentence, people start guessing the next word whenever I am stuck.”
“Hmmm….“ Birju didn’t seem much happy with the conversation.
“And the b-b-b-best of them all. T-T-This could be the reason why my future father-in-law will reject me, a-a-and that will save my life!“ I laughed my heart out at this one. This was a joke I had created myself after hearing a lot of husband-wife jokes my father used to crack about himself and Mumma. Kudos to my creativity!
While I was busy laughing, Jignesh bhaiya bumped over the pothole with his friend on his bike and my laughter became even louder. Birju also joined me this time, pointing his finger towards the victim in our pothole fun. Suddenly while laughing, I don’t know why I started remembering this beautiful girl, Maggie.
Maggie… Yes! Till then, I had seen her only once. That day, I had heard some murmurs in school that she was in the town for holidays. On hearing that, I was completely engrossed in my memories of the first time when my eyes had met their redeemer, Maggie.
That night at the dinner table, Mumma asked me and my sister Ipsa things related to studies and school, such as ‘When were our exams supposed to start?’ ‘Who was running at which position in the monthly tests?’ ‘Was I participating in sports activities?’ and so on.
My father said only his favourite punchline on the matter, “Dive into the field of the exams for even a single mark! Every run—I mean—every mark counts!” No points for guessing, he was a big cricket fan. After this stereotypical line of his, came the usual stories of when he used to play for our city’s cricket team. All I did was to nod with a smile, remembering the beautiful face that made my day nothing less than amazing.
~ 2 ~
That year, our school was completing a hundred years of its existence, as they said. It was a proud moment for everyone associated with the school. And to celebrate it, that year’s annual function had been planned to be grand.
I became a part of Sandra Ma’am’s group, which was performing a fusion dance of Kathakali mixed with some Bollywood dance. Sandra Ma’am by the way, was a Catholic lady of around 40—Sandra Fernandes, her name was—and she had this gracious aura as her all-time companion. She was lean with a sharp pointed nose, a sharp face, and fair complexion. She used to mostly wear elegant bright-coloured gowns. She was a perfect prototype of those Hindi movie school-teachers for whom boys flirtatiously sing songs with guitars in their hands.
In the last period while we were practicing, Sandra Ma’am gave us wonderful news.
“From today, we are going to practice from four to six in the evening at my place. Make sure you all be there on time!“ All I heard was ‘at my place’, with Ma’am’s lips moving in slow motion.
‘Can I come before that, Ma’am?’ I wanted to ask her.
Birju’s eyes brightened. “Aha! Every day now, we will get to see some eye candy. Now practice will be so much fun, Rohit, Hai na?“ he asked, looking at me with his eyes rolling, referring to Maggie, who was Sandra Ma’am’s daughter. And my, was she a complete chip of the old block!
“You stupid fellow! She’s not that good-looking. Keep quiet,” I said though, not wanting to display my excitement.
But only my heart knew how much I was dying to see the “not-so-good-looking“ Margaret Fernandes.
It was a rainy day the previous October when I had first seen her. Unexpected rains had made the climate pleasant that day. Maybe even God wanted to make that my special day. Like everyone, I too was walking fast to reach home before someone’s whole-hearted laugh caught my attention. My feet stopped, and my head turned towards the staffroom from where the voice had come.
It had come from someone standing behind Sandra Ma’am. She was a girl around four feet six inches tall, wearing a red frock with white stripes on it. She had beautiful black-brown eyes. Droplets of water wanted to touch her, but their intentions were in vain due to her bodyguard, her umbrella. Her laughter was so infectious that I was not the only one whose eyes were glued on her. With her almost angelic nose, her body language, and the grace with which she was carrying herself, she looked just like Sandra Ma’am, but with some added features. Like, if Sandra Ma’am was Windows XP, she was Windows 10, or maybe even Mac OS Sierra. That was without any doubt the most refreshing site one could ever see in an all-boys school. That moment was like thousand moments in a single moment for me, and time stood still.
“R… Rukk. Hey, stop!“ I huffed.
“What happened?“ Birju asked, looking at me and then towards Maggie.
“Aha, here’s some eye candy. Seems like Sandra Ma’am is a terrorist; she’s carrying a bomb with her,“ he chuckled.
“Quit your PJs! Let’s go,“ I said.
She was Sandra Ma’am’s daughter. I managed to see her getting in her mother’s car to leave from school.
That was the only encounter I had with this encounter specialist. She nearly killed me that day with her looks and her more-of-life energy. Now I wonder—do they call this love at first sight?
That day, after a year, I yearned to see her again.
Sandra Ma’am’s house was in the army area of our city. This is a separate area from the civilian one. When one enters there, they automatically come to know that they are in a different place. Plantations in a well-organized manner, well-maintained roads, cannons won by our soldiers from the enemy countries standing on the roadside, beautiful gardens… these are just some of its attributes. Although it’s a small area, it’s a different, sweet world altogether. In the rainy season, and also in the evening hours, nature adds to its beauty. Sandra Ma’am’s house was just at the centre of it. Her house was on a big plot facing an open ground. The ground was big enough to even play cricket or football on it.
Birju and I reached her place on our bicycles ten minutes before time, and rung the bell.
The door opened and it was the face my eyes were dying to see. Fresh breeze brought along the sweet smell of the perfume she wore, and it filled our noses. Or maybe, that was her natural sweet smell.
“Yes?“ she asked, looking straight into my eyes.
Looking at her, for the first time into her deep eyes, my tongue got stuck, and I stammered as usual, but this time to continue stammering for centuries:
Birju slaughtered my never-ending word and said, “We have come to see Ma’am. Is she home?”
“Nope,” she looked at both of us with a blank expression, and then laughed instantly.
God, what do these girls eat? They are so pretty when they talk, and even when they laugh. And we boys, we sound like donkeys, I talked to myself.
“Mummy, your students are here.” She turned and left.
The practice began after a while and everyone dropped in. During the entire practice session, my focus was less on the practice and more on searching for this one girl, Maggie.
“Mom, I am going cycling with Kusum,” Maggie shouted from outside.
“Come back before the sun sets,“ Ma’am shouted back.
My heartbeat just then got from 1000 a minute to 60 a minute. Now I could see what was going on around me. Maggie’s house was neat, clean and proper, as an army personnel’s house should have been. Every photograph on the wall was in a perfect 90-degree position from the ground. Most of the photos were of her Dad in different locations like Leh, Ladakh, etc., and a single picture of the happy family of three. I now remember, as we had entered the house, Birju had commented, “It makes me puke to see so much discipline in a single place,” and had laughed at his own joke.
For the next five days, Maggie saw us practising every day. Sometimes, she would giggle with her friend Kusum, seeing us do some girly moves. Birju and I both used to think that she was peeking at us. I was sure that she was not looking at Birju. And I got some more hints on the sixth day that I was right in thinking so.
Due to some work at home, Birju left practice early that day. After the practice, I walked towards my bicycle. My hands went into my pocket searching for the keys. Suddenly I remembered that I kept them on the table where we had been practising. I went inside and got them. Everyone had gone by then.
The sun had almost set and I was finding it difficult to insert the keys in the lock. At that moment, I heard a sweet voice, “Your name is Rohit, right?”
The keys fell down from my hand. I turned to see Maggie standing there, staring right at my face from just a foot away. For the first time in my life I came to know what it means when people say ‘my heart jumped out of my chest.’
“Hi, I am Maggie,” she said, stretching out her hand to me.
“Hi!” I replied, and soon realized that she was standing with her hand towards me. Without wasting another second, I shook the world’s softest hand, and took mine back.
“You dance pretty well,” she smiled at me.
“Thanks, H-H-How do you know my name, by the way?” I enquired.
“I was just talking the other day to Mom and asked about you.”
“Asked about me?” I asked, startled.
“Yes, you stammer a bit, na… Oops, sorry.”
Thank God! My stammering had actually helped me today, I thought.
“No issues. Y-Yes, I do stammer a little. But that’s my s-s-style.” This time I laughed at my own joke.
“I am impressed by your attitude, Rohit,” she said, raising her eyebrows, keeping her hands on her waist.
“Y-You will be coming to watch me dance, I mean w-w-watch us dance, r-r-right?”
“Of course,” she said in an excited tone. “Also, where do we get a chance to see boys doing Kathakali dressed in sarees?” she said and laughed.
“Yup.” I didn’t know what to say now.
“Chalo, my Mom might be worrying about me. Good night.” She turned on her sport shoes and left.
I wanted to reply to her, but…
That day my heart felt like it was Diwali. Maggie had talked to me for the first time. I ate an extra chapatti with the vegetable I hate, spinach. I peeked out of my window as I lay down on my bed. My eyes were fixed on the full moon and its brilliance, and I got lost in the day’s sweet memories. That was really a good night.
Finally, it was the day. The day of the performance for which we had been practising for since the past two months.
Living up to the reputation of the best all-boys school of the town, the decoration and all arrangements were just magnificent. The whole pathway was decorated with flowers and balloons. The list of guests was longer than the usual; some renowned names of the town were also invited. The guests started to drop in unexpectedly on time due to the overall craze that was built up.
Other than our dance performance, there were some skits, singing performances, all in groups. Since I was playing the boy in our dance act, I wore an orange silk saree as dhoti and only a necklace around my neck leaving the chest bare. Girls, or I should say made-up-girls of the day, wore magenta sarees in the Malayalam style with backless blouses and lots of ornaments. That’s the problem with an all-boys school. Without any operation, our genders are changed for performances every year. I have faced this many times till now. Thank God, I was performing as a boy this time. At least now, I could show some heroism in front of my girl. I mean, just think of performing in front of your girl-crush as a girl. Sounds a bit not-so-cool; at least that’s what I thought then.
Before our performance, I peeked through our classroom-cum-trial-room several times to have a look at my beloved, Maggie. I was excited to perform in front of her and show her my dancing skills. It was as if I was hoping Maggie would choose me as her hero based on my dancing skills. Just like I had read somewhere that a famous movie director once chose a heroine from such an event. In my weird fantasy, our movie name was In Your Arms, Forever and Ever!
We all got ready as we heard ‘Inquilab Zindabad!’, which was the last dialogue from the skit based on Bhagat Singh’s life. It was second-last act of the evening; ours was the last. Now it was our turn to set the stage on fire. Sandra Ma’am gave us the final tip, “Don’t look at the audience in their eyes. Look at their heads instead, if at all.” We looked at each other and shouted a soft, ‘Chak De Phatte!’
Now we were on stage in our God and Goddess avatars. Sandra Ma’am made sure that all the six made-up-girls wore full-on makeup for the show. And even we boys had a little lipstick on our lips. I tried to have it lesser on myself. Heroism mode, you see!
“Yahaan wahaan saara jahan dekh liya hai…” This song from an A. R. Rahman album started playing, and our hands and legs started moving to the rhythm. It was early December’s freezing cold and a biting wind was blowing. We were dancing bare-chested, and it was as if someone had opened a refrigerator in front of us. But as the dance started, nothing mattered. Completely ignoring Ma’am’s advice, my eyes started scanning each and every face sitting in the audience to find my to-choose-me-for-a-movie director, Maggie.
And my eyes met hers. My heart skipped a beat as if I had found an oasis in the desert, or maybe beauty in the land of ugliness. She looked super-excited and immensely beautiful in a bright yellow frock and a Panama hat. Her eyes were on the other participants and she had a smile on her face. Now we were supposed to take three turns on three beats. My gaze was fixed on hers, as if trying to turn her eyes towards me, and by mistake I took four in place of three turns. Oh my God! Now her eyes shifted to me, and so did everyone else’s. I bit my tongue. I missed the contract of getting signed in the movie, I thought.
As our epic performance got over, every face was happy, except mine. But to my surprise, nobody was talking about my killer performance. In the midst of all the praises, I heard a sweet voice, “That one extra round of yours just made my day.” I turned back to see Maggie standing right behind me with a glowing face.
“Ahh! T-T-Thank you, Maggie,” I said, rubbing my neck. She was elated, and so was I to have a chance to talk to her once again. I just love the way you lie, I thought.
“Have you seen my Mom?” she enquired.
“I d-d-d-d-dunno. This cold is just killing me. Ooooh…” I could not even keep my hands on my chest to cover it. After performing bare-chested in front of a huge audience, I was now feeling shy.
“Yes, it’s pretty cold today, so I too want to leave soon,” she said, her little eyes moving here and there to search her mother.
“You l-l-look s-s-stunning.”
“Thank you, Rohit,” she blushed.
As they say, there’s a fine line between playing and just standing out of the field like an idiot. I wanted to play. How should I ask her out?—I thought, gathered some courage, and…
“Listen! C-C-Can we just meet up t-t-t-tomorrow?” I asked hesitatingly.
“Oh, would have love to, but… I am leaving tomorrow for my hostel.”
“Yes, came home for a short trip for my uncle’s marriage. Now marriage and holidays are over. Bechari main, sad me!” she said making a puppy-face at me.
“You can come to drop me, if you want,” she said excitedly.
“Umm… Okay, don’t worry. have my hostel number then. Call me sometime. Amm… But, where will you write it?”
I started looking here and there.
Birju was staring at us continuously from the corner of his eye. He, my saviour, ran and brought a pen from someone, but was unable to find a paper. Birju gave me a two-rupee note secretly along with the pen. I mentally thanked him.
“What? On the note? You are funny, you know that? Anyway, here it is. And don’t spend the note on any other girl, Mr. Lattoo (a spinning top)!” I smiled looking at her, as she wrote her number keeping it on my palm.
“Thanks, b-b-b-by the way, we can also meet before you leave tomorrow. What say?” I asked, my fingers crossed.
“Umm… Before that would be tight, but… Okay, will manage. Just because of your one extra round, Mr. Lattoo. I hope that round was for me.”
She laughed her heart out, and I laughed with her. ‘I can do 100 more rounds just to see you laugh like this sweetheart,’ I thought.
“Done then, t-t-t-tomorrow, 4 p.m. at Koifeza Cafe.”
“Okay, done. Now let me find my Maate (mother)!” She smiled and left.
Woohooo… My first ever date is going to happen tomorrow, I said to myself and jumped.
Sleep that night was miles apart from my eyes. What would I talk to her about? What if she asked me some serious questions like my future plans or whether our house was big enough if we married after a few years? Zillions of such questions ran through my mind that night. I would even live in a tiffin box with her, I thought and smiled.
The next day, all I did was to look at the clock numerous times, and tried more combinations of outfits than even girls do. Finally, my going-on-a-date look comprised of my favourite blue jeans, a black round-neck tee that read, ‘Who’s the Admiral?’, and gel in my hair. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked amazing, amazing enough to charm her. At least, I liked to believe so.
I took my bicycle keys with a smile and told my mother, “I am g-g-g-going to Birju’s place. W-W-Will be back in an hour, Mumma.”
I pedalled the bicycle only to find out that it had a flat tyre.
“Oh shit!” I said, kicking at the tyre.
Repairing the puncture would take long and I was already running late. So, my smart mind came to my rescue with a better idea. I thought up of asking Dad for his scooter, which I had been practising on since a month. The scooter would anyway be a better way to impress a girl. Gathering some courage, I went to my Dad who was enjoying his holiday at home reading his newspaper.
“D-D-Dad!” I said, looking at him,
“Yes, what is it?” he asked, still staring at the newspaper.
“Can I b-b-b-borrow your scooter to go to Birju’s p-p-place? I will be back soon,” I said hesitatingly.
He looked at me, thought for a while making his favourite Sherlock-pose and stood up to take the keys and gave it to me. My mother dropped in at the same time having a plate of tilli ladoos in her hands asking for us to taste them. She came to know of the scooter story, which I really did not want her to know.
“What, you are giving him your scooter? It was okay in the colony, but taking it out in the city? No way,” she said with resentment clear in her voice.
“C’mon m-m-Mumma. I-I-I have already taken it out two or three times.” I tried to convince her.
“What’s that urgent need today? No need of taking the scooter. You are still very young to even get a license.”
“Mom, p-p-please, I am a good rider. And n-n-n-nobody asks for a l-l-l-license in Mhow. Please, Mumma.”
Deep down in my heart, I knew she was right, but I pleaded. How could I tell her that her future daughter-in-law was waiting for me?
“Shut up! If a traffic policeman catches you, you wouldn’t even be able to talk to him. You can’t even speak properly. You would stutter there too like you are stuttering now.”
Now that was the thing I wish she wouldn’t have said. I stood still in that moment. No words were wanting to come out of my mouth, still I tried.
She left the room.
She was the one who had always believed and waited for me to speak fluently. Those words of hers shattered me. It does not matter if the whole world is against you; if your mother is standing by your side, you don’t care. But, what if she leaves your hand and goes to join the world? My heart was stabbed by an invisible knife, and that too by my own mother. Something out there knew perfectly how to turn the best day of my life into the worst.
She came back into the room with a plate in her hand. Before my eyes would have screamed my feelings, I gave the keys back to Dad and ran back to my room.
I sat by my study table, opened a notebook and took a pencil in my hand.
She came after me, kept the laddoo plate at the table and darted out. I put the whole laddoo in my mouth and started to write a long letter on the sheet as I chewed on it.
How can she say something like that to her son? Her trust in me was the only thing that gave me hope. And now she has broken it and for what? Just a stupid scooter, I thought aloud, fumbling with the words. Tears started trickling down my cheek. I cried. I cried on silent mode while chewing the sweet. But it didn’t matter! She had made my would-have-been-sweetest moment so bitter! My nose started running. My hand continued making the letter bolder and bolder which nearly tore the paper. I don’t even remember what letter it was.
I wept silently and lamented over what she had said for almost fifteen minutes. Suddenly, in the midst of all the darkness, emerged the bright, glowing face of Maggie. I came to my senses and realized that she would be waiting for me.
I stood, rubbed my eyes, and quickly got out of my room. I straight away called Birju to come and pick me up.
“Come as fast as you can,” were my strict instructions. He dropped by in five minutes, which was the fastest anyone could come on bicycle from his house to mine.
It was 4:20 now. After dropping Birju home, riding the bicycle faster than ever, I reached Koifeza Café, panting. The whole way, I was silent and prayed to God that Maggie would wait for me there.
My eyes quickly scanned the whole café as soon as I reached, only to find out that she was nowhere. I sat at a table thinking that she might have left, or that she might also be running late like me. I thought up of asking the manager, but I was under-confident. I stopped a waiter who came to clean my table.
“Bhaiya, d-d-did a girl come here? A-A-Alone, I mean?” I asked him.
“I don’t know. My shift started just now,” he replied rudely.
Gathering some courage, I went to the counter to ask the manager this time.
“A-A-A-A… Bhaiyaaa!” I said.
“Yes, what do you want?” he asked, looking at me.
A woman came to the counter who seemed to be in a hurry to catch some train. Before words could come out of my mouth, she said, “Give me one black forest pastry, and… How much does the coffee cost?”
Their conversation ran for almost decades.
I returned to the table and waited for some more time. Just like the setting sun, my heart also sank. What would she be thinking of me now? I didn’t know when I would be seeing her the next time, or maybe I would not see her in this lifetime. Thoughts like these ran through my mind.
I had missed her, just as one misses the last train to his destination. This was probably the shortest love story one could ever have.
But… Life is more surprising than one can ever imagine it to be!