As soon as I entered the cafeteria, the time came to stand still. Everything has been same since last 10 years at this place.
The only thing which has changed is couple of faces & their expressions over the years. I still remember when I used to come over here during my college days with my friends & we were not so welcomed guests in this busy cafeteria.
I made my way through the busy tables and arrived at my corner table next to window. Why this table? Well let’s not get into details of that… but I have never ever in last 3 years I have rarely sat on any other table expect this one. If the table has been occupied I would have perhaps waited for the table to be freed before I could occupy the table with plain white cloth & red borders & a flower vase with lilies exactly in the center of the table.
But it’s not the table which brought me here always. The reason for coming here always has been personal & special. & today it is even more special.
I ordered a soft drink with one plate of French fries; with my current health conditions, these were not the ideal snacks for someone, but today I chose to take a little liberty; hoping that neither my body nor he would mind
I took the first sip of drink & I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, and seven…” & by the time I reached one… he was right there on opposite side of table, smiling at me & that smile… I tell you… was something to die for…
“Happy anniversary”, I was the first one to break the silence,
“Happy anniversary dear”, he responded.
I tried to avoid the topic of oily French fries, but he was not in a mood to let it go without a complaint.
What are you doing? Do you realize how unhealthy it is for you? You are not at that age to have such stuffs? When will you grow up?
Well I guess.. I’m still young enough to be proposed by you once again.. I tried to counter his allegations.
He smiled, just smiled looking continuously into my eyes. It’s like he said thousand words without saying a single word.
Every time we made any arguments.. he always won with his smiley silence, resulting a whole new record of not any winning conversation from my side. So I guess nothing was new this time & he again won my heart with his smile.
“What would you like to have”? I asked him, pushing the crippled menu paper
“Nothing, I’m already done & obviously I’ll not have whatever oily junk stuff you are having right now”.
I pretended that his voice did not reach me in the noise of the cafeteria & continued to enjoy the taste of fries with sauce before the plate was snatched from me.
He looked around; “Nothing has changed in this place? Do you remember the day when I proposed to you? We sat right here on this table in silence & anxiety”
I smiled. “Of course I remember… you were so nervous that you nearly dropped the flower vase twice & spill the glass of water & completely drenched yourself in the process”
He laughed, “Oh yes, and I stammered twice while saying the three golden words.”
“Thank God that I managed to say those three words; & I was nervous because I realized that you already knew about my feelings.” – He said.
I said “From that day, we kind of created a relationship with this place. We have celebrated countless events of our life over this table since years; like our anniversaries; when we had our kids; when we had our first fight, when we got our first home and so many.”.
“Well actually not all events were celebrated… have you forgotten what happened to our first anniversary?” – he said
I smiled, “Yes I do. I waited at this table for three hours here; and you didn’t appear. I then went back home; thinking that this marriage was a mistake”
“And later I realized that you were busy searching streets for my favorite single red rose; which you could not get because of curfew in the city. I was so ashamed of myself that when you called me I couldn’t even say ‘sorry’; & more embarrassing was when you saw my personal diary in which I wrote about divorce thing.”
“But after that day although you have been late… but never forgot our anniversary.” – I said
“do you remember my goa trip?” – he teased me. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing so loud that people around the table started watching me.
“ofcourse I remember…I packed your luggage & went to drop you at the gate”
“yaaa…. Ok… I forgot to put your tickets & you had come back from airport to collect the ticket & to add spice to the wound, you saw me smiling & you thought I did it intentionally. it took my quite a while to convince you that it was not a practical joke.”
“but seriously you looked like a joker that day when you came back!!!”
“seriously.. you want to bring that discussion once again right here.. right now…” he tried to put some serious tone in his voice… which he always failed to do over these many years.
I laughed again…”Honestly no matter what you tried to hide… it was always visible on your face. When you had your first bachelor night now post marriage & you tried to hide your drinking experience…. It was clearly visible from your face…. But I didn’t say anything because I knew that you always knew your limits & I just smiled when you said…”
“Honey… you know that I don’t drink…:- He said smiling. He remembered exact words he said.
“You knew back then…?” his facial expression turned pink… this usually happened when he was caught red handed.
I smiled with a winning attitude. “Of course I knew… I had known you for 10 years…? You think you could fool me… Darling… getting fooled was my choice…. Fooling me was your option… you choose yours & I choose mine”
He grinned trying to hide his embarrassment, “Honestly, speaking… I always feared when I came home after having drinks with my friends & never had courage to speak up the truth. It’s not that you never gave me a choice of telling the truth, but I always wanted to maintain the good boy image”
I couldn’t stop myself from saying this…“You were, are & will always be a good boy for me”
“Have you forgotten the car driving learning incident?” – he tried to find my weak points in the middle of the discussion.
I said” Of course how could I forget that… it was because of you I could never learn to drive again. You created a phobia in my mind for driving”
Now it was his time to be embarrassed. “Only If knew that for you neutral & zero are different meanings, I would have never done that…. We nearly were on the verge of collision with police vehicle”
“ Yaa… and you scared this innocent lady by screaming on the top of your voice…” I said
“Innocent…..Look who is talking…who sent my resignation to my boss from my laptop to make me April fool? And not only that you also told my colleagues about my new car because of which I had to treat them, that dinner cost my diamonds. Can you explain that please… innocent lady” – he said in the naughty tone.
I smiled with my lips between my teeth… “Of course I can…you were not getting me my favorite jewelry…. So what I could do…I loved to put in situations where you had no way to run….”
It had been already 2 hours & the evening crowd was arriving the cafeteria, but who cared… we had met after so many days & we had tones of things to talk about.
“How’s our daughter?” he finally asked.
“Good that you asked…She is fine; doing well and she is getting married soon.”
“Who is the boy… the guy from his office whom I met 4 years back?” – he enquired
Yes… I said
“That’s great news indeed; I wish her all the luck she needs.”
“You will come at her marriage, Won’t you?” I asked.
He smiled…. & held my hand and I could see tears in his eyes… & he said to me,
“You know I can’t come… not in the situation we are today…After being so many years together, you don’t need me to be physical present there to give my blessings. There has always been a connection between us which has bound us together over these many years. Physical presence has never been a bounding factor for our relationship we have had over these years…
I’ll be there at the ceremony; but through you.”
Tears rolled out of his cheeks, & I bet those were out of happiness. So I just lay my cheeks on his hands & said “ I miss you… I miss you a lot…I wish we could have been together…” & tears rolled down from my eyes.
It was a busy Friday evening at the cafeteria & being in the prime location of market place the cafeteria was doing a decent job in terms of customer inflow. Michal joined cafeteria very recently as a waiter & has been doing quite well. Being a new guy, he was very enthusiastic & made sure that he addressed maximum tables to get extra tip because of his prompt service.
He made sure customers were addressed during the meals with any specific requirements. But During past three hours he watched this table quite a few numbers of times, but he made no efforts to approach this table. He did not know what stopped him, but somehow he did not.
After the day was complete, all the waiters of the cafeteria sat to have dinner & drinks together.
This was the time when cafeteria was not a work place, but a home for these waiters. They had a lot of fun together after 10:00 p.m., where everyone shared their experience of the day.
Today was no exception; except that Suresh was a birthday boy today & he was suppose to give party. So he managed to get some local drinks from nearby shop. Eventually the party started & drinks in glasses rolled on topped with ice cubes.
But Michal was not in his sense today. He seemed lost; he made a good tip today with that foreigner who gave him a handsome tip for his exemplary customer service.
Michal was sipping from his glass but his mind was somewhere else; he was not even listening to the conversation going around.
“What happened brother? Where are you? Did that foreigner gave you her number before leaving?” Suresh tried to break his thoughts… by his poor Joke
But Michal replied with a question to Suresh, “Have you noticed anything strange today?”
“Yes?” Suresh said… you are running my birthday party & insulting the drink of the glass, he said in anger.
“No… it’s not about you or me….”
“It’s about the old lady in the cafeteria today. She was sitting at the corner table for almost 3 hours & the only thing she ordered was a French fries & cold drink.
She took 3 hours to finish that & the strangest thing was she seemed to be talking to herself all the time.
At first I didn’t notice; but when I was serving the foreigner with sweet dishes, then I overhead her speaking about her daughter marriage..
Initially I thought she was ordering something on phone about her daughter marriage; but when I looked at her , I noticed that she did not carry the phone at all & Infact her both hands were entangled on each other & she was constantly looking at her hands & then she placed her cheeks on her hands & she started crying.
I tried to talk to her a couple of times, but somehow she was not hearing to me. Isn’t this strange?”
“You must have seen Mrs. Srivastava” Suresh replied.
“Do you know her?” Michal asked
“Everyone knows her…She has been our oldest customer & a good friend of our cafeteria owner. Infact her husband was a dear friend of our boss., but her story is very sad. Mr. & Mrs. Srivastava have been the best couples we have seen in past 10 years. They used to come here very often. Three years back Mr. Srivastava died with a heart attack. At the time of his death he was out of town with Mrs. Srivastava was not near him & all she heard was a call from Mr. Srivastava with pain in his voice…
His last words were… “I miss you a lot…I wish we could have been together”
Mrs. Srivastava couldn’t bear the loss & she also had a heart attack, but destiny did not favor them in death. Mrs. Srivastava survived & as per doctors she developed some kind of mental problem.
People say she can still see her husband & talk to him anytime she wants. Her family tried many remedies, but nothing seemed to work on her.
All doctors said Mrs. Srivastava want to live that life & hence she should be allowed to live that life.
A life which is based upon a lie that her husband is alive & away from her. This gives her a reason to live with a hope… at the end hope is what helps us survive through all the rough times…right?
Since then it has been 3 years she comes here once in a while; sits at that particular table and talks to herself under the impression of she is talking to her dead husband.
“She is mad…. But she is the friend of the boss, hence we don’t say anything”- Suresh Said
Michal looked at him with a blind expression… and asked…
“Are you sure it is not Love?”
As soon as I entered the cafeteria, the time came to stand still. Everything has been same since last 10 years at this place.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Connected.”
Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!
But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.
‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.
She has not been in herself since last few days. Kalyan her father has not been in good health since a couple of months & being the only daughter she has to take care of the family needs.
The bales of cotton were to be plucked from fields, cleaned & segregated into different categories to exchange them with customers who would travel from Paithan in exchange of gold, which will be used to weave handmade Paithani saris. These saris will then be sold in market at good price & will help her family to survive the entire year.
She has been strong till now, making sure that her father adverse health does not affect the crops, but now it is time when she needs to be ready to handle the bigger work i.e. barter of cotton.
17th century was a free society. Families usually preferred male child over female child. However, females were as free as their male counterparts. Education was equally open for boys and girls. She had a leverage to study the Veda and fine arts.
She had spent her childhood in these fields playing around the cotton crops & seeding them, but all this was done while playing. This was never a task designated by her father on her.
But today it was not a choice for her.. She had to do things which she enjoyed doing through her childhood as a responsibility.
She had never dealt any customers directly although she had assisted her father during the barter process & has seen him negotiating the best price for his cottons.
At times, she would intervene & support her father, but that was always taken as child interference in a business meeting
“Are you coming or not?” her mother Kanti, screamed from behind
“We have to reach field early to make sure that the work is finished today before sunset”
“It might rain tomorrow & we need to make sure that we have picked everything for our needs”… Her mother continued to shout
After ignorance of few shouts, Ilaa could not resist herself looking back at her with tearful eyes.
“I don’t want to do this”… she wanted to say, but could not because she saw her mother standing right in front of her. She knew that Kanti was too old to work in fields & yet she was ready to be with Ilaa in the fields.
She stood up, removed the dust from her clothes, grabbed her slippers & walked unwillingly towards the field
The field was nearby & she saw workers ready waiting for her to arrive before they start their day job.
As soon as she arrived on fields, she felt like a queen had arrived. There was smile on everyone’s face. Kalyan although being a farmer was also a local priest of the temple. He had earned their respect through selfless devotion to temple’s day to day activities.
He made sure Ilaa gained adequate knowledge of Vedas & rituals so that she can perform rituals in his absence.
The respect of Kalyan was automatically transferred to Ilaa. The workers, worked in his field not only for money, but also for the respect they had for him.
“we were waiting for you…” – raghav, one of workers shouted in excitement. As if they were waiting for the queen of cotton dynasty to arrive.
“let’s start the work” – Ilaa said with a reaction of a royal queen.. it was already mid noon & sun was on the brightest point of sky. The summers were tough especially for field workers. The temperature could go upto 50’s during bright sunny day.
But the workers did not stop, they continued their job of plucking the cotton & putting them in baskets.
Ilaa did not interact with anyone & continued roaming around the field to make sure that right cotton was being picked.
Now & then she would talk to workers explaining them how to select the right cotton.
All this came from years of her working with her father in the fields.
The day went well & by the end of the day the work was finished.
She thanked the workers & left with a promise to give them their share once the goods were sold.
Then came the day, when all the villagers loaded their vehicles with their cotton bales & got ready to go to Paithan.
“I got a good deal today” – Ilaa told her mother on her return in happiness.
“We have managed to get enough gold & make good saris & sell them later on” – she said after having a glass full of cold water from the clay pot kept in the corner of the home.
In the evening she called all the workers & equally shared their duly earned wage & thanked them for their efforts.
Standing in front of her hut, draped in blue cotton sari with slipper in her foot, she looked awesomely gracious.
“Your daughter is lucky for you…” – said raghav with a smiling face. I got a good share this time.
Kalyan smiled with a satisfaction on his face. He never thought her little daughter would suddenly grow so big that villagers would praise her for 1st independent job
After completing day’s daily scores, she settled down to have rest, when her mother came & sat behind her to oil her hair.
This was the only time, when they both got time to spend together.
It is then when she broke the news to her about a marriage proposal received from a prospective groom from far away village.
“He is from a well to do family” – Kanti said.
You will live happy with him – she continued.
During 17th century, marriage was an important association for both men & women & women had a right to choose their husbands.
The only which was not allowed to women was divorce.
Ilaa was her in early 20’s & marriage was a dream come true especially when the proposal came from a groom side.
Being a housewife is what she always wanted. She had dreamt of a life in which her husband would come after day hard work & she would cook food for him & spend time with her family.
She would milk cows, feed animals, & grew herbs & vegetables. She would take care of her family needs.
“What happened? Where are you dreaming?” – Kanti asked shaking her shoulder
“No where… I’m here listening to you…” – She replied
Her silence was understood as an acceptance by her mother & within a month she was married to Surveshwar, a money lender from a far away village.
On the marriage day Surveshwar managed to get some time to speak to her & he said…
“I’ll keep you happy, I’ll keep you protected… I’ll give you the world you ever dreamt of” – he said to Ilaa in her ears.
Surveshwar was a well built guy with a good business of money lending & belonged to a well to do family.
His house was made of bricks & had a chimney. Chimney’s in houses were quite in fashion in 17th centuries & well to do families had these glass windows to natural lighting inside the house, unlike Ilaa parents house which was made of wood & had no windows, but just a small opening at the top of kitchen to let the smoke out of the house, which hardly solved the purpose of being the exhaust.
Ilaa had 3 servants to her disposal who would cater to all daily needs of her & complete the entire household work for her.
She did not have anything to do. Everything was made available to her on her wish.
It was more like a fairy tale for her. Isn’t it that what she dreamed for her entire life…?
“I’m the luckiest girl in this world” – she told her mother once when she visited her.
What would a girl parents need more than this… that their daughter is happy in her married life…
Surveshwar would leave for his shop early in the morning & would come late at night, have dinner, talk about daily routine stuff & go to bed.
It was not that he was not a good husband… but he was too busy with his work & could devote time to her…
Days & months & years passed & the inevitable happened…
“We need to talk” – Ilaa said one day while handing him over his Tiffin.
“What” – Surveshwar replied in hurry wearing his sandals.
“Can I come to your shop along with you…? I get bored sitting idle in the home” – she said in one gasp of breath.
“I have experience of handling accounts, I used to manage temple accounts where my father was priest” – Ilaa tried to sell her skills like an enthusiastic candidate trying to convince the interviewer to take her on the job.
Surveshwar freezed for a moment & looked her with shocking eyes. The eyes had a reaction of both surprise as well as anger.
Ilaa could not understand the reaction & stepped back in fear of a heated reaction from his face.
“Are you out of your mind?” – Surveshwar screamed
“Money lending business is not a women’s job. You are born to handle house activities. If you think you are getting bored, do the housework yourself & I’ll ask the servants to leave” – he said in a affirmative tone & left without any further discussion.
Ilaa went into silence mode… a deep remorse…. She never expected this response from him with whom she had spent these many years with dedication & selfless devotion.
Tears flowed from her eyes & continued till late afternoon & then stopped, but they blocked her heart completely. It was a mental shock instead of a physical one which was torturing her as if it was game of fun.
Life suddenly felt as a trap in which the queen of cotton dynasty was trapped & there was nowhere to go…
If she lived, she lost her dignity & if she left she lost her respect in society…
She was born to fly & live her life but her wings were cut as society constructed a cage for her to live & die without any expectations
She was crushed & the thoughts of being ruled by a man boiled her from inside.
Later in the evening when Surveshwar arrived, he was tired & exhausted & had completely forgotten the morning conversation.
Or maybe he choose to forget the conversation & excuse her for crossing her lines of boundary set by society.
He placed his Tiffin on the cot kept beneath the tree & laid to rest for some time, before Ilaa would arrive with a glass full of butter milk.
This has been a daily routine for him on his arrival. He was so tired that he didn’t notice that Ilaa did not come with glass of milk this time, Infact she didn’t come at all.
“Ilaa … Ilaa where on earth are you…? You know that I need milk when I come back home… Are you so much upset by my anger today morning…? This is not expected from you…. Ilaa…” – Surveshwar shouted lying on the cot.
No response… a pin drop silence from house… servants had also gone back home after day work… the lights were on in the house… but no movement was seen….
Suddenly a fear of unknown gripped Surveshwar & he ran towards the main entrance of the house… shouting her name…
“Ilaa where are you…” – this time there was anxiety in his voice.
On the door was a letter stuck to the key chain, addressed to him
He opened the letter & read it in hurry. When the letter ended… he broke down in tears & dropped to the ground…
The letter said….
Over the years, I have been with you without any demands & questions. I laughed when you laughed, I cried when you worried, I woke when you slept, but I have been alone all these years. I have been all alone in this world; wandering over things which only I have felt & never spoken to you…I have been broken inside… I have laughed but my soul cried inside.
I had dreams about you…. I dreamt of an ordinary life… but an extraordinary love life with you…I tried to behave normal with all your ignorance & I don’t blame you for it… it was my choice…. I choose to stay…. But today I chose to leave…
Almost a decade after I ask a reason why I stayed… & today I have an answer….
You offered me life … which & when I needed it…
You offered me protection…. Which I believed it…I was in love with you… I was living you…
You broke your promise when you said… I’ll give you world you ever dreamt of…. Because today I realized I have a world of my own…
A world where I can live my dreams & not think of boundaries of society which are made by males…
I’ll build my world of my own… I’ll fly by my own… I’ll live by my own…
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symbol.”
The image of this cycle in the shine of early morning represents the chance to live the day with new tracks & new strength to meet the new challenges & targets which day gives you ….
शाम की चादर लपेट मैं खुद मैं सिमट गया।
जिंदगी के लमहों को आँखों में समेट गया।।
देख कर आईना पूछा मैंने की तू कैसा है…
आईना बोला खुद से ही पूछ ले… तेरा ही हिस्सा हून…
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.” ― Elbert Hubbard
“If you can understand my silence you can understand my life too” – Anonymous
“Loneliness” How are you? I asked…just to be sure that she is happy with me…
She replied… I’m fine & Of course I’m happy with you… are you happy with me?
Why should I not be… I brought you along with me…
Over the years of being in crowd among people with whom I have laughed on baseless topics, spends hours on trivial things, I have realized that you are my best companion.
I’m happy I have found the most stable relationship in you…
The stability for which I have longed for …
The stability for which I could live & die for…
Why should I be worried? That I’m alone…
That I don’t have the crowd around me… the crowd of friends & families who are attached with loose string of relationships.
The strings which are so weak that I can see the notches tied up as far as I can see in past…
The notches are evidences of broken trusts, hurt egos, misunderstandings & unfulfilled expectations..
These notches are always visible no matter how hard you try.
These notches are like ugly metal staples on the broken Chinese tea bowls.
Even the Japanese art of “Kintsugi” which is termed as “Golden repair” which as a philosophy treats breakage & repairs as part of the history of the object, rather than something to disguise, cannot repair these notches.
We may always think that what has gone has gone & one needs to move on with relationships, but any sad moment brings back all the memories of those notches.
People see me as a lonely person, but aren’t they alone too even with crowd?
We all are busy with our social & professional circles throughout our life.. running the life like an endless running game.
But the moment we fall after being hit by a problem disguised as big tree in a thick jungle or a big rock in the middle of high tide river.. we collapse & when we wake up.. we would find that no one stopped for us…
They would pass by you.. looking through their merciful eyes thinking of our poor state.. talk about you during a morning tea or afternoon talk shows or evening snacks & then again start the same race again with new crowd..
Do you still think you are not alone?
You might see me as a lonely person
“Coz I can’t pray like the crowd
Nor can I spit on the cloud
Neither do I dream about my fairytales
And I don’t cry for my sorry sails
Coz I don’t dream of becoming rich
Nor do I scream of being sick
Neither do I preach about my charities
And I don’t speak of my fantasies
Coz I don’t stop from shining bright
Nor do I stand when the light is bright”
But I’m happy…coz I’m not alone.. At least not as alone as those who are still with crowd….
Because they think they have all the happiness in this world…
They don’t want to accept you…
They run from you..
They run from their destiny & in the end they end up being restless & lonely …
But I’m happy..because I have accepted you by will… trusted you with my secrets… shared with you my dreams & aspirations.. discussed with you my plans..
I know you will there with me as my Soulmate.. although I’m alone… but you will be there..
I & Abhishek had been friends for years. I don’t remember when & how I met him the for first time..
I have never been good with memories.. but all I remember is that he was the only friend I had in years..
Sometimes I really think what defines a friend.. how you call a person your friend.. how many categories of friends are there…
I wish there was a dictionary or an encyclopedia which I could juggle through to find out how to select your friend..
I wish I could choose the best friend by myself…. It’s a old saying that this is the only thing you select in your life… rest all is framed & scripted either by your parents or by your society
Over the years I have been trying to find 1 person whom I could say “Yes this is the one!!”
But I guess that is impossible.. A perfect friend does not exist!! Actually nothing that is perfect exists!
There is no perfect circle, there is no perfect straight line.. there is no perfect husband.. there is no perfect wife.. there is no perfect son or daughter.. Even the Artificial intelligence is not perfect..
Over the years I myself have been trying to define a Friend in my own context.
A person with whom I can laugh over silly things
A person with whom I can share all your secrets & everything even if it does not concern him..
A person with whom you can sit for hours & walk away without saying a single word & still he would understand the silence
A person whom you would call in the middle of the night to say I cannot sleep
A person on whom you can scream for your mistakes & put the blame on him & say it happened because of you… even if he was not a part of it…
I can write pages & pages on the definition of “THE FRIEND”..
But actually it is not the definition.. it is the expectations… this is what everyone looks for in a friend..
Abhishek was such a friend.. Yes he “was”..
Our friendship lasted many years.. not even a single day passed by when we did not meet & go out & sit on a food joint & have a shared burger & cold drink..
I’m not ashamed to admit that he used to spend the money all the time… may be it was the reason I liked him…
In late 90’s having a bike for a 16 -17 year old kid for a middle class family was not an easy task.. being the only son of the family.. I was not born with a silver spoon..
My parents never let me felt that all my wishes will be fulfilled at a single click.. & I thank them for this upbringing..
But Abhishek was different… sometimes I felt he wanted to flaunt his status symbol that he had bike, he had money.. but it really did not matter to me..
I was happy to spend time with him.. he would sit me silently at the Hazratganj Café in the heart of Lucknow city when I used to bunk my Engineering tutorials.. which I never went to attend..’
We would buy a burger & a cold drink which costed 20 Rs. At that time & just sit & watch the crowd..
Discuss about his & my crushes.. talk about all the nonsense.. & spend hours & hours doing nothing till the time the classes was over..
He was an average looking guy, not that I was a macho man… but he was a good person at heart..
We had no clue what we wanted to do in future.. we would talk about doing hotel management.. or doing Engineering or doing BBA..
I remember we went to take admission through a walk in seminar in Leela Hotel for Hotel Management..
When I think of a reason why we went.. I just laugh… because my girl friend took admission in Hotel Management in Ooty & I wanted to be with her… & he agreed to go with me..
We never thought we needed parents permission for doing such things… it was natural..
So imagine the kind of relationship we had..
But then as soon as results of 12th were out.. suddenly from nowhere my father came up with this admission form of Engineering college of Maharashtra & asked me to fill it up within four days..
I first thing I did was call Abhishek on his landline.. In Late 90’s families did not have leverage to have 4 mobile phones in families.. especially because incoming was not free & those Big Motorola handsets were costly than diamonds..
Why did I call him..? Same stupid thing.. I wanted him to apply as well..
The phone ranged & it kept on ringing…
“Is Abhishek there”? I asked..
“No he is not there”.. his brother replied rudely.. he did not like me because Abhishek spend more time with me rather than him.. at least this is what I understood
“Where is he”? I asked.. it’s like were playing KBC.. & the next answer would give him 10 crores..
“He is out of town” & would come back after 4 days..
Next few seconds were a complete silence with my own breath ringing my ears.. why he did not tell me… he could have come home before going.. he was my friend.. how could he have gone without telling me..
Suddenly I heard the strong voice of my father.. “Did u fill the form”? Tomorrow is the last date for submitting the application
I got annoyed.. as if I was going to be last engineer on this earth & the world would end if I don’t do engineering..
But then I did not have courage to reply to him & I just completed the form & submitted for approval..
For next 4 days waited for a call from Abhishek but it did not come… & then the news came of my admission in Maharashtra & I was suppose to report to college in 7 days.
The feeling was devastating.. I have never known anyone other than Abhishek.. how would I survive… who would bear me like he did…Who would listen to all my bullshit & yet not say anything against me..
I called him again… & this time it was him…
“Where the hell were you”? I screamed on from local phone of the PCO
“I was out of town due to death in my family” he said.. what could I have said.. I was supposed to understand him & his situation.. that is what friends do.. right?
Within seconds I became an understanding person & tried to console him.. not that he needed one at that time.. but it was my responsibility..
Then I broke the news to him… “I’m leaving on Monday for Counselling & then I’ll have to join college”
Not that I expected any reaction from him but he just said.. “Perfect!!!”
That was new to me!! This is not what I presumed the reaction would be.. was he angry or sad or disappointed…
I don’t know.. I didn’t care.. because he was my “THE FRIEND” & I knew nothing would change between us even if we were poles apart..
So next few days past in preparations of my going away.. as far I knew there were only 2 people on this earth who were sad by my going so far..
My mother… I could see it through her rolling tears & Abhishek… I could sense it through his silence..(At least this is what I could sense)
Finally the day came of my leaving & I called him morning… telling him not to be late as my train would leave at 3:00 p.m.
As a perfect friend.. he was right on time.. to see me off.. We did not talk much.. just gave a hug, did a chit chat.. & I left..
Before I boarded the train… I just said.. take care of my mother in my absence… he just smiled..
I knew that smile.. it said…”Don’t worry.. Be happy…I’m here”
Engineering college… WOW!! Now I was an Engineering student.. Suddenly that feeling of supremacy started flowing through my blood..
I was the first engineer of my family & I still had no clue what I would study& what I would do without Abhishek..
During coming months I made many friends & every time my benchmark was Abhishek.. I compared everyone with him & kept on rejecting them by bringing them from friend list to acquaintance list of my mind..
I did not find anyone who was like him…. At this time I realized it was not the money he spent on him which mattered.. I had so called friends here who would still spend money..my room partner’s Father had 4 petrol pumps in a small town of UP.. so money was never an issue..
I realized.. what I missed was his constant presence.. people would misinterpret to be homosexual but it is important to clarify that I’m straight & never intended to move into that direction..
I liked his company because he was simple.. During my Engineering days.. the life moved very fast.. weeks, months just flew like a wind.. & the first Winter break happened..
I was the most happiest person to return back home to see my mother & friend..
My father came to receive me at Station.. during my short trip from station to home.. we talked about many things from college to fees, to hostel conditions & mess facilities & room partners.. my eating & drinking habits..
He did not ask me a direct question but I knew the thought behind those questions.. he wanted to be sure that I’m not drinking or smoking..
Like I would have told if I was really drinking or smoking.. He was my father not my friend..
I reached home & saw mother & Abhishek… Best combination to find these two people together at the same time..
My mother was diagnosed with inflammatory myopathy. (A disease featuring weakness and inflammation of muscles and (in some types) muscle pain.)
They did not tell me during weekly calls because they did not want me to get disturbed.
Abhishek joined BBA in some college of Lucknow & he has been on side of my mother every day.
He used to visit them daily in the evening.. Bring her medicines.. groceries.. call her in case he is not able to come..
That’s what Best Friends do.. right.. He was just so perfect!! My Perfect Gaurding Angel.. who stood by his promise to take care of my mother..
I did not thanks him!! Why should I… it was his responsibility.. may be.. or may be not…
would I have done the same thing as he did… I still ask this question to me…
would you have done this for your friend..?
life moved on… I completed my Engineering & went on & joined a MNC & life moved on.. kept in touch with Abhishek through phone calls, the frequencies of which reduced from weeks to months & then it ended up to facebook chatting whenever we saw each other online..
Were we running from each other? Were we expecting the other person to take the initiative & ask “What happened”? “What went wrong”?
There were many questions.. but all of them remained unanswered.. because they were never asked..
He completed his studies & went on to do MBA.. I was happy for him!! That he came out of lucknow because there were no professional future in Lucknow.
In winters of 2004 he called me & told me that he is Faridabad & has joined a software solutions company as a Sales Manager
I Was so happy to hear his voice.. after these many years.. I felt proud that he called me to share his success
I Was so happy to have him around me..
I said let’s meet & you just ping me whenever u r free & I’ll come to see u… but that ping never came..
I started wondering,
did he wanted to taunt me by his success..
did he wanted to tell me that he was not looser..
did he wanted to tell me that he could survive without me… these many years..
On 2nd December 2006, my kid was about to be born & I had no idea whom to call.. so I called him..& as to my expectations he said don’t worry I’ll come soon..
He arrived in 2 hours of my call.. As soon as I saw him.. I hugged him & said thanks!! U came.. I needed.. but I could say “YOU” because he did not come alone…. He came with his would be wife.. that time his Girlfriend..
This was not expected.. I called him not be a visitor.. I called him to be on my side..when I had no one to talk to.. I needed a friend that day because I was alone… & he came with a stranger..
In half an hour.. I said him to leave as everything was normal & I can manage now.. I thought he would stay.. he used to stay in past.. why wouldn’t he now..
But he left immediately as if every minute was heavy on him..
We never talked again.. for years.. he has been in my contact list almost every day we have seen each other online on What’s app… the best friends communication channel as on date.. but we have never talked..
When suddenly 1 day in pinged him.. “How are you? Where are you? Long time no see”
He replied instantly as if was just waiting for me to take the initiative..
“I’m fine… In Lucknow…. Just came for 4 days on a break to lucknow with family”
“WOW!! How’s life? You completely vanished” I asked..
No reply came.. from his side.. I blamed the internet 2G connection for the delayed response..
I said “If you are in Lucknow.. please visit my mom. She misses you a lot..”
After 1 minutes of silence he replied.. “Yes I’ll do”
I still remember it was 19th July’14 & I happily called my mother that Abhishek will come to see you..
But it never happened.. he never went to see my mother.. I waited for days & days to hear from my mom that Abhishek came today..
I didn’t ask because I was scared of the answer.. scared of knowing that he did not come..
I called him after a week.. the bell rang.. my heart was pouding.. although I dailled the number but I was not sure what would I say..
He picked up the call.. “Hello? Good Morning!! This is Abhishek!!” he said.
I said.. “Hiiiiiiiii……..” he did not recognize my voice..
“Who’s this?” he said..
“Wrong Number.. Sorry” I said… he deleted my number… from his phone book….
That was the day… I lost my Best Friend…
The horn of the bus honking from my behind broke my sleep.
I was just clinging to the side of the bench which was not even capable of accommodating 3 people, but we 5 friends managed somehow to adjust ourselves on this one!!! No matter how hard I tried the sleep never came back.
The constant voice of the tea vendor trying to be the salesman of the year kept on waking me up from my unaccomplished sleep. I once even tried to slow him down by my looks, but he was a hard salesman.
No matter how hard I tried.. his volume kept on raising in my ears every second.. My body & mind were not in sync after this long trip but still I was awake trying to enjoy every moment before I would jump in the back of the bus & reach my normal life once again.
The smell of delicious vada paav being served with hot chillies was being served right next to the ticket counter which was already crowded with a long queue of people waiting to get their tickets… It was already 12 & we were the only ones at the station who seemed to be happy.
We shouted in loud voice… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The idea was not to wish each other… but the idea was to wake up the people who were sleeping soundly irrespective of all the irritating sounds you can hear at the station. Somehow being with a group of 5 friends brings courage in you to do stupid things…especially when you have no worries.
We were waiting for our bus at this small station of Maharashtra. It was an unplanned trip made over a couple of drinks. Sometimes I think how easy was life that time… planning a trip was so easy… you didn’t have to think about the deadlines… you didn’t have to think about leaves.. you didn’t have to think about seats availability in the AC section of train because one could travel miles even if it was a general unreserved ticket.. you didn’t have to think about hotel reservations, meals, WIFI availability at hotel…all that mattered was fun.
So, we still had 1 hour before our bus was suppose to arrive. So we decided to take a stroll around & have fun during the last hour.
So we went to this tea stall & asked for tea & cigarettes. It was then I noticed this old couple in late 80’s sitting next to tea stall with 3 luggage’s in crippled state endlessly looking at our faces.
Hunger was speaking from their faces, waiting for someone to have pity on them & provide them with something to eat!!
Somehow their faces touched my heart… Usually I turn my eyes when I see such situations or people in such situations & avoid getting involved, but their faces are still hard to forget.
I could not stop myself from moving towards the old couple, leaving the laughs of my group. I reached out to them but I noticed my cigarette was not welcomed by them.
During those days cigarette smoking in public was not a crime…. At least politically it was not.
Since I was the one who volunteered to talk to them so I had to let go the 2 Rs. Cigarette which I just started to smoke… (I wish my parents don’t read this story.)
So.. I asked them if they would like to have something to eat or drink. Although the reply was silence, the answer was but obvious…
I asked the vendor to provide tea & snacks to this couple on my behalf…I could see the classic expression on the face of the tea vendor.
You would normally encounter such people on almost every railway & bus station of india where they would approach you for money or assistance to reach their home… but usually they are not the needy ones… but they prey on people whom they find emotionally weak & try to encash money from them.
But this case was different since I was the one who approached this couple… I still ponder why & what triggered me going to them… but there was a immediate connection which was established.
I sat beside them silently watching them have tea & snacks… Hunger… It’s a very small word but means a lot to those who experience it.
After their stomachs were full, they were ready to talk, & the first question was raised by them… as if they knew that I was not a local domicle.
Where are you from my son? They asked. A tea & snack made me their son.
Lucknow I replied with a smile on my face.
What do you do? They asked..
I’m studying.. I replied.. I’m sure they could not understand if said to them I was doing Engineering.. so studying was the best answer.
Good Good!!! Where are your parents? Their questions didn’t seem to stop.
Although they infiltrated by personal space.. but I didn’t mind sharing this info with them.. in Lucknow, I said..
What are you doing here? They asked..
on vacations with my friends.. I pointed in the direction where my friends were waiting for me to return from my volunteering session.
Do your parents know you are here? The next one was quiet taunting!!
I smiled & replied.. Yes.. Of course they know.. I talk to them daily.
Good Good!!! you should talk to your parents daily.. & don’t go anywhere without telling them.. they would be worried about you.. they said..
Now it was my turn to ask… where are you going? What time is your bus? Do you have a ticket?… I asked almost all the possible questions which popped in my mind…
We are waiting for our son to come back.. we are going back home.. after attending a marriage function in family.
Suddenly I felt ditched.. they had a son.. & I thought they are the needy ones… 15 Rs. Wasted in getting emotionally ditched… but as it is said every experience is a learning, so it didn’t matter much as in the end I learnt something…
But then I asked where is your son.. it has been almost 1 hour.. where has he gone.. in this early hour of the day..
he will be back soon.. he said.. he will be back soon… they reiterated..
their answer was not a satisfactory one.. I could sense something not calm in that one line reply..
I asked how old is he..where has he gone.. tell me I’ll find him for you… presuming that he was in & around the bus station & I could find him with my friends..
32 years they said… he will be back soon don’t worry.. he said he will be back.. they asserted firmly…
This did not bring peace to me.. & I asked when did he go…
“Five years back…. They said…” but he will be back.. he said…
Do you remember when did you said these words and to whom..
i’m sure you remember..
To your boss for giving you a good rating in performance appraisal last Sept
To your wife when she gave you your most awaited Birthday Gift
To your friend when he let you have his new bought car for a test ride..
Every morning when we wake up & go to our office, colleges & meet many people but we ignore many people who pass by us & play integral part of our lives even without being noticed…
let me share an incident… which touched me today..
it was 6 in the morning & i was standing at this station waiting for my cab to arrive.. for a pickup scheduled today.
it was a 8 hours long & tiring journey & with this heavy luggage in my hands was waiting for this gentleman to arrive
the weather was awesome.. the dark clouds above me were just waiting for the threshold moment to arrive when the clouds couldn’t hold anymore.
it was becoming darker minute by minute & the wind speed faster & faster…at one point after loosing patience i called for a auto to drop me home..
the auto driver was a simple fellow in mid 40’s waiting with his old auto for a customer to arrive & start his day..
I asked him… how much would you take to drop me to my home..
350/= he replied…
i was surprised… not because he was overcharging me.. but because he was undercharging me.. normally these auto drivers ask for 450-600 for a single side drop..
i immediately agreed after confirming with him twice….i tapped my ear twice to be sure i heard the right figure..
so we started the 40 minutes drive, which actually took more than 1 hour because no matter how hard he tried the auto best delivered speed was not more than 40 km/hr & that too with lot of noise.
The condition of auto was pathetic..
the seats were torn.. the metals on sides were rusted… the side curtains were torn & tied with a rope which probably came from a jute rag..the speedometer was not working & it took a push from 3 guys to start the auto.. but still it was the best auto i ever had after the journey was completed..
the weather today morning in the town was best i have seen in years!!
after sometime.. it started to rain… that was the THE MOMENT!!! of my life..
Slow Showers of rain… with cold wind blowing through the auto.. the perfect weather & a perfect moment..
Splashes of rain fell on my clothes & by the time we just covered 10 minutes of our journey i was totally wet…
but who cared.. i was mesmerized by the scenic view of the same road on which i have traveled so many times in past couple of years…without realizing how beautiful the place looked during rain..
suddenly the auto driver… noticed that i was completely wet & shivering with the cold wind blowing through my shorts & t shirt.
he could not do anything.. because the curtains of auto were also torn.. probably he saved a couple of bucks by not replacing them..
you should get them replaced… they are of no use.. i just said
he looked at me.. as if i mocked his financial status.. he said.. rains like these usually don;t come.. so what’s the point..
he had a point.. you usually don;t see such beautiful rains & wind together in Delhi & NCR now.
suddenly he changed his seating position on the driver seat & his new position blocked my view of the beautiful scenery across the road..
he said.. you will not have a direct impact of rain on you now.. so you can sit easily..
i was spell bound.. i had no words.. his small act of kindness had no words to be described..
this might sound stupid to read.. but he did what he could to protect me from the thunder showers..
i did not say a single word to him.. but my gratitude to him was known to me.. a perfect example of customer service..
when i reached home.. he parked his auto in a shed close by to help me disembark the vehicle so that i don’t have to stand in rain
i got down from auto, paid him the money & it was done.. he could have left happily.. just then i noticed he was completely drenched in rain.. all his clothes wet..
he had a entire day to spend in these clothes… which were more wet than the rain coming down..
i asked him to come to house & wait for sometime till the rain settles down & meanwhile he can dry his clothes..
he readily agreed… as if he waiting for my invitation..
i offered him tea & snacks & he had them readily without uttering a single word..
by the time he was ready to leave.. he was dried up to some extent..
he said.. THANK YOU!! Sir.. not many people offer such shelter to auto drivers..
THANK YOU!! i said.. you saved me from rain today…
This incident made me realize…. how many people i have missed saying than you..
Here are few such more people whom i would like to thank today..
The IT guy from my office..
I cannot have a normal day in office if the IT guy is not around. From getting me an extra LAN cable to fixing the task manager, this guy is my go-to person for all laptop hacks. Trust me, I need him more often than I realize
The Pantry Boy from my office..
He manages to make that perfect coffee for me and he’s ready to do that even 5 times a day…
He’s up all night to keep an eye on my house and my car. He’s been doing night shifts all his life.
The iron man…
He deserves a big thank you for making my look presentable in office. No matter what brands I buy, i’ll look awful if my clothes weren’t ironed properly
WHOM DID YOU THANK TODAY!!!!