A Coffee Meeting

wait

“Wake up, Charvi!”, mother called out. 6.30 A.M. Mom’s voice as wakeup call was so much solace rather than the alarm tone that would ring on working mornings at my apartment. It was supposed to be a happy weekend for me at home. I was one another from the corporate world that loved the job she does but awaits weekends to get a break from assignments and projects.

But that was not going to be just another weekend!

There is another very special reason why I awaited this day. I smiled at the sun that was being generous by not throwing strong rays on my face. I wanted to look beautiful today. I did not want to do anything. I was just waiting to hear his voice. Yes! Aayush had said we shall talk today.

It had been a really long time since I caught the light from his beaming eyes, laughed at his simple jokes, held his warm hands and had a walk out on the beach side.

I met him during my third year at college, not even knowing he existed before. We both seemed to be the ‘keep it simple’ kind of people. Extroverts, both. Always analysing life. No wonder we liked each other, that later grew to be a relationship.

I was elated when we both got placed in the same company during campus recruitments. Ended up being offered projects at the same place. My joy knew no bounds! I totally loved having him beside at office. He liked it too. But in due course, I was able to sense that he smiled only because I wanted him to. It shouldn’t go this way for long, I decided.

This was our conversation:

“What is that you are not telling me, Aayush! What is bothering you?”

“This is not what I am Charu, I don’t find any meaning by typing codes all day. It feels like I am living with machines, killing literature. I just want to go away. Find my life!”

That was when I could feel my temples throb. It was hard for me to swallow. But what I cared more for was his life. I wanted him to love whatever he does, like me.

After passing educational and physical fitness exams with really good results, Aayush joined the Army. I have never seen him so full of life since we took our software projects. And now he comes home only during annual vacations.

We all might feel a little insecure about his career. But Aayush felt, to him, this is perfect.

I was waiting at the table for his arrival with a steaming hot coffee by my side. I wanted to etch every moment with him in my mind since our meetings were reduced to countable times a year.

There he was, finally, with that light in his eyes, sturdy build, reassuring smile.

“Hi Charu! Wassup? Looks like you a long conversation with the moon?”

“Yes. Was catching some of its radiance when you weren’t around!”

Our conversations were always unusually interesting.

I felt like he was all that was real, unmindful of what was happening around me. I could feel myself becoming more alive as the conversation built on. It brought me so much happiness to look right at him, sitting opposite to me. We spoke for 2 hours, time didn’t seem to exist.

Soon it was time for him to go. “Bye Charu, Don’t bore the moon and miss me too much.”, “Haha! You take care, fighter”. I wanted to see him until he left the room, the way he would turn to go; his bold, quick walk. But those little hopes were dead as soon as I saw “Call Disconnected” on the Skype window!

Shoot To See What Cracks

Dad and daughter

Yes, I was a small town girl;

Caught inside the claws of board exams

My eyes;

They were only allowed to see text books

My brains;

Should only take the content from study material

Coz life would slip away in 0.001 marks,

Told all analog and digital sources.

“Is everything that exists now around my marks?

The food I eat, the time when I sleep, the things I see?”

Oh, yes!

Torturous hours that ate away my holidays,

Special classes they call’em, had just started!

I was trying to figure out if reality had only marks and exams

Or this is just a screen, claiming itself to be the only real thing!

Pages that ran for hundreds in text books didn’t interest me,

The illustrations of Enid Blyton and Tinkle did.

‘Let it wait! Finish boards’, said mom and dad.

‘Sit with only those who study better than you’, teachers said.

Today, was not like any other day;

My hands wanted to sway,

My feet wanted to walk on pebbles;

For I had always loved little troubles.

The moon, who I have missed seeing, so high,

Who I had missed seeing, shone on the sky.

Amidst shrubs and heaps my house stood

Anything will be slithering on the ground, as it could!

Pitch darkness, to me, did bring solace,

Making out things with my eyes was tough as a maze!

“Perfect!” My brain sounded

This is when I wanted my thoughts to break loose

When I could shoo away all formulas and definitions

And let the river in my mind, flow at its fastest!

Oops! Ain’t I supposed to be with my books?

Running equations over and over in my head?

Scanning the whole page leaving out the number alone?

Won’t asking for a walk under the night sky a be luxury to ask for?

By a girl who is appearing for the upcoming board exams?

These days…

Nothing should matter to me except my marks,

This was an untold rule, by the way world functioned around me!

I should not mind, if my shoes came apart,

Or if I lost in a game of darts,

Or if I didn’t get a good haircut,

All these were just 1/1000th important of a math short-cut!

Mind wavered just like the trees around

The breeze took me to a time 7 years back!

Sitting at the dining table and crying, I saw myself,

Excursion bag lying nearby.

The big day had just got over, school excursion to amusement park.

My first outing, that was, without family!

‘How many teachers are assisting you?

What is the time period?

How many are going with you?

What is the expense that you are paying?

What is the bus that you guys are taking?

At what time will you come back?’

Exhausted was I, after providing a precise answer;

To every single anxious query above.

I had to ask back just that,

The only one small question:

“Appa, can I take 20 rupees with me? I might wanna eat something”,

Oh! These words were hindered,

Quarter way through their journey;

They kept banging, in the head where they were stopped,

Rushing to come out.

The fool in me took lead,

‘Mayu! Dad is anxious, he is worried, tensed is he,

He won’t give you money, he will rather stop you from going!’

All day, along with the fool in me,

I had been watching crazy going mates about ice creams, lollipops and much more.

Here, penniless, I was sitting, wishing I got those words out.

Then came a pal, who generously got me ice cream with her coins!

I snapped at the fool, ‘Had you not stopped me,

I would have owned the biggest happiness here; you ruined it!

You ruined all of it’,

She refused to answer.

Poof! She was gone, leaving me in a puddle of tears and cream!

Back home, the cream has dried off from my face,

But the tears hadn’t.

Mom and Dad could only see an unexpected sad face, in place of a happy one!

It was before they opened their mouths to enquire,

I had gotten all the words that were blooming in my head:

Of how those previous words went unheard,

How the happiness I hoped to find went unseen along with them.

“Had you asked me, I would have given you 40 bucks.

I was thinking your teachers didn’t like children handling money.”

Was what I heard in the middle of so much sadness!

Could I hate myself more than how much I did back then?

Cursing myself, that is how

The then me, sat at that table crying over my partnership with the fool!

A leaf that fluttered to hit my head brought me back,

To the place where I stood longing to walk outside in the eeriness at 11.45 P.M.

“No fool! Don’t enter again. I will sort this out”,

Shouted a voice in my head!

Gathering courage, wanting to have more,

Than just exams and marks,

To feel the life I was living,

To make reality more beautiful,

To just let me be myself for a while,

I walked inside determined to ask:

If I can open the locked-for-the-night gates

And walk out for a bit.

“Pa! Can I just go out and take a walk,

I will unlock the gates and lock them myself when I am done!”

Surprisingly, these words came unblocked, unhindered.

Seconds in between seemed to last forever.

“It’s very late at night, you have to study so much” – Dad

(Expected! Duh! Go back and take those boring books – I thought)

Surprisingly, the voice continued,

“Here! Take the keys, come back before its late! And be safe, there might be snakes out there”

I think I jumped up, as I took those keys!

Knowing no bounds of freedom,

My feet lept forward, determined to make the most of ‘before it’s late’,

“Hey stop!” (What now – Confused me)

“Take this flashlight with you, I told you it’s not very safe”

And that was when I felt the river in my mind;

Flow at its fastest and deepest!

Two Indian Country Women at 4 AM

4am

What does 4.00 AM remind you of? Sleep (just this for me, of course), mid night study, hostel nights, night shifts, a night before family occasions and whatnot. Medical reports say it is an odd time to be awake at, that can damage the proper hormonal secretion. My mom says that if I keep awake until late hours I will lose all of my hair!

Well, I certainly could easily count the number of 4.00 AM’s I would have seen in my life and I am very sure not even one of those were about studying hard or doing something very important.

One such not-so-important of my 4.00 AM’s took place two days ago. I was with my uncle and aunt, waiting with our car for our driver to arrive. Apparently, the driver had returned at odd hours the night before which was why he didn’t arrive at the expected time. The journey that was planned was a very long one that could cover 400 kilometers back and forth. We were going to the house warming of an apartment that my uncle had bought recently for which we got to be on time. Both the elders were impatiently ringing the driver’s number repeatedly while I lay half-awake on the window of the car.

I was constantly thinking of how I woke up at 3.00 AM in the morning which has almost never happened in my life. My only concern was that the driver should turn up soon so that I can regain the lost sleep. I was going on mentally calculating how I had slept for only 2 hours the night before and how I am going to do nothing but only sleep until we reach the destination. The road was nothing like you would expect as in cities. Mine being a small town, was peacefully slumbering at that time. No lights other than the streetlights, no noise of two wheelers, only countable people at sight, a few stray dogs trotting on the corner of the roads. Having nothing interesting to experience then, I went back to thinking how I had to lose my sleep. Since all the 10+ hours-sleep-a-day plans were executable only during semester holidays, I was telling myself how totally unlikely this situation is! By this time I had decided that I was going to compensate for this by sleeping the whole of next day!

In my faint view, fell something that was moving. As I focused, I was able to make out an old lady coming from the other side of the road. I couldn’t help but wonder what would a woman of her age (definitely beyond 60), was doing there at 4.00 AM. Her hair was undone, she was carrying a very old, disoriented mesh bag with her which for sure contained something to eat or drink. Above all, it was the way she was walking that prompted me to straighten up from my lazy position and to take a closer look. She didn’t walk normally, she had a penguin kind of walk where one side of her body struggled when she weighed the ground with the other side. She couldn’t walk more than 10 steps at one go. She had to pause for every 10 steps even if it was the middle of the road! What if she had to cross the road during heavy traffic? My aunt and I were wondering if she was leaving to work or to home from work!

The day went on and my lost sleep was considerably compensated for. We were returning back after a long day when at 9.00 PM we had to cross through the same spot to get home. To my utter shock my aunt pointed out to me the same old lady sitting on one side of the road with a shop that was laid on road, selling something that I couldn’t really notice as we passed by. If 9.00 PM was her working time, 4.00 AM would have been the time when she went home the previous day after work. My assessment might be wrong, she might have even unusually worked for longer hours the previous day and something that I might never think of. But when one Indian woman was sitting inside comfortably in a car planning to regain her lost sleep at 4.00 AM, another Indian woman was working until then and was making her miserable way home only to work another full day!

The whole thought process is not about people who struggle for a living or about people who complain about small things. It is about the various forms of life role each one plays in this world. Only when you broaden your view, will you come to know that there is just so much of what exists more than you have seen or experienced.