Monday, October 29, 2007


He closed the door of the car, and looked towards his reflection in the car; adjusting his Rayban Aviators he entered the espresso house. The espresso house had been a second home for Prayas for the past two years. The happy and sad moments, his birthdays and his dates all have happened here. The only place which give him solace in this lonely city. He went in threw his mobile phone, key and sunglasses on his usual table to reserve his place. This couch next to the glass wall of the espresso house has been his favorite table for months. He had spent hours sitting here sipping black coffee with walnut brownie, observing the passing traffic across the glass wall and enjoying the crowd inside.

He went to the counter, “Where is Ravi?” He enquired. Ravi was the store manager, who had been his close friend and had become well aware of his likings of coffee.

“Hey Prayas, Ravi has an off today. Tell me what will you have” replied Tewari.

“Usual, Espresso Americano and a brownie, Espresso with double extra shots”

“Double!!! Why something wrong, you have double only when you are in a bad mood”

“Nothing re, just chill. I want something to stir me up right through my spine so thought will have a double today” He replied and went back to the table. His cell phone was on the table.

The world can change drastically in just two days. Just two days before his life used to be eventful and happening. His phone used to ring whenever he was alone. He sometimes wondered that whether there was a telepathy that she always knew when to call and when to be with him. Two days back he considered himself the luckiest guy on the earth. Two days before he knew love. Two days before he was alone but never lonely. Two days before he was sad but never left uncomforted. Two days before he walked aloof but was not Single.

He sipped his coffee, and wondered how much had his life changed. Actually nothing, most of the times he visited espresso house alone, years of a long distance had taught him how to live alone. The only thing that changed was that now deep inside his heart he knew, he was a single. He knew that his phone will not ring today. He knew that he won’t be booking tickets to see her on the extended weekend. He couldn’t help thinking of the last time when they met in the same café. How intently they had been discussing their life and two months everything had changed. From Us it was you and me, it had all finished. One night, one call and it was all over. The penchant which had been built over five years had been forgotten in a matter of an hour.

Prayas was confused, and he wasn’t liking it, did he do something wrong. He wanted to hate the feminine race and he was able to hate every girl whom he knew and whom he didn’t, except Poorva. Five years, Poorva has been his life and suddenly she just let it go. “I can’t go against the family” was an important thing he knew. But still it seemed nonsense to him. He was irritated and angry. What made him angry was a question which was bothering him, a broken heart, failure of an important relationship, betrayal of Poorva, or the idea that he was single again. He tried hard to answer the question but they kept him tangled.

He was lost in a cocoon of thoughts, when he was brought out of the melancholy of his thoughts by a voice. “Excuse me!! Sorry to disturb you, do you mind if I sit here?”

He glanced across the whole café before looking up to find all other tables occupied. “Yeah, sure” he said looking up to see his company. She seemed nice on the first glance. Short in height, black hairs cut in slant till the shoulder, draped in a traditional black and blue suit, and a black dupatta draped tightly around her neck. Her eyes were big and brown. Carrying a very innocent smile, she sat in a dignified manner legs crossed in an inverted Y. He could see her white feet belted carefully in open sandals wearing a dull lavender color on her nails. He was immediately reminded of Poorva, she made him visit almost every mall in the city to find a similar color of nail enamels, which was her favorite.

She had got a Latte and a slimmer sand-witch. She smiled “I am sorry, to encroach upon your table like this”.

“No, its absolutely fine with me. Haven’t seen you here before?” Prayas replied.

“Hi, I am Divya. Yes I am new here. Moved in two days before, I am a personal counselor. What about you?”

“Hie, I am Prayas, have been here for past two years and you will find me in this espresso house more often than you can in my own house.” Sipping his coffee he continued “By profession I am a consultant, I get paid to talk. I have never heard of a personal counselor, what exactly do you do?”

“Amazing we are a complementary pair. You get paid to talk and I get paid to listen. I listen to people anything they would like to share, anything which is bothering them.”

“I mean what kind of problems people would be sharing to a stranger, and what kind of people would come to you. What solution you can give to them”

Divya laughed “All sorts of people, singles who can’t find a partner, committed people who want to be single, People into and out of relationships, married people who can’t find the spark in their marriages and people who find someone else in their marriage. Trust me all sorts of people, anyone and everyone can use a personal counselor. Now regarding solutions, at most of the times people know what the solution is. They know deep inside what is wrong and what is right, they just need someone to listen to them through all their heart. Sometimes they lack perspective and vision, then we just give them the different perspective make them understand the difference between a short term gain and a long term loss. The most important thing is that your client should be able to trust you, because he tells you the most important secrets of his life and the most important ability in this profession would be to listen and the ability to keep secrets.”

“Wow, so you think that everyone can gain from counseling, then may be even its high time I should get some from you. Tell me ma’am how can I get an appointment with you.”

“Sure anytime you feel that something is bothering you. I will be happy to have more business.”

“How much business this client will be bringing to your revenues every counseling session?” Prayas laughed

“Ahh, now that I am just starting in this new city. And you are such a nice guy who offered to share his table. Just buy me coffee every session we have here.”

“Wow, discounts for new clients. By the way I didn’t offer the table you asked for my company” Prayas chuckled.

Divya laughed, suddenly Prayas’ cell phone started ringing “Excuse me!!!” he said “Client call” he went out. The conversation got extended and when he returned he found Divya had already left. He smiled and sat down just then he found something scribbled on the paper napkin on the table. He picked it up; it read “Hey Mr. Consultant, I have got to rush. It was really nice talking to you, hope to see you tomorrow here same time.” He smiled and walked out of the espresso house, his mind completely occupied with the conversation he had with Divya.

Next day he got too busy with work and only when he arrived at espresso house late in the night he remembered of Divya and her note which was still in his wallet but was completely forgotten. He sat on the couch and ordered. He could remember yesterday’s conversation. He regretted forgetting about the appointment and made it a point to come tomorrow and see if he could find her.

Next day he came and found her sitting on the same table he just went ahead “Ma’am, if you are not waiting for someone then may be I can join you”

“Oh I am so sorry, I am waiting for a dude called Prayas, he was supposed to come yesterday but seems like he has got delayed so you may sit till he arrives” Divya chuckled.

“Before sitting I am supposed to order coffee for myself and you, what will you have?”

“I will have a smoothie, black currant smoothie may be”

He ordered and then sat down, “Sorry yaar, I completely forgot about meeting you yesterday. Got occupied with work, I did came here but it was very late around ten in the evening”

“Oh, it’s completely alright, you don’t have to be so formal. By the way ten is not evening its night. You come here quiet often?”

“Not quiet often, regularly or rather daily. You can generally find me here till this place closes down and sometimes even after that”

“Why? Who is at your home, I mean don’t people wait for you? Don’t they get worried about you being out so late in the night?” Divya asked.

“I am a working bachelor; my parents don’t live with me. So actually no one at home, I share a flat with some of friends. All of us have independent life; no one bothers too much about each other until there is an emergency or something. Coming to this place soothes me, instead of being lonely at home.” Prayas replied.

“I understand, what about girlfriends, don’t you have one. I am sorry to be intruding your personal life but you seem to be a perfectly eligible bachelor?”

“I used to have one, four days back. We broke of, or in her rather her terms Parted Ways” Prayas replied in a bruised tone.

“I am sorry so be so intruding and inquisitive but if you don’t mind tell me what happened”

“Oh not a problem, her name was…. is Poorva. We had been together for approximately five years. We were happily committed with each other. Recently there was some pressure from her family and she felt that she can not leave her family for me. So she decided to dump me. That’s my choti si love story, and now your so called eligible bachelor is single.” Prayas said ending in a satirical tone.

“Come on Prayas, you are not that immature. You understand she loved you right? See Prayas it happens, it’s a matter of past and future. Her family is her past, and you wanted to be her future, and may be even she wanted you to be her future. But because of our closed culture it was not working out. It’s always difficult to let go what you already have for more than two decades” She went on speaking and he was lost in the tinkling of her voice. She seemed to be so beautiful, simple yet so engrossing.

“I know you have to go through a lot of misery for her, and how it feels to let go something so important. But you should realize that getting married and being rebels is not the aim. The life is about living happily ever after. Life is not what they show in movies; it’s what starts after the movies. So if she would have regretted being with you for leaving your parents. You wouldn’t be happy in the first place. So why be so satirical and bitter about it. You are not a weakling and neither your life has stopped nor is that you have lost al possibilities of leading a happy life. It was just a relationship and it didn’t work out. You gave your best shot, that’s more than enough.” Divya was saying when he interrupted.

“I understand whatever you are saying makes a lot of sense and is factual, but I can’t help being bitter about it.” Prayas was agitated.

“That’s because you are still there, where she left you, you are still waiting. You refuse to accept whatever has happened. Do you listen to ghazals?” Divya asked

“Yes, I like them a lot”

“You know your state is perfectly described by one of the couplets from a Jagjit Singh’s Ghazal

Dil bhi zid par ada hai ek bache ki tarah, ya to sab kuch hi ise chahiye ya kuch bhi nahi” Divya smiled and continued “You got to move on, find new people in your life, make things happen. Prayas this is your life, no one else will do it for you. What are you doing yaar. Chill man!!!”

“You know Divya; I have never met someone as sweet as you. I mean you are amazing” Prayas slowly replied in a slow and thoughtful voice.

“Don’t you start that with me. Come on its time for me to go. Nice girls are not supposed to be wandering late in the night.” Divya laughed and bade him goodbye and walked out.

He just sat there motionless watching her every move, every step. Her hands sidelining her hair and a black handbag dangling by her sides, she was a treat to his eyes and heart. He kept sitting and watching her. Everything she had said passed like a series of frames through her mind. He smiled to himself and his little fantasies and moved to go.

A Week Later-

It had been almost a week and they have been a part of each others life daily meeting at the same table in that espresso house. He was very happy and excited; he rushed into the espresso house and found her waiting for him. “Guess what, Ronan Keating is coming to city next weekend. Its a couple entry only, I have booked ticket for me and you, so be ready on Saturday”.

“Wow, I love Ronan Keating, You are a sweat heart. How did you know that I would love to go?” Divya was as excited as Prayas was.

Prayas was having sleepless nights, waiting for Saturday. On Saturday he woke up late, double shaved. Picked out his favorite dress put on. The night he has been waiting for all these days had actually arrived. He reached the espresso bar all dressed up and as soon as he reached he felt as if breath has lost on him. She sitting alone on the coffee table seemed to be like a piece of art. Her white skin was glowing prominently across the maroon dress. A thin gold chain was rounded on his neck, with a loosely dangling arrow pendant. He couldn’t take her eyes of her, when she saw him and said “Hi, when did you come?”

“Just now, I never knew you were so beautiful” Prayas stammered.

He could see a red blush, across her pink cheeks he moved by her side “Let’s go” and put her hand across her shoulder hesitating a bit to keep her hands on her waist he moved them over to her shoulders and gripped her. They sat in the car and went towards the concert.

Prayas was on a different world driving his car across the city and having her besides him, he could see his life in her face and her smile. He could feel blood rushing through his heart. The whole setup seemed like a fairy tale to him. He was out with his princess; the fantasy was quadrupled with Ronan Keating classics. He knew in his heart that he had found his life. All that he had expected in his wife was rocking to the greatest love songs of the world right here in his arms. Life was bliss.

The evening came to an end sooner than they could have realized. Some evenings can impact your lives so much that they can stretch well beyond a life time; this was such an evening for him. The sweet romance still embraced them when they were driving back home, they reached her home. She got off the car; he held her hands and pulled her back. Divya turned and looked back at him and a moment of silence and the clock seemed to stop. He came closer slowly till he could feel the warmth of her breath. She didn’t move, he bent forward her hands were gently stroking her soft hair and he could feel his lips against hers. The slight moisture of her lipstick and the aroma of her skin mixed with the Davidoff Echo made him loose his senses. She was still and he took a long press and slowly separated looking directly into her eyes. He could he see warmth and a strange sense of composure in her eyes. He didn’t know what do and what to say. He just sat quietly, she bent forward stroked her left cheek and gave a light peck on his cheek “You are a sweetheart Prayas” and she went home.

He turned the rear view mirror he could see the imprints of her lips and her lipstick on his cheek, he didn’t remove them, the silky touch of her hand seemed to him like an eternity. His heart was beating vigorously with his nerves strained. He roared the engine and zapped his car back to his home. Life was great, and he had been loving every moment of it.

Next day Prayas had to go out of station for a week for work.

The trip had been a successful one for him and he couldn’t wait to get back to meet Divya. Strolling through one of the malls he purchased a ruby ring for her, and wrote a one liner for her-

“The tinge of gold and this little gem fickle, My heart skips beat and you surround the view,

Your deep eyes tinkling with the sparkle, Make me say I Love You. “

He reached back, he couldn’t wait to reach espresso and ask her to marry him. He was greeted well in the office for the success of his trip. His team had decided to go clubbing that night in his honor. He so much wanted to say no and tried to avoid then thought that may be he could ask her tomorrow. They went to G&C’s for the night. The music was at its best, the usual G&C standard. The Club was full of life. Prayas and his team took a corner seat and ordered drinks. He couldn’t take his mind of Divya. The ring was still in his pocket. He missed her like hell and wished that she could have been here with him, right in his arms.

After an extended session of drinks, Prayas and his friends jumped on the floor. The floor had been happening as usual and the group immediately let itself loose with the music. Suddenly Prayas’ eyes freezed on a couple, whose dance and closeness were extending to the acts of foreplay. The guy was kissing the girl very passionately and his hands were trying to get a feel of her body. His mind went topsy-turvy, he tried to get a better view of the girl but he couldn’t because of the crowd which was half mad with the ambience and music. He couldn’t get his eyes of the glowing skin of the feminine body which seemed so familiar. Soon the party was drawing towards a close long after midnight. He saw them exiting out of the pub he followed and just as the couple was about to enter the car he shouted Divya. She turned back, and he was shocked.

“Wow Prayas!! How come you are here, you had gone out? When did you come back? You didn’t even tell me” Divya said.

Prayas didn’t say a thing, just kept staring at the guy next to her. She noticed and said “Oh, I completely forgot. He is Vikrant, my boyfriend. Vicky he is Prayas, I told you about him. Remember”

“BOYFRIEND!!!” exclaimed Prayas “When did this happened, a week ago you loved me. You didn’t even gave me a weeks time and you go out with him”

“What!!!” Divya was shocked “You? My boyfriend. When? Something is terribly wrong. You were never my boyfriend, and I was never your girl.”

“If not then why did you wait for me in Espresso house everyday? Why did you listen to everything I had to say? Why we had to be together daily? Tell me why?” shouted Prayas.

“Listening to you, it was professional Prayas, I hope you understand. It’s my profession to listen to personal problem s of people and I was doing that. It was nothing of the sorts you are assuming. I never said that I love you. Vicky has been in my life for past three years.” Divya tried to calm him down.

“You mean everything was professional, you were just being professional with me. If that’s true why you never told me about Vicky before” Prayas shouted almost on the verge of crying.

“You never asked, as a matter of fact I never shared anything about my life with you. I don’t know how and what have you assumed”

“What about the Kiss that day. It didn’t mean anything to you” Prayas said in a coarse voice with a tear rolling down his eyes.

“Come on Prayas I just let you do it because I thought you were missing your girl. Prayas this is my profession, I love my job. Everything between you and me was professional.” She bent forward stroked his cheek gently and gave him a small peck on his cheek “You are a sweetheart Prayas. Take care and if you need any help do give me a call. I have to leave now”. She sat inside the car and they drove off.

He could feel the touch of her hands against his cheeks like a sand paper. He felt like puking, he slowly moved towards his car sat inside, lying his neck against the headrest. He took out the handkerchief to wipe of his face of the tears that had trickled down and could feel the box of ring. He took it out opened the glove box and kept it beside a photo of Poorva. He looked towards it for a minute, before closing the glove box.

He started the car and drove off; the days of bliss had passed. He was single again.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Name

Keeping his laptop on the backseat, Prayas adjusted the rear view mirror to see himself, he let out a smile at his own stub and returned the mirror back to its place and picked the bag from the car and moved towards the Laundromat. The weekly laundry was a boring routine but had to be done and he was happy that his company had laundry installed in the office premises for bachelors like him. He got the tokens put all his clothes in the machine and started the machine. It will be twenty five minutes before he will have to change the mode to dryer and restart the machine. He sat down on the couch, another two minutes and his thoughts kept on lingering how his life had changed in past few months. He took out his cell phone, kept scrolling names, until he struck across the name Divya, a name which he wanted to remove from his heart and from this phonebook. Suddenly he noticed someone else in the room. She was facing other side but he could see the silhouette, she was tall and slender. Black hair neatly tied in a bun were wet, her T-shirt and her jeans were showing her waistline. She turned and became conscious of his gaze . She adjusted her T-Shirt and came back and sat at the couch. Prayas said “Hi!! Poorva?? I am Prayas”. She stammered “yyeah…Hi, Do we know each other?”.

“No” he said “Just saw your name on your ID card and thought of striking a conversation”

“What? And why you want to do that?”

“Well, firstly my laundry has still around half an hour to go and I am getting bored, secondly you have a nice figure. Thought I just might get lucky”

“If that’s a pick-up line, this is the worst one I have ever heard”

“No, actually I have seen best of pick up lines failing so thought might just try the truth this time”

“Huh” she ignored him and looked on the other side.

Prayas looked at her closely, she had large black-brown eyes highlighted through a faint line of Kohl. Her face was round with a bit flat nose. She looked beautiful in the white t-shirt and blue jeans. The line on her t-shirt “United Colors” made him wonder how many colors will she be having in her life.

Poorva snapped back “Why are you staring at me like this?”

Shocked initially with her calm and deep voice, he laughed “Well there are only washing machines and you to look at and you provide a better view.”

Poorva was irritated by now “are you a subject matter expert for corny lines”

Prayas smiled “Which division are you from?”

“Personal Relations” she replied.

“So you are the one who gets paid for lying about our company to general public”

“Do you have any idea what PR is all about, how important it is for a company” and she went on for a few minutes. And he kept on listening enjoying the energy and enthusiasm she exulted while speaking about her job. Her face radiated a confident glow, the eyes grew wider and he could feel something rushing inside him.

“By the way what do you do in this company?” she asked

“Oh me, I am a Consultant” he replied with a smile. For the first time he was actually enjoying being with a girl. It has been 6 months since Divya was gone and he never felt this for anyone like he was now.

“Have you heard that joke on consultants” She asked

“Oh yes, the shepherd one… yes I have, I am the same consultant. I get paid to talk” He smiled.

And he went on talking to her, with every passing minute he felt closer to her. For first time in six months he felt zeal to live, “Life is not over” he told himself. Suddenly the beeper of the machine put an end to his thoughts and a break to their conversations. He saw his laundry was completed there was still three minutes left for her machine’s timer. He went up slowly to the machine pick up the bucket and starting taking out clothes one by one. He wanted to do it so slowly so that her washing also gets completed and he has a chance to go till the gate with her. He couldn’t believe that he was doing this. Suddenly she got up and switched off the machine, he asked “what happened?”

She replied “Nothing, two minutes only they will be done”

Together they walked towards the gate talking. She couldn’t believe that actually she liked him. He seemed to be so rude and irritating, but he was so genuine and caring. Her mind was wandering about so many random thoughts, yet she could hear and understand every word he was saying. They reached the gate and showed their ID cards to go out. It was time to go, She couldn’t it was time to go.

“How do you commute? Can I drop you, I mean only if it’s okay with you?” he asked

“I take a rick or the company bus” she said clutching her car keys and slowly sliding them into her handbag.

“Come then I will drop you home” he said “Where do you live”

They sat inside the car and he could feel the adrenalin rushing into him. He put on the music and drove out of the parking. The faint romantic tunes from the speaker, made the crazy traffic filled road to him as the most exotic setup. First time in his life he was blessing the traffic which gave him more time to spend with her. He stopped the car, “I can’t believe we reached your home so soon”.

She smiled “Thanks for the ride, Ciao some time” and got out of the car. He looked at her moving towards her house, he started the engine. Just when she turned and he could see her walking back to him. She leaned on the window and said “Why don’t you come up for a cup of coffee?”

“Sure”, he said and parked the car. Moving upstairs they entered her flat. He couldn’t stop himself and held her hand, she turned to him and he pulled her close. She left herself loose which he felt as her consent, put his arms around her and removed her hair clip, she left a deep breath and closed her eyes as her hair loosened themselves and fell over her back and he bent forward put his lips on hers and closed his eyes.

He couldn’t believe himself, everything was back he could feel her warmth and softness. The tenderness he always loved was right here in his arms. He held her tightly and felt her close to him with his closed eyes. She was the world to him, nothing could ever mean more than her, this was ecstasy he could see his life with closed eyes he could see her serene face, Divya’s face. He opened his eyes suddenly and saw Divya staring at him with her wide eyes. He was scared, and shocked as he moved away from her. Poorva opened her eyes and smiled with a blush. Prayas couldn’t see her face with his eye’s back. All he could see was Divya staring at him. Poorva looked back “What are you staring at?”. Looking at a photograph she said “She is my cousin Divya, She died in an accident six months ago”.

“Come on, you sit down and I will make some coffee for you” Poorva headed towards the kitchen.

“No”, he looked towards his cell phone and said. “Its getting late, may be some other time” he moved out of her house looking at his cell phone, seeing the name which he wanted to erase from this phonebook, his life and his heart but couldn’t.