Friday, February 13, 2009

Rajan - Completed

"What would you like to have?" he asked, even before she settled into the chair opposite to him.

"One masala dosai" she replied, surprised at how he never questioned her for being late. She had to fight out her urge to justify the situation, lest he should assume that she was the late-comer.

She watched him as he went to the counter to place their order, his jet black shoes ticking on the wooden flooring of the café with each step. She noticed that the lace on his right shoe had loosened, making the longer of the threads to flip up and down as he walked. He wore navy blue pants to match the white and blue striped shirt, the sleeves of which were rolled up to his elbow exposing his tanned hands laden with short hair lazily slanted to one side. The back of his pants were slightly crumpled in the middle due to the buckling of the knees inside.

Five minutes into their dinner and except for the sounds of the crisp dosa crumbling in her mouth and the sipping of tea, they were silent. There were occasional secret glances at each other through the corner of their eyes which went unnoticed by the other.

"I'd be leaving to Boston for a month" he said finally.

The words stung her. She realized, for the first time in her life how words uttered, could hurt a million fold stronger than those on print. She could feel her heart - another first in her list of firsts. It throbbed harder, faster and it blocked her throat, making it almost impossible to gobble down the piece of dosa that was cracking between her teeth.

A faint 'oh' was all that she could muster herself to say in the midst of the chaos that his words created in her – the 'oh' sounding more like 'Should you really go?' than an element of surprise.

All these emotions that struck her upon his utterance of these words confused her. She had never envisaged that she would miss someone, especially in real life. The only times she had felt anything close to such a feeling was when she was just a couple of pages from finishing up a novel - she would be caught in a maze of curiosity to know the ending, conflicted by the fear of missing the characters who had been a part of her virtual life for the past few days.

She wondered if he felt the same - if he would miss her as much as she would, if she would still be in his thoughts even though they were miles away, if he would count down the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes when they would be together again in the same café, sitting across a coffee stained wooden table.

Anyone could guess that their acquaintance probably began in a library.

One cold Friday evening of December, they had discovered that they were colleagues, when he returned to her her office ID card that he had found on one of the library shelves.

"Hi. I'm Rajan. I believe this card is yours." He had said, flashing the ID and analyzing her face to confirm if it matched the one on the card.

Rajan – the name struck her with a familiarity that she detested - a character in one of her favourite novels who sold his own children for money. The author had portrayed Rajan so powerfully that she had developed an urge to slap him across his face if she ever got a chance to meet him. In short, she hated Rajan and hence the name. But today, there was this gentleman, sharing the same name and looking straight into her eyes as if he had had an unblemished past.

Looking up at him for the first time, she noticed that an identical tag hung from his neck. Her ID card shifted from his hands to hers as she whispered a forced thank you to him, pitying herself for having to use those words to someone she despised, even if just the name.

"We work in the same company as well huh?" He had continued cheerfully, holding up his own ID card and unaware of all the thoughts that were screaming in her mind.

"I guess so." She said, sounding skeptical.

"Hope to see you around then, Msss…?" He dragged, waiting to hear her utter her name even though he had already read it off her ID card.

"Rashmi" She had finished, slowly turning her back to him.

Since their first meeting, they had often bumped into each other at the library, office corridors, café and the bus stop. However, it was Rajan who always initiated their conversation. Occasionally Rashmi would apologize to herself for equating him to some fictitious character who shared nothing in common with Rajan other than the name. It troubled Rashmi and hence as a matter of self defense, she began to accept Rajan's rare invitations for lunch, dinner or sometimes even for a short tea break. The relationship grew on them and their meetings eventually turned into a habit which either of them couldn't deny themselves the joy of.

"So… when are you leaving?" she asked, after a lengthy one minute silence which took a lot of courage to break.

"Tomorrow." He said, matter-of-factly.

It hit her harder this time. Like sand accumulating at the funnel of an hour glass and inevitably falling prey to gravity, her stomach sank, deeper and deeper into emptiness. The unfairness of the timeline that was left before he would leave made her feel inferior – stupid, that she had assumed and taken for granted, the place she held in his hierarchy of friends.

Twenty four hours, or lesser, she thought.

Their conversation continued as he briefly went through his itinerary with her, pausing in between only to take a sip of his tea or to answer her doubts.

"What would you bring back for me?" She asked him the next evening, when he called to say goodbye.

"Your heart." He replied, without the slightest hint of hesitation.

P.S.: Happy Valentines' day :)

Monday, February 02, 2009


He was late for their early dinner. Had it been any other day, she wouldn’t have made a big deal out of it. But today, it was testing her patience.

She sat restlessly on the wooden chair of her office cafeteria, shifting her weight from one side to the other. The thick jute threads that made the seat of the chair weren’t as comfortable as they were meant to be. Tiny threads stuck out of the thicker ones, like short loose ends of unmanageable hair sticking out of her braids every morning. Sagging down an inch due to the weight of its occupant, the chair made her look shorter than she would have liked. Hence, she had her left hand tucked beneath her left thigh, in an attempt to look taller and also pull out one of those tiny threads that was poking her.

She felt irritated. Frustrated, at how she had hurried to make it on time for their dinner for which he was now running late.

Maybe, he was not to be blamed. He could be stuck in the traffic, a last minute meeting or an unexpected discussion with his manager. She was the one at fault. She was to be blamed for assuming his earlier displays of punctuality to be an excuse for not carrying her huge novel to the cafeteria.

The restlessness of being alone, devoid of a book in her hand made her feel miserable. The idea of watching people walking casually around the café, ordering, exchanging pleasantries with the café manager while waiting for the order, eating, drinking, discussing projects over sheets of paper scattered over the café table – were not what she was particularly fond of. For, this was just a world she dwelled in because she was expected to - a hectic world that kept her far from the crisp pages of books, their places, their beautiful details, their characters and their emotions.

To her fiction was real and the real, far from fiction.

She lived in a world of her own, that was hidden in the books she read. She knew that the places described in the books existed, but she never desired to visit them, for she was content picturing their beauty in text.

Over time, she even began to sketch the character of people based on the books in which she had come across their names. She was madly in love with some characters in the books, so much so that her heart skipped a beat whenever she read their names in others. She hated the way the character with that name was portrayed in total contrast by another author. There were characters she detested. Some pitied. Some envied. Some, she wished could be her.

It troubled her, confused her, to live in one world and merely exist in the other.

The restlessness of the wait grew on her, forcing her to finally get off the chair and quickly walk up to her office cabin to fetch the book. As she swiftly traced her steps back to the café, her wrists were already aching of bearing the thick leather bound novel.

Placing her purse on top of the book and holding them both against her chest, she walked faster. Having just a few more steps left to reach the café, she noticed that he was sitting in the chair she had occupied a few minutes back.

to be continued..