Friday, 7 August 2015

The Steamin' Mugs Part 2


Chapter 3 : The Return  

Chapter 4 : The Monsoon

Chapter 3 : The return

His wall clock ticked 2 am and Sid decided to call it a night. His breakup with Ananya had dragged onto his personal life for a while, leaving him torn and alone in this city. It was the same time of the year the one before and monsoon made it worse. Sea depressed him and he was stuck in a port city with his part time work as a consultant and getting to convince publishers to finance his travelogue. Upon insistence from Ananya, Sid had compiled his travel diaries to create a beautiful coffee table book, full of practical do’s and don’ts and fantastic imagery. The work had satiated him on a different level no doubt, but he got reminiscing, every time, every moment that the latter part of the book needed to see the end. In a way, he was happy that it (the book) did. Sometimes, he even felt like quitting and going home but new prospects awaited him now. He had appeared for interviews for a full time job as writing was getting tougher by the day. The inspiration had become a thing of the past and with great difficulty and perseverance, he had finished the one venture that he had begun. 

An IT guy, he was sure to get through one of the organizations he had applied for and would finally look at a steady income, settled life and some peace of mind. Not that he had financial troubles but who wouldn’t want a steady flow of cash in a city like Mumbai. He was working from home today and meeting Mr. Tyagi for the written word. Subconsciously, he looked forward to the evening and returning the kurta that he had borrowed the previous evening.

The day went by without much excitement and he returned. There was a slight drizzle today so not as much buzz as the previous evening. He pushed the door and entered. Smaller crowd and lesser activity. He took the same couch by the window though a different book. The Specials Board boasted of Pistachio Rose Latte and Corn Spinach Raviolis amongst a few other delicacies! Sid felt hunger pangs though his eyes were still searching her. 

He began scanning the images from ‘The First World War in Colour’. Peter Walther had gained acclaim for this one, maybe that’s why the book found its way in the collection here, Sid thought. A group of men with cigars in their mouths, standing by a make-shift tent. Sid was amused to see this gallery in colour, ironically of a time when everything was black and white. 

He looked up in time to see her come inside the coffee house from a back exit. Floral print on white kurti and a serene blue salwar, the same colour as the print. The silver danglers in her ears with the neckpiece gave the Indian look the required glamour, subtle yet impressive. She scanned the orders of the past few minutes and asked Abdul to take care of them. He looked employed, not someone from the family maybe, Sid thought. He could not help stare at her. Such enchanting eyes, Sid wondered. The kohl made them look more piercing and devastating to directly look at. The transfixed poor soul forgot to rise to his feet to go place an order at the counter. She looked at him and smiled. A small question mark on her face told him that she might have recognized him or so he wished. She put the pen and the pad down and started walking towards him. Crossing 2 tables on her way and greeting some familiar faces, she came and stood right in front of him.

“Would you like to try something from the specials board or would you like to have a regular coffee?”. 

“He..Hello Ma’am! Anything! I will just place the order”. His extended hand had a brown paper bag, folded. “Something borrowed yesterday Ma’am. Thank you very much”! 

A flash of recognition made her go red in the cheeks and she smiled again, showing off those tiny wrinkles. “Sorry I didn’t recognize you! You look all warm and fresh today! Take your time with the order. I am right over there.” She started back not without saying “Good pick by the way. That’s a new one”, pointing to the coffee table book. 

Sid placed an order for a Latte and sat by his table again. It was Abdul this time. She was busy talking to an old acquaintance, or so it looked like. There was a certain warmth about the place that was so unmistakable and Sid regretted not having noticed the café earlier. Well, only momentarily.  He scanned the book again and saw two more tables emptying. There was just this girl at the far end of the coffee house. With headphones on, she was feverishly talking with someone in an unknown language, unknown to Sid. Pretty. He thought. But not interested. Sid smiled at the silly thought. Was it empty hours or was it infatuation? He had been in stable relationships before and was no longer a teenager. Besides, the woman, Pritha as he was to learn later, was probably twice his age. He was not able to decide whether it was his loner phase of life or his genuine appreciation for beauty that made him feel this way. “Idiotic this is”…he chuckled!

“Something funny about the book son?” She was standing next to him with a Latte and a crossword puzzle and a pencil on the tray. 

“Thank you Ma’am. You could have called me….(and not called me that!)”. He managed while standing up almost instantly. 

“Don’t be silly. I love doing this. Coffee rejuvenates people and my specials make their day. That’s how I sleep peacefully at night. Let me know how you liked that one and suggest some new combinations for the board! Enjoy!” She said, placing the tray on the table. 

“So this place belongs to you Ma’am?” Sid hurried, worried that she would leave! Ohh…this was getting poetic! 

“I belong here son.” “Sid, the name is Sid”. He said extending his hand and pulling a chair for her. She glanced around, precisely what Sid was expecting and realized that she could catch a break after all. Resting her elbows on the table, she waved her right hand and motioned him to sit. “So Sid, are you new to the city? You are certainly new here!” “Ma’am…” “Pritha. The name is Pritha”. She smiled. 

“P.r.i.t.h.a..this might take time..well not really, it’s been 5 years since I am living in Bombay, love to call it that though locals would kill me for it. Trying to fit in and have a good time. I love the city, though at times, feel homesick”.

“Happens. Not because I belong here but this is one of the best cities in the world you can choose to live in. The pace, the stench, the life, it all grows on you. Where do you belong?”

“I am from Himachal. But have studied in Doon and then moved to Delhi. So been around. Bombay offered good prospects so I came here. Shifted from full time consultancy and took to part time writing..”

“Interesting really. I have seen a lot of youngsters going after their dreams these days. It’s not easy to be a rebel. Living life on your terms is glorified I feel. To actually put it to practice needs a lot of courage. Courage to disappoint your loved ones, courage to listen to what your heart earnestly beats for. There is so much commotion around you that it takes effort to listen to your own self…!” Her voice trailed off as she looked out the window. The drizzle had turned into a downpour now and perfectly made her point. It took just a few seconds for her to get back to where they were seated. 

“Seen a lot in life I guess. If you don’t mind me about your family?” he tried to get past that veiled face. Cautiously. Somewhere, he had begun to anticipate a troubled past in just a short conversation.
“I have Abdul and the many satisfied faces I see everyday!” As if he heard his name, Abdul called out. Sid could have sprung across from where he was seated for the boy’s throat. Again, a few seconds and he remained quietly seated as Pritha hurriedly excused herself and got up. 

Chapter 4 : The Monsoon

The days that followed saw a flurry of activities in Sid’s life. A small-time publisher had agreed to bring his book on the stands. He was happy that his work would at least get some acknowledgement. Appreciation? Well, he was going to have to wait for that. He decided to break the news to Ananya. She was thrilled! Said she always wanted to witness this. Sid decided to call for a small gathering of close family and friends to introduce his work and celebrate the occasion. It was after all a big deal for him.

“Please try and attend”. He spoke earnestly into the phone. 

“I would have loved to Sid but I have to go see my father this weekend. He is in India only for a week and has just the weekend. You know how little time we get to spend with each other!” Ananya was genuinely sorry. Sid could feel it. Besides, he very well knew that she was very close to him. 

“We have each other for the longest time now. And even if he respects my decision to stay here, have a stable base and work while he trots the globe, we miss each other a lot. Precisely why we are even closer Sid”. He remembered this. Ananya very rarely spoke of her dad, her only family he knew of and he did not press further.

“Very well Ananya. I know you would be there with me. And by the way, thanks. This one is just for you”.
Within a month of the travelogue launch, Sid got his appointment letter with Accenture. It was a hefty package though long work hours. Which meant he got no time whatsoever for writing. Reading, maybe yes and a coffee once in a while, why not?

Sid had thought of inviting Pritha for the launch but had changed his mind. They had got to know each other a bit more in the past couple of months and Mumbai monsoon had set the perfect backdrop for Sid to visit ‘The Steamin’ Mugs’, the coffee house.  Abdul had got around knowing him too and Sid decided to gift her the book on her birthday. It was a good 6 months away. The 29th of Feb. She was actually going to celebrate it the coming year…what with February leaping with joy for a day more! Perfect. Sid thought to himself. Though he was very nervous with the idea as her intellect intimidated him. How good or bad a critic would she be, he didn’t know.

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