The Proposal

They were sitting on the rooftop of his flat, the view of the city traffic from five floors above was a fascinating one. They watched the cars move almost like in a silent film. The sound was minimal at that height. They sat with their feet dangling from the parapet, hands entwined, a glass of wine on each side of them. Their silence that evening was blissful. 

After a while she rested her head on his shoulders, her eyes shut. He felt nice and snug too, although by now he was itching to go down. The thought of the two of them, both a few glasses down, sitting on the parapet, was making him a tad uneasy. The neons around the city came on at that instance, coinciding with the goodbye of the evening sun. 

He had been waiting for this moment for a while now. Maybe a little over six months. How does one propose? Where? When? Why? Of all these questions the only answer he had was to the last one. He knew she was the one. After nearly half a dozen broken relationships he finally met his dream woman. The one he wanted to wake up in the morning with, for the rest of his life. They had been together for just about a year but it was enough for him to be sure. How to go about it, was the tricky complicated bit. 

He loved the smell of her hair as she perched herself a little more snugly on to him. He put his arms across her bringing her closer to him. She sighed and murmured something and he saw a slight smile of satisfaction run across her closed lips. 

He didn’t want to shift an inch at that instance. They were perfectly poised on the roof that summer evening. 

“How do I? How? How?” He kept wondering. As always he had a hundred plans hovering around his head regarding how to go about it. Maybe a trip to Paris and then as they walked across the Shakespeare Book Shop, he could pop the question. Or maybe while walking by the embankment in London, holding hands looking into her eyes. On his knees with a ring in his hand, in a remote Greek island seemed like a great idea to him too. Then of course a cursory glance at his bank balance changed all that. His apartment rooftop and cheap port. That sounded perfect. 

His thoughts made him smile and he gave her a slight squeeze. She stirred a bit and then looked up at him. Her brown eyes half-closed half-opened, her hair slightly ruffled and that smile a bit broader across her luscious lips. Her eyes were twinkling as she looked  at him. The city was lit up and appeared brighter when she smiled. The noise of the evening home-going traffic had increased significantly. He kept staring at her beautiful face as the surrounding neons gave it an ethereal glow. 

“Will you marry me?” he asked simply.

She kept looking at him, smiling. He was beginning to get tensed as he had expected a quicker response from her. 

She looked at him for what seemed like ages and finally replied. 

“What?”

Now there are some definite amswers and some expected answers one guesses to a proposal. “What” certainly isn’t one of them. 

He kept looking at her not knowing what to say. She smiled at him and said “I’m way too buzzed now, so you have to speak up louder honey”. She rested her head on his shoulders once more, this time putting her arms around his neck for support. 

He kept looking at the evening cityscape all lit up and glowing. He got off the parapet carrying her in his arms. She snuggled more comfortably in his lap as he began to climb down the stairs to get to his apartment. 

The proposal? 

He knew he had to wait for some more time before he could muster up the courage or plan the right time. Again. 

“And no port next time”, he promised himself as he gently lay her down on the bed. 

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

The Mixtape

He felt an inexplicable fury inside of him as he switched his phone off abruptly. His friend at the other side of the call might have found it strange, but at that point of time he didn’t care. He was too mad. He couldn’t believe she would be this way, after all these years.

He sat down by the window of his studio apartment. He looked out from his third floor to see the downtown traffic. It was peak rush hour and the traffic seemed manic as always. He was however more aware of the noise that he felt from within…that of seething rage and intense anger. “How could she, how could she” was all he asked himself.

They had been separated for over a year now. 9 years of marriage and one 8-yeard old daughter were out of his life forever now. They had been drifting apart for a while but the last couple of years were terrible. He seemed to have an incredible lack of patience when it came to understanding her. Or at least that’s what she said every time they would have a meltdown. He knew secretly that little things about her irritated him more than usual and his stock of patience was rapidly diminishing. He never admitted it to her, but somewhere deep inside he knew she was right. Why he felt that way he never understood.

They gave it one last serious attempt for the final year or so. They went to marriage counselors, therapists and even a few close friends to discuss their relationship and try and better it. It was a lost cause but they both tried. However finally when it snapped, the inevitable happened. A lot of angry, bitter outbursts in public, a dirty custody battle for their daughter, a of lot of dirty linen washed in public. Their split was ugly to say the least.

His life spiraled down after their breakup. He left his job and took to writing from home. Soon he shifted from their cosy, suburbean house to a small studio, compact enough to store his books and records. He had a single bed which took up the rest of the apartment. He did the occasional freelance to make ends meet. Mainly for his drinking, which had increased. Apart from that he had no expenses to talk of. He hardly went out, met people or spent on other things. Six months earlier he heard about her second marriage. It was to the same fellow in her office. He remembered many a fight they had about him. She always insisted he was a friend and nothing more. He doubted his intentions from the start. He almost felt vindicated when he heard of their marriage. “I was right after all,” he thought bitterly. He also thought of his daughter. “I wonder how she will take to him,” he wondered out aloud at times. “A stranger, a new man could never replace her real father”.

Some evenings he missed them both a lot. He wished he could go back in time, make amends and have them back in his life. His drinking increased considerably those nights. He would pull up a mix-tape, they had once made together. “The soundtrack of our lives,” they would say, every time they sat together and heard the tape. He would remember the times when the two of them sat and heard it together. In the later years their daughter sat in between them while they heard it. Life had seemed picture perfect then. Now when he heard the tape it would make him sadder than before. Lonelier than ever.

He got up from his bed and walked out of his apartment. He was carrying the mix-tape in his pocket. He wanted to fling it on her face and call it quits forever. He had had enough. Memories flooded his mind as he travelled by the metro to reach his old house. “I gave her the house. I might as well give this tape away and end it once and for all.” He thought to himself angrily as the train whizzed past the subway stations. When he got off he walked briskly towards his house. From a distance he could see her husband. He had just driven the car close to the main steps of the house. He felt a wave of anger run through his body as he saw him.

And then something strange happened….

He saw her. Her face looking it was lit up by a million suns. The glow on her face. That smile, that look. He kept looking at her. Mesmerised, as he was nearly 10 years ago. There was a bump on her tummy that was hard to miss. And suddenly from behind he saw their daughter, running towards her mother, carrying a bunch of colourful balloons that she handed over to her. She wrapped her arms around her mother’s tummy, their laughter echoing all over. Her husband rushed up the stairs, not wanting to be left out of the warm hug mother and daughter were sharing. The three of them laughed as they reached the car. Mother and daughter took the backseats as he happily sat in front and drove off.

He kept standing by himself at a distance from his old house, as the dust from the road, blinded his vision for a while. He soon realized it wasn’t the dust alone. His eyes had filled up. He took one long last look at the house and sighed. It would be a long subway journey back to his apartment.

That evening as he reached his apartment, he put the mix-tape in a brown envelope and kept in safely up in the trunk in the loft. “Soundtrack Of Our Lives” was scribbled on top of the envelope. He knew he wouldn’t be opening that trunk for a long time now.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

The Silk Stole

Susan woke up hearing a shriek from the next room. She turned around to see her husband fast asleep. She was amazed how he hadn’t heard the shriek. He was actually a light sleeper unlike her.

She got off the bed and rushed to the next room. Sarah was sitting up on the bed with her legs folded inside her, her arms wrapped around her knees, head buried. She was shrieking still.

“What happened what happened”, Susan asked her younger sister as she held her by her shoulders shaking her slightly. “Over there”, the sister pointed towards the corner of room behind the curtains, her fingers trembling with fear. She saw the shadow of a man with something in his hands. In a flash Susan was on to the the man as she yanked the curtain open to see her own husband standing there. He had a silk stole in his hand and glint of pure evil in his eyes. “Surprise surprise”, he smiled as he began to strangle her with the stole.

Susan woke up with a start. Her husband was peering over her face. “You had a bad dream honey?” He asked as he softly stroked her forehead. She looked blankly at him and then put her arms around him. She shut her eyes and he kissed her forehead and then turned his back to go back to sleep.

Susan stared at the photo of Sarah by her bedside. It had been five years since the night Sarah was found dead, hanging by the silk stole.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

The Red Handset

She bought the cheapest paid phone that was available in the store. It was a red handset. “Ma’am there are better ones for you”, the shopkeeper tried to sell the more expensive sets to her. “This will do just fine”, she said as she walked out of the store heading to the nearby cafe.

She watched them from the next table. They seemed lost in each other. At times he’d hold her hand and squeeze it slightly and she’d look at him lovingly. Her anger kept on increasing at frantic pace seeing this open display of emotions between the two of them. Had he forgotten about me altogether? Did he not really love me at all? Was the role of devoted husband, simply that? A “role” that he played to perfection? She was lost in her own thoughts when she was interrupted by a call on her mobile.

“Yes I’m here already. Waiting. Please come fast. And don’t forget to bring what I asked you to”, she said, in a hushed tone, which however could not conceal the anger she was feeling at that moment.

She kept on watching her husband, make a joke of their marriage as he and the woman with him at his table spent precious intimate moments, oblivious to all the people around them. Her entire life kept flashing in front of her eyes. The good times, which all seemed like one big lie now, and those wretched horrible moments, which now seemed to have found a perfect explanation, at least in her mind. She knew from inside their marriage was over.

She felt a firm tap on her shoulder, which startled her and made her look back. It was him. The man on the phone. Standing in front of him. He looked taller than what he appeared on his profile pic. His steely eyes seemed cold and dispassionate. He exuded a cold aura that was as fascinating as it was frightening.

“Sit down”, she ordered, her tone masking her nervousness admirably. “Hope you’ve come prepared”, she asked him, as she looked imploringly right in his firm cold eyes. He simply nodded and asked her to leave. “Leave the packet for me at the waste-bin outside the cafe”, he said. “I don’t want to see you after this”, his tone had a finality about it which made her leave almost immediately.

She did as she was instructed. She went outside and dropped the brown-paper wrapped bundle in the waste-bin right in front of the cafe. She walked a few steps further near the bus shelter and waited there.

Two muffled shots were all she heard. And then the panic-stricken screams. From within the cafe. The tall man quietly walked out, coolly taking the silencer off his pistol putting them in separate pockets. He reached for the bundle from the bin and walked off, disappearing into the crowd in a matter of seconds.

Her heart was pounding like a freight train. As she boarded the next taxi by the curb and headed home, her mind was numb. She knew she had to be home by the time she would receive the phone call, informing her about the “news”.

***

She smiled wearily as her father in law showed himself to the door. “You know you are always welcome in our house. You’re still our daughter”, he said, as he hugged her tight. She shed a couple of tears as her head was buried in his chest. “I know. I know,” she whimpered.

It had been a hard three months for her, he knew.

 “Call us whenever you feel like,” he said, as he was leaving. She nodded gently, her eyes looking directly at him.

As he door closed, her face changed colour faster than a chameleon. Her expression changed from one of extreme sorrow to that of a victorious gleam. She took her red mobile out and punched the only number that was saved on it. It was him on the line.

“It’s done. All’s been taken care of. The property papers and insurance money will be with me by tomorrow. I hope our tickets have been booked darling,” she cooed on the phone. She smiled at his answer.

She chucked the red mobile in the same waste-bin where she’d thrown the brown paper bundle. She hummed a little tune to herself as she walked back home. She had a lot of bags to pack.

Copyright(c) Pratik Majumdar

The Blue Ming Vase

She was tired. All the guests had finally left and she wanted to clean the place up before she went to bed. It was a habit she just couldn’t change. Not matter how late it was, she always felt the need to tidy the room up, wash the utensils, clear up before retiring for the day. “Why don’t you leave it for the maids the next day”, her husband would often say. But she just couldn’t get herself to do that. She needed to tidy up everything herself. Only then she would sleep peacefully.


This evening she felt a little more tired than usual. She sat on the sofa in the middle of her cleaning spree with a lemonade in her hand. She took an occasional sip as she stared at the ceiling. “Maybe I am getting old. Maybe just for once I could leave it to the maids”, she thought to herself. Within a minute of that thought she was up again. By the time she finished her chores, her husband was fast asleep. He was sleeping diagonally on the bed, true to his nature. She didn’t want to wake him up. So she quietly picked her pillow and sheet and went to the guest room to sleep. She knocked out in no time once her head touched her pillow.

Her life was one of tranquility and peace. She knew all her friends looked at her with a mix of awe and amazement. How she managed her home, her family, her little baking business that she conducted from home. Everything. Some even envied her, she knew. But she went about her life on her own terms. Her sense of duty and the love she had for her family overran everything else. She would never be swayed by anything.


Apart from these qualities, her collection of vases and figurines was a major talking point amongst her friends and acquaintances. She had impeccable taste and had collected these from all over the world over a period of time. Out of all her collection, the Blue Ming Vase was her personal favourite. It was kept inside a glass cupboard which no one else was allowed to touch. She liked doing most of her own work by herself. And even in the matter of taking care of her precious items she didn’t trust anyone. Not many were allowed to go close to the vases. Most of all the Blue Ming Vase.


The next morning after she sent her husband off to work and the children to school, she sat down on her study table to finish some invoices for her last batch of supplies she’d made. Brownies and cookies. The festive period kept her busier than usual but she didn’t mind it. Like almost everything else, she did this on her own too. She could have easily hired a couple of helps for her baking. But she wouldn’t trust anyone else’s idea of perfection. She had to do all by herself.
As she kept working on the invoices, her gaze turned to the glass cupboard. The Blue Ming Vase seemed slightly out of place. A tiny band of dust at the bottom suggested it had been slightly moved from it position. She got up with a start from her chair and rushed to the cupboard.


She opened the cupboard and gently picked the vase up. Her hands slightly trembled as she delicately turned it in her hand. What she saw was not something she didn’t know. It was something she had forgotten.


A pronounced crack on the vase was what she was seeing now. She had turned the vase strategically to hide it all these years. But finally after so long it was visible to her. The cracks she had so carefully hidden were out in the open. Tears streamed down her eyes as she kept holding the vase in her hands, the cracked side still facing her. It was almost her whole life was facing her on that cloudy winter’s morning. Be it her husband’s late night outs with his secretary, their son’s drug abuse problem. Be it her own addiction. Only she knew what those countless glasses of “lemonade” actually contained. Only she knew the real reason why she slept in the guest room every night. She had kept the crack hidden by carefully placing the vase in that manner. And today when it stood out exposed she felt naked herself. She still kept holding the vase as her sobs grew louder. She was shaking slightly as her pent up emotions finally brimmed over. She kept the vase back in its original position and wept bitterly, her head resting on the self of the cupboard as she cried.


She was interrupted by her maid bringing her phone to her. She wiped her face swiftly, put her hair back in order and sat down again as she looked at the two messages on her phone.


“We’d like to place an order of 12 boxes of coconut cookies for next weekend please,” said the first message


“Have invited a few colleagues and their spouses for cocktails and dinner this weekend. Hope it’s fine by you”, said her husband in the other.


She stared at her phone for sometime and then got up from her chair. She took a deep breath as she looked at herself in the oval mirror in front of her and smiled. She tried a few different ones till she settled on a particular one she liked.
She got up and moved on. It was going to be a busy next few days.


The Blue Ming Vase stood reinstated in its original position.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

Crimson Surprise

He took out his blue denim shirt from his closet. “I should wear blue. After all I’ve harped on and on to her about how it’s my favourite colour”, he thought aloud. He was getting ready for his date with Lucy as he sprayed his favourite Aramis cologne. “Never old fashioned to smell like a true man”, he smiled as he liked what he saw in the mirror. And putting the Aramis on always reminded him of his father.

He met her at the cafe they always spoke about meeting at. He was excited as it was their first meeting after a whirlwind online courtship. They’d met in a Beatles’ group and from the first day got along great. It seemed to him that she was keen to meet up sooner, but like always, he needed time. The time had to be perfect. He stood up as she entered. She smiled at him, and then hugged him. As they embraced, she took a deep breath. “You smell great”, she whispered in his ears as they sat down. She looked more slender in her appearance than the pictures. Her wavy hair was brown with streaks on them. Her eyes sparkled every time she spoke and her smile reached her eyes almost simultaneously. She was beautiful. Oh so beautiful.

She ordered a garden salad with a salsa-vinaigrette dressing as he opted for the simpler grilled fish and mixed vegetables. They both shared a panna cotta for dessert. “I’ve got to always watch what I eat. My profession is such”, she sighed as she dug into his dessert bowl.

“Let’s go to my place”, he finally said, breaking their silence during their walk on the pier post-dinner. She looked at him lovingly and they kissed. “I’d love to”, she replied, her face buried in his chest as they walked past the pier. The moon cast its silver shadows in the dark waters.

As they entered his basement flat, they kissed passionately. He couldn’t contain his passion any longer. After all it had been 3 months.

6 Hours Later…

He threw the last plastic bag across the lake from the back of his old Renault. “I must change this car now. It’s too old”. He couldn’t risk it breaking down in between. After all the journey from his apartment to the lake was a good 12 miles. He couldn’t take that chance.

He loved slicing them up. He loved to catch them by surprise. In the throes of passion when he would suddenly take the steely silver dagger out and run it across their slender necks. The first sight of fresh blood excited him. Turned him on. And then the best bit was to see that look of unexpected horror in their eyes as their body shuddered in pain, violently shook and ultimately collapsed. All that blood seemed to justify all the sweet sugary things women said. “This is the best end”, he would smirk to himself. And yes red was his favourite colour unlike all the other colours he lied about.

The Next Morning

He shut his account down. It was time to create a new one. From Bungalow Bill he changed his ID to Rocky Racoon. Oh how I love the Beatles. So many names so many characters to choose from, he was pleased with his new nickname.

He took Lucy’s picture which he had shot from his instamatic and opened the shoe box to put it in there. As he flipped through the others he saw Michelle, Lizzy, Mary and Anna amongst them. My lovely Beatle girls, he smiled as he put Lucy along with them. He had seen a Lovely Rita in the Beatles Group. It was time he sent her a friend request.

As he shut the shoe box and slid it under his bed, he sighed. “It’s time I do a quick count”, he thought out aloud. He loved his cold smile in the mirror opposite, as he said this.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

Tere Bina Zindagi Se…

The sun was about to set as he sat down on his favourite arm-chair. His eyes were shut and his hands were comfortably placed on either side of the chair. The last rays of the sun were falling directly on his face giving it an unreal golden glaze. He was humming an old Kishore Kumar number. Probably Dev Anand had sung it on screen, he couldn’t remember…nor did he care. It was Kishore who mattered to him, not the heroes who merely lip-synced his golden beauties. It had been a long time since he had been so relaxed so at peace with himself. He felt like sipping his favourite whisky and listening to his favourite compilation…a delicious mix of Kishore, Gulzar and RD Burman numbers. The perfect way to spend a relaxed evening, he thought to himself. But he was a tad too comfortable on his chair to get up and do these things. If only…he sighed…if only…he wished.

He mustn’t have shut his eyes for more than 15 minutes when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulders. It wasn’t so much of a tap as it was a soft hand being placed on his shoulders. He turned around and there she was standing behind him. Her long silky hair was left open…just the way he liked it…and her big brown eyes were smiling down at him. “Here’s your whisky darling”, she whispered, and as if on cue O Mere Dil Ki Chaen started playing on his music system. He shut his eyes once more and felt the bliss of her touch and the mellifluous voice of Kishore, touch the core of his soul.

He sipped his whisky from time to time as the songs kept running on…O Majhi Re, Phir Wohi Raat Hai, Bahut Door Hokey …the melodies flowing as smoothly as his whisky. He hadn’t felt like this in a long time. “You know I’ve missed you so much these years”, he said softly, his words almost drowning in the waves of romance being ushered by Kishore and Pancham. “I wasn’t far way, all you had to do was call”, she said, her head now resting on his shoulders, as she knelt beside his arm-chair. She had now put her arms around him and they were both listening to gems such as Bahut Door Mujhe Chaley Jaana Hai, Bheegi Bheegi Aankhen, Theirs was a silence, which conveyed as much as words. He was really happy to have her next to him and that was all that mattered to him now. As the evening grew darker he could see their silhouettes on the wall. The songs were still playing…he was surprised at the length of the compilation…he hadn’t heard it for a while now but it surely wasn’t this long.

“Hey did you put on another disc”, he asked her. She smiled at him, ruffling his hair. Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa was playing when the lights suddenly came on.

He got up with a start.

He glanced at the music system.

It stood the way it did 3 years ago. The empty bar next to his book-stand and music system stared blankly at him. As he got up from his chair he felt a tiny tear trickle down the side of his eye.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

Mohini…The Enchantress

I want you I want you so bad

I want youI want you so bad

It’s driving me mad (she’s so heavy)

The Beatles, 1969.

He didn’t know when he’d dozed off. RD Burman was playing on his headphone and he could also hear strains of Laxmi Pravachan wafting through the air. “The Puja must have started as I knocked off to sleep”, he thought. Surely she’d be angry at him not sitting for the Puja. “Or maybe she decided to be easy on me after all”, he reasoned. The past few days had indeed been very hectic work-wise.

He got up from his bed and saw that she had kept a kurta pajama set neatly ironed, for him to wear. He smiled as he saw the rust coloured silk kurta and white pajamas She had even got the maid to keep his favourite mojdees out. There was no way she was going to let him sit for the Puja on his shorts and tee (like he would have preferred). He softly smiled to himself as he got up.

And then he felt it. That fragrance. That was so very hers. He could sense she was somewhere in the room. He couldn’t believe his luck. As the rest of the family was busy with the Puja outside in the living room, here he was alone in the bedroom feeling her presence. It was almost too good to be true. But he knew she was here. Somewhere in the room.

Their love affair had started in his youth. He must have been in his teens then. And even thirty odd years later he felt the same about her. The same freshness feeling and emotions. Nothing had changed about her in all these years. As she silently weaved her magic right into his heart, he knew she was special. Too bad he had to keep her hidden from his family. That was the only thing that bothered him about their relationship.

He kept looking for her everywhere in the room. He could sense her but could not see her. “Stop playing games with me”, he implored as he searched in vain for her. The mantras were coming loud and clear from outside and a few crackers also made their presence felt with the noise and sparkles filling up the sky. He knew he had to find her before anyone came inside the room to pull him out for the Puja.

He was panicking now as more and more time went in the hunt. He had to get dressed, wash his face and be out. But before that he knew he had to have her. The desire was eating him up from inside. He had to find her. He had to have her.

And just as he was losing hope from within, he saw her. Golden, pristine, oh so pretty and delicate. There she lay right before his eyes, almost too obviously, for him to be blind-sighted. There you are he smiled victoriously, as he picked her up. “Mohini you’re mine. Finally mine”.

He was about to open…when the door opened in a flash and his wife was standing in front of him. Dressed in a white silk saree with red border she was dazzling. A simple chain around her neck and two golden bangles around her wrist and she was looking ethereal. He could not take his eyes off her, as he stood there with Mohini in his arms, transfixed.

She stared at him. First in disbelief and then she smiled. “I knew you’d find her, but you didn’t know that I knew, did you”, she asked him, her smile getting wider at his expression on being found out.

“Believe me, I would’ve eventually told you”, he fumbled, the guilt too much for him to handle. I knew I couldn’t keep it a secret for too long, he surrendered to his wife. She came closer to him and gave him a warm hug. He loved the smell of fresh flowers which were adorned around her hair.

“You’re the best”, he said, once they broke their embrace.

“And you’re the cutest”, she responded, “to hide something like this from me. Now get dressed fast and join me for the Puja”.

He stared at her as she left the room, turning just once more to look at him and smile. That smile made his Diwali even brighter.

He quickly got into his kurta pajama and combed his hair. He looked in the mirror and felt nice. He felt lighter as the weight of a hidden guilty pleasure had been removed from his chest.

Just as he was leaving his bedroom to join in the Puja, he looked at Mohini. The golden packet of Mohini Dry Fruit Chikkis stared back at him, knowing that she’d be devoured once he came back in the room.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

The Journey

Sometimes, a journey is the best way to move away.

Old African Proverb

His thoughts raced faster than the train he was sitting in. Old memories flashed across his mind as the stations whizzed by. He got up from his window seat just to stretch his legs and arms. The train was speeding in order to make up for lost time. How he wished there was a way for him to make up for all the time he had lost. What opportunities did we allow to go by, went the McCartney song he so loved. And he found himself humming, Did I ever….and once more thoughts of her filled his mind.

She always seemed to be smiling. Her wavy auburn hair seemed to bounce in sync with her walk. The air smelt nice and birds seemed to sing sweeter when she was around. There seemed to be an ethereal glow about her, wherever she went. And when she sat next to him, the glow seemed to rub off on him too. Often he heard himself hum for no reason.

The train continued with its frantic journey. Leaving behind a blur of small towns and green fields, alternating at regular intervals. Vendors and salesman advertising their wares for sale continued their sing-song dialogues. He could hardly hear what they were shouting, so lost was he in his thoughts. They almost formed the background to the opera of the past playing in his mind.

A cup of green tea and a double-shot espresso. That always stayed constant. Puff pastry, grilled chicken sandwich, cream rolls…they changed depending on the time and…more significantly…on what kind of a mood she was in. More cream roll or dutch truffle ordered usually meant she was in a foul mood. Over time he learned to keep quiet on such occasions

The coffeewala stood next to him almost as if he knew his thoughts. “Make it strong and no sugar,” he said sitting up from his slouched position. He rubbed his hands as the AC of the train was now beginning to affect him, it was getting cold. The warm coffee touching his lips made him feel nice and snug.

“Must you always slurp on your espresso”? She had sounded really caustic that day. “You really could do with some training in social grace and manners you know”. He looked up at her surprised, rudely awakened from his state of bliss which always prevailed when he was with her. Her face had no smile on it, as she stared back at him, looking in his eyes. More like looking through his eyes, as he felt the pierce of her gaze cutting though him. “What’s the matter”, he asked a bit bewildered and unprepared. “I think I’ve had enough”, she said. “This cannot go on forever. I cannot go on”, she was getting up to leave as she spoke. “But…listen…we….”, he didn’t even get a chance to complete his questions. There were going to be no answers.

“That’ll be ten rupees sir”, the coffeewala said extending his arms in anticipation of the money. “Here’s twenty and give me one more”, he replied, happy to be brought back to the present. His fellow passengers seemed taken aback slightly by the unexpected aggression in his tone. The coffeewala happily served him one more, adding an extra spoon of coffee to make it stronger and hurriedly moved on. He sat up more comfortably on his seat. His thoughts of the past disappeared as he stared hard at the cup of coffee and brought it closer to his lips. He slurped hard and strong on it, making a few of his fellow passengers look up once again. He didn’t care. He liked the way the journey was going. His smile grew wider with each noisy slurp he took from the cup. The train moved on…

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

The Blue Diary

“He was never serious about you”. He tried to console her mainly to stop her from crying. But she wouldn’t stop. She silently sobbed, her face bent down covered totally in her palms as she wept. He tried to put an arm around her to comfort her but something stopped him from doing so. He sat silently in the seat next to her, as the car kept moving. They were on their way back to her home.

He remembered how he kept telling her she deserved better. But she was blind about him. “You don’t know how much I love him”, she would tell him, “…and that’s only because of how much he loves me”. He knew it was best to keep quiet at such times.

As he drove on he kept looking at her face from time to time. She was still crying although she appeared a little more in control of herself. “You want to listen to some music”, he asked as he was about to turn on the car stereo. She nodded in the negative and he turned it off almost as immediately. The silence in car seemed heavy and hard to bear. Maybe she felt it too as she broke it by saying, “let’s stop for some coffee somewhere”. In a short while they had parked in front of a highway coffee shop. She had her usual latte as he sipped on his double-shot espresso.

“I know I made a mistake”, she finally broke the long silence. “I rushed. I just followed my heart. I didn’t use my head at all”, she looked at his face for the first time since morning, when he had driven all the way to pick her up.

“It’s ok”, he meekly responded. He found himself at a loss of words on such occasions. They had been the best of friends since childhood but even after all these years he didn’t know what to say at such times to her. He extended his hands to touch hers. She took his hand and squeezed it gently, looking at him and mouthing a silent ‘thank you’. He was her rock. She knew others would come and go but her friend would be true to her and there for her always. That was her biggest comfort.

“See you tomorrow at the bookstore”, he said as he dropped her home. He ran his family bookstore and was happy to have her sit in the store and work on her thesis. That way he could spend as much time with her as was possible. She knew she had to shrug off this recent infatuation and get back to finishing her work. “See you”, she smiled as she warmly hugged him before getting off the car. She took a deep breath and held it for a while before releasing it and also releasing him from her embrace.

He reached home and sat on his desk. He took out his blue diary. It was perhaps his favourite possession. She had gifted it to him when they were way younger. He wrote in it meticulously. Every day of spending time with her. Every word she said. Every emotion he felt. It was his own little secret place of solace. He would unwind there completely.

He wrote of her latest encounter. How yet again she had found an inappropriate guy for herself only to be rejected yet again. Why could she not see that the right guy was with her. All the time. All these years. When would she stop being so blind, he asked in the blue diary. Knowing well, that there would be no answers.

The next few days went by normally. They’d spend time together in the bookshop. Sometimes they went out for coffee. Sometimes to catch an oldie in the retro-movie theatre that had re-opened in their locality again. Sometimes just for a long drive. Almost all the time spent was spent together. With each other.

One day I will tell her how I feel about her truly, he wrote in his diary that night. It was amazing she didn’t feel the same way after all these years. Is it really possible that when two people are this close, one of them still remain oblivious to these feelings? Like all his earlier questions to the diary, this one would remain unanswered too. I must tell her how I feel. It’s high time, he concluded his writing for that night.

The next day they were to meet at the coffee house. But she wasn’t there. He tried her on her mobile but couldn’t get through to her. It was unlike her not to call if she was late, he thought to himself. He was a little worried. He tried her phone but couldn’t reach her. Finally he got off the table and decided to head towards her home.

As he approached her house, he saw the door ajar. He went in and saw her mother. “Oh you’re here”, she said, surprised to see him. “She’s gone to get you a gift, she said today’s a special day”, her mother told him. “Why don’t you wait in her room”, she told him. He was surprised at the turn of events. What gift? What special day? It didn’t make any sense to him. In all these years of being friends he had never ever entered her room, so today he felt strange entering, and that too without her being present.

He sat tentatively on her neatly made bed and looked around. Her walls were plastered with posters and pictures from the past. Of her family, her pets, her friends . But he didn’t see a single photograph of them together. That surprised him. He looked around to see her writing desk in one corner of the room. Her laptop and a bunch of paper lay strewn on the desk. Suddenly he saw something that caught his eye.

It was a blue diary. Identical to the one he had

He walked on to the table to take a look at the diary. As he reached her desk he saw pictures of the two of them under the glass sheet on the desk. There were pictures of the two of them from their childhood days to present. His eyes lit up when he saw the pictures. His eyes widened further when he picked the diary up and began leafing through it. He read one entry and immediately turned around to see if anyone had seen him sneaking. His face flushed as he kept reading her diary. His smile broadened. His heart was galloping away at an unimaginable speed. He sat down on the chair to read in detail

Mum!!! Why did you let him go to my room!!! You should’ve asked him to wait here. He suddenly heard her voice from the doorway. He stumbled, got up from the chair and went and jumped back on her bed.

She looked first towards her desk and the blue diary kept on it before she looked at him, sitting on her bed. Her face was flushed with the most amazing mix of apprehension, embarrassment, happiness and surprise.

You didn’t did you…was all she could say.

He simply smiled as he got off her bed to walk towards her.

The blue diary remained open on her desk.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar