Lessons

“Why did it have to rain today?”, quizzed Namrata.

“I wish I had an answer to that.”, replied Pranav as he flipped the pages of the menu,

“Why does it always rain at the wrong time?”, Namrata wondered.

“Maybe because rains have not stumbled upon the concept of time.”, Pranav told her cheekily.

“Why do my plans get soiled every time?”, she asked him.

“Excuse me, my plans?”, he remarked.

“Okay our plans, why do our plans get soiled every time?”, she corrected herself.

“Isn’t that a question that the Dark Lord should have asked the death eaters?”, added Pranav.

“Can we not do anything?”, she asked him.

“You, for one, can stop fidgeting.”, he suggested.

“Fidgeting, you call this fidgeting. This is a normal human reaction to a problem.”, she replied infuriated.

“Ah, how can I forget your penchant for ‘normal human reactions’.”, he said recalling her restlessness at the airport when their flight was delayed.

“Never miss a chance to take a dig at me, do you.”, she pointed out.

“Try my best not to.”, he affirmed.

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“Why haven’t we ordered already?”, she questioned trying to divert his attention from her.

“Because apparently you have better things to think about than food.”, he answered. Looking at the crimson in her cheeks building up, he decided not to test her fury any further and asked, “What do you want to have?”

“Momos”, she answered.

Shaking his head in denial, he told her, “I will choose to ignore that.”

Shaking her head back at him, she told him firmly, “Seriously, we cannot come to Leh and not eat momos. That is a crime.”

“You know I don’t like momos, unless they are fried and fried momos aren’t on the menu.”; he tried reasoning with her.

“My bad, I had forgotten about Punjabis and their penchant for fried food.”, she said playfully.

“Fine, we will order momos.”, he said before she could play another joke on his North Indian attributes.

“And?”, she asked him.

“Thukpa? I think we should try Thukpa; both of us can use some warmth.”, he replied.

She smiled at him and said, “Getting strong at your puns Pranav, but I am ‘not’ impressed.”

He smiled back at her and pointed out, “But, when have you been?”

“Never, really.”, she added.

“Let’s add crispy noodles and spring rolls to that.”, he suggested.

“How can I say no to that, ever?”, she remarked.

“Never, really.”, he added further.

 

She shifted her attention to the downpour again and said, “Imagine, had it not been raining we could have been in Booklover’s Retreat sipping onto a warm cup of latte and reading.”

With a hint of surprise in his eyes, he asked her, “Is that it Namrata? That is what you want to do in Leh, be in a book store that doubles up as a cafe. We could have gone to Cha Bar in Connaught Place instead, would’ve saved our parents a lot of money and us a lot of time.”

“Being in a book cafe in Leh counts as an important experience.”, she said in her defense.

He could not believe that she was worried about not being in a book cafe right now and she was defending herself on this. He then said, “There are a number of other cafe experiences that Leh has to offer. Right at this time, we could have been scoring some chocolate momos and sipping onto jungli chai in Bon Apetit as the day changed its colors, we could have been in Gesmos gorging onto Yak Cheese Pizzas because you do not get Yak Cheese any place else in this country, we could have been in the Apple Garden Restaurant and eat amidst an apple orchard because it is not everyday that we get to be in an orchard, we could have been in Old Leh walking our way to Lala’s Cafe where coffee and cake comes with a history lesson, we could have been in the German Bakery and eating possibly the most delectable apple crumble. So you see, it is not always experiences with books that are the ones to look out for.”

Namata could not comprehend if he was trying to lift her spirits up or subdue them further by apprising her of the many things that they could have been doing presently. She woefully added, “And now I feel worse, for missing out on everything that this place has to offer and dining in the hotel because it had to rain on this vacation.”

“Dining in the hotel does not take away from the fact that we are still in Leh which is perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet; the restaurant we are sitting in offers a fairly good view of marvel that this place is and if you could just relax and open your eyes to what are we surrounded with, this might come across as an experience to you.”, he tried explaining to her.

Namrata did not argue further, rather she was smiling. He asked her, “Why are you smiling now?”

“I was wondering that I have always been this impatient -which evidently is quite irksome to you-then how is it that you fell in love with me, at all?”, she quizzed him.

“You weren’t this impatient.”, he answered not sure of himself.

“Dates back to my childhood, I believe, impatience is thy second name.”, she told him funnily.

“Haha, I don’t know about impatience but it isn’t every day that you are this good on self assessment.”, he joked.

“Tell me Pranav, did my restlessness not bother you then?”, she questioned him seriously.

“I always managed to talk you out of it or redeem for a cancelled plan.”, he answered.

“How?”, she asked.

“Do you remember your convocation?”, he asked her.

“Ah, you missed it.”, she recalled.

“It was a long day at work, I could not bail out early. I missed the convocation and also the grad dinner date I had promised you.” he explained.

“I was infuriated.”, she exclaimed.

“You weren’t taking my call., he reminded her.

“Call? I had resolved to not look in your direction again.” she told him.

Pranav added, “So at around midnight, I came to your friend’s apartment with a cold pizza, a britannia cake and a bottle of coke to make good on the grad dinner promise and to make you reconsider your decision of never looking at me again.”

“The minute you started talking, my rage began to dispel and we ultimately ended up having a date in the parking lot.”, she confessed to him.

“That was a good date.”, he remarked.

“That was an amazing date. Come to think of it, we made a cute couple back then.”, she admitted wistfully.

“Come to think of it, ‘our love back then’ sounds so ancient.” he admitted with a sense of hurt in his voice.

“Sometimes the answers lie in ancient tales.”, she said purposefully.

“What are you talking about?”, he inquired.

“Maybe, we should talk.”, she suggested.

“Talk about what?”, he asked further.

“Everything that’s going on with us.”, she answered.

“You think that will help in dispelling our rage?”, he inquired.

“If not, relationship reconciliation talks in Leh sounds like an experience in itself.”, she responded chuckling.


This is the 12th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


Image has been sourced from this link.

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How I met your mother

Dear Kids,

It was the evening of May 31st, 2004 and I was bummed. It marked the first weekend of my summer internship. I had been 97 weeks away from what everyone called Bombay and from what I called home. I was 51 weeks away of what others called becoming a BA Hons. (Economics) graduate and what I called good riddance. What Kartik had led me to believe, that weekend, “Dono bhai, club jakar bhand honge (Bro, we’d both go to the club and get pitch drunk)” and what he was delivering, “Bro, the people from my school’s book club have arranged a reunion, come along, it’s gonna be fun. The Modern girls, you’ll find them cool.”

Before you judge me as a birdwatcher, the only reason Kartik said what he said was because I didn’t read books, I knew nobody from Modern School but him and the only incentive that he could find for me were the girls. But the last thing on my mind at that time were girls, let alone a Delhi girl with a rich stroke of liner on her eyes, straight hair, accent that you could not identify with any place on the globe but Delhi and demeanor bordering on snobbery. If I was mooning over the XX chromosome in Delhi, I’d find plenty in SRCC, some who did not correspond to the description I have just laid out, some who I found exceptional, some who I looked up t. However, all with a typical vibe that Delhi-ites exuded, that made me uncomfortable, that made me feel out of the place, that stopped me from making long term associations with them. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the reunion.

That evening I met your mother, It wasn’t raining, she wasn’t wearing red, I wasn’t on a white horse, there were no moonlit castles and red roses, no romantic songs being played on the piano and no blue french horn. It was in a living room of a flat in Vasant Vihar cramped with people, their lit up faces and exuberant voices, notes being exchanged on books, on their lives and on others’ lives, spiked cold drinks being served in disposable cups and samosas, sandwiches and dhoklas laid out on the central table. I was sitting on the couch munching on sandwich after sandwich and mentally sorting people into pre defined categories. Then I looked at your mother, she was wearing a dark blue 3/4th sleeve T shirt with an acid washed light blue jeans and a beige scarf looped like an infinity around her neck. I was stuck at the scarf, only a demented person wears a scarf in May, in Delhi, when it is freaking 42 degrees outside; unless of course you are hiding a love bite or a vampire bite or a zombie bite or warts like Nurse Matilda. Her hair tied in a lose bun, her well rounded eyes looked sunken, as if, they were in immediate need of sleep and the perfect curve of her lips made for a captivating smile. It brought a spirit to her appearance and how she talked. But she had a air of confidence to herself, that made her look like a Miss Know it all. To me, she looked self indulgent who considered her opinion far above others. She was holding Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix which did nothing good to my opinion on her. Because the world was reading Harry Potter, it was the ‘it’ thing to do and so there she was another victim of another cultural phenomenon; ‘why cannot people do something original, at least make a decision on reading independently’, I thought to myself. Shaking my head with disappointment, I walked out to the balcony, plugged in the iPod and looked around vacantly.

It must have been thirty minutes when I returned to the living room. Everyone was seated in the center of the room for discussing that week’s read. On the arm of the couch, was your mother speaking about Harry Potter, about Hermoine unearthing Voldermort’s plan to Harry when they leave for the Ministry of Magic, about Phineas Nigellus’ words to Harry about young being judgmental of the aged, about the irony in Sirius’ words on judging a man’s character on how he treats his inferiors and ultimately befalling to his doom on account of his hostility to Kreacher, about the possibility of how differently things would have panned out had Harry discovered the mirror that Sirius had given him earlier. There was a light in her eyes, a composure on her face and passion in her words. Her voice brought me to peace. I wondered if I could achieve a tenth of her passion on the book, in anything that I do. I listened to her and felt that she was magic, magic that I did not have the words to define.

For days, I thought of her, her voice rang in my ears, the curve of her smile flashed before my eyes. I yearned to see her, to listen to her speak calmly but to speak with a spirit. It was October when I witnessed the magic again. It was the departmental fest and she was participating in the Paper Presentation. I was informing the participants about the order in which they will be called and that is when I saw her dressed in a white shirt and beige trousers, her cut in a medium bob making her look all the more endearing. I told her that we had met on the reunion, she gave me a concentrated glance and pointing a finger at me remarked, “Oh you are the judgmental guy who sat on the couch, ate most of our food and sulked all evening.”. I nodded sheepishly; she chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I was just kidding.” I did not skip an opportunity to be around her that day, I abandoned the arrangements and took her for a lunch in the campus and somehow managed to exchange numbers before she left. Occasionally, I would text her  asking about sight seeing in Delhi or making a conversation on a well known book at that time or about DiCaprio and his Golden Globe victory for Aviator or on the truce between Israel and Palestine. She would always reply and always supersede my parameter of an interesting conversation.

 

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In the summer of 2005, with a stroke of luck, I began working my first job in Bangalore, luck because your mother was studying law at NLU Bangalore. On the weekends, well some of them, she would take me to clubs or theaters or restaurants or street groups with zero heads up, deciding on the place spontaneously, while driving past signals or turning into lanes. She was a delight for company, spinning magic with every word that she spoke. Her company was the wildest that I had ever been and the most adrenaline I had felt in this life. When she would focus her attention on the task at hand, I would look at her sideways with awe, with respect, with longing and with love. She was what I wanted for the rest of my life.

On one evening a month before her graduation, we had gone to a cozy South Indian cafe. Over filter coffees and butter dosa, she looked at me with purpose and asked, “When are you going to muster the courage to articulate what you feel for me?”

Caught off guard I choked on the sambhar that I was gulping and asked in bewilderment, “You know, already?”

She answered with impatience building in her voice, “Of course I do, Kartik knows, my friends know, your flatmates know and even my mother has doubts.”

“I love you Namrata.”, I uttered in a rush.

“That is how you do it, without going down a knee, without a ring and without a kiss. I can see your planning skills giving up on you.”, she said.

“I am telling you that I love you, that I do not desire anything out of this life but you, that I have not been able to see the world in the same light since I heard you speak at the reunion and all you focus on, are the dramatics. That is very Delhi of you.”, I teased her.

“If there was anything Delhi about me, you’d not be circling  me for the past two years with a sense of admiration in your eyes.”, she answered back.

He then knelled down, took her hand and said, “Namrata, I love you and love is too small a word to define my emotions for you. Will you be with me through long ticket queues, through the hour long traffic jam from work to home, through boom and through recession, through sheets from the sketch book being tossed in the bin when charcoal fails me, through lousy attempts at being poetic but authentic affection.”

 

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, to all of that and this life with you.”, she replied and smiled that perfect smile.

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Kids, you may ask, why am I writing to you about us. Because I have always loved you, even before being committed, even before deciding to settle down. I have always loved all three of you but Namrata doesn’t want kids. She doesn’t see kids for what I see in them. Given the person that she is, a day before our marriage or three years down of being hitched, she is going to wake up with a bout of guilt on depriving me of the the family I had imagined for us. And that day, I will hand her this letter so that she can read what my voice often fails to spell out for her, read how much of the world for me is simply her. What she has given me- read a certain calmness, stability, love, happiness, a feeling of being whole- no child in the world can measure up to that. So, we will not bring you to life, dear children, not as long as your mother does not desire that, not in this life and not in other lives if she so wants. Her love is what I seek for the rest of my existence and other than that everything stands diminished.

Only your mother’s forever

Pranav


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Be the Edward to my Vivian

Daily Prompt: Born to be With You

Be the eyes that find solace in my eyes.

Be the smile that rests on your lips when I am being naive.

Be the man to trust me with your car.

Be the hand that takes my hand as I stand clueless on a street.

Be the kinship that demands nothing but a drink and a little talk.

Be the gaze that remains settled at my sight.

Be those feet that steady my pace when I am walking too fast,

Or the ones that set mine in motion when I am too afraid to advance.

Be the whisper that reminds me how beautiful I am when I do not fidget.

Be the force that makes the world bow at my feet.

Be the gentle nudge that helps me fit in.

Be the unwavering belief in my abilities, even when I believe the contrary.

Be the faith that doesn’t shudder to confide the unspoken in me.

Be the time you stole for me, from what is known to be your sole passion.

Be the slumber you succumb to, in the confidence of only a privileged few.

Be the submission that let my opinion supersede yours.

Be the blow that assuages my hurt.

Be the persuasion that longs for my company.

Yet be the nod that accepts my retreat.

Be the epiphany that qualifies me as priceless.

Be the knight who rescues me.

More importantly, let me be the woman who rescues you back.

And that is what you call being the Edward to my Vivian.

P.S. This was a post I wrote a few days ago. I call it my Pretty Woman hangover.