“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.
“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.