Friday, 7 August 2015

The Steamin' Mugs Part 3


Chapter 5 : Winters 

Chapter 6 : New Years'

Chapter 5 : Winters

It’s almost criminal to call the cold season of Bombay, Winter. But well, by local standards, it is. Coming from where he did, this season just about seemed pleasant to him. 

“You seem to have taken a liking for this place haven’t you!?” She smiled and gave a wink. It was a Saturday afternoon and though most first days of Sid’s weekends were unofficially working, today was a day off. It had been 3 days since he hadn’t visited the coffee house. It sounded obnoxious but Sid had come to a full realization. He had fallen for her. At first, he thought it was just the attire, the way she carried herself and the outward personality. But they often caught up when there were fewer people at the café and time always flew. They talked about anything and everything under the sun and it seemed to make sense. He loved her wit, her sense of humour and the fact the she had seen a lot in life. Perspective. That’s what he got from her. On everything! 

“I have, yes. The collection of your books is too good. Tell you what, how about we go for a coffee some other place? Just for the fun of it. I have taken a treat a couple of times. Just as a thank you for the refreshing time that I have here, would you mind joining me for a coffee someplace else?”

She was taken aback a little but appreciated his honesty. In fact, she liked his company. Life had not been easy. She was in her early fiftees now though no one could tell. Her marriage had died a natural death many many years ago and she decided to part ways with what life had offered her up until that point. A mixed marriage, her parents were shocked. It hadn’t yet become a practice with social acceptance tagged to it and she had had a tough time convincing them. Pa was cool and though initially worried, had understood her point.

“I know I love him and so does he”. 

“He loves himself!?” Pa queered. That made Pritha laugh. “Quit making a joke out of it Pa. You know I won’t like it if you and Ma were to look for someone else. I might as well stay single in that case.” 

Life took this part of her conversation way too seriously. Single she lived.  

“Will you take care of each other the way your Ma and me have? I won’t stand in your way if you have already made a decision. We just want you to be happy. The struggles thereon, the decisions, the consequences are all yours. We are there to help but it is you who got to lead it. If you think he understands you the way you need to be understood, I am all for it. Convincing Ma is my responsibility."

“Honestly Pa, I don’t know. How can I know now if we are okay for and with each other? Time will tell. But I think he is good for me and so am I for him. We support and trust each other and understand our needs. Most importantly Pa, I simply have never felt this way for anyone before. You might laugh at it now but it’s true.”

“Why would I? It’s one of the best feelings in the world. I am crazy for Ma till this day Pritha. She was my best decision of life. And I did the same thing when I was 20-something. So go on and get a coffee. Ask him to come meet us tomorrow morning.”

Pritha had had a non-conventional court marriage. Another reason to draw criticism and taunts amongst family and friends. Ma was not happy but she gave in for she loved Pritha too much. They had had her after over a decade of marriage and she was an apple of the eye. Brought up independently and with a lot of gut, she had turned out to be fiercely opinionated and quite perspective of an individual. A reader by night and sleeper by day, she had dreamt with her eyes open and scaled the hierarchy at her organization with much more ease than any of her other female counterparts.  

The wedlock unfortunately turned out to be a disaster. And slow at that. It took life away from her. The birth of their child was not particularly a happy time. Trouble had taken deeper roots much earlier. She lost Ma and Pa within a period of two years and that crippled her psychologically and emotionally. She decided to raise the child on her own but unfortunately for her, her husband was a very well settled-man. Ma and Pa had taken good care of her with leaving a small family bungalow in her name and some jewellery but times were changing. Although managing a child was possible for her, she couldn’t convince the courts. The lawyer fees ripped away all savings and she had to hold on to whatever was left. At least to support herself. Over the years, she had quit her stressful job for want of time for her family and taken to volunteer work. This wasn’t getting her much now although it was enough for a single soul.

As courts swung the decision in her husband’s favour, Pritha waited eagerly to see their child every week.  A mixed breed at that, she had taken features of both of them, Pritha realized. Also, her father’s temperament and her mother’s creative vision. If anything troubled her, it was the fact that Pritha could never cultivate that bond with the being she had once shared the umbilical cord with. The physical distance, her husband’s clever maneuvers being the main culprits and the strong financial and social standing that he had did the rest. The interim 10 odd years of her life were spent brooding and questioning her decisions until she finally heard the inner voice. Although not very close, a stable relationship with her daughter, though hidden from her husband, made her feel like a new twig. More importantly, the real her celebrated victory somewhere when she decided to get out of her decade long slumber and move on with life! There had been no turning back since then. With whatever savings she had accumulated over the years, she renovated the verandah, had it covered and remodeled into The Steamin’ Mugs. Over the years, having grown and lived in the same neighborhood did her one big favour.  Friends. For life. Although they couldn’t do much in that darkened phase of her life, they did ensure that she would not collapse. 

And she didn’t all right. It had been almost 7 years now that she ran this place with such fervor and taste that she had started featuring in lifestyle magazines. The experimentation with food too earned her brownie points and she had recently got an offer to appear to talk about the House on a television show.

“I am so nervous about this Sid.” She jolted back to reality. “I mean, I have worked in marketing et al before but that was like ages ago. Things are different now.”

“And since when does someone like you worry about how different things are. All you have to do is talk about what you do, day in and out. You have built a portion of this place with your bare hands, the ambience, the warmth and the relaxation that anyone could get here is almost meditating. Do you know how many of us come here just to sit and introspect on life while those steaming coffee mugs with continental snacks come our way!? Abdul has been great and that’s solely because you have made this place. You have given it an identity. It can almost become a prototype…something like a coffee book house…a cook house! Hey that’s a brilliant idea! Why not invite people and share their recipes here. You keep a portion of the sales and they get to showcase their talent and go up your specials board once a weekl!”  

She was in splits now. “I had a little doubt. Don’t worry, I am all excited, was just a little apprehensive. Thanks for the idea though!”

“So have I earned my coffee now!?”

“Sure”. She got up as the chime announced another customer. Sid beamed and started wondering where to take her! 

Chapter 6 : NEW YEARS

Pritha had started enjoying Sid’s company. Just like she loved the company of a lot of other frequenters to the coffee house. The hustle bustle and the trade in itself, if that is what it can be called, had changed the monotony that her life had become. She found a new self and had finally understood the true sense of hitting rock bottom and bouncing back. Pa would be so happy today. She always spoke to Ma and Pa in those lonely hours, told them that she was doing okay even when life offered her the darkest of the miseries. Losing your biological and legal kin within questionable amount of time was lethal a blow but she sailed through. Today, upon looking back and smiling at some of the misfortunes of life, she was still grateful for all the people there were and are. 

Sid certainly could now be counted as one of the many good friends. She had told him about her life, bits and pieces and he had told her about his. At 25, he had yet to see a lot and a few broken relationships could not complicate life that much, she had told him. He agreed. Anything beyond was unimaginable for her. Pritha had lost too much and had finally regained control of her life. She was not looking for love anymore. That it could come her way was a different story but for the time being, there was no one. 

Sid had a different tale being woven. He had certainly fallen in deep love with her and would look for company and spending ‘quality time’. It never occurred to him as to where he was headed. Rather, he did not question anything. Living in the moment was what he was doing. Although his travelogue sales did not hit a high note, it certainly wasn’t a disappointment. Reading circles took it well. A few intellectual minds who were friends of friends found the work credible and the writing incredible! His job was going good too. Finally, he had found something with a learning curve and liked going to work everyday. His colleagues invited Sid to a throwback event on the 30th since most of them were married and spending New Years’ with their families. Sid was tempted and he said Yes. What followed was a drunken escapade and the worst hangover Sid had ever had! They dropped him, many times literally, while on their way back and finally to his home at 5 the next morning. 

He opened one groggy eye for he was getting incessant phone calls. Turned out it wasn’t a call after all. He had put an alarm in his inebriated state of mind and it was ringing creating this maddening fury inside him. He finally managed to switch it off and saw the clock. His body was aching and his head, spinning. It was almost late evening and he was a few hours away from greeting the New Year. If he would be in his senses to do that, that is. 

He managed to stand up. Popped an aspirin and washed his face. His face looked like it had taken a tight slap for Sid fell down and cut his right cheek the previous night. “What the hell!??” Sid thought. And then he remembered. He hurried, rather scurried back to the living room and picked up his dying phone. Plugged it into the charger and placed the call. 

“Heyy..was trying your number Sid. Where are you!?”

“I am so sorry Pritha. Had a rough night. Can I skip!?”

“Oh, of course! I just hope you are okay. I have a few friends and family over! But you don’t worry, take rest. I will see you in the new year I guess..” she sounded so thrilled. Family?? Sid wondered but his head was taking a thousand hammers. He managed apologies and crashed on to the sofa again. Within minutes, he was asleep.


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