“Would you like some coffee?”
“Tea with little bit of milk and one teaspoon sugar. That’ll be all.”
You don’t hear those lines in your day to day life. But this is the second time in my life. This time it is in the flight ZA-726 from New York to New Delhi. I turned around to find out if it was the same person who made my heart jump over the edge 3 years ago. This was definitely second time, and some other person. I looked outside the aeroplane window, at the setting sun thinking “Is my life any different?”. The orange ball of fire, even while setting plays with so many colors that it can make the toughest of hearts melt like butter.
3 years back, I was like any other freshman out of college trying to make it big in corporate jungle. ZeroneA was my first tryst with corporates, though it was a small organization yet big enough to have a couple of offices in Delhi itself. Mine was the Lajpat Nagar office, which was just couple of blocks from my home. Being a freshman, we were asked to undergo so many sessions which were boring to the core. After a month of grueling session, we were divided in groups. Ours was a 7 member team with 2 girls to keep us entertain with their stupid doubts (no offense – but girls keep on giggling and we guys are always confused). Even though we were from different parts of the country, we gelled pretty well, but this girl from Bhopal, Sanjana, just took my heart away. It is always said, the way you speak to the one you like is always different from the way you speak to others. In my case I was not able to speak in front of her, literally.
It was a rainy day and 2 people from our team decided to stay back and enjoy the rains. So, it was just 5 us meeting at the coffee table. 2 people from our team were stung pretty bad by the love bug that they almost ignored we existed and were stuck to the phone most of the time. Finally it was only 3 of us and remaining silent here means killing your own chances. We ordered tea, but hers was the weirdest. The guy took 2 minutes to understand what she wanted, “Tea with little bit of milk and one teaspoon of sugar”. I couldn’t resist saying “you could have just asked for strong tea, why such elaborate description”.
She said, “I just like it that way”
“Of course, you do. You could have also told the amount of milk. “Little bit” is totally ambiguous… 1 teaspoon, 2 tablespoon, 1 cup”
Everyone started laughing. Later in the day she pinged me and told me that I shouldn’t have done that. I told her it was fun nothing serious.
She said, “Many people make fun of me due to this. As a girl no one expects me to have strong tea and then the amount I specify. I would’ve accepted if anyone else did it but finally it came from you.”
I couldn’t speak and felt really weak at my knees thinking what I’ve done. I thought, this would’ve been the icebreaker but in turn this became the Great Wall of China. Our days passed as usual and we were allocated to different projects. I was thrown to the Noida office while all other 6 still remained at Lajpat Nagar center. As everyone goes busy with the work, we were no different. Sanjana was one girl for whom I would ping my friends and plot a meeting. Would leave from Noida early so that I can cross Lajpat Nagar center while she was about to leave. I guess girls are smart enough to understand but idiot enough to keep on waiting for the first move from guys and we guys are dumb enough not to understand and scared enough to take the first step. If something is called miracle then probably I was witnessing one. Our organization was moving couple of projects from Lajpat Nagar to Noida and Sanjana’s project was one of those. Her zone was directly across mine. Thanks to glass doors and walls, I could easily see where she used to sit. We were together for training but never had much of interaction with her and again I had to look for other sources to talk to her. We had few common friends and thanks to them, lunch time was the happiest moment of the day for me. It took some time but we eventually became quite close. We used to go out for lunch and movies. I enjoyed so much that I missed couple of trips to Jaipur, my hometown which is just 5 hours from Delhi. Some odd days when she’s not feeling well she would come over to my place and take rest. I had not confessed my love to her nor she conveyed anything, but we were nothing less than a couple.
“Please fasten your seat-belts, we are about to land at Dubai International Airport in short while…”
The announcement was loud enough to wake me up from my dream like journey into the past. I had to kill my time at Dubai Airport for nearly 4 hours. 2 years ago I crossed this very place, but my journey was from New Delhi to New York. The feeling in my heart is still the same. I felt something less then, I feel incomplete still.
“Flight ZA-579 is ready to leave for New Delhi. Passengers are requested to report to the check-in counter.”
“Look Ma… Adidas…”, shouted a small kid, pointing his finger to me. Of course, it was an Adidas T-Shirt which I was wearing, but this was the same T-Shirt she gave me as my birthday present. I didn’t even remember I still had this T-Shirt. I dumped everything in a big suitcase and left for New York 2 years ago and all this time I don’t know how the time flew. I ceased to believe that I was alive. During this time 2 years ago, when my PM asked I’ve to go to New York for project assignment, I told him that I needed some time. He said “C’mon dude… this is a onsite opportunity. Many people would do anything for it and you need time for it.”
I said “I’ve few commitments for today and my mind is busy in that matter. I’ll let you know by end of the day.”
“It should better be positive. I’m counting on you my boy”, said the PM and left.
I told this to Sanjana, otherwise chirpy she was not very happy. She told me her marriage is fixed. Earlier she had told me she doesn’t want to get married so soon. She hugged me and said, please don’t go. I just said, “Anyways, you are going to get married. Why should I destroy my future. Have a happy married life.” I asked my PM to process details and finally my trip was decided in NavratriDurga Puja time. She came to see me off, but probably I was just too hurt or too selfish not to see at her. Now I’m returning Delhi the same time I left. Don’t know how much Delhi has changed. How much she has changed. I don’t know if it’s remorse, but I feel sorry for what I did and miserable that I could’ve stopped her or at least told her how much I love her.
When you return from onsite, you are treated like a Godfather. Everyone looks up to you for every single report they want to send or even a simple “Hi” to the client. Sanjana’s place has changed and she has climbed up the ladder. We talked but that was only in professional terms. Fortunately I got the same house on rent where I was staying 2 years ago. Apart from color, nothing has changed. My colony used to look exactly the same, but rents have rocketed. Many companies have opened their offices nearby as a result markets and malls have come up like mushrooms. It was lazy weekend and I prefer to sleep late, but neighborhood kids don’t let me. Their ball will drop into my balcony and their shouts and frantic ringing of the bell just drives me crazy. This was one frantic bell ring that woke me up from my peace. I had a broom to scare those little rascals not to ring bell like this. I opened the door and one cute looking boy said “uncle ball le lun (uncle can I take the ball)”. Instead of scolding I just gave way, It was Sanjana who was standing behind him. The kid while going out said bye to Sanjana and thanks to me. Dressed in white salwar she looked just like and angel. Even after marriage she looked as pretty as she used to look earlier. She was silent. I asked for coffee, she said “OK”. I almost made the coffee realizing “Tea with little bit of milk and one teaspoon of sugar”. I had to re-do the whole process. For the first time I wanted to have what “this” tea tastes like. I made another cup for me and went into the drawing room. She was already busy surveying the house. She said, “you remember my taste”
I said, “How can I forget but just in case you still want the coffee, it’s getting cold in kitchen”. She smiled.
I said, “You’ve not changed at all. Instead you are looking good”.
She said, “It’s not what you see. Many things have changed.”
I said, “I know” and walked to the window and looked out into the blank space.
She came from behind and hugged me, “Why did you have to leave. I missed you so much.”
“I don’t think your coming here would look good to someone.”
She continued, “After you went, I realized how much I love you. I tried to contact you, dropped you so many mails but probably you didn’t check them or deleted them before you could read”.
I said, “I don’t think I need to read any mail saying ‘Invitation’ or any mail after that”.
She said, “Yes, I sent a mail with subject ‘Invitation’ but that was for my sister. I broke off my marriage and waited for you all this time. You are the one who always used to write mail subject for me. I was never good at it. I missed you a lot. I love you.”
I turned around looked into her eyes, which were already wet. I hugged her tight and kissed her forehead. She was almost crying and I trying to control myself dropped a couple and whispered “I love you too”.