Saturday 17 October 2015

Blue Silk Scarf

Note: I wrote this story for TOI- WriteIndia (author- CB)

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.  Yes a blood stained knife!
I was sitting diagonally to her approximately 10 feet far. Her face was visible to me from that distance. It was a Saturday afternoon on that hot summer day. The aroma of coffee and chit chats of people engaged me while I was alone waiting for someone.

I got call from my mother to which I responded- "What, she is not coming?.... but you said she would be there by 4 PM. Maa, I am waiting since last 30 minutes" My mother had chosen a girl for me, who was coming to meet me that day. But she couldn't turn up for certain reason. Now I was alone in the cafe watching people come and go. It was just then I observed this lady who seemed to be of around 25 years of age, a good looking, and well-dressed confident girl. She had applied kajal in her big eyes which made them even more attractive. It seemed like she had been waiting for someone. But why would a girl recklessly place a blood stained knife beside her and sit at such a public place. For a second I thought to approach her and ask whether she had just committed a murder lately! You never know, this is Delhi.

Then while she was helping herself to bring back a flick of hair falling over her forehead, I noticed a bandage tied on the wrist of her right hand, looks like she met an accident recently.

Since no one joined for long time the cafe manager would not want me to enjoy the music and the air conditioner for free. So I ordered a Cafe Frappe for me.

A pair of girls aged about 5-6 years emerged from the cafe entry walking notoriously. A woman, I guess, their mother followed them loaded with shopping bags and trying to meet their pace. They sat opposite to their mother after one-sided talk with the fishes in the fish tank at the entrance, and their mother asking them the umpteenth time to sit. Amidst all this, I again focused on that young lady. In my mind I named her Anamika, since I didn't know her name!

She glared at the kids with a half full smile and her eyes almost met mine while I just managed to look at the kids before she could notice that I am observing her. I hope she didn't notice me.
Her eyes moved to a man pulling the door of the cafe, dressed in formal shirt and blue jeans, well-built personality and dusky complexion. Let's attribute the complexion to Delhi's tanning summer.

He was searching for someone and within seconds he caught the sight of the one he was looking for. He came near Anamika and pulled the chair rudely to sit. She looked scared. He seemed angry. Leaning forward he started talking to her. I could not hear anything from the distance, but thanks to expressions I could sense what was going on. There was something serious. A tear dropping down Anamika's cheeks while the cold hearted guy was fuming with anger. She pointed towards the knife and was saying something as if requesting him for a favor. And a few seconds later, she slipped the knife into her handbag. They spoke, rather, argued for a few minutes and the guy left in anger.

Watching from a distance, unable to judge what is happening, but somewhere in my heart I felt sympathy towards the girl.

Her eyes welled with tears, Anamika went to the washroom. In the meantime I paid my bill. I was curious to know her story. My questions made me restless- why did the guy go away? Why did the girl who looked so strong at the beginning, was weeping so much? Why is she carrying a knife in that public place?

When she left from the washroom and exited the gate of the cafe, no signs of tears were seen on her face, except for the kajal was now wiped off completely. I stood at the billing counter waiting for my bill to be processed. She arrived at the counter, totally lost.  To avoid eye contact, I started looking at my cell phone. She asked at the counter in a low tone, "How much?" She paid the said amount without even collecting the bill.

I followed her quickly. She was walking on the footpath, grief stricken, she walked slowly and I followed her carefully and curiously for over 10 Minutes. She stopped at a deserted place, pulled the knife out of her handbag, tears flowing through her eyes, threw the knife in a garbage bin and turned around to check if anyone has seen her. I was hiding safely behind a wall so she could not see me. She left the place after that. I stood their puzzled, thinking about what just happened at the café and at this place.

----------1 Week Later-----------
That fine Saturday morning, while I was still on bed leveraging the start of weekend and my bachelorhood, I got a call from Mom.

"Hello Maa..Good morning." I said half asleep.

"You are still sleeping. Its 9:30!” like yet another Indian mother, her volume turned up.

" my dear mom... tell me what happened", I replied politely. She has all rights to scold me at any age.

"Remember the girl who was to meet you last Saturday…She is going to come today at Starbucks Cafe today at 4 PM. Be there."

It was 3:55 PM when I entered the Starbucks cafe. I dislike reaching late! Soft English music played in the background. I could sense the aroma of coffee up to my nostrils. At the counter I left my card to help them find me if that girl comes asking for me. I sat near the window where Anamika sat that day. Strangely, there was not even a day during last 7 days when I haven't thought about her. There was something in her that kept pulling me, but I had not seen her after that day.

It was almost 4:00 PM. I was looking out of the window and listening to the music, when a girl came to me and said, "Hello, are you Rishi?" I nodded in a yes. She replied, "Hi this is Ashwini. Our parents wanted us to see each other." I replied in awe, " oh yes, please sit", in my head there were multiple voices which argued to me," Can't you see, this is Anamika? Yes this is Anamika..." World is round, very round. The same girl who I was observing last week, and was thinking about the whole week was seated in front of me for a marriage compatibility meet! The voices in my head didn't stop" Oh god, what do I do? Should I tell her that I know her? No no let me first ask how it feels carry a knife like a toy? She looks normal to me, she must be her twin sister- Anamika& Ashwini, or may be a look alike as in Hindi movies..."

"Rishi, Rishi... everything fine?,"Anamika kept saying while I was busy in discussion with my head.
"Yes, yes, everything is fine." I pretended to be normal with a grin on my face.

We ordered our coffee and began talking, started with an introduction. She worked with an MNC at Delhi since 4 years and hailed from Meerut. I briefed about myself, " I am from Allahabad and working with an MNC here since past 5 years."

She became quiet for the next few seconds sipping her coffee. Using couple of her fingers she managed to move the flick of her hair falling on her forehead, behind the ears. The bandage was still on her arm, but condition seemed to be better. She noticed me looking at it, and hid her hand in her lap. She said in a subtle but sad tone. "Well, before we discuss anymore I would like to tell you something about my past. I had an affair, but it didn't work. I tried committing suicide but even that didn't work. Now I have decided to move on in life and get married. But trust me, my past will never ruin my present and future. I am a lively girl, and function on logic. Life has to go on then why not live it cheerfully. I heard somewhere, pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional. No one is in-charge of your happiness as much as you are. And about love, it can happen as many times as we are open to it." She smiled confidently at the end of it.

"Would you say yes?", she enquired after a minute of silence.

I already had a soft corner for her since the first time I saw her, and all my questions were answered by her even before I could ask her. "I like your honesty Ashwini" I replied. Her smile made her look even more beautiful now.  We spoke for almost an hour about all sorts of topics varying from family, friends, studies, weather, food, hobbies, pets, Delhi's traffic, books and what not. Surprisingly we shared a lot of similarities. Then on we dated for about a month and now we are happily married for two years.


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