I was tired. Not physically, but it’s the mental exhaustion I am referring to. Data structures professor had stacked all my grey cells and the only savior was D Paul’s cold coffee which stood majestically on the small table in front of me, waiting to be gulped down in one shot.
On a regular day, this is exactly what would have happened. Today was different. I wasn’t interested. My thoughts had drifted apart. Something else had caught my fancy, or rather someone else. The girl sitting two tables away from mine.
I must admit that being a small town boy, city college life was my first brush with girls in an open, care-free, more intellectual environment. With my keen eyes I had noticed that these two genders are almost similar in many aspects – like to party, flirt, study for a while and enjoy life to its full.
She was different. Engrossed in Paul Coelho, she was oblivious to her surroundings. A sip of coffee at irregular intervals, is all she cared for. No texting, no phone conversations and not even the giggles next door were distracting her. It was only her thoughts. Once in a while she would look up, with a gaze fixed on the road and then bury herself in the book again.
There was an orchid neatly placed in a small flower vase at her table. This was an exception to the otherwise bland look of this restaurant. Being a joint frequented by college goers, the owner had made little attempt to work on the ambiance, barring the furniture I was observing now. She commanded that respect.
“Should I go and say Hi!. What if she is waiting for her boyfriend, well I just want us to be friends. ” I had an instant urge to know her better and the devil in me had already started playing its part.
“Aakash, do you need another drink” ? Khanna uncle yelled from behind the counter.
“No Uncle. By the way I would like to have your special chocolate sandwich .”
I made the last statement particularly loud, to ensure she hears it. Girls like chocolates after all, don’t they.
All in vain. May be she likes flowers.
I had started adoring my sudden makeover – Within 15 minutes I had become become more observant, more lavish and more anxious.
“Aakash bhaiya sandwich “. Chotu startled me from behind.
“Bhaiya chocolate to ladkiyan khati hai”. “Ha pata hai, acha sun, woh didi ka naam kya hai? ” Kaun didi?” Chotu sounded utterly confused.
“Chotu, where is my samosa? ” “laya Bhaiya” and off he ran.
As you might have guessed by now, Chotu is the server at the restaurant . A sweet lad of 12 years, he works here post his school hours to provide financial aid to his family. He has a burning desire to acquire knowledge of any form. At times, I would talk to him for an hour at length, only to be amazed at his curiosity and stamina for asking questions. He had been working here since pas two years and knew all his customers well. “Why couldn’t he identify her ? Is she not from this college ? Who is she ?”
To curb my curiosity, I decided to bunk graphics lecture. In next one hour all I could gather was that she loves coffee, books, and bikes. The last conclusion was based on the fact that her source of distraction was the weird and wonderful sound of motor bikes.
This last revelation was in stark contrast to her pleasing personality. But then appearances are deceptive.
My hunger pangs had started again. This time I ordered a samosa too.
“Bhaiya Samosa” And he scared me again. Chotu was there, with his ever smiling face and a plate of oily , yummy samosas.
“Chotu, who is she?
“Who she, why are you troubling me so much Aakash Bhaiya”
“Areee, the girl at the table with the white orchid”.
“There is no one seated at that table” . And I turned back. The chair was empty.
What have I done, why couldn’t I have been more vigilant. I left my samosa and ran to look for her. She was nowhere in sight.
I had never felt so lost in my life. As I walked back towards my table, I noticed Chotu cleaning hers. Unable to restrain my anger, I cornered Chotu and asked the same question again. Pat came the same reply, accompanied with a complaint to Khanna uncle : “Aakash Bhaiya is torturing me”.
“Come here Aakash, what’s the matter today”.
I could barely hide my tears and in that state questioned Khanna uncle about the girl seated at the orchid table.
He froze for a while, and then pulled out a photograph from his money drawer.
“Is she who you are looking for ?”.
And there she was, with her gorgeous smile and sparkling eyes, captured in a most expressive image I had ever laid my eyes on.
“Yes uncle, do you know her, what’s her name, can I get her number”? I asked all in a single breath.
“Kid, she is Bhoomi. Was a student of your college . Used to frequent this place regularly and always used to sit at the same table. We lost her in a freak bike accident. Since then, I always place an orchid at her favorite table every day till 1 P.M. That was when when she took her last breath. I looked at my watch . it was 1:15 P.M.
I looked up. Our eyes met and we knew that we are going to take this secret to our grave.
I couldn’t sleep that night, for that matter next several nights.
Some stories are better left unsaid. This was mine.