“Be careful with that carton. It has glass items in it.” Preet frowned in a slightly high pitched tone at the guys who were packing.
“Don’t worry madam. It is our daily business. Everything will be intact.” One of the boys replied placing it slowly on the floor.
“Relax dear, they are professionals.” Shail softly whispered in her ears handing her a bottle of water. He knew it was not easy for her to move to a new city.
“Those glass items I have treasured for a very long time. They cannot be replaced and I know you are least bothered about it.” Preet sounded low but tried to wrap her feelings under her tone. She was certainly not happy with his relocation. Shail too was aware of this but had no choices. It was a major breakthrough for his career.
Shail, working with a big multinational company and was transferred to Nashik from Mumbai. A new unit was to be handled there. His track record and dedication towards the company had paved his way to that location. He was impeccable in his work and company knew his ability. After all, he is the prized asset.
Preet was working with one of the reputed colleges of the Mumbai. She too was a workaholic female with English flowing with her blood through her body. She knew she would make way for herself but Nashik was not a big place as compared to Mumbai.
Preet, a very lively and fun loving girl who always wanted to paint the town in red, loved enjoying with friends and family. Shail, on the other hand, was a very mature, kind and peace-loving guy. His definition of enjoyment was quite different from Preet’s.
Shail preferred solitude over commotion and she loved to spend weekends in the pubs and clubs while Shail chose to relax in some quiet place away from the pomp and the show of the world. There was a difference in ways but the destination was same.
Life in a new place, with no known people or helping hands around, is always tough and Preet could sense that. Shail was neck tied in his work. It was as good as starting from scratch and was needed 24*7, he was either with his laptop or his phone. Trying to accept and adjust with whatever titbits she had was getting dark every day.
Preet no doubt was lost in the memories of past but was trying to get into the new city but was not a cakewalk for her. Matching with the standards she had and she had been working with was a bit difficult. She then moved towards the online thing, trying to fit her shoes into the rack she had.
Amidst all this, the regular fights over the petty issues increased in number and they added fuel to the frustrated fire within her. Parties were no more in the picture, no clubs no friends… All they had was a tiff every day over such stupid things that towards the end they just used to laugh over it.
Shail’s working hours were getting multiplied and with that increased the pressure that he was experiencing. He knew he is not doing justice to her but was left with absolutely no options.
Preet, on the other hand, had now picked online classes. Her role was to conduct online classes for competitive English exams like IELTS and TOEFL. She was happy with this new turn and shared the same with Shail over a late night dinner. Shail too was relieved by this change and after a long had a wow time on the table which was a place for their tiffs these days.
“Wow, that’s good news. Congratulations sweetheart.” He said
“FYI, Congratulations won’t work DAHLING, I want a weekend trip before my work begins.” Preet winked and the room was filled with happiness.
“Honey, it won’t be possible this weekend. I have my seniors visiting and I probably will be needed there…” Preet knew the next dialogue but this time was not expected. Shail felt bad but had nothing to say since all his moves were blocked.
“That’s fine. I mean perfect.” She was back to her mood and mode.
“I should have understood it,” muttered Preet while she walked towards the dishwasher to put her dishes.
Shail knew and could empathise with Preet but couldn’t do anything that would fill the space. Preet moved in the bedroom and as usual, there was a big bang, she had slammed the door in order to make her anger reach Shail.
Preet moved to her favourite spot in the balcony, Nashik had something which she had been searching for in since years. The freshness in the weather, the breeze, the solace, all this was not there for Preet in the hustle bustle of Mumbai. Soon she was lost in her world of thoughts and was trying to soothe herself by wrapping herself in her own arms. Just then the creaky sound broke the rhythm and had almost frightened her. She opened her eyes to find the sound coming from the next door.
She wanted to see who it was who dared to break the divine silence, and she found an old man trying to unbolt the door. She just kept looking at the movements of that old man, without any intention when at once he turned and his eyes too found Preet looking at him. There was an exchange of smiles at the silent hour of that night.
Uncle Sam, a smart man in his 60s with an impressive beard with every hair of it shining bright. Sam D’Souza with a look almost similar to Santa was there. Preet moved in but was still impatient since she knew she was not in head which was not her kind of living.
Things were turning worse with every day passing with either no conversation or a limited dialogue or sometimes monologue with few hmms in response.
The new job picked by Preet was not somehow in sync with herself. The problem was not the type of job but things were all haywire. She sometimes would sound rude to the students, sometimes would end the session randomly, there were times when the internet would play hide and seek. All these were adding to the frustration which she was already dealing with. The turn and twist in the scene popped with an email from her boss…
“This is not the way you handle the session, are you aware of the batch you are handling, they are our premium customers and you need to check on your stuff before you deal with them, I think you must take a break before we move ahead.”
She tried convincing her manager with respect to the wrongs that had happened but she was aware of the fact that these were her own blunders which no one would accept.
Preet used to share all of her ups and downs with Shail and he always had ears to her. Even today, Preet picked up her cell to call him to pour out. Even after trying to call him several times the call was not getting connected.
“Thank you for not being with me when I needed most.” She wrote it and then erased, again types but couldn’t send, her fight with herself was making her all the more impatient. This time she decided to press the send button and she even did so, but the network didn’t allow her text to reach him. Her anger had almost touched the sky she tossed her phone on the bed and picked the keys.
The new streets, the new environment, the new neighbourhood, everything was still unexplored by Preet. The rage of anger and fury was what she was filled with. She wanted to get rid of all of them. Indulged in her own thoughts, she started walking on the streets unaware of many things, the people walking, the stores, the vendors etc. She could smell some coffee and the aroma started attracting her towards it, she made her way in.
The freshly brewed coffee served with her oatmeal cookies had worked, she had a smile on her face. The first sip that she gulped down was not just a coffee but it had brought with it innumerable memories …
Sitting by the window she was now lost in her own world of memories reminiscing those days when they both used to meet at a coffee store even after being tightly clenched by the days. The piping coffee had already captured her lenses, she then removed her specs. Everything was the same except the empty chair which was staring her. The next one to share the space was that drop of tear which had made its way out of her eye with no intentions at all. She turned to the other side of the coffee since she never wanted the next drop to be out of her eye. Guess what, she found two beautiful eyes looking at her. Her memories of Shail were fading since she was trying to recollect the eyes, the smile which was not that alien to her.
Aha… the old fellow who had passed a smile while she was standing in the balcony the other night. By the time she came back from her memory land, Uncle Sam had already waved his hand, Preet to waved back. With a warm smile, he showed his cup with a sweet invitation to join him. Preet was in a new world now, she too readily accepted his invitation and hopped out of her seat to join him.
“You guys seem new to this place, have you recently shifted here?” Asked Uncle Sam with the next sip of his black coffee.
“Yeah, we are a bit new to this place. We are from Mumbai. My husband is posted here now.” Preet replied taking a careful sip of her coffee.
“Hmm… So hows life from a metro to a quite small place?”
Preet had no clue how and what to answer, all she could do was take a deep breath in and then smile. The smile was not a normal one which Uncle had almost guessed correct. He tried to talk about the special coffees that were served at that sweet little place. This was followed by a wave of silence.
“So what about you? I mean if its all good you may answer me.” At once Preet asked. A wide laughter mixed with happiness came first followed by an exclamation ME!
“Umm, my life is a simple one, we are just a small world with me the king and Martha … we are enjoying our last phase of life.” This was enough for Preet to understand the pain that was hidden under his attitude of life.
“Martha… I mean if you don’t mind can I ask you about her?” Preet’s curiosity could not stay confined now in this new company of Uncle Sam.
“Yeah, you can very much ask me about her. Martha my life my wife is now spending her days with the doctors more than me.” Saying this Uncle had some heaviness in his voice. Preet could sense the discomfort but since she had already entered the zone it was bad to move out randomly.
“Where is aunty?”
“She is hospitalised dear, it’s just a matter of a few more days. We have already passed 5 long years of our life with these doctors but I know she would be back very soon.” Optimism flowed trying to envelope his pain.
Preet was taken aback, but she had already touched a different area, she wanted to ease the moments but there was again silence. Preet suddenly found few green glass bangles and a sweetly tied bunch of roses. Her eyes were stuck at them, the oldie was smart enough to smell the next question. Before Preet could ask anything he replied.
“Glass bangles, right? Martha loves them and you know I bribe her with these flowers and these bangles whenever there is a fight.” Preet had a glow on her face, she had started thinking about those days when they had that sweet fight where they knew its just a way to attract attention.
“She loves these glass bangles and I love the tingling sound they make when she moves her hands in anger. It’s a kind of music to my soul.” Saying this Uncle Sam moved his fingers over them. She too felt the need of these bangles in her life, though she had never worn them before.
“Did u fight with your husband today? I mean I am sorry to get into your personal space, but you know every couple on this globe fights. The issues are more or less the same too. Husband leaves early comes late wife waits for him and then there is a fight. Like you guys, we too, used to fight when we were of your age.” Uncle leaned forward and said. That made Preet feel embarrassed. She was knowing that her arguments with Shail were accelerating and there were fair chances that the neighbours would overhear them.
“Listen beautiful, it’s ok to fight it’s a part of life. Everyone goes through certain phases in life where they get angry, shout, yell get frustrated etc etc. I am not a preacher neither do I want to be an oldie and teach you things like this. What is important in life is not to stop fighting but to mend the gaps before they become intense. These fights act as the bonding agents…. Love means to forgive and forget.” Preet wanted Uncle Sam to keep on with his lovely set of advises… but he had started wrapping up his things.
Next moment Uncle Sam was ready to leave, with a bright smile he said.
“I must leave now or else Martha would again get a reason to fight. Martha my loving wife …”
Preet was still under the words of Uncle Sam even after he had left long back. His words had made an impression on her heart, she now was realising the mistakes that had happened. She started thinking about the changed behaviour of both of them. Thinking about Shail, she gulped her last sip of coffee.
Preet walked back home but this time with a new perspective, a better understanding. She after long was feeling so light.
Tonight when Shail came as usual drained and tired to the core he could still sense the changed aura. Everything seemed happy, the sofa, the chairs, the furniture etc were as if getting along with each other. He slowly went to Preet and apologised for all that was happening.
“It’s a phase, honey…”
“And it will pass soon…” Preet spoke before he could complete it.
Saying this she kept her hand on his, making him feel the warmth of love that was lost somewhere in this new place and phase. That night, they had a long long discussion after a serious phase. Even every object there seemed to talk to each other. Suddenly Preet said
“Can I tell something Shail?” The words of Preet were like never before, Shail at once turned to her and said.
“Preet, do you need to ask me this?”
“Coffee sometimes is a wonderful therapy Shail.” He was confused now as to what was being cooked in her heart before his confusion could burst, Preet said
“I met someone at the coffee house today.”
Preet then narrated the entire coffee incident and also told about Uncle Sam to Shail, he was happy for Preet that she could find someone whom she could talk to at least.
Preet joined back, started her classes again and things were taking a proper shape now. The tussle between them was slowly fading off and life was getting on track. One day while Preet was busy with her chores bell rang, she was surprised to find Shail at that hour. Shail had sneaked a few hours for her. They both went shopping, got essentials for the house and on their way. Preet stopped at the same café where she had met Uncle Sam a few days back. As usual, he was sitting at his table and enjoying his black coffee with a bunch of roses and a pack of bangles on the table.
Preet entered the café and directly went to his table, Uncle Sam too was happy to see her after so long. Before they could start their conversation Preet said thank you with all wet tears and Uncle Sam could sense the entire story.
“God bless you, my child. So is he the one you wait for every day. Looks like a lucky chap ha.” Preet nodded blushingly.
After a small coffee talk, Uncle Sam was ready to leave and Preet was just lost in her own world enjoying life her own way. After he left Sahil and Preet realised that the pack of bangles still lie there on the table. She at once got up and went out, but Uncle Sam was not seen anywhere.
Preet felt sad. She insisted Shail to get the car out since she wanted to return the bangles to Uncle Sam because she knew Martha would want to see them. They moved through the possible lanes Uncle Sam could go, Preet even asked a few of the passer-by’s if they had seen an old man with flowers on the street.
After searching him for some time they found a man who agreed to have seen the old man with flowers, he directed them towards a lane. Preet and Shail moved in that direction, the area was not much known to either of them, they kept moving since Preet wanted to give those bangles to Uncle Sam.
After few miles, they found a graveyard. Preet was scared but somewhere felt that Uncle would be there in but never knew why. They moved inside and found Uncle Sam near a grave laughing and talking to his own glory. Preet took larger steps and reached the spot to read that Martha had died long back. The tomb was almost covered with bangles of different colours. Some broken some intact… but each inch of bangle had a different emotion attached …
The next moment, she was on her knees weeping silently out for the loss of someone whom she never has even seen. Love never dies… it remains till eternity.
Few mins later, Sam uncle was searching for the pack of bangles but couldn’t find.
“Sorry dear, I forgot today. But promise, tomorrow I will bring two packs of your favourite colour.” He gave a faint smile with moist eyes to Martha’s grave.
With a heart filled with pain and love and moist eyes, Preet kept the pack of bangles nearby and they both quietly walked back without disturbing Sam D’Souza…
Written by: Hemang
Edited by: Pratishtha Shyam
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha