“I don’t want to go.” Shikha kept stirring her coffee. Her moist eyes fixed on the small whirlpool inside her cup of cream and coffee, trying to blend into each other. The whirlpool of emotions inside her heart was far greater than anything around.
“Only God knows how desperately I don’t want you to go.” Rohit kept his hand on hers, looking at her moist eyelashes.
The table in the corner of the coffee shop was heaven for them. It was their little world within this wide world. However, it was a gazillion light years away from the real world with its cruel bitching. Rohit and Shikha had lived the most treasured moments of their lives at this table with cups of coffee.
It had all started at a book fair where they had both picked the last copy of their favourite title. Smiles were exchanged and they had moved on. No one had ever thought that it was not just a random crossing of their paths. They were destined to meet each other and this was just the beginning.
Rohit was a C.A. and worked for one of the biggest financial firms in the town. He was impeccable in his job but enjoyed it. What made him feel alive was his passion for painting and wildlife photography. Reading the novels was his most refreshing break with a cup of coffee.
“A good book with a cup of coffee is all I need to recharge myself.” was Rohit’s famous catchphrase.
His aged parents were the only family to him. Taking care of them avoided Rohit from moving to the bigger cities to secure a radiant future. Rohit had great potential to gain overwhelming success in the realm of finance and business. Moreover, being a diligent person he was looked up to by many of his juniors. However, he had his emotional baggage which held him back.
Shikha was an aspiring artist in the field of literature, a good poet, and addicted to reading fiction. She worked as a content editor for an online company that deals in the field of academics. Though this job profile sounds quite pleasing, yet it is not appeasing in terms of wages. She never cared about it, as it was drained for her personal expenses, and for that it was adequate.
Shikha was happily married to Karan, the business head of the region for a private bank, with twin daughters, Shreya and Shruti.
Like Rohit, Shikha too was a coffee lover. She would always grab the chance in her tightly packed schedule of work and family, to have her coffee and rejuvenate herself.
After the book fair, Shikha bumped into Rohit a couple of times at the cafeteria where Rohit used to spend his evenings. One day, Shikha couldn’t find an empty table as the cafe was tightly packed. Rohit was the only one sitting alone. He saw Shikha’s eyes scanning for any vacant table. He smiled at her and gestured her to join him. Shikha hesitatingly smiled and took cautious steps towards the familiar stranger. Rohit was reading the book and making the rough sketches for his new painting. Everything was scattered, like a mess, on his table. Rohit immediately piled up his books and sketches when Shikha pulled a chair for herself.
“Hi, I am sorry for this mess. Just give me a minute.” Rohit was packing his stuff when Shikha saw few of the sketches.
“Are you an artist?” Shikha asked as she picked one of the papers which were neatly sketched by Rohit.
“Ah… Just trying to be one.” Rohit blushed, scratching his head.
“Pretty good I’d say for the novice.” Shikha smiled and passed the sketch back. The coffee ignited the spark of never-ending conversation. They were so engrossed in talking about art and literature and the professional lives that they lost track of time and the cups of coffees.
“Oh… I need to rush. Didn’t realise that the hands of the clock could play a trick on me.” Shikha looked at the time, realising she had spent more than her free time.
“I’ll take it as a compliment.” This time, Shikha blushed on Rohit’s words.
“I hope to see you again at this table.” Rohit added as Shikha got up to leave.
“Can’t assure, but will try.” Shikha smiled and added.
“What time do you generally come?” Shikha out of her odds asked. She realised what she had asked but it was too late now.
“I have the liberty to work from anywhere. Mostly in the morning, I am at the office and for the rest of the day, I work either from home or from here.” Rohit replied.
“Okay. And thanks for sharing your table. It was good coffee.” The smile in her eyes melted his heart. He kept looking at her as she walked out of the cafeteria.
“Nice person.” Shikha said in her head as she started her car and headed home. The same thoughts surfed through his mind too.
The coffee meetings became frequent and they exchanged their cell numbers. Shikha met Rohit a couple of times with Karan and their daughters. In no time, good rapport was built between Rohit and Karan. The relationship developed into friendship and they became family friends. Shikha too often visited Rohit’s house and became a loving friend of Rohit’s parents too.
Many-a-times, Karan would invite Rohit for a drink or over a dinner whenever Shikha was out of town with kids. Rohit who knew the town like the back of his hand was of great help for Shikha and her family and getting the routine chores managed easily.
Even Shikha’s close friend Pari soon got well acquainted with Rohit. Pari stayed in Pune. Whenever she gets a break for a couple of days from work, she would visit Shikha and the trio (Shikha, Pari, and Rohit) would hang out all day together killing time.
Whenever the cafe got crowded, both would go for a ride with their coffees. They never realised that they both had fallen head over heels for each other. Warm hugs became tighter ones with parting forehead kisses.
Shikha once insisted to see the small painting studio Rohit had set up at his place but Rohit always denied.
“Ah! It’s nothing like a studio and nothing to see much. You’ll get bored in ten mins.” Rohit said waving off her request.
“I’ll take only nine before leaving but please… I wanna see your real work. Please, please, please…” Shikha pleaded like a small child begging for chocolate.
“Ok fine, but not today. It’s messy today. Will surely take you there one day, promise.” Rohit smiled and kissed her forehead before stepping out of the car.
Rohit had left the cafeteria early that day and was busy in his workshop with his latest painting. Whenever he worked passionately on his passion, his cell always rested in silence. Shikha went to the cafeteria but couldn’t find Rohit. She tried calling him a couple of times but there was no reply. She knew where Rohit would be. She grabbed coffee for them and drove straight to Rohit’s house. He was alone at home as his parents were out of station for a marriage function.
“OH MY GOD!” Shikha said standing at the open door of the Rohit’s room (work studio), holding the take away cups of coffee in her hands.
“What the F…?” The brush fell from his mouth which had been clenched between his teeth as he was observing his work.
“You scared the shit out of me.” Rohit’s heart was pounding hard. Shikha walked in pushing him aside and looked at the painting.
“This is superb. In fact, it’s one of the best paintings I have ever seen.” Shikha couldn’t stop admiring it.
Rohit, sipping some water from his bottle, pulled the chairs for both of them to sit. He took his cup of coffee and asked.
“How come you know that I am here?” He sipped his coffee without taking his eyes off her smiling face.
“It didn’t need Sherlock’s mind to guess. Obviously, if you are not answering calls that means you are busy with your paintings.” Shikha winked at him and ruffled his hair. They were sitting very close to each other, eyes locked with passionate love flooding through every part of their body. Rohit took a deep breath and closed his eyes as Shikha inched forward and before they knew it their lips were hugging each other amorously in a lip lock, a soft smooch yet passionate one. While they were under the spell of the passionate kiss their souls entwined with each other to be together and never part.
After a couple of minutes, they were back in this real world. Uncomfortable silence persisted as both were running short of words to initiate the talk.
“Let’s sit outside, in the garden.” Rohit spoke without making eye contact with her.
“Can I ask you something?” Both were now sitting in the small terrace garden looking at the evening sky. Sun kissing goodbye.
“I know what you wanna know?” Rohit replied closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Shikha was always fascinated with Rohit to read her mind so precisely.
“She left me as she thought that I won’t be able to do anything in my life. She never wanted to settle with some mediocre.” Rohit opened his eyes and tilted his neck to see Shikha who was now facing him with her beautiful black eyes. She was about to ask something more when Rohit interrupted her.
“Can we talk something else? Apart from you asking me to get married to someone.”
“I will never on this earth be able to know how you can read my mind so loud and clear.” Shikha leaned forward and gave him a small peck on his cheek.
“You know what?” Rohit asked looking at the sky again. His mind and heart in cold strife.
“I love you a lot.” Shikha spoke immediately. Rohit looked at her immediately and couldn’t believe what she had just said. He could only blush.
“You look so adorable.” Shikha pulled his flushed cheeks and kissed his forehead.
“I never thought my feelings for you would ever find its way out. Never thought, you’ll say those words to me. I too love you a lot dear.” Rohit held her hand, their fingers tangled and he kissed them. It was one of the most beautiful evenings of their life.
Days turned into months with love silently growing stronger. They both knew that this was the only way possible for them to be together. Rohit kept focusing more on his paintings and photography with Shikha always boosting him.
“You know, you are wasting your time here boy. You need to move to some bigger place and unleash your potential. You can go far beyond than you think. Trust me, I have always wanted to see you as the most successful person I have ever seen in my life.” Shikha said to Rohit as they had the family dinner at her place with Karan and her daughters.
“I can’t agree more.” Karan backed Shikha’s words.
“I know, but you guys are well aware that I can’t leave the town because of my parents. My dream is a miniscule temptation in comparison to the care and welfare of my parents” A lopsided smile hung on Rohit’s face.
“But you can take them with you. You don’t need to leave them here alone.” Shikha was determined today to make her point.
“You know, they won’t agree. They won’t stop me but they won’t come either. Their life is here, in this city.” Rohit sighed and kept his spoon back on the plate. That was the first and last time, Shikha talked about the topic. She very well knew that Rohit won’t shift from this city, no matter what.
Time kept flying by on its wings of eternity and finally, the day came. The day which Shikha knew deep in her heart, was on the way ahead but never wanted it to come. Karan was transferred to the headquarter of his bank in Mumbai.
Rohit was heart broke. Shikha was the only person in his life with whom he had shared everything. Shikha too was shattered but she had no choice. They both were sitting in the cafe at their table, a small world of their own.
“I don’t want to go.” Shikha kept stirring her coffee. Her moist eyes fixed on the small whirlpool inside her cup of cream and coffee, trying to blend in with each other. The whirlpool of emotions insider her heart was far bigger than anything around.
“Only God knows how desperately I don’t want you to go.” Rohit kept his hand on her’s, looking at her moist eyelashes.
Rohit too was shattered but he knew that he had to lock up his feelings for her and hide in a dark room in his heart to console her. Though he couldn’t console himself.
“I won’t be able to live without you.” Shikha covered her face to hide her tears.
“Yes, you won’t be and you don’t have to. I’m always there with you.” Rohit passed a tissue to her to wipe the tears. With those moist eyes, she still looked gorgeous.
“All I have in this world is you and you know that. How can I let you go dear.” Rohit gave her some water. She was not in a state to understand what Rohit was trying to say. The look in eyes of Shikha made Rohit smile. He knew that she didn’t get what he tried to say.
“I can visit you anytime. Mumbai is not far for me, you know that. And I don’t need to answer anyone the reasons for my plans.” Rohit smiled pulling her cheeks and continued.
“And your partner in crime will be very close to you, Pari…” Rohit tried hard to cheer her up. Shikha was trying to smile but it was hard for her. Like Rohit, Shikha too had no one so close to her except Pari.
Finally, Shikha shifted to Mumbai and Rohit was back to what he was before she had come into his life. Lonely, introvert, recluse, and nothing to talk with anyone. However, one thing had changed forever in his life. He kept missing her more than ever he had never thought about it till now.
Shikha quit the job and was enjoying her leisure time before starting another one. Rohit always made a point to talk to her at noon before her daughters returned from school. The life of the metro was new and fascinating for her. She could see a lot of new things she could do in the city of dreams, Mumbai.
“Rohit, dear, you seriously need to get out of that place. You have a lot of talent getting wasted there.” Shikha paused to take a sip of her green tea and continued.
“People in this city do not just dream. They live to make their dreams come true. And it’s possible in this city.” Shikha could hear the sound of abated breath from Rohit’s end.
“And Rohit… For God’s sake… Please get married. Can’t see you like this. Please…” Shikha spoke with a heavy sigh. She knew Rohit will never say a word on this particular matter.
“How’s your job hunting spree going on?” Rohit ignored what she had just said and diverted the topic.
“Going on, but I am in no rush. I want to work for half-day in the office and rest from home. Hope I get it the way I want.” Shikha untied her hair and let it fall loose on her face. The cool breeze on the top floor of her flat was very soothing.
“I am sure you’ll get it dear. After all, your resume is very strong for the profile you are seeking.” Rohit replied taking the last sip of his coffee before lunch. The doorbell rang at her place rang and Rohit ended the call.
Shikha’s job hunting didn’t last long. She got one, the way she had always wanted. Things started changing after that. Her work timings started clashing with Rohit’s free time. The calls slowly started getting shorter.
Rohit was fighting a tough battle within his mind to keep his feelings bottlenecked. Shikha’s attitude started changing drastically. Many-a-times, Rohit’s calls were not answered as she would be busy with her new friend circle of office. These all kept hurting Rohit a lot but he maintained his calm.
Shikha, on the other end, was now a changed person. She had begun to adhere to new booming and bustling colourful lifestyle of metro and Rohit soon realised that he was no more the shade of those colours. Whenever Rohit tried to tell her how badly he missed her, she would drift away from the topic with cold responses or would hang up with some excuses. Whatever happened hurt Rohit to a great extent.
The pace and politics of new job soon started fading the enthusiasm of Shikha at her workplace. It drained zest and zeal and sometimes her frustration topped the charts. On such occasions, she would talk to Rohit and vent it out. Sometimes she would pour her frustration on Rohit and would have a verbal fight over petty issues. Rohit, on the other hand, always tried to console her.
Still keeping himself braced up, Rohit planned a surprise for Shikha
TO BE CONTINUED…
Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha