Fifteen Glorious Years
Fifteen Glorious Years
We meet each Saturday. Always. Never missed a single one in the last fifteen years.
Not even when Shiv was down with flu. Not even when my mother passed away in Kolkata. Not even when the roof of my old bungalow gave in to the torrential rains.
Des Café has always been there for us for all these years. It has stood there, still and quiet, a silent witness to our meetings. They say the walls have ears, be careful of what you may speak, but we always choose to sit at the little table closest to the wall. Perhaps, we want the Victorian style brick-layered wall to be our little personal diary and make note of the words we’ve exchanged over the years. I look at the bricks at times, and they seem to react to our moods – they look pale when we aren’t happy, they blush and turn into a deeper tone of red on our naughtier days, they even seem to make a more complicated pattern on the walls when our minds are all messed up.
He’s reserved and introverted, not quite like me. But he’s been like that ever since we met. I look back at time and realize that all the efforts you may want to make to change the basic nature of a person always do go in vain. When I met him, I liked him instantly, but it was always me who did the talking. He kept listening and showed genuine interest, but only said a word or two for every ten sentences that came out of my mouth. I was outgoing, the overtly friendly type, it took me minutes to make a new friend. My accounts on social networking sites had friends in three digit numbers, while he thought social networking sites are a waste of a person’s free time. He liked to paint in his free time, read about the markets, go around the city clicking photographs of little children. All I wanted to do was party with my friends.
These Saturdays have been great though. He always comes dressed in those pinstriped suits. He knows I’ve always liked him in those. I remember the first time he dressed up in one of them, a dark blue suit with white pinstripes; he looked all dapper and ready to deliver his first lecture in St. John’s College in his new job as Professor of English Literature. That was seventeen years ago. He looks even better now, with a dash of white in his jet black hair adding a bit of stature to his towering personality, the wrinkles on his intelligent face and the furrows between his eyes tell-tale signs of sleepless nights spent with his books.
What do we talk about? Well, so much and yet nothing at all. To an outsider, it may sound like the sort of routine, boring conversation married couples might have after years of togetherness. And yet, we know how interesting it sounds to us. This is what we yearned for in the first couple of years. It didn’t happen then. But it sure is happening for us now.
I talk about how I’ve been learning Tanjore painting, about how big the tomatoes in my garden have become, I talk about the beautiful evenings spent by the beach with Shiv. He talks about his books, the ones he reads and the ones he writes. He talks about his first deal with a major publication house, how his book would be out in a couple of months, he talks about the new bungalow he’s just purchased, much nearer to the college, he talks about how he’s always hated travelling in the Mumbai local trains to get to work and how driving through the insane traffic just wasn’t an option. He talks about how he’s opened up accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn, how he thinks they’re great tools for interaction, professional or otherwise.
We’ve learnt to deal with delicate topics over the years. I start telling him about Shiv only when I know he’s ready for it. I keep searching in his eyes, for that one moment when they tell me he’s ready. He used to react erratically at first, I never used to be able to tell if he’s happy to hear about what I am saying or just plain mad at me. Over the years, he’s calmed down. I tell him about Shiv, about his hectic schedules as a Business Consultant in a software firm, about how he hardly has time for me since his promotion last month, about his extended family in Cochin who’ve been so great to me. I tell him about how Shiv wants an autographed copy of the book he’s about to publish. I tell him about his intentions to adopt a child, having failed at attempts to have one of our own. I don’t fail to notice a hint of uneasiness in his gestures when I talk about having children with Shiv.
I order for a hot chocolate instead of my usual latte on some Saturdays, a gesture he’s now accustomed to understand as me being comfortable enough to hear about Aryan. He starts telling me of Aryan’s dilemma of having to choose between Science or Commerce. I know deep inside, that like his father, he’d rather choose Arts. He tells me about Aryan’s first encounter with romance, he tells me that Aryan has had his first kiss and that he loves the feeling of being in love. He tells me Aryan is growing up to be a rather friendly bloke, just like me. He tells me he’s rather upset at seeing Aryan being awake all night, hooked to Facebook and Orkut. I flash him a knowing smile. He tells me about Aryan’s constant inquiries about me, about Shiv, about nana-ji.
I guess the happiest person to emerge out of our meetings is always Mr. Behramjee, Des Café’s owner! He attends to us personally while we order our string of 10 coffees each over a stretch of 5 hours. He keeps telling us that we needn’t bother to order the coffees, that over the years we’ve become like his own children to him, but what the heck; we’ve always liked his coffee!
It is over our 10th coffee that we often speak nothing. Instead, we spend time looking at the framed copy of our favorite possession hung on the wall. It is filled with heaps of sticky little colorful Post-It notes now, a little message on each of them, written by the patrons of this dingy little coffee shop, who’ve become our friends over the years.
“The most romantic couple I’ve ever seen”. “Made for each other”. “God bless your love”. “I hope I am as lucky as you guys are” … read some of the notes.
And underneath it, lies our favorite possession, the one we always dedicate our 10th coffee to. The best thing to happen to our lives – the withered set of our divorce papers, dating back to 16 years ago.
Each year since then, has been a blessing. Like I said, we haven’t missed a single Saturday in fifteen years.
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22 Minutes of Love and Other Short Stories