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Aura Bhattacharjee



Aura Bhattacharjee


Poha, Kachori And Chai

Poha, Kachori And Chai

6 mins

"Hello....Shriya? I can't hear you very well, where exactly are you?" Rajat asked over phone, as he looked around for her in the bustling city.

They had planned to meet at Sion circle in Mumbai to board their overnight bus to Vadodara.

No, they aren't eloping. Prolonged office hours, completion of engineering and MBA left little room for such exciting dramatics in their lives.

Although Shriya used to once wish secretly to fall head-over-heels in love and get swept off by her feet by Prince charming into a whirlwind of romance, she had lately given up on that and agreed to meet the man her parents had set her up with.

Rajat, on the other hand, being two years older than Shriya, had just stepped into his 30s and was totally comfortable to stay single for the rest of his life, in case he didn't find some one with whom he felt fully compatible. So, expecting romance from him would be anyways a farce.

Having met each other for a prolonged duration, Shriya and Rajat had finally agreed to go ahead for the nuptials.....to absolute delight of their parents. Now, it was time for both of them to meet each others' parents face-to-face.

Rajat's parents were supposed to visit Mumbai to meet Shriya. However, Rajat's father had fallen sick a few days before their scheduled date of travel. So they decided to travel to Vadodara..which was midway between Mumbai and Rajat's hometown; for their meeting.

"Hey Rajat..I'm sitting right at the bus stop....there's a police van parked next to me," Shriya directed him. He soon spotted Shriya and walked up to her.

Although it was arranged marriage, Shriya had indeed taken a liking for Rajat. They had started getting comfortable with each other after an appreciably long period of formal courtship, and Shriya was looking forward to enjoy her first bus journey with him.

She had planned, that she would slide her head gradually on to his shoulder...pretending to be sleepy and doing it unknowingly. She would allow her head to hang around there lightly for a while......till Rajat would pick it up with his warm palm and tuck it properly on his shoulder, just the way he would often do in cab, when they would return from a late night dinner , when Shriya would be both sleepy and dizzy over her wines.Now, once Rajat would place her head on his shoulder...Shriya wouldn't let go of the chance and hold his arm even more firmly. She would make him her pillow for the rest of the journey as their bus would whoosh past the highway through the stretched lands , towards the stars.....

"Shriya listen," Rajat said, handing over to her a mineral water bottle which he had bought from a shop nearby," I've booked your seat in the ladies' sitting area. Since it was a last moment booking...I got vacancies only in the last row of the bus...I booked a seat for myself there."

Shriya felt she hadn't just been pulled out of her dream, but she had been woken up brutally with splashes of water on her face. "So ..why didn't you book my seat beside yours some where in the last row?" she claimed..after a brief pause, letting her initial shock settle down.

"It's so uncomfortable there. It's an overnight journey...and we have a long day tomorrow....you need to take a nap! You would have had to sit straight up all night! Also...my seat is somewhere in the centre of the last row...it's not like I got a window seat either. For me it's fine...I am habituated with travelling like that while commuting home often......as I book my tickets late mostly. Trust me, it's far more comfortable for you to travel on those seats where you can slide back easily....and that's why I chose a ladies' area for you..so that you feel safe too."

Shriya gulped down some of the mineral water,sighed and said, "Okay...exchange my seat with some one beside you. I don't want to hear anything."

"Haha...let's see..that won't happen I guess, " Rajat chuckled,"They won't make a man exchange with you and sit in the ladies' zone for the sake of security of the women travelling. And these buses are fully occupied generally", he explained, caughing hard, " also, I do have a bad cold ! It's good you don't sit near me all night....you too will fall sick otherwise!"

Shriya ended up commuting sitting beside a young girl who was travelling to her Mausi's (Mother's sister) place during college semester break.

"Why do I even dream of romance in my life," Shriya chided herself as she kept listening to the chirpy college girl telling her how she was travelling alone for the first time, and feeding her biscuits when she was hungry.

Rajat woke Shriya up when the bus stopped near a dhaba(eatery beside the highway, mainly offering Indian snacks and food) for morning break. It was pretty early in the morning...around 6am.

It was a proper highway, with no residential area in the vicinity. Vast stretches of lands wrapped in smog of roadside dust and morning mist were still being brought to life by the rising sun. Shriya made the college girl sit with herself and Rajat, as the three of them finished a sumptuous breakfast of poha, kachori and chai ( tea) at the dhaba.

"It's okay....you may treat us when you're in Mumbai some time," Rajat told the girl as he cleared payment for all the three of them.

"I noticed you had been caughing all night," Shriya asked Rajat.." do you want some chai?"

"Hey no..I don't like chai anyways," Rajat said, still caughing," Last night I couldn't sleep so it got worsened. it'll be fine automatically, don't worry."

They finished their meal and had to now rush for the bus.

"Oh..I wish I could have another round of chai...but anyways...you won't have it, right? So let it be.." Shriya said, suppressing her eternal love for tea as she headed for the bus with them.

Shriya was engaged in chatting with the girl all the way up to the bus. So she hadn't noticed that Rajat had vanished.

"Where's he?" She asked, a little perplexed and torn between giving in to the conductor asking them to hurry up to enter the bus, and looking back to catch a glimpse of Rajat.

"I don't know didi.......he was right here," the girl said, simultaneously wondering.

"Ohh look..there he is," she exclaimed....turning Shriya's attention.

Shriya had just entered the bus. She stopped and came back to the gate and saw Rajat taking fast steps and walking towards the bus all the way from the dhaba, with a paper cup in his hand, which he had difficulty in holding because it was steaming hot.

"Where had you been?!" Shriya asked.

"You wanted a second round of chai, right?" Rajat said, sniffling from his cold, and panting "So I thought of getting you a cup of that...while you get onboarded.I just quickly ran back to the dhaba."

"Have you got one for yourself?" Shriya asked, taking the cup from his hand and wiping sweat off his temple.

"Me? No! Why? I don't like tea anyways, told you right? I didn't even drink while sitting there," he said, sneezing,making his way to the last row" C'mon enjoy it...I'll go sit there. I'll tell you when it's time to get down."

As the bus rushed through the vast stretches of land........Shriya sipped her tea. It was the most romantic morning-tea she had ever had in her life.

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