It was the first day of college, I still remember meeting Shipra’s eyes and getting awed by their generous sparkle. The mahogany brown depths captured my imagination throughout the economics class on that very first day. I hadn’t even spoken to her on that day. You know every boy in class already had, and for obvious reasons. She was the most beautiful girl in class, like hell, maybe even in the entire college and no sane guy wanted to miss out on his chance to impress her.
I distinctly remember her – wearing a light blue kameez and an off-white salwar and the grace with which she carried it, showed too much finesse for someone who were starting off an MBA. A week had passed since the first day, and I had not spoken to her….still!
I probably gathered my courage, for the first time, in the 10 min break before the Accounting class that day. I knew she was going to grab a coffee with her friends and may be this was the chance – my chance. I looked down in my trouser pocket and saw an old soiled pink twenty rupee note.
“Ahh” I thought, enough for one coffee at least. I rushed down the hallway corridor and made it into the canteen entrance. As I entered, my eyes met hers. The mahogany brown eyes captivated my senses and this time around she looked back at me and a smile escaped her soft pink lips.
My heart raced as I smiled back. With a little more confidence and loaded with a twenty rupee note my pocket, I walked up to the counter and ordered a cappuccino. You know, I felt it would be the perfect drink to get my first impression right on her. You see I wasn’t too confident how she would take filter coffee or cutting chai as a first impression beverage, and she just might end up judging me …arbitrarily. As I waited at the counter, I studied the group with her – there was Radha, her roommate, Anishka her batchmate from school and two more girls – I think one of them was Monica and the other girl was the one who answered ‘yes Sir’ to roll number one. So maybe something from A…. I guess!
Shipra looked back to where I was standing and suddenly I didn’t want to be caught staring at her. I shifted my gaze back to the counter and waited for my coffee to arrive. In a few minutes the piping hot cappuccino cup stood on the marble counter of the canteen and I looked down on the shape of the froth. Nope – No heart shapes, no leaf shape. Just some froth dumped on the hot coffee.
“huh…what do you expect for a 20 bucks cappuccino from college a canteen” – I reminded myself as I picked the hot cup and turned around to think of how to get to Shipra. As I pivoted myself on my left foot, I turned around and banged into the person behind me. My right hand that held the coffee cup immediately dropped down to balance my fall and as the cup landed on the floor, the hot liquid drenched all over my right arm and leg. It didn’t just burn…it brunt like hell.
“Awwwww” I screamed out aloud as I landed with a big thud on my ass
As I growled in pain, from behind me – I heard a sweet gentle voice
“Oh my, I am so sorry…I didn’t know you were going to turn back so suddenly. Are you hurt?”
and I looked up at the person right behind me – It was Shipra. I looked at her deep brown eyes and there I was again, in another place and another time. The problem was, she has ended her statement with a question and that necessarily warranted a reply. A dumbstruck mute me…. looking into her eyes, lying in a pool of hot cappuccino – that, for sure, would have been a dead end to my love story.
So, I cleared my throat, gathered my courage, took a deep breath and finally said…”I am OK. I hope you don’t mind…The coffee was for you….and…. I am sorry….. I guess I have spilt it!” and I smiled back at her.
And that was how it all began….
50 YEARS LATER
I opened my eyes and blinked at the monitor that stood at the end of my bed. There was a sinusoidal curve that emerged from one end of the screen and travelled to another. I rubbed my eyes with my hands, and felt that my left hand was being pulled back. I looked back to see that the tubes still stuck to the veins on the back of my palm.
I tried sitting up, and as I did, the familiar voice came from behind my shoulder….
“Not able to sleep ….are you?”
It was the same voice that I heard 50 years back in the college canteen,… maybe a little tempered with age…but the same sweetness, the same gentleness…..well perhaps my ears had tempered with age! I didn’t know…I wouldn’t know now.
You know…. she had a knack…. Always end with a question…that way she knows I have to answer….I just cannot – not listen and drift away. I must be alert and must answer her questions.
“No not really…” I said “Not feeling too good”
“Do you want something? “ She asked
“Maybe a coffee” I said
“Coffee, my dear, at this time ……is not a good idea…..” she remarked
“Well…how about at least a cappuccino?” I winked at her, as this time it was my turn to ask her the question.
“…..Ok…” she said reluctantly as she picked the phone and called for a coffee.
“Do you have the menu around you….how much do they charge for a cappuccino in here?” I asked, boy I was on fire – one question after another.
“320” she said taking her glasses off after studying the room service menu of the hospital “plus taxes …I guess”
“What?…that’s ridiculous….I used to pay 20 bucks for this”
“It does not matter relax…. Don’t worry so much….and moreover you are not in college and you don’t have to impress me anymore…and ….of course there is yearly inflation and all those things….isn’t it? “ she said
“Hmmm” I waited from my cup of coffee to arrive and I looked at her… a lot had changed in the last 50 years….but the deep mahogany brown still captivated my senses….or whatever was left of my senses.
She smiled at me….and not just now…but every time she caught me lost in her deep eyes.
Just then…. there was a knock on the door and in came my coffee. I held the cup full of the piping hot liquid and sniffed the smell of coffee.
“Thanks dear” were the words I said….as I breathed out my last. Slowly, the cup slipped out of my hands grip, as the liquid splashed all over me. This time though, I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t shout or growl, and not because it didn’t pain. It still pained, probably a lot lot more…but no longer was it because of the hot cup of cappuccino.