I don't know if it's a part of Murphy's laws that work ever so fabulously on Mondays than any other days of the week, but I'm inevitably late on this day.Every week.And I still can't fathom why. It was another such Monday morning where I was running late and in the hurry, I burnt my tongue by sipping the hot coffee that I had just picked up from the McDonald's opposite Andheri station. I ran towards Platform No.6, because that's where my train would come. It's the start train to Churchgate and it had not yet arrived. And I was still running as I wanted to be the first one to enter the train and get a window seat for myself.
In the rush to get to the area of the Ladies First Class before the train comes, I ran into someone as I looked down into my bag to fish out my cell phone with my free hand. The coffee in the other hand spilled a little on me before going down and splashing on the railway floor.
"What the fuu...." in a man's voice was what it took me to stop cleaning my kurti and looking at the person whom I had bumped into. It was then I saw his phone on the floor, with my coffee cup upside down on it.
"I'm so sorry!!", I said. I didn't even wait to think over in my head whose fault it was that we banged into each other. It was someone's BlackBerry that was now soaking wet with my coffee. And that would hurt!
"Yeah, ok", he said and went to the General First Class area. I saw him cleaning his phone with his handkerchief later. I felt really bad for his phone and in that guilt I let go of the window seat for the day.
I saw the guy the next day at Andheri station. It seemed like he took the same train as mine everyday. And he even got off at Lower Parel, like me. I smiled at him, when I saw at him look in my direction. He smiled back. I wouldn't have if he was the one whose coffee spoiled my phone.
We exchanged smiles again at Lower Parel station when we both got off the train.
This continued for the entire week. On the following Monday, he was standing closer to the Ladies Compartment than usual. I walked up a couple of steps to ask him about his phone. I still felt a little bad about it.
"Hi, how's your phone?", I said.
"It's in the service station", he said, flashing the phone to me.
"Oh nice. I am really sorry for the damage...", I fumbled nervously. I wasn't sure if should have made an offer for paying for it. Money makes simple things in life so damned complicated.
"The train's come", he said. "I'll see you around at Lower Parel station", he added before giving me a smile. I smiled too.
We got into our respective compartments. I caught a glimpse of him again at Lower Parel station and we smiled.
A month passed by us just giving each other smiles twice in a day.
Mumbai with its erratic trains and even more erratic rains drives you crazy. Especially if you happen to mix the two. On one such Monday evening, it started raining without any prior notice, and I was umbrella-less, waiting outside my office with a hundred odd people for a cab to the station.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a cab just halted a few feet from me, and I saw the guy who travelled in the 8.24 train with me every morning. He peeped out of the window and motioned for me to hop in the cab. And I obliged.
“I saw you trying to get a cab to the station, so thought of giving you a lift.”, he said.
“Oh, thanks! It’s such a Herculean task to get a cab in this part of the town at this time of the day.”, I said.
“Yeah, people can murder one another for a cab here. I’m Akash, by the way”, he said, giving out his hand
“Aditi”, I said, shaking his hand
“So after two weeks of smiling at you twice a day, I finally know your name”, he smiled. I smiled too, unsure of what to answer.
“I hope your phone is still working?”, I asked
“It’s still alive somehow. Just got it from the service station two days back”, he said
“Oh. I’m really sorry”
“I don’t feel like saying ‘It’s OK’, but, it’s OK!”, he smiled and paid for the cab.
“See you at 8.24 tomorrow”, I said, giving him a smile.
“Aditi, you have a nice smile, by the way”, he said and walked off
Call it co-incidence or whatever, our timings to leave our offices always matched with one another. He would always be in a cab to station when I would be hopelessly trying to get a cab for myself. We started going to and from Lower Parel station as our timings matched and due to the paucity of cabs. He worked in a multi-national consultancy firm and he quite looked the part too. I had first thought that he must be working for some bank. And my guess was almost right. I told him that I worked in a telecom company.
It was an overcast mid-July evening, one week after we started traveling together, when we were in the cab going to Lower Parel station and the weather was so awesome that you just had to be by the sea to soak in the beauty of Mumbai's monsoons.
"The weather is so awesome! I feel like going to Marine Drive. It's going to be cool there right now". I exclaimed.
"Let's go then", he instructed the driver to change the route and take us to Marine Drive instead.
Marine Drive was amazing as predicted. Soaking in the sea breeze, eating corn, looking at the vast, never ending sea and talking about life is an experience that one shouldn't miss in life. We spoke at length about our lives. He was from Delhi. He stayed along with a couple of friends at Marol in Mumbai. He had been in two relationships till now and his breakups made for funny stories! That reminded us of how stupid were our teenage years!
We proceeded to Leopold's for a beer (which was my sly tactic to go to Colaba to shop for cheap accessories) and later headed home. That was one of the best evenings I had in a long time.
Friday evenings at Marine Drive and followed by a beer at Leopold's or Cafe Mondegar had become a routine. The thing with doing something regularly over a period of time is that you don't realize when you are so habituated to it that it's almost an addiction then. We were so used to travelling together in the same train, in the same cab, our Friday evenings... that we didn't realize how close we had become to one another. From just laughing over past breakups to talking late into the night on the phone to help him get rid of his homesickness to have him go from just advising me on how to invest my money to actually have him do it for me, from eating out together, to carrying extra food specially for him in my tiffin, we definitely came closer than what we thought we had.
I realized that what we had was more than 'friends' the day I found myself skipping lunch to get medicines for him at his office when he was down with a flu. I didn't know if he felt the same for me or no. I didn't want to know. I was happy in the place that I was. If he didn't, I didn't want to have my bubble to burst. But I kind of felt that he liked me too. Because if he didn't then he wouldn't come shopping with me on the first day of a sale where the billing lines were crazy and I got my clothes billed at 11 in the night and he was patiently waiting. He came to drop me home that night and I wanted to ask him if he liked me too. But there was something in me restraining me to do so.
A couple of weeks later, my Mom had gone out of town, so I had to pack my own tiffin and hence I would get late to catch my 8.24 train. And, for a week that I missed my train, I saw him waiting on the platform for me and lie that he got late and missed his train too! He had to like me! I knew it....
That Friday at Marine Drive, it was drizzling slightly. These were the last few showers before winter. The entire Monsoon had passed and Akash had still not told me if he liked me. I didn't tell him too, because I wanted him to tell it first. Yes, I come from the old-school of romance.
"Akash, you are hopeless. I hope you know that.", I said, muttering the courage to keep my head on his shoulder.
"Why, what did I do?", he said. Taking a cue from me, he kept his hand on my shoulder.
"You didn't do anything. You don't do anything is my problem", I burst.
"Are you PMSing", he said, looking confused.
"You are so comfortable with a girl that you can ask her about her PMS but not tell her that you.... urrgghh! You're just so freaking impossible", I exclaimed
"Tell her what?", he asked, this time with a sly smile on his face.
"Tell her that you fucking love her!!", I said.
"But what makes you feel that I love you?", he continued giving that sly smile.
"Because I know you do", I replied.
"Then if you know it, then why should I say it. It is understood right", he continued pulling me leg.
"You think this is funny. Well it is not.", I said and threw his hand off my shoulder.
"Ok. Sorry sorry! Don't get mad. I love you. Happy?" he said.
"Don't say it like you're doing me a favour."
"I'm sorry baba! I love you. I really do. I just didn't know how to tell it to you. I was trying to figure it out since months! Not days, not weeks, but months! I'm serious!" he said and that melted my anger a little.
"You've said it to two girls before me, then why was it so difficult this time?", I quizzed him
"Because I wasn't so freaking serious about them", he said, looking directly into my eyes. "Are you going to return the favour or no?"
"I love you too", I smiled. I finally managed to get it out from him and then allowed to let him keep his hand on my shoulder. But after you've professed your love to a guy, he isn't satisfied with keeping his hand on the shoulder! He wants to go lower! He put his hand on my waist and got me closer to him.
After that day, we not only traveled in the same train, but also in the same compartment.
It was his birthday a month after we started carrying on and I decided to buy him a better BlackBerry model than the one I spoiled. So I got him a BB Bold 3. He was so touched by the gesture that he was actually speechless for a couple of minutes.
"Your coffee proved to be pretty expensive for you", he said, after regaining his senses.
"The coffee wasn't expensive.... it was priceless.......... I found you", I said.
"Oh my God!" he exclaimed. "So when I buy you the engagement ring, it shouldn't be expensive, but priceless right? And anything given by a priceless person would be priceless only na", he said, teasing me.
"No, my ring better be expensive! You have to pay a premium for not having said I Love You properly", I said.