Between Tonight and Tomorrow


Related imageA November evening that was not exactly romantic, even if it was on the beach. Neither the sun was setting nor was the moon rising. It was a cloudy day with gusty winds..!  The weather reports had predicted a cyclone. The waves were roaring as the tide swept up almost to the boundary wall of the coffee shop. It was about 6.00 PM and the beach was already deserted. The coffee shop also was empty except for me… I

“Madam, would you like anything to eat with your coffee?” asked the Sam, the proprietor as he deposited a steaming hot cup of coffee in front of me.

I shook my head and waved him away.

He retreated as quietly as he had come, going back to sit by the till at the end of the room. A good fellow, Sam accepted me for who I was, an eccentric old woman… My wild and frizzy silver hair and  my crushed cotton sari probably made him think I was an artist or a writer!! But then wasn’t I just that? I may not exactly write or paint but I did create stories.

I stretched my legs  under the table and looked out of the window wondering whether anyone would venture out in this weather!

And then I saw him… rushing out of his car  , holding a satchel over his head as the rain drops started falling…! The door chime jangled as he pushed it and walked in.

Sam,  ushered him in and took him to the table opposite mine pulling out the chair for him to sit.

“Thank you” he said as he settled down and scanned the room. He seemed disappointed  not to find what he was seeking. I cleared my throat from the corner where I was sitting to let him know that there was someone else there besides him.  Our eyes met for a moment as I smiled at him and raised my coffee cup in a toast. He returned my smile , taking out his phone from his pocket and checking for message.

“Would you like to order something Sir” asked Sam

“Yes, after sometime”  he said, his gaze shifting to the window.

I watched him with interest. A middle aged man with greying hair. Who was he waiting for I wondered? Obviously someone very special, for him to have braved the weather and come here.

I followed his gaze and looked out…

I saw her before he did.

She was getting out of a cab and hurrying towards the coffee shop, pulling her dupatta over her head as the rain fell more heavily.

He stood up suddenly as he spotted her and made his way to the door. She came into the coffee shop, a slightly built woman , a flurry of rain drops accompanying her as she entered.

There seemed to be a moment of awkwardness as they stood facing each other. He didn’t seem to know how to greet her. She on the other hand stood facing him quietly expecting some sort of acknowledgement of her presence there.

Sam, the ever courteous host stepped in with a hand towel.

“Madam, please wipe yourself and sit down. You need to drink something warm” he said

“Thank you” she said as she wiped her head and face with it.

“Oh my god, my dupatta is running colour! ” she exclaimed as she took it out from around her neck.

Yes indeed, her beautiful white chikan kurta was now streaked with pink and purple.

The man seemed to have suddenly come to his senses.

“Anu, the washroom is over there . Why don’t you go and clean up. And meanwhile, what will you have? I will place the order so it is ready when you come back” he said

“ Oh, you know…tea” she said as she went it.

“ A masala chai and some Darjeeling tea” he said as he sat down.

Ah.. tea drinkers!! But different teas! The connoisseur and the common I thought with a smile.

She was back from the washroom. Her hair was loose and the damp dupatta was draped along with her bag at the back of her chair. Her face was glowing in the soft light over the table and her earrings swung as she moved her head. Middle aged like him, I could spot a few strands of silver in her hair.

I was waiting for them to start speaking.

“Thank you Anu, for making it. I could have come to pick you up you know” he said

“No Sanjay, it is better this way. I don’t want my students talking” she said softly.

He made a move to hold her hand. But she pulled it away tucking it into the sleeve of her kurta.

“So many years….and you are still the same touch me not “ he said softly.

“You know why – then and now” she said

“ Yes, then because you thought letting me hold your hand would somehow tarnish your virginity and now because you belong to someone else” he said bitterly.

“Sanju, I was fifteen then, so I didn’t know what I was feeling” she said, trying to look at him.

“Do you know what you are feeling now?” he asked.

“I don’t know” she said looking away.

“ Yes, live in denial!” he said, beckoning to Sam to get the tea.

The tension around the table was so thick that poor Sam was looking uncomfortable as he placed the cups and poured out the tea.

“What do you want Sanjay ?” she asked him softly.

“Your love” he said

“That you already have” she replied.

“ Really?” he asked sarcastically.

“Sanju , get a hold on yourself, we are both married and with families. We can’t get involved like this” she said

“But yet you came , braving this weather to meet me” he said .

I couldn’t see his face from where I was sitting but her face told me all about how he must be feeling. She looked confused and emotionally charged.

“Come with me please.. We have only tonight. You are leaving tomorrow. Don’t deny me this moment” he pleaded.

I looked out of the window. The rain was pouring down and lightening was flashing. I could well imagine how charged the night would be for them. A teenage romance evolving into something so deep in adulthood that neither of them probably realized where it might lead them. Or may be she did…Or did she? Her hand was now out of her sleeve and under his… I sensed her defences weaken…

I could almost hear her heart beating.. Or was it mine I wondered….?


Sanjay looked sharply behind him as he heard the cup crash to the ground! The old lady at the next table lay hunched over it.

He rushed to the table, calling out to Sam.

“Oh, my god, something seems to have gone wrong with her” said Sam trying to revive  her.

“Wait let me get the car near the entrance, we will move her to the KG hospital. It is only few streets away” said Sanjay as he made his way to the door.

“Anu, you wait here with Sam, he will need help” he said as he left the restaurant.

“Ofcourse. Come quickly” she said rubbing the old lady’s palms that seemed to have  suddenly gone cold.

Between the three of them they got her into the back of the car.

“Sir please wait  I will lock up the restaurant and come” shouted Sam.

“Don’t bother. We don’t have much time. I will drive her now. You can come later if you want” said Sanjay putting the car in gear.

Anu sat behind with the old lady’s head on her lap.

It was about twenty minutes or so  before they got her into the Emergency Unit  at the hospital.

“Oh my god, hope she is okay” said Anu, holding on to Sanjay’s arm.

“Come, lets sit down there” he said pointing to a waiting area.

“ Wonder who she is. I have her bag with me. Lets see if we can get some ID” said Anu rummaging through the cloth bag, pulling out some dried flowers, a bead bracelet, a notebook and a wallet with a few hundred rupee notes inside.

“Strange, she doesn’t have any ID on her and neither does she have a cell phone” muttered Sanjay as he sorted through the contents once again.

Sam was coming in now into the Emergency.

“How is she?” he asked

“ We don’t know. They have wheeled her inside said Anu.

“Do you know who she is ?” asked Sanjay

“ No idea Sir. She comes every once in a while, orders coffee and sits writing in her notebook” he said

“Anu look inside that notebook. May be her address is there in one of the pages” said Sanjay

Anu looked through the notebook until she came to the last page.

“Sanjay look at this” she said bringing the notebook towards him

“ Leela-Anuj, Ravi- Sudha, Amy- Ajit, Meena- Tanmay – Who on earth are they ?” asked Sanjay

“Do you know them?” asked Anu showing Sam the notebook.

“ Ummm… not really, but Meena Madam and Tanmay Sir used to come to my restaurant often before they got married” he said

“Okay, do you have their number” asked Sanjay.

“ I think, I might have it in the shop on my computer.” said Sam

“ Then please go, get the number and call them’ said Sanjay. “We will wait here”

“Okay “ said Sam as he went out.

The rain had stopped and the wind seemed to have died down.

The TV in the waiting area was announcing that the cyclone had passed along further northwards on the coast. The weather was expected to improve.

“Sanjay, I am feeling so tiered and sleepy” said Anu collapsing on the bench and resting her head on his shoulder.

It seemed so strange that for someone who had always been nervous about her physical proximity to him, she should suddenly seek his shoulder to sleep against. He looked at her sleeping face.. ! The thirty odd years seemed to have been wiped out and it was like they were fifteen once again- he the silent lanky boy living downstairs and she the nerdy girl who lived upstairs. They hadn’t even exchanged words those days but somehow later when they had got reconnected through common friends, there seemed to be no end to the communication.

May be she was correct. It was not right for them to act on their passion. Too many people would get hurt!!

He closed his eyes with a sigh..This was not how he had imagined tonight to be but then like he had said, this was all they had, before she went away and out of his life. Her flight was at eight o clock in the morning.

He looked at the clock hanging on the wall in front of them. It was almost midnight!! He hadn’t realized how late it was. He was glad that his wife and son were out of town. It would have been difficult to explain the situation otherwise.

Anu was moving her head now. She opened her eyes and looked up.

“Sanjay, what is the news. Any word about the old lady”

“No idea. Sam hasn’t got back with any information either” said Sanjay.

“May be we should check in on her’ said Anu getting up from the bench.

“I will first drop you at your hotel and then come back to check on her. It is quite late. Shouldn’t you be back there with your students?” asked Sanjay

“Yes I think that is best” she said gathering her bag and dupatta. “You can leave your phone number at the reception in case they need you while you are away”

Sanjay woke up the sleeping receptionist and asked her to note down his name and number.

“Patient’s name Sir” she asked.

“I don’t know. She was a stranger who had a heart attack at the restaurant where we were” said Sanjay

“Sir, in that case you need to file a police complaint. Please come with me” she said asking them to follow her to the emergency section.

There were three beds in the Emergency room – all empty!

“Old lady it? But there doesn’t seem to be anyone here ” said the young duty doctor.

“Please look up your records. There was another doctor on duty when we brought her here” said Sanjay.

“No sir, there is no record of any patient such patient here “ he said showing them the online patient registry for the emergency!! The last case registered was at 2.00 PM- child aged eight with a broken arm.

Them Again

Image result for cupid woman sketchI was happy, that it had ended the way it did. He had accepted the inevitable and her conscience was lighter.

They were now at the entrance to her hotel. She turned around and looked at him before suddenly giving him a hug! He seemed taken aback…!

“Sanjay it was so lovely meeting you again after all these years!! Let us stay in touch”

“Sure Anu. You have a safe journey back and send me a message when you get home”

I watched him getting into the car and driving away as she stood in the reception watching him leave.

I then made my way back to where I came from….I had lot of business to attend to…

A busy cupid, I had my own targets to meet- getting couples together. But sometimes I had to deal with a situation like this – where it was better not to get them together.

I secured my bow and arrow inside my bag, before flying away into the clouds