March 2013, a parched dry afternoon at Indore…

I checked my hair for the second time in the mirror of that random bike parked outside cafe coffee day. I wondered as to why my friends say I take too much time checking myself when I only took ten minutes or so doing my hair.

So I rolled up the sleeves of my recently bought shirt & confidently pushed the door of the cafe to walk straight in.

I had to waste not more than two minutes to locate her sitting at right hand corner wearing a knee length black dress.

She rose gracefully from behind the menu card. Her face wore the same intelligent smile with black glasses sitting firmly on it. She waved a bit more casually this time.

It took us only few minutes to get engrossed into the conversation. Not because we knew each other so well but because it was my last day in the town.

“So, you must be all happy that you are moving to Delhi. I mean it sounds good” she said in an articulated way.

“Yeah, well. I genuinely wished it was Mumbai. But fine not bad.” I finished my sentence while I tried to read her face through the faint vapours of caffeine that separated us.

It was the first time I met her outside. I was used to seeing her behind the busy desk in that small newspaper office of hers.

We had shared a strictly professional relation in past two years. Two years as we were calling them now, had brushed aside so fast. The first time she ever asked me out on a coffee..was in the monsoon of last year. And I had to politely put her offer down, saying I was accompanied by my junior team.

Not that we longed for anything more than keeping in touch beyond these two years, but today I couldn’t leave this town without saying her a final goodbye.

There had been numerous occasions when I had been to her office, citing reasons such as I needed her newspaper to cover the events at my institute. And she would then brisk out of her cabin, that dusty old wooden furniture with array of files on them.

“Hey! Good to see you” is how she would greet while adjusting the spectacles sitting on her sharp nose.

“Hi” I would greet her back and hand over the invitation.

She would keep the eyes fixed on mine and keep the envelope aside carefully.

It was then followed by a series of futile attempts to break the barrier of grave nature of our relation.

But today she was not a senior reporter waiting to accept the envelope from me.

“So, what are your plans afterwards? I asked her hurriedly. “As in do you plan to move out of Indore to get into some big newspaper or something?”

“Not really” came her quick reply. I love this place & besides I have looked after this newspaper as if it’s my child. I plan to stick to it. I know it’s a small city & I’m working for a small time newspaper. But I kind of love it. I love being a big fish in the small pond” she said with a smile & her eyes twinkled as if to accompany her smile.

“Wow…yeah I understand. I love this town too. I mean it’s just been two years that I spent here…but I already have an emotional attachment to this place. I wish I had more time.”

“I wish we had more time” I said with a proud feeling to hit the strike one.

“True. But you know, it was probably bound to be like this. Maybe you can find solace in the thought that we even got this far. This far as in – knowing each other beyond those lame professional lingering handshakes that we shared in past two years.” She said with a stronger strike two.

“Hahaa!” We both laughed together followed by a sip of the cappuccino which had gone cold long time back.

“So, you keep in touch…” she said with a gulp in her throat.

“Yeah…” I replied and said goodbye.

A gentle hug had replaced the lame professional lingering handshake.

She adjusted her spectacles before moving her hair back.

As we rose from the chair, I realised that she not only looked pretty but also had a descent height. ‘Stupid thought’ I reminded myself.

“So, you be good. Take care of yourself and make your small pond proud” I bantered.

“Okay…Mr. Waiting to be a Dolphin in the sea”. You take care too. And I will definitely miss you.”

“Same here” I replied and moved towards the waiting cab in the distance.

I turned back one last time before jumping into the van. Her hands waved at me as if there was more to this tale which just began.

“I am coming back one day” I murmured and waved goodbye to the town and her.


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