It was around 2130 hours, Major Vikram rallied the bravo company around him to prepare for an ambush. Everyone on the team was already briefed and was aware of their role in the mission in the evening. Intel was heavy and solid this time. Group of insurgents was mobilizing in the forests on the other side of the border. It was moonless night, perfect opportunity to cross the border. Everyone on the border posts was alert. Major and his team at their base were getting ready, communications were getting double checked.
Major and his team at their base were getting ready, communications were getting double checked. Ammunition was loaded in a set pattern, supplies were checked. Final cleaning and assembly of their weapons of choice completed. Soon the table was cleared of all backpacks, ammo, and weapons. Major came forward and a map of the area was unfurled on the table.
Major re-briefed the plan. The border was sealed any way at every post. Every pair of eyes was vigilant for movements across the border. Strategically a gap was created in the border detail to serve as a funnel. Right across the gap, there was an open patch, big enough to dig the graves of all insurgents. Surrounded by all sorts of covers and high ground, as if they were created for this ambush only. Major had done the recce and identified the position of his troops. All the birds knew their nests. Everyone had already memorized the details of every cover and open grounds in the zone. their minds have carried out the action already in the mind space. Routine night petrol was going to be there on the regular schedule. Major asked if anyone have a doubt, none responded. Heads nodded and gathering dispersed.
Everyone was keeping their calm and there was pin drop silence. The only thing you could here was ticks of the clocks which team had already synced together at re-briefing. Radio came to life and chattered about the routine petrol communications. Everyone in the company sprang on their toes. Bravo company was cleared to start setting the ambush. Zero hour has started.
It’s 9-30 am, first Sunday of August. Hakuna Matata is a cozy little place on the busiest part of the town. It’s famous in the town for their delicious breakfasts and amazing coffee. Being early Sunday morning, streets are rather quiet. As luck would have it, it’s drizzling. Just like a year ago. Kishore is waiting for Ramaa, right at the corner, where he was waiting last year, in blue denim and white shirt. White and blue, her favorite combination. They had planned this celebration breakfast last week only. It was his idea to celebrate the anniversary on first Sunday of August rather than on the date. Kishore knew he is 15 min early as usual and Ramaa is going to be late. She loves to make him wait.
Kishore enjoyed these waits, even today, he is imagining how her entry would be. Will it be like it was a year before, or will there be something different? After sharing nice friendship for a couple of years, Kishore has opened his heart on the first Sunday of August last year. Kishore’s mind flew back to last August.
Kishore was very nervous when he reached the cafe. He had decided to take this step with a tension of losing her friendship. He had arranged morning coffee with the very specialty of Hakuna Matata, delicious crisp parmesan omelet. He knew her love for cheese and coffee. He was dressed in very casual jeans and a t-shirt. He had booked the table by the same window out of which he was waiting very eagerly.
After making him wait for half hour, Ramaa showed up at the place. They shook hands, followed by side hug and he led her to the table he had kept ready for them. Soon they were seated, the waiter greeted them and served the coffee. Ramaa was shocked by this prompt service. Hakuna Matata was famous for delayed service. It was the exact reason for it being famous among couples and people who wanted to have long chats. Aroma of coffee hit the brain and she thanked Kishore for coffee and sipped it. Kishore was almost frozen in his mind as the moment of confession was nearing. He was almost silent.
Ramaa on the other hand, unaware of the storm in his mind, was busy chattering as usual. But suddenly it ringed in her head and she paused. She spanked his hand and asked, “Kishore, what’s happening dude, not a word since I am here? Have you left your tongue at home?” and suddenly he burst out, “Ramaa, will you be my girlfriend? I love you very much”
This was not anything like Kishore had imagined. The moment passed, words were out and now he couldn’t change it at all. He was cursing his tongue, why didn’t he just kept silent like he was before. His face was almost flushed with helplessness. Ramaa was also stunned and jaw dropped for a second and the wave of laughter hit her. She was laughing like mad. Kishore was getting restless with her laugh. He was about to leave the table to hide. Suddenly, Ramaa stopped laughing. She held his hand and she said: “I love you too, Kishore”. Kishore relaxed instantly and color returned to his face. She held his hand and pressed warmly.
The warmth of hand brought him back to present, Ramaa was standing next to him in a white dress with blue floral design. Her face was glowing with a beautiful smile. He welcomed her with a warm hug. He presented her a bouquet of white lily and took her in the cafe. Kishore had reserved their “Table for two”
I am participating in A to Z challenge with Blogchatter and this is my take on day 20 challenge. “Table for two”. You can find my other posts from this challenge here.
Rakesh was sitting at the table of the title game for his Grandmaster title. The game was on, he and his opponent were confident and calm at the same time. He was all ready for this tough match. He had trained himself for such prestige matches ever since he had decided to dive in this mind game as his career. He has trained with most honored Grandmaster in the country for years and achieved all his FIDE norms for the title in last two years at various championships.
Rakesh picked up the game in later years of his childhood but the way he mastered the techniques was a matter of amusement for his loved ones. His grasp was good considering his elder age. Generally, people think if you pick up chess at elder age, your grasping capacity is not your best friend. But Rakesh tamed his grasping power and mastered his moves. He has never felt agitated because of the long stretched game. If he is not at the table for the game, you can find him sitting in a corner chair with his earpiece on. He enjoyed classical vocals. He claimed it helped him to calm and concentrate on his next game.
Rakesh was in his prime when this title match got scheduled. He was ready for this moment. His opponent was also in his best form. He was unbeaten for last 30 games. Media had made it a pressure point against Rakesh. But Rakesh is calm and composed. He reached the venue an hour before. Everyone was arriving. Press tried to get his pre-match statement but he avoided them. Opponent entered into the hall. Rakesh exchanged glances with him. They shared respectful head nods. His earphones were playing his favorite renditions by the maestro. Officials started arranging the table. A Decent crowd was chess lovers gathered in the gallery of the hall. Press crew was waiting for the match to start.
The table was all set for the match. Clock ringed for the scheduled hour. Both of the players arrived at the table. They were formally introduced. Pleasantries exchanged. Today, Rakesh was playing with the blacks. Rakesh tripped the clock and the game started. Whites made the opening move and opponent offered, “Your move, sir” and the game was on.
Sameer was trying to get the task done. He has been struggling with this particular task since last morning. He was about to lose his calm if he couldn’t crack this in next half hour. This was a really unusual thing as he was popular for figuring out the quick solutions about the task which were stuck at a point. But was it really the eluding solution was bothering him? Or was it something else? Was it what happened a day before with Sneha? Yeah, it was about her. But exactly what part of their conversation bothering him so much that he couldn’t focus on his work?
It’s been two years for Sneha and Sameer started dating. Some six months before they hunted for cozy little apartment and moved in together. It was not all lovey-dovey in these two years but they have managed to make it up to each other. They fought, even for the silliest reason but they also know when to raise a flag for peace. They both have been working in the same company when they started dating. Within a couple of months, Sneha got a good deal at other MNC and she grabbed the opportunity. Sameer strongly supported her in arriving at the decision of switch. They adjusted their life around the new change. Spending lesser time together was really tough but they got used to it.
A day before, Sameer finished his work rather early and took Sneha’s favorite flowers just to make her happy after a busy day at her office. It was new project Sneha was leading. Just like every other new project, initial hick-ups were resulting stressed end of the day. So once at home, he tidied the rooms, nicely arranged the flowers in vases Sneha bought when they moved in together. He got up from the sofa and Just when he got messaged from Sneha “See you in 10, dear”. He knew nothing but strong hot coffee will make Sneha happy. As soon as she smells that aroma, her stress is, Puff!!!! Gone……
Exactly in 10 minutes doorbell rang, Sameer opened the door by the rule they have set. “If another person is at home, one will not use the key to open the latch.” Sameer was happily shocked to see happy, smiling, bubbly Sneha at the door. She had brought a box full of sweets. She came in almost pushing Sameer out of the way. Opened the box and fed him the sweet. She was surprised to see the flowers and felt amazing when the aroma of brewing coffee hit her brain. Sneha refused to tell anything before they settle in with the coffee. Sameer hurriedly pours their mugs and they settled in the sit out. Sneha excitedly pulled the envelope out of her bag put it in his hands. Sameer opened it with excitement. It was a letter from her company. He was thrilled with excitement to know about the content of the letter. He read it and his face lit with joy. He felt so happy for her getting selected for on-site assignment for their new project which she was leading. They celebrated the offer in the excitement.
It took a couple of hours for Sameer to realize that this was going to be the long assignment. Just when they returned from the club, the fact of 5-6 month long on-site assignment was sinking in Sameer’s head. He was quiet when they were getting back. Whenever he is upset, he goes in this introvertive cocoon. He almost stops talking. Replies in one or two words. Sneha had sensed the reason behind his silence, but she had chosen not to push him. She knew he will take his time to get back.
Since then Sameer was struggling to accept and get himself ready for such a long break. He knew it was going to be the toughest patch in their relationship. He was not sure about how he is going to handle. From yesterday morning, Sameer was trying to figure out how to make these six months livable. Sneha also knew that he is not going to stop her from taking this assignment. Just when Sameer was about to call it a day and head home, his phone beeped. He checked the notification. It was a video message from Sneha. With his finger tap, Sneha appeared on screen with perfect puppy face, saying “Let me go, dear.” Sameer had found her answer.
It was rainy season and I was on my monsoon solo trip just like every year. It’s been a decade, I try to explore new mountain trails in every monsoon. This year was not an exception for it. I packed my bags and moved out. Bookings in the forest bungalow were already arranged. It’s always ‘go off the grid’ trip every year. I have switched off my cellphone on my way to the bungalow. Being in hills, the monsoon had turned it all cloudy and misty. It was enchanting.
The evening was already setting in by the time I reached the bungalow after a long walk from railway station. All rooms were booked this year. I checked in my room. In the courtyard, a caretaker was already preparing campfire and soon everyone gathered around it. The food was cooked and arranged in a rustic way. It was a chilling cloudy day. Though it was not raining, the forest around was full of dampness. Some of the residents have brought their guitar and djembe. Soon beat started and everyone joined in with the tune and had an amazing time. After a couple of hours of music, we called it a day and head back to the room.
I have been early riser since my childhood. I was out of my bed around 6. I got ready and was out in the forest for my morning hike. I picked the trail and started climbing it up. The forest around was covered in fog. It was difficult to watch the trail beyond 10-15 feet. The trail started to take swirls, and around the turn, I thought I spotted fellow hiker. I increased my pace. It would have been great to have a company. As I took the turn, I saw a young girl, hiking up the trail. I recognized her, she was one of German girl staying in the bungalow. I tried calling her but the waterfall near us was muffling my calls.
I was following her like a rat behind the piper as she kept on walking on the trail. Her blond hair waves in the air. Her white skin glows in the mist. Her footsteps traced in the silver glow over the dirt of the trail. I was walking exactly on them. I entered in the sparkling silver forest. Along the trail, there were gorgeous human statues. Quite a few of them. By the time I could realize, I was turned into one of them. She was on her way back to the bungalow…
Shrill horn was blown on time and she moved, slowly. I felt the initial jerk as her engine pulled the connected wagons. Slowly she was picking up the pace and I started looking out from the window. I started the journey to my hometown after almost one year. It was nothing but struggle since I landed in this sleepless city of Mumbai. When you have to move to a different city, it’s gruesome to adjust if you have not a single familiar soul. Things go to a higher level if you are moving in against your wishes and plans are altered entirely.
It is hard to accept how the destiny can change everything in just a moment with its mighty force. Or should I say, Nature can turn things upside down in just one blow? The day was Lucky and Unlucky for me. Lucky, just because I am alive and breathing to tell you this story and Unlucky because I lost my everything. I lost my entire family, my home, my workplace everything turned into a heap of rubble with just one earth tremor. I lost many of my friends on that day or after some days when they had paid their share of pain and suffering.
I am alive just because I was on the ground playing cricket with my 5 friends. Everyone was happy, enjoying their Sunday and the next moment, it all shook and dust clouds and screams rose up in the air. It was not making any sense. A day or two passed in shock. All 5 of us huddled and was sitting in community hall amongst all other survivors. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. It was an awkward silence. Staying in hometown was depressing. As soon as we came out of shock, we decided to shift to other towns. They all chose places where their relatives lived. Two of them have moved to Delhi, one is in Ahmedabad, and one in Chennai. But I took the different path.
I gathered what I could and took the first train to this city of dreams. I still get those horrifying dreams of the day. We have hardly talked with each other in last year, but since last week we have been talking about all the trauma of coping with loss, how we all are struggling to accept this truth. And then the plan came on the table about facing our demons at the same place where they were created. No doubt, the battle is going to be fierce but we can’t run away from it forever. In two days, the year will pass after that tragedy. And we all have started the journey, to the same destination. The journey to accept the reality and to move on.