Jan 22, 2008

Chapter - 09

“Can we have another cup please? I really liked the coffee!” she looked up to him. She looked almost like a child.

In fact Avni was so mesmerized with everything that it felt like a dream she didn’t want to wake up from. The fact that it might have been first and last time in this new world had Avni almost panicked. Ranveer looked down at her from his towering height. He was surprised to see her actually enjoying the whole thing.

“Sure. But this time we are going to sit inside. It’s very cold now”.

Avni was herself taken aback. She had spent her life away from such places. In fact she wasn’t ever aware that coffee was available for Rs 5 and people could sit on the stairs of a coffee shop. The sheer simplicity and the freedom were almost intoxicating for her.

They took two extra cups and sat at one of the tables.

“Tell me something about your family, about yourself” Avni said

“My folks are in Punjab. Dad has some land. My elder brother handles the farming with him. My mom passed away long time back. Brother got married few years back and now I have two nephews also. They are so cute. Every time I go to the village, they ask me to check up all their friends..” Ranveer reached to his pocket and pulled his wallet. Taking out a picture, he showed it to Avni.

“They are twins. You can never tell the difference between them. My Bhabhi has such a tough time handling them”

“Yes, they are really very cute” Avni was touched to see Ranveer carrying the picture of his nephews in his pocket. It was almost like behind the tough and cynic attitude, Ranveer still had a village boy hiding.

“What about yours? Your dad is in hotel business, right?” He asked, pocketing the wallet again.

“Yes, but he started off right from the ground. He built his first hotel, a small eatery cum lodging on the only piece of land he had at that time. It opened the day I was born. That’s why he named me Avni. It means the Earth you know”

“Yeah, I know. I loved your name when you told me last night.” Ranveer smiled and winked.

“That is why I asked you out for coffee” his smile was as genuine as her dimples. “And what about your mother? She is also into the family business or is she a housewife?”

“My mother also passed away a long time back Ranveer”

“Hey, I am so sorry” Ranveer placed his hand on hers. “I know how it feels”

Avni kept looking down at her cup of coffee without saying anything. She was too proud to show
her vulnerable side. At the same times, with every passing second she was aware that they might not meet like that ever again. She could not ask for another coffee again. Ranveer wasn’t even talking about a second date. Her mind was racing, trying to find excuses to meet him again.

Jan 14, 2008

Chapter - 08


He said something to the waiter and they picked up both the cups and came out of the shop with Avni. There was a small staircase of a shop which was closed and was up for rent. They sat down there. It was getting dark slowly. Avni had no experience of sitting on stairs and drinking coffee in cheap cups. But she felt so alive. So free. She was surprised to realize that she was actually enjoying the whole experience.

They just sat there sipping the coffee. Not even saying anything. Ranveer still seem to be regretting bringing Avni out for a coffee like this.

“You know. This is the best coffee I have ever had” Avni whispered.

“Come on. Don’t try to make me happy like this. This is coffee worth 5 Rs. Not what u are accustomed to” Ranveer said, sounding as if he was now totally regretting bringing her there.

“You won’t understand Ranveer. I feel so free right now. Even the air feels purer.” She turned towards him, smiled that dimpled smile and said, “Thanks for asking me out.”

It was almost unbelievable to even Avni, how calm she was. Her usual stubborn and fiery nature seemed to have vanished in front of Ranveer. She was aware of the effect this man was having on her!

She looked amazingly beautiful under the dim evening light. Her eyes were glowing with real happiness. Ranveer believed her.

“Why did you say yes for coming out for coffee with me Avni?” he asked, his voice disturbed, yet gentle. He regretted it the very next moment, expecting another snappy remark from her.

“If I tell you the truth then I really don’t know why I said yes. I generally go out in groups. I means with all my friends.” Avni replied, her voice was low and felt as if she was talking from a far away place.

He was surprised to see her this way, as if she was in her own little world.

“Wont your boyfriend mind you coming out with me?” Ranveer probed.

“No, I don’t think so. We are not that close.” Avni was looking at the cup as if it contained the solution to the entire world’s mystery. Her mind seemed to be far away. “Shekhar is actually my dad’s friend’s son. Our parents have always expected us to be engaged and I have never tried to break that illusion.”

The coffee had finished a long time back. The temperature was going down and Delhi winter was showing its true color. Their breath was forming soft mist. The silence was almost electric.

“Come on. I will drop you home. It’s getting dark and very cold now. You are again not wearing proper warm clothes. This flimsy sweater is all show no work”

Ranveer got up and gave his hand to Avni.

No sparks flew when they held hands; instead there was an amazing level of comfort.

It was as if they knew each other since forever. She slung her backpack as Ranveer picked up the cups and they went inside the shop to return it. It was nearly empty now.

Suddenly Avni realized that their date was over and they might not ever meet like this again.

Jan 10, 2008

Chapter - 07

‘May be he was just joking. I wish he doesn’t come’. She was yet to accept that she was actually looking forward to meeting him. Suddenly she felt her heart sinking.

‘He hasn’t even given me a time!’

She didn’t even have his number. Avni was now sure that he was just trying to flirt with her and impress her. Brushing those thoughts aside she buried herself in the book. As the clock inched to
4 pm and her classes finished, she said bye to her friends and went towards the campus gate.

She had told her dad that she was going to Sonia’a place for the evening. Now that she was sure Ranveer was not coming, she decided to take an auto or taxi and go home. Trying to cheer herself and divert her mind from Ranveer, she came out of the huge iron gates. The auto rickshaw stand was just few steps away. She started walking towards it.

“I think we had a date madam” a bike stopped right beside her. It was him. Avni felt her heart missing a beat. ‘God. You scared me’ She was still trying to find fault in him.

“So you are comfortable on the bike or should we take and Auto? I can’t afford taxi for sure” Ranveer’s eyes were again mocking her.

“Bike is ok. And since when are you waiting here? You didn’t even give me a time!”

“Umm let me see, I bunked 2 classes today. So I must have been waiting since 12. And don’t you think you should have given me a time? It was you who rushed off leaving me behind. And now come, sit. Your parents will get worried if you are too late. So we better go for that coffee now…”

Avni sat behind him. It was the first time that she was sitting on a bike. Her father had always provided cars for her. It felt strange, but so free. Avni was already enjoying this ‘once only’ date. As the bike picked speed, she could feel the wind in her hair. It felt cold, but she loved it.

“Where are we going?” Avni asked, trying to hold on to the bike. She was hesitating in holding on to Ranveer.

“There is a nice shop nearby where they serve good coffee. Not too many varieties, but whatever they have is good”

Ranveer could now feel Avni shifting, trying to maintain her balance.

“Haven’t you sat on a bike ever madam?”

“No. I haven’t. And stop calling me madam. I have a name and I think it’s quite nice” she snapped back.

“Ok ok. Don’t loose your temper. See I don’t want you to fall down. Just hold on to me and I will drive slowly.”

Avni gingerly put her hand on his waist, trying to hold onto his jacket somehow. It was getting colder now, her fingers felt just a bit numb. Ranveer had slowed down the bike and Avni felt much more comfortable now.

After 10 more minutes, they reached a small coffee shop. It was buzzing with students.

“Sit here. I will bring the coffee.”

Ranveer said and then went towards the counter. Suddenly he returned back and said

“Hey, you are not uncomfortable na?” He genuinely looked concerned.

Avni felt for the first time that he was feeling conscious about the difference in their standard of living.

“No. I am fine. I like this place” she tried to sound cheerful.

Ranveer returned in a minute and sat on the chair in front of her. The coffee arrived in no time. It was served in nice, clean but cheap cups.

“Let’s go and sit outside on the stairs. It’s very crowded here.”

Ranveer was actually aware of the fact that the guys in the shop had started to notice Avni now. She looked completely out of place with her expensive branded clothes.

Jan 9, 2008

Chapter - 06

“I don’t know. I will think about it.” She replied, trying to hide the fact that she wanted to stay with him for some more time and didn’t want to go home just yet! It was as if Ranveer had almost an intoxicating effect on him.

“Do you have a vehicle? How are you returning home?” he asked, with a hint of concern in his voice.

“I have a car, don’t worry” Avni replied.

Ranveer tucked a lock of stray hair behind her ears as he said, “Please drive safely. I will wait for tomorrow whole night” and then he released her from his arms. “Will pick you from your college”

“Come on yaar. Lets go” Sonia smiled at Ranveer as she pulled Avni hand and guided her outside to the parking lot.

“Do you know this guy?” Avni asked Sonia. “He was saying he is your brother’s friend!”

“Yes. I know Ranveer. He is the captain of my brother’s medical college’s football team and the topper of his batch. He comes to our home quite often.”

“He asked me out for a coffee. But I am not going” Avni said “I don’t even know him properly”

“If you want, you can go. He is a nice guy.” Sonia replied. “And very handsome too na! So sad, he treats me as a sister. But he looked very interested in you. Shekhar will surely have a tough time competing with him”

Avni unlocked her car. Suddenly she was aware of the footsteps behind her. Turning back he saw Ranveer. He walked towards his bike, wore his helmet and just stayed there with the engine running.

She got in the car with Sonia and turned on the engine. Stealing a glance towards his bike, Avni drove the car out. She kept looking in the rear view mirror. She was surprised to realize that she actually expected him to follow. And indeed he was just behind their car. Suddenly, he turned right into another road and Avni felt so disappointed.

Later that night, Avni lay awake on her bed. She had never met anyone like Ranveer. Men were always in awe of her. But he seemed to be so elusive, yet so teasing. She felt guilt also as she had a boyfriend, even though it was not a serious relationship. Shekhar was her father’s friend’s son and everyone expected them to get married one day. It was more like an understanding than a real relationship.

‘It’s just a matter of a coffee. I will tell him that I will never meet him again’ she told herself. But somehow Avni knew, she would not be able to get out of his grip so easily. Thinking about him, she had fallen asleep.

That was 11 years earlier. Avni smiled as she reached the park and started walking on the paved way. She remembered how Ranveer had made a niche for himself over the years. In the beginning, its was very tough with all the financial problems. Even on their first ‘date’, Ranveer could afford only a simple outing with a cup of coffee. But they had so much to talk. She remembered the morning after the party that night when she had met him for the first time. She had woken up, thinking about him only. Getting up from her bed, on that morning,

Avni’s mind went to the past once again. She remembered how nervous she was.

‘Humm, I think I need a hair cut. And may be a manicure too.’ She had thought that morning after that party 11 years ago, directly going to her mirror. She wanted the evening to come soon so that she could see Ranveer! At the same time she was trying to convince herself that she wasn’t doing it because of the impending “date”. Getting ready in a t-shirt and jeans, she went to parlor. From there she took as taxi to her college. She was expecting Ranveer to pick her from college, so she didn’t take her car.

Slowly, very slowly the day passed. Avni couldn’t help looking at her watch again and again.

Dec 18, 2007

Chapter - 05

“MBA, and I am taking German language classes. I like to learn languages”

She felt surprised that she was actually volunteering information. Ranveer was different from her other friends, still she felt a sense of ease with him. She even went ahead and told him her college’s name before she realized.

“No boyfriend?” Ranveer asked.

“That’s none of you business!” Avni snapped. Her usual short temper was ready to fuse any moment. “And I DO have a boyfriend!”

“I don’t see any Madam!”

Suddenly he bent and murmured in her ear “What kind of man in his right senses would leave a someone like you alone even for a day”
Avni felt a shock going up her spine. It was almost electrical. His breath was on her skin; his lips were almost touching her ears. Her eyes closed involuntarily. It was nothing like she had felt with Shekhar.

“I m not going to kiss you miss.” He was mocking her again.

Avni’s eyes opened. But this time, the usual fire was missing. She was blushing till the roots of her hair. She kept looking at his neck because that is where she was reaching even in her high heels.

“Will you come out for a coffee for me tomorrow evening?” Ranveer said.

“I don’t go out with every guy I meet” she tried to keep the fiery tang in her voice, but failed miserably. She couldn’t deny that she felt an instant connection to this man even tough he had got her totally confused. She wanted to know more about him. But she felt that he was getting inside her own mind and reading her! it made her very conscious.

“Are you scared!” he was teasing again. “Don’t be. If you wish, you can bring your friend Sonia with you. I saw you coming with her. She knows me. Her brother is my best friend.”

Avni hesitated in replying.

“Come on. I won’t eat you. I am a vegetarian”

Now she couldn’t help laughing. Her cheeks flashed those dimples and her eyes twinkled.

“You have very pretty dimples Avni!”

Suddenly she was aware that someone was calling her name. It was Sonia.

“Hey Avni, its getting late. Let’s go home.”

she was shouting over the usual high pitch songs being played.

“OK, coming” Avni shouted back. “Now will you let me go doctor?” She looked up in his eyes.

“I will, but u will have to promise me that you will go out for coffee with me. I really won’t mind if you chose to bring Sonia with you.”

Sep 24, 2007

Chapter 4

She couldn’t help but notice that he gave her a once over look, taking her whole appearance from head to toe. Avni was suddenly aware of her off shoulder, knee length dress. She wished she had brought a stole or a shawl.

“Too hot to feel cold haan!” he said, looking on his right side, directly in her eyes. He seemed to be making fun of her. No one had ever dared to tease her. She felt very irritated and angry.

Not the one to be defeated easily, Avni replied “And you seem to be too cold to feel any heat or dance”.

“By hot I meant you were dancing for so long, that is why the chill in the air is not affecting you. It was meant to be a compliment!” he said, smiling and shaking his head. “I am feeling quite cold!”. There was a slight teasing tone in his voice.

“If you prefer to sit in a corner, it’s your problem, not mine.” Avni snapped once again.

“Hey, no need to be angry. Come on, lets dance” He passed his half empty glass to a waiter crossing.

“And what makes you think that I will dance with you? I don’t even know you”

“As for not knowing me, I am Ranveer Ahuja. I am a doctor.. And as for the dance, you will dance with me because you love to dance and I want you to teach me some steps. I am really feeling like an alien here.” Ranveer smiled again. It was not the mocking way he was smiling at her few minutes back. This time it was a disarming one; he gave her his hands and stood up. “Please. I am asking for a favor”

He was tall. Very tall. Around 6 – 6’2”. But more than his physical presence, Avni was aware of the way he seemed to occupy much more space just by his personality. She hesitated. First time in her life she was feeling intimidated by someone. Reluctantly she got up, putting her hand in his.

Ranveer guided her on the dance floor. He was different from others. Though they all were from nearly same age group, he seemed to be much more mature. His clothes had clean cuts and uncluttered. No stupid studs or rings for him. And did he smell good!!!
Avni hated to be intimidated by someone. She was used to guys begging for some attention from her, and this one seem to be almost mocking her!

‘I still don’t know your name.’ he held her just a bit closer.

“Avni Khurrana” she replied.

“Humm, so you are also a Punjabi.” he kept pulling her even closer “and what are you studying?”

Sep 13, 2007

Chapter 3

“So, where is Shekhar? I haven’t seen him for so many days. Has he returned from Mumbai?” Sonia asked about Avni’s now on- now off ‘kind of’ boy friend as they drove to the venue.

“I don’t know. I was caught up in exams, hardly had any time to think or contact him”. After 20-25 minutes, they reached Amit’s home. His parents had a bungalow on the outskirts of Delhi. Music could be heard even outside. The party seemed to be in full swing.

Parking the car, they entered the hall. After mixing up with friends and greeting Amit, Avni headed for the dance floor. She loved to dance. And guys loved to dance with her. She was always the most popular girl in school and now in college too.

30 minutes later, she was thoroughly exhausted. Aiming to take a soft drink, she went to the drinks counter. A guy sitting in the corner caught her eyes. He was the only one who was wearing sensible clothes according to the Delhi winter.

He was in a dark blue blazer that he wore over open necked white and light blue striped shirt teamed with jeans and boots. The clothes looked simple, yet suited him to the T. he was clean shaved and had very short hair, trimmed really close near his ears, giving him almost a military look. His eyes were of the darkest color, set off by the strong jaw line. His fingers holding the glass were like a pianist’s or a surgeon’s. Even in the blazer, he looked well built. Almost as if he was an active sportsman. He looked very amused and suddenly Avni realized that he was actually looking at her for a long time with those mocking eyes and a devilish smile.

He was looking at her as if she was transparent and he could see through her. Avni averted her yes and tossed her head. She was used to see admiration in guy’s eyes, but this guy actually seems to look at her as if he could read her mind. She felt terribly self conscious, which was a strange feeling for her.

Her legs were too tired after the dancing. Holding a tall glass full of coke, she searched for a place to sit. The only chair empty was the next one to that man with those teasing, mocking eyes. At first, she wanted to just stand there, but the spoilt stubborn self inside her didn’t know how to be beaten by someone.

She went ahead and sat right next to him.