Binary of Love

Ayush & Riya

“Hey, a new coffee shop has opened just behind my apartment. Looks so inviting and not so crowded as of now. Shall we meet there?” Riya was excited.

“Ok! I will see you outside the coffee shop at 7:30. What’s the name of this place again?”, Ayush was as excited but for a different reason.

“Coffee World, you can never miss it. Its so beautiful. Its just before the cross where you turn left for my apartment. I will see you there”, Riya chirped like a bird who had just learnt flying.

“See you soon babe!”, Ayush said and hung up.

He had returned from his business trip after two weeks and couldn’t wait to tell about the big news to Riya.  She will be so excited. He stared into his laptop with a smile.

Riya smiled too. This new coffee shop, looked so beautiful. It had a surreal look. Unlike usual red & brown coffee shops, it was all done in pastels. A sober lavender name board shone with twinkling lights on the glass door. It was this unusual blend of colors and twinkling lights that had attracted Riya’s attention on her way back to office. A perfect place for a quite, romantic coffee date!

“Let me wait for a few days until Ayush is back. I will go there with him”, she convinced herself. The wait would be worth it.

Riya was ready by 7:30 PM, it was a minute walk for her so she decided to wait until Ayush messaged her, “I am here”. She gave herself a final approving look in the mirror, picked up her clutch and walked off. Riya looked stunning in a peach colored chiffon chudidaar. Her curls that she was growing for a perfect wedding look, almost touched her waist now. They were going to be married in three months! From being college sweethearts to being a married couple soon, their’s had been a typical Bollywood style story. Finding out about each other’s cast or family background was not at the top of their priority list when they fell for each other. Sadly, for their families it was the topmost in the list! A lot of tears, howling and blackmailing went into convincing both families. Riya’s parents had dreamed of getting their daughter married to an IIT graduate and were not willing to settle for anyone less. Ayush wanted to do MBA but under so much of pressure, he could hardly concentrate on his preparation. He couldn’t bear the thought of loosing Riya just because he could not go to an IIT.

Amidst all the drama, Ayush still managed to get himself a place in IIM Ahmadabad. That was the end to it. Both families gave in. Riya & Ayush got engaged among-st close family members before Ayush moved to Ahmadabad for two years. Riya continued with her job in Bangalore. They met a couple of times and also technology helped them to remain in love.

“Hey you look beautiful! I have to tell you something, can’t wait!”, Ayush gave her a warm hug. Holding hands, they walked in the coffee shop. “Isn’t it beautiful? I was dying to come here with you. Now tell me fast, what is it that you have been so eager to tell me?” Riya giggled.

“We are going to have a European honeymoon!” Ayush revealed with a broad smile and widened eyes.

“What? Really? But it was going beyond our budget. Then how?” Riya could not believe her ears.

“We do not have to worry about the money anymore. My trip went very well and our clients want me to work on this project from Eindhoven, Everything has been discussed, and I have to be there as soon as we are married. I have already discussed about your travel and its all finalized babe. Imagine, we will be living in Netherlands for next two years, we could travel to any place we want!” Ayush gave out all the details in a single breath.

“Wow! That’s great Ayush! I am so so happy. But my job? I can’t leave it, its just been 2 years”, Riya was happy at the prospect of living in Europe but the thought of leaving her job suddenly and making such a big move was making her nervous.

“Yes, I thought about it too. And then I realized that you could do your Masters there. You always wanted go for higher studies and then you will easily get a job there. We could start applying now!” Ayush had everything figured out.

“Looks like you have not slept in the flight and were just making plans about our European honeymoon”, Riya winked at him. What a twist in their life, but a beautiful one!

“Sir, maam, your coffee and cookies” their happy banter was interrupted by the coffee boy.

Snow white coffee mugs were arranged so beautifully and the hearts on top of the foaming coffee intertwined with each other. Ayush & Rhia gave each other a huge smile and picked up their mugs!

Srini & Vidya

“Did they like it? It looked very cheesy to me. I hope they are really in love otherwise we would end up like fools and they will never come back here”, Vidya complained to Srini who had just served coffee with hearts to their new customers.

“Off course they loved it. Look at their smiles. I heard honeymoon, I think they are getting married. I am the best Ms. Vidya. You just need to trust me”, Srini declared with pride. He was the associate manager & coffee boy of the shop and Vidya worked at the shop’s bakery. The newly wed couple were dreaming big in this small coffee shop. Srini had made plans. After gaining enough experience in the coffee shop, he wanted to start off with his own coffee house. Vidya was an expert baker but they needed to save before starting off on their own.

Coming from a below average background, Srini & Vidya had seen hardships of life and were determined to follow their dreams together. They spent their entire day at the coffee house returning home tired and just crashing into the bed, in their modest one room apartment.

Srini possessed and innate sense of reading his customers and that’s why all their customers had come back in last two weeks. He was sure the honeymoon couple would also return. Manager was extremely happy with both Srini & Vidya and was already speculating a raise for them.

Srini was right. Honeymoon couple did return, every evening for the next three months. They were served with exotic coffee with personalized designs every time, most of the times by Srini and sometimes by Vidya. Srini made sure that honeymoon couple’s favorite window seat, overlooking the street, was always reserved for them. He felt connected with them. It appeared that they were also trying to make big like him & Vidya!

Ayush & Riya, met every evening. A lot had to be planned & discussed. Coffee shop became their “go to” place. It felt as if this coffee shop was playing a huge role in making their lives together. And the coffee boy & his girlfriend made their evenings so beautiful. Before leaving for their wedding, Ayush & Riya, decided to give a small token of appreciation to the coffee boy and his girlfriend. They were oblivious to the fact that Srini & Vidya were married.

“Thanks Srini ! Where is Vidya?”, Riya asked when Srini served them.

“Ah, she must be inside the bakery. Let me call her”, Srini rushed towards the bakery and returned with Vidya following him.

“Hi Vidya! We wanted to give you both something. We are leaving for our wedding and will be moving to Europe after that. Last three months have been so good for us, thanks to you both for all the special things you did for us”, Ayush thanked Srini & Vidya and handed them two mugs of coffee. Snow white coffee mugs with a heart on both and a sweet message, “We will miss you – Your Honeymoon Couple”

They all laughed out loud.

Ayush & Riya gave a last look at the Lavender board, twinkling lights and to their servers! They were leaving a part behind to start something new. Srini & Vidya, wished them all the luck and asked them come back whenever they were in Bangalore.

Two Years Later – Riya & Ayush

They stood in-front of the faded lavender board of “The Coffee World”. Glass windows were not sparkling anymore, dust seemed to have settled outside and inside. Place looked abandoned.

Riya couldn’t control her tears. Her favorite memories from last two years were of their dates in the coffee shop. European dream had ruined their marriage. Riya left her job and happily moved to Eindhoven with Ayush. After a two weeks long honeymoon, travelling and seeing places together, they returned to their beautiful country house. Riya was just going to join her master’s course when they found out about her pregnancy! She cried the entire night, Ayush wasn’t very excited either. He had planned two years only for Riya & himself. After struggle with families, he felt they deserved to have sometime for themselves. Having a child so early was not in their plan.

They talked about it and decide to have the baby! Their parents were ecstatic and Riya’s mother moved in with them for a few months after Riya delivered their beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy, delivery and now baby care was happening like a whirlwind. Newly wed couple was living in a state of trance, doing what was required, not talking to each other or enjoying parenthood. Travelling took a back seat. With a new born in pram, it wasn’t easy for either of them to enjoy Europe. Riya was getting depressed, she would get irritated about the slightest issues and held Ayush responsible for her state. Ayush on the other hand, could not even fathom what Riya was going through and tried to keep himself busy at work but he also wanted to make it work between them. His tenure was coming to an end and even though his clients wanted him to stay back, he decided to move back to India.

“Lets go back Riya, lets start all over again. I know things didn’t turn out as we had planned, but I want you to be happy. You remember the coffee shop? We will go back there and plan again. It was such a wonderful time that we had there and I am sure we can get back together if we start with a cup of coffee”, Ayush was holding Riya’s hand. He was desperate to get back his ever smiling and chirping Riya.

Coffee was no more there. Their grip on each other hands tightened as tears rolled down Riya’s cheeks. It was 7:30 in the evening, their date time and no where to go.

Two Years Later – Srini & Vidya

Life could not have been better. Business was growing. Coffee shop was soon the most famous joint in the locality. Management opened up new joints across Bangalore. Srini was promoted to Shop manager and Vidya was single-handedly responsible for bakery. She was using her baking expertise to experiment new items which were savored by all their customers.

An year later, Vidya conceived and their happiness had no bounds. Their dreams & love grew along with their baby in Vidya’s womb. Life however had some other plans for them. Vidya was in her last trimester when pandemic hit the world. Vidya developed some symptoms and was quarantined after a positive test. Being pregnant complicated the case. A month later, Vidya came out of the quarantine ward with an empty womb. Their baby had not survived. That night Srini & Vidya cried together. Srini had taken off from work to be with Vidya. More than a month later, when they returned to their small world of coffee shop, they could not believe what they saw. Their second home, was in an unrecognizable state, faded, pale, just like their lives.

Vidya almost collapsed in Srini’s arms. He made her sit on the stairs while they saw the furniture being removed from the shop.  They sat for hours until it was dark, holding onto each other, not speaking a word. Vidya finally stood up on her feet and let her hand out for Srini.

“Let’s go home Srini, its 7:30”, Vidya gave a slight jerk on Srini’s shoulder and he took her hand.

 

I am taking the liberty of leaving the two stories midway. Being an ever optimistic and positive person, I will always have a happy ending or rather beginning for Riya-Ayush & Srini-Vidya. However I leave it to my readers to decide how they want these two stories to unfold. Though its a work of fiction, “The Coffee Shop” was for real and I saw that lively place coming down in front of my eyes.  When I drove past my favorite coffee shop a few days ago, it made my heart ache at the sight of it. I wonder what happened to its employees. This pandemic has shattered many dreams and lives. Many plans were probably chalked out over a cup of coffee in that shop. Some might have materialized and some not. Makes me realize that, love is binary. It either gives you a high or a low. How high we fly in happiness and how low we stoop in grief is our choice.

 

Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/250935010457364852/

The art of doing the dishes

I was probably in class 8th, when I watched one of my first “non-Bollywood” movie. Can’t particularly remember the movie title but a dialogue caught my attention, “why does she run away to play when its her turn to do the dishes”. A complaining dialogue delivered from a elder sister for her younger one who was always escaping the task of “doing the dishes”.

I had just started picking up English phrases back then and “doing the dishes” was something which sounded very sophisticated to me, even though I was quite aware of what the task was all about. In crude household language, its “bartan dhona”. Now, even I want to run away!

This is one task, that lives with us until we live. As long as we feel hungry and fill our tummies with food & not air, we will have to do the dishes. When I was growing up, this task was outsourced to our household help, like in most Indian households. So I got a taste of it only when I moved in with my friends in a flat. Soon, we realized that going out for dinner was a better option than to cook and “do the dishes” later.

Then marriage happened.

Hubby and I had a great understanding since beginning, I would mop and he would “do the dishes”. Once in a while we tried doing the dishes together and believe me, how much ever romantic it sounds, it was NOT! Sadly, by then, Ms. Kaif, had not released her dish cleaning video. Its truly an art to get that sparkling white foam in your sink which is full of dirty dishes! Kudos to her.

I am sure, you are now thinking, has Saumya lost her mind? Nope, I am completely fine, I am just speaking your mind right now 🙂 Am I not?

Well, some of those fitness freaks will lash out at me now, “its healthy”, “its a great workout for hands”. And I already hear some of you smirking at me, “girls these days, shy away from basic household chores”! Sorry to disappoint you, I am one of those girls who do not find joy in “doing the dishes”. That’s why I got a dishwasher for myself. Yes, I preferred investing my money in a dishwasher rather than in iPhone. Moreover, being an employee of Bosch I was getting a handsome discount which was convincing enough for my family. (I am not with Bosch now, so it would not be of help contacting me for discount ;))

“Dishwasher! Such a waste of money. If you have to rinse every thing before keeping in the dishwasher, then might as well wash them. Such a mammoth task to keep every utensil in the dishwasher and take it out, who will do it? Its not hygienic. Uses so much water & electricity. Needs special plumbing, such a pain”, I have heard all of these from someone or the other. But I will still vote and vouch for investing money in a dishwasher.

Lets break some myths here:

  1. Its hygienic. Dishes go through multiple cleaning & rinsing cycles and come out sparkling clean and dry.
  2. Uses water & electricity. Yes, but much less than a running tap. You could choose a brand & model and will know exactly how much electricity it consumes.
  3. Dishes need to be rinsed before stacking up in dishwasher. Yes, its a good practice to remove left over food. However its not a necessary step. I would rather suggest to not leave any food in your plate and then you are saved from this task as well.
  4. Dishes go bad. Definitely NO! I am telling from my experience.
  5. It needs extra plumbing. NO!, all you need is a water inlet and outlet, same as a washing machine and space enough to have a dishwasher installed. Its ideal to have it below your kitchen slab, but I have installed it in kitchen utility due to lack of space. And there was no extra plumbing required.

When not to buy a dishwasher (I am being sarcastic here)

  1. If you are a DIY enthusiast and do not like the job done by anyone else but you (or your household help).
  2. If you and your family consider the task of rinsing your own dishes as dirty and “not my” job.
  3. If you will have to hire a maid to load and unload the dishwasher
  4. If you think that having a household help is way too cool than installing a dishwasher
  5. If you have never picked up your plate by your own and kept it in the sink

When to buy a dishwasher – if you are none of the above & frustrated enough to think that “doing the dishes” is not a great job after all. Also if you can teach yourself to not be one of the above, then also you qualify to be a proud dishwasher owner.

Now comes the golden question, Why am I suddenly giving so much lecture about dishwasher?

No, I am not promoting any brand here.

I recently read an article that due to COVID situation, many Indian couples are opting to buy a dishwasher. Smart move, I must say. However, when I read comments on that article, I was flabbergasted. The worst comment was, “These foreign things like dishwasher are not for us, I help my wife in cleaning”. My reaction was, “Oh my god, really? Foreign things? You would happily make a Tik-tok video but a technology that makes your life easier is tagged as foreign?”

That’s when I decided to write this blog. Firstly, I am a proud & happy user of a dish washing technology. Secondly, I believe that we have spend a lot of money in phones and cars and its high time to be smart at household chores as well. Its good, if you help your wife in doing the dishes, but it would be a greater help to strike off this task from her & your list.

Yes, dishwashers are costly, but its an investment similar to a washing machine, for years, just chose the right brand and model.

I also want to clarify that I am not demeaning any task here, every household chore is important. However, today we have technology to help us with some of those tasks and many a times, we ignore it. Whether one can afford a technology is definitely a valid point and I guess I am not forcing anyone here. We readily buy air conditioners, 56″ LED TVs, projectors, tablets, phones, cars, which just makes our lives fancier, but when it comes buy something which makes our life easier, then we shy away. Why?

I am also not being a non-feminist here and suggesting to men to buy a dishwasher instead of helping your wife. I am just saying that outsource this task to technology if possible and support your wife and family in other tasks. For sure, as we all know, “ghar ke kaam kabhi khatam nahi hote” (household chores are never ending).

Think about it, do your research on dishwashers, check your budget, and then if you are convinced, go for it. And in case you still have questions, you can leave a comment and I will try to answer (even though I am no dishwasher expert, but I can share my experience).

Happy “doing the dishes” 🙂

 

 

Nainital…Since…

I wrapped myself in my warm maroon stole, slipped into my sneakers and called out, “Mamma, I am going for a walk, will be back soon”. As I opened the door of our two bedroom suite, a gush of cool air welcomed me! I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, as wind made way through my loose hair, making them dance along. I turned to close the door behind me and quickly checked that my son was still sound asleep.

Walking slowly, watching my step though the hotel pathway which was filled with gravel, making sure I do not touch any of the sleeping marigold flowers planted across the pathway, I hit the mall road. Pausing for a second, deciding which way to go, I turned to my left. It was 10 in the night and most of the shops were closed, not many cars were there on the road. With a few couples walking hand in hand and a few lone wanderers like me, it was as peaceful as the twinkling lake ahead. Crossing the road, I found a staircase to walk down to the entrance road to Nainital and soon found a bench close enough to be near the water. Cool breeze made me hug myself a little tighter as I sat on the bench, watching moonlight playing games Naini waters. They were like two lovers, reaching out to each other, planting a casual kiss and then running away. I smiled at the merry thought that had crossed my mind, its not always that you are so much at peace, to look at waters & moonlight as lovers. Just then when I was lost in my own reverie of thoughts, I noticed a young man taking his seat on the other side of the bench. We looked at each other, smiled, but did not exchange any words. I guess he was also on soul searching spree like me. Such has been the power of Nainital on me and probably on many others.

I must confess, that it has not been same since childhood though. Nainital of childhood was more about fun and frolic. Every summer vacation, would embark with planning for Nani house and waiting to hear those words from mummy & papa “Nainital chalte hain”. The excitement used to be enormous, from packing the picnic basket, to reminding papa, “we will have to stop in the jungle first and then we will have buttas (corn) as we hit the hills and lunch at Hanuman gadi”. The plan remained same, year after year but excitement never diminished!

On the way to Nainital, there was a Poplar tree plantation (sadly not there anymore), which we used call as “jungle” and was our first stop. All the kids, used to run into the jungle making ghostly sounds and collecting dried leaves. And then the wait for first sight hills would start. The sleepy bones would be woken up by chanting of “vo dekho pahaad” (Look, there, we can see the hills) and cheerful conversations would strike off. The yummy flavor of corn being barbecued on coal obviously led to another halt and savoring of corns sprinkled with lemon juice and salt. Not more than hour later, we would hit the bifurcation of Hanuman gadi and Nanital and everyone would start arguing whether to make a stopover or not. Kids being in favor and elders keeping time that we would loose out on our fun time in Nainital. Hanuman Gadi is a serene temple place of Lorn Hanuman and shelter to hundreds of monkeys, for us it was fun to see so many monkeys trying to snatch eatables from our hands.

After a quick stopover at Hanuman gadi, the destination awaited us, Nainital, the valley that encloses one of the more beautiful natural lake. I recall that during the numerous trips to Nainital, during summer and snow, this place has offered me something new every time. Experiences have been vast and enriching, from feeding the ducks and fishes in the lake, watching cricket matches in flat area, shopping in the bhutani market, my favorite candle shop, Naina devi temple, ropeway to snowview, building up a story of “Universal hotel” in a dark snowy night with no power in the hotel and waking up to the sight of white snowspread covering the entire lake city, fun with cousins and childhood friends, that cold coffee with icecream on a freezing winter night, pink of cotton candy, sweet tanginess of blueberries, love of strawberries, spice of chowmein, drying up my drenched bellies in front of restaurant fireplace, sailing in a shikara, a sip hot coffee from hotel garden, overlooking mall road and Naini lake, rickshaw ride from tallital to mallital, a lone walk on the mall road, I guess my heart can just go on!

 

 

 

On the contrary, I can also say that Nainital has seen all phases of my life, as a toddler, a happy school going kid, a rebellious teen, sweet 16, as a couple, a mother and as an individual, giving me whatever I came seeking for.

As a travel enthusiast I believe that until you see a place in the day and in the night, the visit is incomplete, and this valley town, is a perfect blend of both. This city buzzes with activity during the day and is as serene and peaceful in the night. Reflecting at my connection with this valley town on that bench, in that cold breezy night, I finally figured out what I had been looking for, and what my heart was searching for so long. In that split second, my thoughts were clear like crystal and my mind was as calm as the waters.

It was time to say “until next time” to my wanderer friend and the bench. I started walking uphill to my hotel. Before calling it a day, I took out my phone to capture the moment. The moment when the stars twinkled in the waters of Naini lake, and as your eyes traverse the path up the hills, all you can see and feel is the void of night skies.(sigh). Beauty of this place is unsurpassable! Will it ever be possible that I don’t get mesmerized?

Mandatory details:

How to reach Nainital: Bus or train until Kathgodam which is 34 km away from Nainital

Stay: From budget hotels to luxury stays, Nainital offers you the accommodation that you are looking for. Do make a prior booking if you are visiting in peak season

Best time to visit: Nainital is a year round destination, however, for soul searchers like me, off season (Feb to 15th May and July to September) is the best time to visit. May & June are best times, if you are in for lots of activities, shopping and games.

Places to see and things to do: Its all up there in the blog

Recommended duration of stay: 1 night & 2 days. If you are in for a relaxed holiday, then make it 3 nights and 4 days and drive around to Kaichi temple, Almora, & Golu Devta temple & Bhimtal.

Some official references:

Nainital