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/