It was raining incessantly. Bombay rains. They never stop. They are unusually white and misty. It blurs your vision. Makes you dizzy if you stare outside for too long.
I was perched on top of the window seal of my little rented apartment, and gazing outside. A cutting chai and a chhota Goldflake in hand. I was puffing absent-mindedly. He creased his forehead and gave me a disapproving look and went back to photoshopping photographs in his laptop, as I threw my head back and laughed.
A raindrop fell on the chai. The smoke came out in little circles. Got lost in the white rains.
It was a beautiful Lavale evening. We were at the annexe lane. A bunch of friends giggling and talking without a care in the world.
We sat scattered on the road. Chatter. Laughter. Happiness. Backslaps. We had steaming cups of tea, freshly brought from the mess. And a chhota Goldflake.
“Pass it to me man, it will get over!” she said.
I took a long drag and passed it. It made the rounds, as we watched the sun set in the horizon.
I woke up groggy and looked out of the train window, to figure out where we have reached. I stretched my arms and yawned. The lack of space in that little berth made my body ache. I half got up and said, “Bhaiya, ek chai.”
I walked towards the door, looked out and took a sip of the steaming hot chai in my hand. It scalded my tongue. I nursed the glass between two hands and waited for it to cool down a bit.
The train sped through fields and huts and villages. My hair fluttered in the wind. I smiled, leaned at the door and took a sip.
3 AM, said the clock kept at the bedside table. Everyone was asleep.
Philip Kotler remained open in front of me, as I rubbed my eyes. The night was so calm and silent. It felt as if I am the only person awake in the whole world.
“..a seller’s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits and services consistent to the buyers…” I read out and yawned.
I was trying hard to prepare for tomorrow’s examination, but sleep was getting the better of me. I went to the kitchen to make some tea.
Five minutes later, I was ready with a big mug of steaming hot chai and a burning Goldflake. I kept reading.
It was 5.30 AM. I needed to catch up on some sleep.
Calcutta. Vivekananda Park. Our usual place to hang out after college.
It was the last day of our graduation examination.
“So, college is over huh? Can’t believe it,” she said, while puffing the Goldflake in her hand.
Mashi’s small tapri. We kept finishing cups of tea and Goldflakes, till it was dark.
And then we cried. End of an era.
I was typing furiously in my computer. I had a deadline to meet. I had to publish this story before the competitors could.
I have been working since last night. My head ached and my back pained. I needed a break.
“Kaushal, chai!” I yelled at the office boy from my cabin.
I stretched and got out of the office. Near the small tapri outside, I saw a bunch of college kids laughing and cracking jokes, without a care in the world. Deja-vu?
The sky was cloudy. It would rain again. I need to go back home before it starts pouring. I need to publish the story before that. What happened to the carefree days?
I looked at those kids again. They were still laughing.
I smiled and made my way towards the parking lot. Years have passed. So many memories. But some things haven’t changed. Never will.
A cutting chai. Chhota Goldflake.