The First Brush Of Love
Lata Mangeshkar…or was that Asha Bhonsle...? In a lot of these old songs they sounded so similar!
Simi woke up, as usual, to melodious songs of the black and white era being played on the radio. With groggy eyes, she walked up to the kitchen and hugged Mai from behind.
“Good morning,” she mumbled, nuzzling the side of her mother’s neck.
“Woke up? Go brush your teeth quick, I’ll warm up the tea,” her mother said, caressing her cheek with a loving hand, while the other, cloaked in dough, rested in the wide plate in which she was mixing the atta for parathas.
When Simi came back to the kitchen to pick her tea-cup, she saw her mother had kept another cup next to hers. “Who’s is that?” Simi asked.
“Baba’s” her mother said, turning to her, smiling.
“At home today?” Simi asked, her eyebrows raised.
Her mother nodded soberly, while Simi gave a wide grin. “Dada’s going to freak out!” she said. And the mother and daughter giggled like the best friends they were.
Simi took the cups out and gave one to her father who was sitting on the balcony, reading the newspaper.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Good morning! So, today no rain, you going to college?” her father asked.
Simi nodded. “Yes, at least I will go to the station and see if the trains are running.”
“Hhmm” her father nodded. And with his tea cup in hand, went back to the newspaper.
On the way back to the bedroom she shared with her brother, Simi was called by her mother in the kitchen.
“Here, take this tea to him, wake him up, tell him Baba is at home, go”
“I was going to wake him up anyway,” Simi said. “And Mai, don’t pack lunch for me, I may not even go to college today, I don’t know if the trains are running. I may go to Varsha’s home on the way and then we will go check at the station.”
Her mother nodded and got back to cooking breakfast.
“What’s with the tea in bed?” he asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Shhh! Drink this quietly and get dressed and go out,” Simi whispered.
“Baba is at home today.”
He finished his tea in two scalding gulps and jumped out of bed kissing Simi on the top of her head.
“Thanks for having my back,” he said.
When she called Varsha, her friend had answered from the railway station, telling her that the trains were still a mess after the last two day’s heavy rains. The girl said she was heading back home and asked Simi to come over, as was their routine.
And so Simi was here, on Varsha’s balcony. They were solving Math problems. Simi was lying on her stomach, tongue hanging at the corner of her mouth, as she concentrated on her sums while Varsha walked the length of the balcony, her phone glued to her ear, speaking to her new boyfriend.
As Varsha opened the back door and walked farther away, Simi felt her attention wandering. She thought of the raw, adolescent rage of her brother pitted against her father’s sound, responsible voice of experience. She thought of the promise that was her brother and the legend that was her father.
And she wondered why it was that the two couldn’t now see eye to eye. The two, who were best friends growing up. The father who had spent countless sleepless nights for the son and the son who waited without having dinner on nights when the father would get home late from work.
She was so lost in thought that she almost jumped in fright when the shadow fell across her books.
“A penny for your thoughts?” he said, looking down, smiling.
Simi looked up. He was silhouetted against the late afternoon sun. Sat up straighter as he knelt down beside her.
This was Vivaan, Varsha’s brother. The boy Simi loved, secretly.
“Proofs,” he said with a lopsided smile, looking at her books. And she saw the dimple appear on his left cheek. The dimple she so loved! And then she blushed, when he looked up and caught her staring.
“You are a studious one, aren’t you?” he asked. “Varsha tells me you top the class all the time.”
Simi swallowed. There was so much she wanted to say to him. So much she wanted to ask him. Oh, how she loved to just keep looking at him! He was the stuff her dreams were made of.
But she said none of that. She just sat there. Tongue-tied. Watching him talk. Smile. When he spoke, his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down and she so loved to just sit and stare at it. And his voice! Oh, his voice! That of a grown man, and yet, he was only a few years older than her.
When he snapped his fingers in front of her eyes, she snapped out of her reverie. “Oh!”
“Where were you lost?” he asked playfully.
And she had this inexplicable urge to reach out and touch his chin. Particularly the cleft right in the centre of his chin.
Thankfully, Varsha called out to her at that moment. “Simi! Your mum’s on the phone, calling you home for dinner!”
Simi was suddenly glad to get busy picking up her books and pens that had scattered across the balcony, even as she was keenly aware, that he hadn’t moved. That he was just sitting there, looking at her. And when she looked at him, she felt his gaze pierce through her.
And then he smiled. Which made her blush. Because he smiled, as if he knew about the thoughts that secretly nestled in her heart. But how could he? She hadn’t breathed a word to anyone. Not even her best friend.
“I have to go,” she said, timidly, when she saw he was still blocking her way.
“You will come tomorrow again to study with Varsha?” he asked.
She looked up. Nodded YES. And just as he moved slightly aside, and she passed him, their hands accidentally touched, for just a moment and Simi snatched her hand away – as if she had touched a hot wire!
And when she looked up to see if he had noticed, she saw him looking pointedly at her. Leaving her wondering – did their hands really brush by accident?
Pic Courtesy: Freepik