A Short Story
Radha looked at her watch for the eighth time in three minutes. He had mentioned ‘Babe see ya at Cafe O Lait.’
There wasn’t another Cafe O Lait. After all she and Dave had met here every day for the last year. Almost every day. Exempting the times she had pre menstrual cramps and was as crabby as Garfield on a regular day.
She looked around. The usuals were exactly where she had left them the day before. That was a thing about cafes; everyone seemed to have marked their own territory like kids did in school with tables and benches.
A Christmas tree with cheesy decorations stood solo, looking slightly out of place in the otherwise purple blue ambience of the coffee shop located in one of the pretty by lanes of the suburb of Bandra west. Jingle bells played irritatingly in the back drop; she was over Jingles at fifteen. Her convent school had over done it.
Christmas was important in Mumbai especially in Bandra where lanes were decorated with lights and shops sold funky decos which one could never get anywhere else.
And of course Dave and his family lived here.
Few days to eve; Dave had gotten terribly busy; he had two work gigs, family dinners and get- together’s.
It was a little awkward that she had never been invited to one, even over Christmas.
Just as well….she would probably have to suffice with a glass of water and Marie biscuits while they teethed into succulent pigs and juicy roasts.
But she could hardly complain. Her family had no idea of Dave’s existence either. Of course they would disapprove. Dave was a musician with three piercings, long wavy hair, two skull rings and a Black Sabbath tattoo. Hardly their dream son in law. Worse still, he belonged to completely different background.
He was Roman Catholic; she was Hindu, Brahmin.
Chalk and cheese.
He savoured lamb chops for dinner. Her family ate simple sambhar, rice.
Often Radha imagined her father’s angry- hurt voice in the background, ‘How can you ever think of marrying into a household that slaughters animals for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Where did we go wrong Radha, where?’
The concept of vegetarianism was almost unknown to Dave’s family.
Knowing all this, they had both pursued their relationship for the last four years eleven months; for love has no limits.
It had just erupted like a ‘meant to be volcano’ one January evening of 2014.
‘Facebook request from Dave Cardozo. Common friend- who remembers? Accept from Radha Iyer. Cute meets cute. Heart goes thump thump. Direct message on FB messenger to meet up. Cupid’s arrow right on target. Hearts
She had considered herself lucky. After dating ‘Sight for sore eyes’, ‘Stingy bags’ and ‘Mr Angry at the drop of a hat;’ cool, calm, generous Dave was a breath of fresh air.
Her parents had introduced her to several boys of their choice over the years but nothing had materialised. She had to finally warn them to stop.
Radha wasn’t going to settle for typical. She wanted special.
Dave was running late that evening and she dialled his number again. He had not even seen any of the wats app messages, she had sent him. She hoped nothing untoward had happened.
Today was an important day. They had to discuss future plans. Her parents had been on her case once again to meet those ‘good Hindu boys.’
His phone was now switched off. Very strange.
Dave was fashionably late often; not painfully absent.
He had a band rehearsal at 3 pm which he said would wind up by five.
‘Mumbai Studs.’ It was a ridiculous name for a band but Radha never voiced it. She had enough problems of her own. For example her job as a yoga teacher. It was fulfilling but not lucrative.
She had to find another occupation. She had considered teaching in a play school for that was something she loved doing; her bio clock was ticking hard and that was one way to calm her maternal echoes.
‘Or then get married and have a child, stupid’, a voice spoke. She looked around. Fake blondie gave her a confused nod.
‘Inner voice silly.’
But it wasn’t her fault. Every time she brought up the ‘M’ word, either Dave changed the subject or he promised to talk about it at the right time.
What was the right time, she wondered? Was he even considering marrying her? Would her family ever consent to her marrying half a bum with a way ward lifestyle and noveau riche parents?
It was all very well in the twenties but she was in her early thirties, she couldn’t be this careless with her life.
But what would they all ever have in common?
How would she cope with the smell of sausages and fish fry, first thing in the morning?
Questions, questions questions!
His mother spent her evenings at the Ladies Club socialising and swirling glasses of Chardonnay.
Her mother knitted socks for her neighbour’s grandchild and made hot rotis and crispy dosas as both hobby and duty.
His father played golf on weekends and chugged beers; hers watched the news and sipped his tea.
Radha’s kin went for Yatras and Darshans once a year; his travelled to London and New York at least twice.
His, had a robust social life and barely made it to Church for Sunday mass with their eyes open. Once his dad was so hung over that he went on the dais and started his own sermon before the Priest showed up. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so embarrassing.
Her folks stepped out of their Vile Parle home only when they needed something from the nearby grocery or for a social obligation.
Restless Radha placed an order, she needed a strong cuppa. She couldn’t wait forever; for caffeine or her man to step up the plate.
Recently the thinking, obsessing and stressing about her future had brought her to the edge of sanity. She had always been an easy going person but her patience was wearing thin.
Even Dave had noticed it but as always he had just grinned and let it pass.
She tried his number once again. She had cancelled her Power Yoga class, bailed out on her students only to meet him ‘at his convenient time.’
And since most of her classes were toward Khar, Bandra was the feasible way to plan Radha – Dave dates.
Now she was angry with herself for her uncharacteristic unprofessionalism.
Sacrifices, compromises, that’s what she was constantly making for this silly man who cared two hoots about marrying her.
But he was so kind and apologetic and caring and loving most times, even more so when he goofed up that she felt terrible even considering walking out.
Besides they were electrifying together.
Whenever his folks were on one of their endless vacations, she would stay over at his. She would lie to her parents that she was staying over at her friends. According to them she was still a virgin. At 32!
Radha felt a migraine creeping up like a ghost. Damn her boyfriend! This uncertainty was going to kill her someday; she would have to give him an ultimatum today.
‘Either you think of the future or let’s just call it quits.’
What if he agreed to the latter? It would ruin her. Damn. She loved him.
-Loved the way he held her hand, love the way he looked into her eyes, touched her neck, kissed her forehead, played with her hair, spoke to her soul and enraptured her heart.
Besides it was almost 31st; being alone on New year’s eve was equivalent of a death sentence.
Maybe Santa would bring them some good tidings the coming year; though she had stopped believing in such things.
Damn it, she was finished either way….in or out.
She took another sip of her ginger bread flavoured cappuccino, glad to be sitting in the outside section of the local cafe. At least it was fresh air; if you discounted the smokers and the traffic smog. It gave her some room to breathe and hyperventilate at the same time.
Well if he didn’t show up she would leave. Let him call her and apologise profusely. She needed to get home to feed Pluto on time; a stray dog she had parented a fortnight ago.
‘Well at least he would be waiting for her, prancing up and down; dogs were so faithful. Maybe she should marry a dog.’
Roving Eye was now staring directly at her. She pulled her tongue out, she hadn’t meant to; though she had always wanted to and today her day had finally come.
Dave no- show + Negative thoughts+ dealing with dog matrimony madness = Bizarre reaction.
And then like a bolt from the blue, a strumming guitar and a familiar voice brought her back to the present moment.
She seemed to be hearing Dave everywhere.
‘I’ve spent all my life, waiting for you, darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you, for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more…..’
Her favourite number, what the hell! What was going on?
She sprung from her chair and turned around; there he was with his good ole guitar; his burgundy lips moving to Christina Peri and just as she was about to maul him down with a tight hug, she realised he wasn’t alone.
For behind him were the last four people in the world she had expected to or wanted to see…
Mr and Mrs Cardozo. Mr and Mrs Iyer.
Cafe O Lait was suddenly abuzz with enthusiasm on a mundane Wednesday evening.
Radha was shaking. Her hands were clammy; her coffee had spilled all over the table.
She drew in a breath as he continued the lyrics with passion and fervour, keeping his guitar aside and getting down on one knee and presenting her with the biggest rock she had ever seen.
His parents were smiling, hers parents were nodding.
Radha had no idea how Dave had pulled the impossible off.
She could feel her lips mouth a yes though she wasn’t really sure he had popped the question.
There was a deafening applause all around.
She could swear she could hear Santa’s sleigh in the background…..and a Rudolph giggle.
‘It was indeed a Christmas miracle.’