"You know, when it rains, I like to hold out my cup of chai out so that the water droplets fall into the cup and splatter the tea around."
"I usually stick out my tongue to taste the raindrops."
"Hah! I'm sure that makes you look stupid."
"Why would you think that?"
"Imagine someone looking out their window and seeing a guy, all suited up for work, sticking his tongue out in the rain."
"Well yes, I mean... you are the one getting your tea splattered around, getting some of it on your shirt."
"You did notice that stain, didn't you?"
"I just happened to notice it."
"And you just happened to stare at my shirt."
"Okay let's not steer this conversation to another direction, your tea is getting cold. Finish it and then we'll go for a walk."
"Hah! And we will walk and stick our tongues out and taste rainwater laced with dust and pollutants?"
"That's exactly what we will do."
"Works for me."
Whenever it rained on the streets of Bengaluru, Kavya would miss the conversations she had with Rajiv over their cups of hot tea. Rajiv left the city to pursue higher education, while Kavya continued working in her corporate job, as she found the right opportunities the right time. Life was interesting, it was pacy, but at the same time, it had put the bond they shared to a test, sometimes without them even realizing.
"I didn't understand your last email."
"What do you mean?"
"You wrote 'Cliched thoughts, cliched fears' 379 times in it."
"Yeah I was a bit moody that day, but don't worry about it. I am fine now, back to being busy with work!"
"No, see, we need to talk about such stuff."
"That's how we will pull it off, you know, otherwise we will keep pushing these away until one day all of it blows up in our faces."
"How horny are you?"
"That means very horny."
"The more the merrier."
"Makes me miss you periodically."
"Ahah! I think that's the real reason here."
"You were PMSing when you wrote that mail, weren't you?"
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't come and smash your face in right now?"
"Ooh, feisty....well because we are talking over the internet right now?"
"Oh, so now I am one of those people whom you just chat with over the internet."
"I think it's better you come over and smash my face in."
"Ha ha, why not. And ruin the only good thing about you."
"I always knew I had a nice face."
"If we ignore the unibrow, yes."
"Plan a visit, please."
"Book my tickets then."
"I thought you were the one who had a job."
"In Indian currency. Don't forget that bit."
"Ha ha, shut up."
"This is what I will send back to your 'Cliched thoughts cliched fears' mail."
"I will write 'Excuses, Excuses' 383 times and send it to you."
"Why 383, why not 382?"
"Palindrome, Kavya, palindrome!"
"Men are weird."
"Women are cliched."
"I don't even know how to respond to that. Such grammar, wow."
"With an emoji."
"Okay, here. (shit emoji)"
"You are weird."
"Well, I am the one settling for you."
"Unibrow rules! \m/"
"Let's meet soon."
"Let's do that. It's been a year already."
"True...a year already."
"Catch you later then, have to finish reading a case."
"Fancy stuff eh? Case studies and all."
"Very! You have no idea."
"Well, I will leave you to it. Bye!"
Life moved fast for Kavya, and faster still for Rajiv. With time, they started getting used to making plans and seeing them not materialize. Sometimes she would write him a poem, and just leave it saved in the drafts folder. Amidst meetings, she would try to contact him, exactly when the timezone difference would play its game. Rajiv would usually try to stay up late so that he could talk to Kavya, even if it meant less sleep for him. Together they would try to figure out how to keep the conversations going. Yet at times, the gap would be unavoidable. They would understand that, and try not to fight over it. Rajiv hated fights, which was one of the things about him that Kavya loved and respected. Even if it meant launching a plethora of self-deprecation jokes, he would try hard to make sure that she didn't stay mad at him for long.
"So I am planning to go to Gokarna during this long weekend."
"Somewhere in Karnataka. Why do you ask?"
"Just asked out of curiosity, your highness. I am sorry I made a mistake and I shall not repeat it again."
"I know why you asked about the location."
"Don't worry, I will be off the grid for just three days."
"Three full nights of sleep for me, yay!"
"Maybe I too should make a plan to go somewhere."
"You definitely should."
"You seem drained."
"Well yeah, I couldn't really sleep. My assignments kept me up. How was your Gokarna trip?"
"It was amazing, but I didn't really enjoy it much. We met some cute guys, though."
"Yeah, we are old enough not to take that road. Send me some pictures."
"I will. But first, tell me why you were drained?"
"What do you mean? I did tell you, right? It was those bloody assignments."
"Oh, you had assignments? But I thought you were planning some outing as well."
"Let's not talk about it. I am fine and dandy now, see! Just had some bacon with beer."
"Weird food combination, but we will talk about that later. First, tell me, what kept you up?"
"I don't mean anything significant. Look, we didn't talk for 3 days straight, I want to know how you have been."
"You remember, you were the one who used to say that we shouldn't push these things away?"
"I do remember, but it ain't that big."
"So when it is about me, it's big for you, but when it is about you, it isn't."
"Sort of, yeah.."
"You do realize that it might be big for me?"
"You missed me, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I was in the habit of staying up late expecting your calls. But since you were off the grid I couldn't reach you, so you know."
"So you took to overthinking."
"Not really! I studied."
"What a stupid cover up response. Accept for once that you do overthink."
"Yes, I was overthinking."
"And what did you overthink about?"
"I was worried."
"Worried about what?"
"What if you go there and mess up the lush green nature."
"Go away, you."
"Mai toh nahi ja raha."
"I know you were worried about me."
"Yeah you know everything."
"You gave me hiccups."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves now."
"I drank so much water that day."
"To avoid hiccups? I am sure a lot many guys at work give you hiccups, heh heh."
"I wish that were the case. But you see, I don't keep myself available for them."
"You disguise your cuteness well."
"I am awesome, amirite?"
"Almost as much as I am."
"Fine. Well, it rained a lot while we were at Gokarna."
"Good for you. The weather is funny here. Funny, not sunny."
"Hahaha, I see. And I drank some rain water while sticking out my tongue in the open."
"And you embarrassed me in front of everyone, I am sure."
"Nope. My actions made everybody else mimic it."
"Wow! Amazing. Tell me more."
"Yeah, so all seven of us just walked on a high wall top, one behind the other, sticking our tongues out, and counted the number of drops that landed in our mouths."
"I am sure it must have been your idea. And see, this is why I was worried."
"Well, you know me really well."
"I am glad I made so many people follow my actions."
"I guess it's finally the time for you to start a religion."
"The same way I made you follow it the first time we had that cup of chai . "
"It was the first rain of the season and I was a little emotional."
Months passed. Rajiv landed an internship with one of the tech giants - a dream come true for him. Kavya was glad it happened at the right time for him, although she was a bit unhappy that his visit to India would now get delayed. She did tell him that, and soon they began making plans to meet. Rajiv said the internship paid good money, and he could save up enough for the two of them to travel around for two weeks, during the upcoming fall season. Tickets were booked, and soon enough, they were roaming the streets of Seattle together.
"You know, this was the first Starbucks outlet that was opened for business."
"Really? Doesn't seem that old."
"Well, Starbucks started in 1971, so."
"Right, Mr. Bing. You look a bit fat in the evening lights."
"Are you saying that because you want my jacket?"
"Teehee, yes please, it feels colder in the evening."
"Okay okay here, let me pass it over to you in the Bollywood style."
"I am trying to, see? But it's getting difficult with my arms stuck out the way he keeps his."
"Okay I know what I should do, here--"
"Hah! Removed it the normal way, then handed it to me with your arms extended like SRK. Smartass."
"Yeah and you were the one "settling" for me, weren't you? Come let's take a walk down the Post Alley."
Post Alley was quiet but beautifully lit with Victorian-style lamp posts. The bricks had an air about them, almost as if they were there to remind people of scenes taken straight out of some work of fiction.
"This place reminds me of the HP universe."
"Wait wait do you mean Diagon Alley?"
"I was about to say the same thing, it sure does feel like Diagon Alley!"
"Yeah and see, this is where they'd have Ollivander's shop."
"And this is where Hermione would fix Harry's glasses."
"Why does your hand feel cold?"
"They are cold by default, hihi."
"Here, take the jacket, you are freezing."
"I won't take the jacket back, but I know what we can do."
"I am not in the mood for trying out one of your ideas right now. Give me your hands."
"Take my hand haha."
She took his hands in hers and rubbed them vigorously to warm them up. He smiled and blew a bit of air from his mouth, which landed on her face. She gave out a slightly annoyed look, but couldn't stop herself from smiling and then quickly refocusing on warming his palms.
"It's been a year and a half, Rajiv."
"You are good with numbers."
"Where are we headed?"
"You mean, after this? Dinner, then back to our hotel or maybe we'll watch some movie if you like."
"You don't have to worry. I know what you wanted to know."
"So, where are we headed to?"
"You have the answer, ask yourself."
"I want to hear it from you."
"If we have come this far without trailing away from each other, I think wherever we are headed, we are headed there together."
"You have the best words sometimes, you know that right?"
"I know that my face is not the only thing good about me."
Kavya looked into Rajiv's eyes.
"I am hopeful about us, Rajiv."
Rajiv planted a peck on her cheek, almost catching her off-guard.
"Make them warm then."
"Cheese burst. Okay then. Chalo tumhe Starbucks mein coffee pilaati hun."
"I hate yo--"
The skies were dense black with hues of red and orange, and under the humid and cold aura of the city, she kissed him.
"I will never let you finish that sentence."
"I could not finish that sentence, even if I tried."
Before long, as they began walking back, it began to drizzle.
"I miss the roadside chai of my country." Rajiv sighed.
"And I miss all of you.", Kavya replied.
"This was cheese burst."
"Tumhari hawaa lag gayi hai."
"Already! Our trip has just started."
"Well since it's still raining, let's lose the umbrella. We can still stick our tongues out."