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Romance in the Beach Bench

by Annapurna Sharma
(Vijayawada, India)

Nikunj’s day often started with a brisk walk at the Chowpatty beach, one of Mumbai’s famous beaches. He enjoyed the scenic beauty – the sun rising above the horizon, the lull of tides boring into the sandy edges, the birdies diving into the water to catch fish, the rush of early morning walkers and joggers and the aroma of tea brewing at the food stalls. He noticed a small gathering of people at a food stall, wondering what could be the reason, he approached them. An elderly white bearded man told him it was the opening of a new tea stall.


A little surprised, Nikunj murmured, “Tea-stall opening! So many people!”

Nikunj didn’t have to wait for an answer. He spotted a tall woman clad in black jeans and a pink floral kurta (top) serving tea to customers. The stall was named ‘Modern Chai dukaan’ (tea stall). Fair-skinned with dark brown hair tied into a French knot, she had a cute smile on her face, no wonder men gathered around like a swarm of bees. He knew her, but couldn’t recollect. The face looked quite familiar and the smile ….. Who is she?

The bearded man asked, “Adrak wali chai nahi piyoge (won’t you drink ginger tea)?”

Nikunj murmured, “Some other time, now I am getting late.”

“You need only a few minutes to drink a cup of tea,” chided the old man and ordered for two cups of ginger tea.

Sitting on a wooden stool, Nikunj put his thinking cap on.
“Hi Nikunj, nice to see you after a very long time, here’s your adrak chai.”

Jolted out of his thoughts, he extended his hand for the cup. Staring blankly at her, ‘She knows me!’

“It’s me, Emily, from high school,” she says.

“Oh! Emily! Sorry I didn’t recognize you,” mumbled Nikunj.

She laughed. They chatted for a while, reminiscing their high school days. He was getting late for work and she had to attend to her customers, they part.

Nikunj had left the beach, but Emily didn’t leave his mind. He couldn’t believe it was the same short, pigtailed, mini-skirted, mute geek of the class, Emily, now a gorgeous and gregarious woman.

Nikunj continued with his regular morning walks and ginger tea at Emily’s stall. He maintained a gentle demeanor. He started liking her, and was careful not to reveal his feelings, lest she would think otherwise. He wanted to take her out. Her mesmerizing smile made him daydream. He could no longer stand the ‘mellifluous pain’ that arose deep down within.

One fine morning, mustering courage, he approached the counter where she stood and sputtered, “Emily, what about dinner tonight?”

She lifted her head and looked bewildered.
Before she could say anything, he quickly said, “Will pick you up at seven,” and hurried out of the stall.

It was his first date, all his life he never bothered to take a woman out. He took great care to groom himself and splashed the warm musk fragrant eau de toilette, to woo her. He was nervous. He told himself, “Come on man, you gotta do it. Today or never.”

At her door, he rang the bell and waited. The door opened, she stood there in an elegant lemon colored chiffon sari, her smile enchanting as ever. Her surreptitious looks bowled him over.

As they drove through the beach road, they felt the cool and sensual breeze. Suddenly the car chugged, coughed and halted abruptly. He groaned and cursed himself.

He apologized to her, “I am sorry Emily, and we are out of gas. My mistake, I forgot to fill the tank. Maybe we can get a taxi.”

The road was empty and silent. Emily suggested that they walk to the sandy beach front. He agreed, they make their way to a desolate beach bench.

It was a full moon day, moonlight illumined their hearts. The gentle breeze caressed her open hair that sent ripples down his heart. The nip in the air comes to play, tantalizing their concealed emotions. The high tides set their love in motion.

He could wait no longer, and kneeled on the sand, “Emily, will you marry me?”

Overjoyed and putting away second thoughts, passionately she said, “Yes!”

He silently thanked his car for being the real ignition in his love life.

****

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