For Shivani…

I met her on the first day at my new job. We were forced to acknowledge each other when we found ourselves bumping into each other for the fourth time during the day at the coffee machine. “I am Shivani, you seem to be new around here…” and just with that, I found a friend. We never really worked together, we were just workers in the same company working on the same floor. Over the last one year, we got to know each other. She read my blogs and commented on some posts… and loved the one I wrote about my father. “It reminds me of my own father” she said. She was from Chandigarh, her family half a sub-continent away. She went home last week, and had been smiling about it for the last 2 weeks. “Me and my dad are very close… once the dinner is done and the dishes put away, we go on long drives. Me and my dad, I just cannot wait to get back home”

We all got to eat the sweets she brought from home. We had planned to visit each other outside of work, swap books, and introduce her to my wife. And I was supposed to bring her a slice of my chocolate cake again.

“Sweets at my desk” said her email yesterday. We all went down for a bite and learnt it was her 28th birthday. We wished her many happy returns of the day and told her that she should not be in office and that it was time to leave and party !

Leave she did…. Shivani passed away last night.. A person so fondly known that when she went on leave the entire floor at work noticed her absence, breathed her last with none of us by her side.

Rest in peace Shivani, I wish we made that meeting outside of work happen at least once. And I wish I could have taken you to the Art of Living sessions with me… as we kept planning to.

Nice people have a habit of leaving sooner than expected… leaving those around feeling cheated and helpless.

Of all the dreams dreamt, and wishes hoped for, some come to horribly abrupt endings. Among all the colors life strews across the world, some grey patches remain unpainted.

I will miss the forwards, and the banter at the coffee machine. And I will miss eating the sweets. And I will miss knowing that there is a friend sitting in a cubicle at the far end of the hall the next time I spend a late evening at work.

With all my heart, you will be missed Shivani…

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The Date

They walked into the restaurant as the lazy afternoon trudged by. All the tables were empty, with no signs of life except for a silent TV screen tuned to a sports channel. The tables were expectantly laid out, waiting for a nameless family to walk in later in the day.. or perhaps a lonely soul searching for a solitary meal. They chose a table in the corner, shielded from view by an ornate vase filled with plastic flowers. Slats of sunlight streamed into the restaurant, illuminating dust particles tracing random paths through the air, the curtains iridescent a glowing red. In a silent and shaded room, they spoke in smiling whispers.

They placed their order quickly, with barely a glance at the menu. The old waiter smiled at their haste, watching them quickly go through the motions that made their presence at the restaurant acceptable.  The food was laid out… and ignored…Cell phones silenced ..their screens flashing with exasperated urgency. They were glad that the lunch hour rush had eluded this place, and glad that they could sneak away in the middle of an unforgiving day. Their families did not know that they were here. Not the parents, or the friends, or the pseudo family at their work place. It happened at the spur of the moment. He called her at work in the morning, and asked her out for a lunch. She had meetings at work, and had to buy some grocery for dinner. She thought, “Come on, its just lunch”. She said yes. They arrived at the restaurant separately, and met like the days in the past. She was looking lovely, and he was reminded of long evening walks when they were students in college. When all a date meant was a cup of tea or a glass of sugarcane juice. For her, it was nice to get away from a life lived everyday, with no in-laws or friends or the attached hassles of being married.

The hour went by quickly. He paid the bill and told her that it had been a great lunch. And perhaps, they should do it again. She smiled, a bit amused at his enthusiasm. And said, yes, we should do it again. And as they walked out of the restaurant, he held her hand. A bit conscious of the knowing glances and smiles of the restaurant staff, and wondering why it took them four years of being married to go on a lunch date again.