Episode 03: See You Next Time
31 January, Saturday.
Heart Break Café.
12:30 pm. It’s a beautiful morning of the fresh spring in the Capital. Leo at the bill counter; Shreya, Preeti, and Pooja busy with orders. Kamal has gone to Dariya Ganj; apparently, he wants to buy some books on his syllabus. Half of HBC staff is still in shock after hearing this. Avinash Chauhan, 41 enters with his wife, Akansha, 39 with their girls Riya, 18 and Priya, 16. It’s a happy family; father seldom talks, mother is the chatterbox and two beautiful girls who every boy want to stalk. The family settles at the table, Akansha approaches the counter.
Leo: Yes ma’am.
Akansha: It’s my husband’s birthday. I know it is last minute call but can you arrange a birthday cake for him, I know you guys have lots of contacts.
She is elegant and the way she talks there is a refinement in every word.
Leo: I think I can arrange one for you but it will take some time.
Akansha: So kind of you, we can wait.
Leo: Anything else I can do for you?
Akansha: No don’t bother about it, we will order at the table. But there is one thing I am intrigued to know.
Leo: What is that?
Akansha: Yeh aapke cafe ka naam Heart Break Cafe kyun hai? Thoda sad-sad sa nahi lagta?
Leo(smiles): Hmmm…We all fall in love and love makes this world worthwhile to endure. For a moment, when we are in love, we are so happy, we are euphoric believing that we can have this feeling forever. But love doesn’t stay forever. Sometimes we outlast it and sometimes love leaves us, heartbroken and shattered. No matter how hard you try, your loved ones they just leave you, sometimes even if they don’t want to, life just takes them away. So you can say ma’am this whole world is just a club of heartbroken people, hence I named this cafe HBC.
Akansha looked at him with a sense of familiarity.
Akansha: So someone left you?
Leo: Yes there was someone.
Akansha thinks for few seconds. She opens her bag and takes out a white envelope.
Akansha: I wanted to give this to some friend but I think giving it to a stranger whom I can trust would be better.
She gives the envelope to Leo.
Leo: What’s in it?
Akansha: Can you please give this letter to my husband?
Akansha: Next week, it will be my birthday. I will bring him here.
Leo: Are you really sure to trust a stranger with this letter, you don’t know if I would read it or not?
Akansha: Actually you seem a person who understands love.
Leo smiles: Thank you, you are the first to say that.
Akansha: Even though I don’t want anyone to read it but I really need someone to read it.
Leo is surprised. He is curious to know the content of the letter.
Leo: May I? (Asking permission to open it)
Akansha: At least not in front of me.
Akansha leaves for the table. Preeti is already serving them orders.
02:30 pm. Chawla Bakeries has sent a boy with the cake. The cake is placed on the table. Avinash Chauhan cuts the cake amid smiling faces of his beautiful daughters and wife.
Leo looks at the envelope. He doesn’t want to read it but is provoked by the flaw of human nature; to know the unknown; to do what should not be done; to say things that shouldn’t be said.
He opens the envelope and reads it.
04:30 pm. Leo calls Maks.
Leo: Abe aaj jaldi aa sakta hai kya tu?
Maks: Aisa kya hai aaj?
Leo: Bas aaja na kuch kaam hai?
Maks: Dekhta hun.
Leo: Dekhta hun nahi harami, jaldi aa 10-15 min mein.
Maks: 10-15 min mein, Bank to mere baap ka hai na.
Leo: Abe aaj saniwaar hai, half-day hota hai saale, mujhe seekha raha hai.
Maks: Thik hai…thik hai…aata hun thodi der mein.
04:45 pm. The Chauhan family is done with their birthday celebration. As Avinash approaches the bill counter, Akansha pushes him away saying that it is her treat. Avinash and the girls go to the parking.
Akansha: Hi, bill kitna hua?
Leo doesn’t say anything just places the bill on the desk. He looks her with the kind of respect that he reserves for only a few.
Akansha: So you have read it?
Akansha trying to smile but the smile fails to grow from the corners of her lips.
Akansha: You know…love and life?
She doesn’t have to say it. Leo has read her letter, he knows what she feels.
Akansha: I totally enjoyed today. Thank you.
Leo: It’s my immense pleasure meeting you.
Akansha: Same here.
Leo: See you next week then?
They smile and shake hands.
07 February, Saturday.
11:30 am. Leo is at the counter. The café is on its usual course. Avinash Chauhan enters, he is alone. He takes the chair and sits quietly for a while. There is utmost sadness on his face. He looks shattered. He orders a coffee.
Leo goes to him.
Leo: May I sit here?
Avinash: Yes, please.
Leo: Your wife has not come? She said she will come, I guess today’s her birthday.
Avinash has tears in his eyes but he holds them; a mighty effort.
Avinash: She will never come. She is dead.
Leo is not surprised.
Leo: I am so sorry for your loss.
Avinash: She was a good liar.
Leo: She was a great woman.
Avinash: I cannot believe she is gone. Last week she was here, with me, with our kids. We were so happy. She was laughing, singing and now she is gone, just gone.
Avinash goes silent. Leo lets him sink in his loss.
Avinash: I don’t know why she told me to come here. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Leo takes out the white envelope from his jacket and slips it across the table.
Leo: She was a woman of her words, she told me she will bring you here and I should give this to you.
Avinash doesn’t get it. Why would she give something to a complete stranger?
Avinash opens the envelope, there is a letter. He reads it.
The letter. It’s personal. He reads it.
Avinash finishes the letter, tears flow down through his cheeks. He holds the letter to his chest.
Avinash: She should have told me. She should have told me. She went through so much pain but never once showed me. How could she do that?
Leo: Perhaps she didn’t want you to get hurt.
Avinash: It is not fair. I didn’t get any chance to speak to her. I couldn’t even say her goodbye. On Monday, I left for my office like usual days and the kids went to school. By the time I came home, she was dead. This is not fair.Only if I would have known her condition, I would have told her that I love her so much.
Leo: She knew that.
Leo gives him a brown color packet.
Avinash: What is it?
Leo: Gift from a friend.
Chauhan tears the cover; there is a photo album. There are photos of the Chauhan family, from the last Saturday taken by Leo from a distance without their notice.
The following pictures from their family trip to Select Citywalk Mall:-
-Akansha looks at Avinash’s face as he sips coffee silently.
-She corrects the back-side crease of his shirt as he plays snooker with their girls.
-She holds the arm of Avinash while walking the road.
-He escorts her while going through traffic. She likes the attention.
-He whispers in her ears and she laughs.
-She looks at her family as they eat at the table. She wants to stop the moment. She wants to capture it. This is her last best memory.
-Her face looking away as she knows it’s her time to go.
-The final picture, her beautiful face super-zoomed in black and white. She smiles but there are tears in her eyes.
Chauhan starts sobbing. He doesn’t care if people are looking at him. He hugs Leo tightly.
Chauhan: Thankyou for this.
Leo: She was a good person.
Chauhan leaves the cafe with eyes wet and album pressed to his chest. The left corner of the white envelope appears through the sheets of the album.
Leo (Whispers): See you next time…ma’am.
[Photo by Anna Demianenko on Unsplash]