HBC – See You Next Time

Episode 03: See You Next Time

a woman standing
“I couldn’t even say her goodbye”

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.

Akansha: Hi.
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 a 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?
Leo: When?
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 at her with the kind of respect that he reserves for only a few.
Akansha: So you have read it?
Leo: Yes.
Akansha trying to smile but the smile fails to grow from the corners of her lips.
Akansha: You know…love and life?
Leo: Yeah.

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?
Akansha: Yes…

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 nods.
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: Thank you 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.


Heart Break Cafe – The Classic Case

Episode 02 – The Classic Case


Previously on Heart Break Cafe – Episode 01

28 January, Wednesday

10:45 am.
The cafe has newly installed music system. Leo is compiling his playlist. Preeti and Shreya are taking orders, Pooja is running late as usual. Kamal would arrive after 02.00 pm; he goes to coaching classes in the morning, currently doing his first-year B.Com from IGNOU. Rawatji would arrive in the evening.

Devyani, 25, fair, medium height waits at the table.
11:15 am. Enrique is singing Somebody’s me on the music system. Shekhar, 25 arrives swiftly and takes the seat in front of Devyani.

Shekhar: Sorry, Sorry, Sorry…Thoda late ho gaya.
Devyani: It’s Ok.
Shekhar: Kuch order kiya?
Devyani: Nahi ab tak toh nahi.
Shekhar calling Preeti: Excuse me!
Preeti: Yes sir?
While Shekhar checks the menu, Devyani watches him. One quick look and anyone can tell she loves him.
Shekhar to Devyani: Kya logi?
Devyani: Cold coffee.
Shekhar: Itni subhah, is thandi mein?
Devyani: Then normal le aana.
Shekhar: Okkey then, do coffee le aana.
Preeti: Just back in one minute sir.

Shekhar: So, girl, when is the engagement date?
Devyani: 08 February ko.
Shekhar: That’s great. I am so happy for you.
Devyani: Really? Thanks!
Devyani doesn’t look pleased. How could she?
Shekhar: What? Why are you so mellow today?
Devyani: Nahi toh, aisa kuch nahi hai.
Shekhar: Okkey, batao ladka kaisa hai? Tumhe pasand aaya?
Devyani: Thik hi hai.
Shekhar: Kaam kya karta hai?
Devyani: Kisi national bank mein assistant manager hai.
Shekhar: That’s great.
Devyani : Yeh sab chhodo tum batao kaisa chal raha. Bahut din ho gaye mile hue.
Shekhar: Haan bahut din toh ho gaye, waise kitna time ho gaya, 8 mahine aisa kuch?
Devyani: 10 mahine, tum pichhle saal May mein Mumbai chale gaye the, tab se kahan mile ham dono.
Shekhar : Are haan yaar, tujhe achhi tarah yaad hai.

Preeti brings in orders.
Preeti: Yeh lijiye sir, enjoy.
Shekhar: Thanks.

Devyani: Aur teri Riya Basu kaisi hai?
Shekhar: Achhi hi hogi.
Devyani: Achhi hi hogi matlab? Pichhle mahine to tum dono Shimla gaye the ghumne. FB mein toh badi kissing-hugging wali photos post ki thi.
Shekhar: Haan gaye toh the, wahan se aane ke baad madamji se jhagda ho gaya.
Devyani: Kya hua tha?
Shekhar: Apne office ke doston ke saath movie dekhne gayi thi, wahan uska colleague kuch jyada hi chipak raha tha usse. Maine puchha toh bol rahi bas dost hai. Bas usi baat par jhagda ho gaya.
Devyani: Kya pata wo sirf dost hoga.
Shekhar: Haan par uspar bharosa hi nahi kar pata tha. Kabhi iske saath kabhi uske saath. Girlfriend aisi hone chahiiye jispar aankh mundkar bharosa kar sakein.
Devyani: Koi mili tumhe aaj tak aisi?
Shekhar: Tum ho na, tumpar mujhe pura bharosa rehta hai.
Deyani: Ha ha ha so funny.
Shekhar: Seriously yaar, girlfriend teri jaisi honi chahiye. Look at you, You are smart, well cultured and most of all very understanding.
Devyani: Kya baat hai aaj badi tareef ho rahi hai meri.
Shekhar(playingly): Koi raasta nahi hai tumhari engagement tal jaye aur phir main tumhari mummy se baat karun apne liye?
Devyani: Bas haan bahut majak ho gaya.
Shekhar: Sorry yaar bas aise hi taang kheench raha tha teri.

Shekhar finishes his coffee. He gets a Whatsapp notification, he opens and smiles, and there is a forwarded message. Devyani looks at him. She is sad, for a moment she wants to believe what Shekhar has just said. Maybe there is a way, maybe she can avert her marriage and be with the man she loves from her college days.

01:00 PM. Now it’s Atif Aslam singing Ehsaas. Pooja arrives and tries to enter without getting Leo’s attention who is apparently busy writing on his notepad.
Leo: Aa gayi hamare cafe ki princess.
Pooja: Sorry late ho gayi.
Leo: Traffic na?
Pooja (Cheerful Smile): Haan traffic.
Leo: Chalo keep it up, now get to work.
Preeti and Shreya giggle as Pooja imitates Leo behind him.

03:00 PM. Now it’s Dido singing White Flag on the music system. Devyani and Shekhar have finished their lunch.
Shekhar: I am full.
Devyani: Me too.
Shekhar: Toh main kahan tha?
Devyani: Tum Chemistry ke practicals ki baat kar rahe the.
Shekhar: Haan tum hi toh meri journals likhti thi. Tumhe yaad hai ek baar Nikam sir ne bola bhi tha, (imitates his voice) “Ki tum toh lectures mein bhi nahi aate par tumhari journals complete kaise rehte hain.”
Devyani: Mere khayal se we jaante the par kuch bole nahi.
Shekhar: Mere liye toh wo bahut kamina tha.
Devyani: Nahi yaar, he was a nice teacher, tum classes karte toh pata chalta. He knew a lot of things.
Shekhar: Aur phir tumne mujhe semester exams mein paas bhi karwaya tha. Kabhi sochta hun ki agar tum college mein nahi hoti toh mera kya hota?
Devyani: Waise tum nahi hote toh meri college life bhi bahut boring hoti.
Shekhar: Kaise?
Devyani: Mujhe roz college bike pe kaun lekar jata aur canteen mein kaun treat deta?
Shekhar: Achha toh madam aapko free ka driver chahiye tha.
Devyani: Haha haha nahi toh aur kuch achhi cheezein bhi thi.
Shekhar: Jaise?
Devyani: Ek baar ek ladke ne mujhe moti bol diya tha tumne use bahut mara. Uske baad kisi ne mujhe kuch nahi bola. Mujhe bahut achha laga tab.
Shekhar: Achha toh main tera bodyguard bhi tha. Waise tu us time thodi moti thi.
Devyani: Hahaha sach mein?
Shekhar: Thodi si, healthy type. Ab thik ho, bhari-bhari hahahaha.
Shekhar: Tumhe yaad hai wo Manali ki college trip?

They have had these conversations hundreds of times before.

05:00 pm. Maks enters with his usual cheerful smile. He shakes Rawatji at the door.
Maks: Aur Uncleji, sab badhiya.
Rawatji: Haan Mukesh, sab badhiya.

Kamal and Shreya are busy taking orders. Pooja and Preeti stand at the corner of the cafe, busy with their daily gossips. Sandy and Santosh busy with menus.
Leo: Chal main chalta hun, kab se wait kar raha tha tera.
Maks: Bhai kahan chal diya, abhi toh ham aaye hain.
Leo: Are yaar wo mausi ne bulaya hai, ghar mein pooja hai.
Maks: Par Pooja toh yahan hai.
Leo: Hahaha nice joke. Main nikal raha hun, Octavia ki chabi de.
Maks: Aaj apni pyari bullet mein nahi ja raha?
Leo: Nahi re, pahadi-pooja hai, kya pata koi mil jaye udhar cute si.
Maks: Kamina! Try karna nahi chhodega. Khair raat ko apne saath ek McDowell’s le aana.
Leo: Ok le aaunga aur oye bullet pe kisi ko haath mat lagaane dena.
Maks: Haan haan pata hai, nahi lagaane dunga.

06:30 pm. Himmesh is singing, “Sham Ho Chali hai” on the juke box. It’s obvious, Maks playlist.
Shekhar: Ghar mein kya bolke aayi tu?
Devyani: Kuch nahi doston ke saath ghumne gayi hun. Ab gharwale bhi kuch jyada nahi bolte, maine shaadi ke liye haan jo kar di hai. Ladka mummy ki pasand ka hai na.
Shekhar: Okkey.
Devyani: Aur tumhari job kaisi chal rahi hai?
Shekhar: Kuch khaas nahi, main ye marketing field se bore ho gaya hun, soch raha hun kuch naya try karun.
Devyani: Jaise ki?
Shekhar: Koi business.

08:30 pm. KK’s Maine Dil Se Kaha is playing. Shekhar and Devyani are little exhausted but their conversation seems far from over.
Shekhar: Shaadi ke baad kahan rahogi?
Devyani: I don’t know, shayad Allahabad jaun, uske gharwale wahi hain na.
Shekhar: Chalo jyada dur nahi hai, mil toh sakte hi hain.
Devyani: Pata nahi yaar, pata nahi gharwale kya bolein.
Shekhar: Hmmm…

For the first time, Shekhar realizes, he is losing his best friend, this could be their last conversation before she belongs to someone else.
The next few minutes pass in silence. Devyani gets a call from her home. It’s her mother.
Devyani (On the Phone): Haan maa, aati hun.
Devyani disconnects the call.
Shekhar: Ghar se?
Devyani: Haan. Hmmm…achha toh main chalti hun.
Shekhar: Ruko yaar, itni jaldi, abhi toh time hai.
Devyani: Are yaar subhah se baithe hain, tumhe toh pata hai, hamari baatein kabhi khatm nahi hongi.
Shekhar: Phir bhi aaj baith jao, kya pata agli baar kab mauka mile, aaj meri khatir daanth kha lena mummy se.

Devyani nods. She wishes if he would have said her to stay with him forever, she would never leave him, only if he would say so. She has loved him for last 7 years but has not expressed it, she fears as it may change the meaning of their friendship. She may never say it and he will never know, he will never understand.

9:45 pm. Maks looks at the couple, he figures out the situation. It’s very obvious. The silence between their conversations is filled by their frequent gazing to each other and whenever their eyes meet, one of them looks away.

Shekhar: Devi, you know, agar ham dono ki shaadi ho jaye toh ham ghanton aise hi baat kar sakte hain.
Devyani: Hmmm…
Shekhar: Aur tumhare saath toh mujhe kisi cheez ki tension bhi nahi hai, tum sab kuch sambhal leti ho.
Devyani: Haan par tumhare saath rahega kaun, tum abhi bhi khud ko bachha hi samajhte ho.
Shekhar: Wahi toh tum mujhe achhi tarah samajhti ho.
Devyani: Tumse kuch puchhun?
Shekhar: Haan kyun nahi?
Devyani: Tumhe agar mauka mile ki jo tum chaho, wo ho jaye, toh tum kya chaoge?
Shekhar: Hmmm…let me think.

Devyani expects him to say, “I want you”.

The cafe is nearly empty except two couples and a group of four college friends. Maks changes the song. Now Lata is singing, “Lag ja gale ki phir…”. Somehow the lyrics resonate Devyani’s feelings.
Shekhar: Main chahata hun ki ham dono aise hi baithe rahein aur baat karte rahe. Yahan jo log hain sab gayab ho jayein. Tumhe kahin jana na ho aur ham dono bas baatein karte rahein. Tears start flowing from Devyani’s eyes. She tries to wipe them but they wouldn’t stop.
Devyani: Ek minute (sobs) main fresh hokar aati hun.
Shekhar: Devi kya hua?
Devyani leaves for restroom leaving Shekhar confounded.

He sits at the table, helpless and bewildered on what he has said that caused her to cry? Has he said something wrong? Has he hurt her some way?
Maks intervene.

Maks: Dude, may I sit?
Shekhar: Somebody is sitting here.
Maks: I know, wo aayegi main chale jaunga.
Shekhar: Ok.
Maks: I saw you guys talking, you don’t get it but I know your situation.
Shekhar: Really?
Maks: This is the classic case. You are friends for a long time. She loves you but can’t say it. She will love you for her entire life even when she would be married to someone else but she will never be the first to say it.
Shekhar: Why can’t she just say it?
Maks: My friend she is a great girl. She has self-respect. She wants you to respect her feelings, earn her love and not take her for granted. And you my friend are either blind or idiot.

Shekhar wants to argue him but he can not deny the truth now after someone has rubbed his face with it.
Shekhar: But I thought we are only friends.
Maks: If you still think so, I can not help you here.

Maks leaves Shekhar in his introspection.

Devyani comes out. Her face washed, eyes flushed.
Shekhar: What happened?
Devyani: Kuch nahi, I have to go. Bahut time ho gaya hai.
Shekhar looks at her face. Their eyes meet. Shekhar now sees what he has not seen for all these eyes. She does love him and perhaps deep down in his heart, he has the same feelings for her.
Shekhar: Tum kaise aayi thi?
Devyani: Metro aur tum?
Shekhar: Metro. Damn! Mujhe apni bike lani chahiye thi, tujhe ghar pe chhod deta, bahut time ho gaya hai.
Devyani: Koi baat nahi main chali jaungi. Take care.
Shekhar: Chal kam se kam metro station tak toh saath hain.
Devyani: Ok.

10.00 pm. Shekhar pays the bill at the counter looking helplessly at Maks. Devyani leaves for the door.
Maks: Kya socha phir?
Shekhar: Ab kya fayeda, uski engagement hai agle hafte.
Maks: Toh kya hua, hui toh nahi.
Shekhar: Ab wo haan nahi bolegi.
Maks: Tumhe kaise pata, tumhe toh yeh bhi nahi pata tha ki vo tumse pyar karti hai.
Shekhar: Ab kya karun?
Maks throws the keys of Leo’s Bullet to him.
Maks: Ghar par chhod de use par zindagi mein kabhi mat chhodna, she is meant for you and by God aisi achhi ladki kismat walon ki milti hai.
Shekhar is pleasantly surprised.
Shekhar hugs Maks tightly: Thanks bhai. Kisi din jaan maang lena, bhai aa jayega.

Maks: Bas kal bike le aana, warna jiski bike hai wo meri jaan le lega.
Shekar nods and runs to the parking. Rawatji smiles at Maks with appreciation.

Maks looks through the door.
Devyani is surprised as Shekhar brings Bullet in front of her.
Devyani: Tum to metro se aaye the na?
Shekhar: Dost se maangi hai. Socha tumhe ghar par chhod dun, bhai tumhara purana driver aur bodyguard jo hun.
Devyani (smiles): Sach mein, chalo phir.
Shekhar: Aur kuch kehna bhi hai tumse…

11:00 PM, Cafe is empty, everybody has left. Maks and Leo are having drinks.
KK is singing “Jab Kabhi Chand Na Ho”.

Leo: Are jo tune Whatsapp par Rakhi ki Republic Day wali video bheji thi, wo dekhi maine.
Maks: Dekhi tune?
Leo: Haan, I am so proud of her.
Maks: We are proud of our sister.
Leo: You know wo school time se chahti thi, Republic Day par parade mein lead karna and she did it.
Maks: Yeah I know, she does everything she wants, she is a superwoman.
Leo: Even though she was on the frame for two seconds, but I guess it is worth it.
Maks: Is it? She was preparing for it since July last year, nearly a year for that moment.
Leo: You know you, me or anybody else can’t understand it. We can’t feel what an Olympic gold medalist feels when he stands at the podium, a Mount Everest climber feels at the top and what an astronaut feels when he is in space. We can only talk about it but we will never understand. I guess that particular moment belongs to that person only and they live it forever.
Maks: I guess you are right my friend.
Leo: Cheers for Rakhi then.
Maks: Yes…Cheers for Rakhi.

Maks and Leo raise the toast and finish the shots in one gulp.
Maks prepare another peg.
Leo: Are yaar wo parking pe maine Bullet dekhi nahi, tune kahin aur park kar di hai kya?
Maks: Hmm…About that, I don’t know how to say it, so here it goes…Kisi ko bike chahiye thi, toh maine use de di.
Leo: Tune what…
A punch hit Maks on the face and the screen blacks out.