Seven Birthdays

Seventh birthday cake


9:30 AM

Phone ringing, Kanishk sees the screen, its unknown number.

Kanishk: Hello?

Unknown: Hello Kanishk?

Kanishk: Yeah, who is it?

Unknown: It’s Latika here…

Kanishk visibly elated, his heart racing. It has been nearly two weeks since he has seen Latika in the college and was waiting for a way to talk to her.

Latika(continued): Happy birthday Kanishk.

Kanishk: Thank you so much but how you got to know it’s my birthday.

Latika: Kanika told me, I got your number from her.

Kanishk: Yeah she called me earlier.

Latika: Oh…anyways enjoy your birthday. See you tomorrow at the college.

Kanishk: Yeah. Thanks again for calling. See you. Bye.

Kanishk hangs up the call. His heart filled with euphoria. He is grinning ear to ear.



12:03 AM

Phone ringing. Kanishk looks at the screen. It’s Latika. He smiles and takes up the call.

Kanishk: Lati, you are a whole three minutes late. Rahul was the first one to call.

Latika: Sorry Kanu, next time I will be the first.

Kanishk: It’s okay sweetie, you are always forgiven.

Latika: So what’s the plan for today?

Kanishk: Let’s meet at the college and then we will plan something.



11:56 PM

Phone rings and Kanishk picks it up instantly.

Latika: Happy birthday baby.

Kanishk: Thanks baby but it is still four minutes to my birthday, you are a bit early.

Latika: I know, I wanted to be the first.

Kanishk(playfully): Why?

Latika: Because nobody loves you more than me.

Kanishk: Really?

Latika: I love my baby more than anyone.

Kanishk: I know baby but where is my gift?

Latika: What do you want?

Kanishk: You.

Latika: Me? Where and how?

Kanishk: Here at my room ASAP….and unwrapped.

Latika: Unwrapped? Naughty boy. Ok, see you there baby. I am coming.



12:25 AM

Kanishk waiting impatiently near the phone. He checks the mobile screen every next second. Phone rings. It’s Irfan. He talks to him.

12:45 AM.

He finally gives in, dials Latika. The number is busy. Kanishk is furious.

One minute passed. Phone rings, it’s Latika.

Kanishk(shouting): Whom you were talking?

Latika: Why are you shouting? It was my sister.

Kanishk: You were busy with your sister at this time? Really?

Latika: Yeah, I talk to her every night.

Kanishk: Really? You guys weren’t even on talking terms a few days ago. Anyways, aren’t you supposed to call me tonight?

Latika: Why?…one minute…oh my god. I am so sorry baby…I am really sorry. Happy birthday baby.

Kanishk: It’s ok. It doesn’t matter now. Now you sleep, it’s too late. Your entrance exams are coming up. Don’t waste your time and focus on your goals.

Latika: I know baby. Thanks. I am sleeping now. Bye goodnight.

Kanishk hangs up the call. Looks at the mobile screen. Unsure of her words, his heart knows something is amiss.

Ten minutes passed. He opens his Whatsapp. Finds Latika still online. He dials Latika, the number is busy.

He calls Latika again, this time number is ringing. Latika picks up.

Kanishk: Whom you were talking now?

Latika: A friend.

Kanishk: Who?

Latika: You don’t know her.

Kanishk: I know all your friends, tell me her name.

Latika: She is an old school friend. You don’t know her.

Kanishk: Ok, just tell me her name.

Latika: I can’t.

Kanishk: You can’t or you won’t.

Latika: I can’t tell you.

Kanishk: Why? I am your boyfriend goddammit. Just tell me the name. Who is he?

Latika: You don’t trust me.

Kanishk: What? I am just asking you the goddamn name. Tell me his name.

Latika: No. I can’t talk to you now. I will call you tomorrow. Bye goodnight.

Kanishk: Don’t you hang up the phone. I am only asking you the name. Just tell me the name. Then you can hang up the phone.

Latika: You don’t trust me. I am sleeping now.

Kanishk is on the verge of exploding.

Kanishk: Just tell me the name and then you can sleep all you want.

Latika: You are not reasonable at all. I don’t think we should talk anymore.

Kanishk: What do you mean by we shouldn’t talk anymore? I am just asking you a name, you moron.

Latika: If I tell you the name, we won’t date anymore.

Kanishk: I don’t care. Just tell me the bloody name.

Latika: I am tired. I am feeling sleeping. Bye.

Kanishk: You can sleep all you want. Just tell me the f***ing name.

Latika: No.

Kanishk: No? Seriously? You know what. Just tell me the name and I will not call you again. You can break up with me.

Latika: No. I am sleeping.

Kanishk: One more no. I will f***ing kill myself. I want the name.

Latika: Let me sleep. Bye…

Kanishk loses it completely.

Kanishk: Listen sweetie…are you choosing a name over your boyfriend? Is that name that important to you?

Latika: You are not my boyfriend anymore.

Kanishk: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t care. I just want the name.

Latika: Rehan!

A silence of 10 seconds.

Kanishk: Rehan? Rehan who?

Latika: That is not your concern.

Kanishk: Yes it is my concern. I want to know about him. I am your boyfriend.

Latika: You are not my boyfriend anymore. We are just friends now.

Kanishk: No, I am not your friend. I love you.

Latika: But I don’t love you.

Kanishk: You are only mad. Tomorrow you will call me and everything will be normal again.

Latika: Sorry Kanishk but I don’t love you anymore. I can’t see you tomorrow or later.

Kanishk: Why? Do you love anyone else?

No response.

Latika: I am sleeping bye.

Kanishk: Don’t hang up the phone. Just tell me. Is it Rehan?

Latika: Bye Kanishk.

Kanishk: Just tell me if you are dating him.

Latika: Yes, I am dating him.

Kanishk is heartbroken. He is in tears.

Kanishk: When this happened? What was my fault? Where I go wrong?

Latika: You love me too much.

Kanishk: Is that my fault?

Latika. Yes. I don’t want to feel bounded. I want to be free and your love suffocates me.

Kanishk: Is that so?

Latika: Yes that is how it is…Sorry.

Kanishk: It’s ok…I won’t bother you again…Bye…Take care…and thanks for the birthday gift…

Kanishk wants to hang up the call but the wet fingers do not have the strength to press the keys. He still hopes Latika will tell him that all this was a joke, a birthday prank played perfectly by her and she still loves him, only him.

Latika hangs up the call. Kanishk looks to the screen. It’s 3:50 AM. Last call duration 2 hrs 50 minutes.



10:30 AM

Phone ringing. It’s Latika.

Kanishk: Hello Latika.

Latika: Hi Kanishk. Happy birthday.

Kanishk: Thank you.

Latika: How are you?

Kanishk: I am okay. You?

Latika: Great.

Kanishk: How your MBA going?

Latika: Good.

Kanishk: Still dating Rehan?

Latika: Yes.

Kanishk: Does he love you more than me?

Latika: Nobody can love me more than you.

Kanishk: So why you are with him not me?

Latika: You still love me that much?

Kanishk: Yes and always…

Latika: Don’t…please don’t love me. You are a great guy…perhaps the best. Move on. You will definitely get someone who will love you as passionately as you love me.

Kanishk: I don’t want anyone but you.

Latika: Sorry Kanishk, I am not made for you. Don’t wait for me.

Kanishk: I will always wait for you.

Latika: I will not call you again. Please don’t wait for me. Goodbye…take care.

Latika hangs up the call. Kanishk tries again, she doesn’t pick up. After 30 minutes and 35 tries, her phone gets switched off.



08:00 PM.

Phone ringing. It’s Latika. Kanishk takes up the call.

Kanishk: Hello.

Latika: Hi Kanishk, Happy birthday.

Kanishk: Thank you Latika. How are you?

Latika: I am good. How are you?

Kanishk: I am great.

Latika: What’s birthday boy doing? So who called you first today?

Kanishk: Sonali.

Latika: Yeah, I saw your Facebook photos. She is very pretty.

Kanishk: We are getting engaged next month.

Latika: Oh…that’s nice. You look happy with her.

Kanishk: Yes I am happy.

Latika: More than when you were with me?

Kanishk: No, not that happy but at least I won’t have my heart broken for loving someone too much.

Latika: I am sorry. I treated you really bad. You didn’t deserve so.

Kanishk: It’s ok. It was my fault. I should have noted that I am strangling you with my love.

Latika: No, it was not your fault. I was wrong. Sometimes, we realize the true value of something when we lose it.

Kanishk: Yeah…Can I expect your call on my next birthday to remind me that I am one more year older?

Both forced their laughs.

Latika: Yeah maybe.

Kanishk: Bye…Take care Lati

Latika: Yeah bye bab…Kanishk…



02:00 AM.

Phone rings. A message from an unknown number.

“Happy Birthday”



Heart Break Cafe – Pilot

Episode 01 – On the House

Beautiful cafe

6 January 2015, Tuesday,
07: 30 pm.

Heart Break Cafe is a cafe recently opened in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. The cafe is jointly owned by four school friends Maks, Sats, Buddha, and Leo. While Leo, 27 and Maks, 27 take care of the daily business of the cafe, Sats, 29 and Buddha,28 don’t get much time due to their prior commitments. However, they always avail themselves at important or special occasions. Leo is a writer while Maks is a bank employee. Sats frequently travels abroad due to his work and is committed to a girl from Delhi. Buddha is an engineer working in a multinational company and is the only married person of the gang. The relationship status of Maks is complicated while Leo is waiting for someone special. HBC cafe has a staff of eight, which includes four waiters; Preeti, 22, Pooja, 21 and Shreya, 20 and Kamal, 18. There are two cooks, Sandy, 29 and Santosh, 26 and one caterer Bhao, 34. The café has one security personnel as Rawat ji, 45 who is an ex-serviceman. The cafe opens at 9.30 am in the morning and remains unclosed till 10:30 PM. Leo manages the cafe in the morning while Maks does the overlooking in the evening shift.

Abhishek, 25 waits for someone at the table. The cafe is moderately filled with people. Preeti, Kamal and Shreya are taking orders while Pooja has gone to Chandigarh for a wedding. Maks sits on his manager chair liking and posting comments on Facebook.

Preeti: Do you want to order something?
Abhishek: Abhi nahi, kisi ka wait kar raha hun.
Preeti: Ok.

It’s 8.00 pm now. The cafe has its share of noises and humdrum activities; the usual laughing, chit-chatting and table-chairs screeching. Abhishek looks at his watch for the hundredth time. He is restless but realizes he has to order something.

Abhishek: Excuse me!
Preeti: Yes sir?
Abhishek: Please bring a coffee for me.
Preeti: One minute sir.

One hour and three coffees later he still waits. The dialled list on his mobile shows the same number for the 15th time but there is no reply. Finally, a message arrives. Abhishek opens it. It says,” Just five minutes, I am struck in traffic.” He hits the table in frustration. Maks sees that.

Maks: Bhai table mat tod yaar, abhi furniture ke paise nahi chukaye hain.
Abhishek: Sorry.
Maks: It’s ok. Girlfriend ka issue?
Abhishek: It’s complicated.
Maks(In a sarcastic tone): Don’t say.

It’s 9.30 pm. The crowd is dissipating now. A girl enters. Aditi, 25, beautiful, nattily dressed takes a seat in front of Abhishek.

Aditi: I am really sorry. Wo office mein time lag gaya aur phir traffic mein fans gayi thi.
Abhishek: Par tumhara office toh 7 baje chhut jata hai na?
Aditi: Arey wo aaj project report submit karni thi toh time lag gaya.
Abhishek: Toh phone ka reply kyun nahi kar rahi thi.
Aditi: Wo sorry maine dekha nahi.
Abhishek (Doesn’t believe her): Yeah so convenient.
Aditi: What? Do you think I am lying?

Abhishek doesn’t reply. The anger on his face gives way to sadness.
Aditi: Bolo kya kehna tha tujhe, mere paas jyada time nahi hai. Main 9:45 ko nikal jaungi.
Abhishek: Par tum abhi abhi toh aayi ho.
Aditi: Waise pehle hi late ho gayi hun, ghar se do teen baar phone aa gaye hain. By the way, you know Delhi isn’t safe at night.
Abhishek: Main tumhe ghar chhod dunga.
Aditi: Nahi nahi main apne aap chali jaungi, tum bas batao ki tumne kisliye bulaya tha?
Abhishek looks at her with expectation, as if he wants something he thinks he deserves.
Aditi: What?
Abhishek: Aditi, we have been dating each other for around a year now.
Aditi: So?
Abhishek: So I was thinking…
Aditi: Ek minute I know that expression. Main tumhe pehle bhi keh chuki hun I can’t marry now.
Abhishek: Par kyun, don’t you love me?
Aditi: Baat wo nahi hai, you know na main soch rahi thi ki thoda career bana lun, shaadi toh kabhi bhi kar sakte hain.
Abhishek: Tum shaadi ke baad bhi toh career bana sakti ho.
Aditi: Shaadi ke baad kuch nahi ho pata.
Abhishek: Tum kisi aur ko toh pasand nahi karti?
Aditi: Nahi toh, pagal ho kya? Aur tumne aisa socha kaise?
Abhishek: Jaane do, chhodo.
Aditi: Nahi batao, tumne aisa kaha kyun, tum mujh par shak toh nahi kar rahe ho?
Abhishek: Nahi jaane do, I am sorry.
Aditi: Tu bhi na kuch bhi bolta rehta hai.

Suddenly something piqued Abhishek.
Abhishek: You know what, at least main jhutha nahi hun.
Aditi: Iska kya matlab?
Abhishek: Pichhe haftey jab tu milne aayi thi ghar pe, tab tera mobile check kiya tha maine. Tere naye aashiq ke I love you aur janu wale message padhe the maine.

Aditi is speechless as if somebody has hit her face with a steel chair.
Abhishek: Yahan mujhse shaadi bhi nahi karni aur wahan uske saath bachhon ke naam bhi rakh diye.
Aditi: Tumne mere pichhe mere message padhe, how dare you?
Abhishek: Badi besharam nikli tu, Kam se kam galti maan toh leti.
Aditi: Kaisi galti, jaise tu pichhe pada hai mere wo bhi pichhe pada hua hai.
Abhishek: Dekha maine kitni baar “mela baby” ka haal puchha tune.
Aditi: You know what, I cannot take this shit. Main ja rahi hun.
Abhishek: Yeah that’s what I was expecting.
Aditi leaves with shame redden eyes while trying to put a winning face. Abhishek watches her go; there is a pain in eyes but satisfaction of unloading his disappointment. Maks witnesses it.

It’s 10.00 pm now. The cafe is nearly empty. Preeti and Shreya have left early, as usual, Kamal is staying. He lives in an apartment of a nearby building which he shares with Sandy and Santosh. Abhishek sits quietly staring at the empty coffee cup.

Maks: Bhai sorry for interrupting, may I join you?
Abhishek: Yeah…kyun nahin.
Maks: Suni tumhari kahani maine.
Abhishek: Really, kahin jyada toh nahi ho gaya?
Maks: Nahi mujhe nahi lagta.
Abhishek does want to talk but is not sure what to say. There are too many thoughts to occupy his mind.
Maks: Ab kya karoge tum?
Abhishek: Pata nahi samajh nahi aa raha.
Maks: Samajhna kya hai, wo dhokebaaz nikli, chhod de usko.
Abhishek: I love her so much, Pata nahi usne aisa kyun kiya? It hurts bad.
Maks: I know dude, I have been there.
Abhishek: Really, tumko bhi kisi ne dhoka diya?
Maks: Not exactly meri kahani thodi alag hai.
Abhishek: Kitni alag.
Maks: Mera chhodo. You know dude, I think I have a solution for your situation.
Abhishek: Wo kya?
Maks: Ek minute.

Maks leaves for the kitchen and comes out with something wrapped in the newspaper. He places it on the table and tears the newspaper cover. It’s McDowell’s No. 1 Whisky.
Maks: On the house.
Abhishek is surprised and looks around, he is the last customer of the cafe.
Abhishek: Yahan pe allowed hai?
Maks: Not exactly, but who is complaining?
Abhishek: I am not.
Maks: Kamal! Do glass aur thoda chakna bhi le aa.
Kamal: Ok bhaiyaji.
Maks to Sandy: Oye pee raha hai kya?
Sandy: Na Daajyu (brother) aaj mangalwar hai.
Maks: Iska toh mangalwar somwaar laga rehta hai.
Kamal places three glasses, ice and chakna.
Maks: Ye teesra kiske liye?
Kamal: Bhaiyaji mera.
Maks: Tera mangalwar nahi hai?
Kamal: Mujhko sab chalta hai.
Maks: Ha ha ha sala pahadi.

Maks pours whisky in the glasses and makes three pegs.
Maks: Haan toh bhaisaab abhi shuru se sunao apni kahani, kahan mili ye mohatarama tumhe?
Kamal taking his glass up: Haan bhaiyaji shuru ho jaiye.
Abhishek nodding his head in pleasant surprise: Ajeeb jagah hai ye.
As the three drinkers raise their toasts…

Maks: Welcome to Heart Break Cafe…


I Hate You

a girl and a boy on cycles
“My silly boy. I really hate you…”

11.00 am. Moon, 16, dressed in school uniform sits on the last bench in her class. Her beautiful face is slightly red with anger. Her best friend, Rose sits with her, tries to talk to her.
Rose: Come on Moon, say something. You are mad since morning. Are you gonna spoil your 16th birthday like this?
Moon doesn’t reply. Her head still down on the bench.
Rose: Are you mad that L didn’t come to wish you?
Moon (angry): I don’t want to see him. I wish he comes under a truck.
Rose: Don’t say that. You love him.
Moon (Mixed emotions): No. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
Rose: Hey! See he is standing there.

L, 17, tall, fair, handsome stands on the door of the class. He smiles mischievously and waves at Rose and Moon. Rose waves him back with a smile but Moon twitches her lips.
Moon: Tell him that I don’t want to see him ever.
Rose (shouting to L): Sorry L, she doesn’t want to see you.
L still smiling.
L (shouting): Tell her that I have something for her.
Moon gets little curious and raises her head slightly.
Moon (whispers): Ask him what it is?
Rose (shouts): What it is?
L comes closer to her desk with his right hand behind him.
Moon raises her head, pretending to be angry.
Moon: So you finally remembered?
L (totally clueless): Remember what?
Moon: You are joking right?
L (still clueless): What I am joking?
Moon: Then what’s in your hand?
L throws the Maths textbook on the bench and breaks into a laugh.
L: Thanks for the book, I wanted to look at some of the theorems that I skipped last year…hahahahah. By the way, what you were expecting?
Moon throws the heavy Maths book in her school bag and digs her head down on the desk.
Moon: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. Don’t talk to me ever.
L: What happened, baby?
Moon: Don’t show me your face again? I hate you.
Moon starts crying with her head still down on the desk. Rose signals L to leave.

05.00 PM. L stands with his best friends Alex and Dev in front of a gift shop. He selects a heart-shaped pendant from the gift shelf.
L (to the shopkeeper): How much of this?
Shopkeeper: Rs. 350 only.
L: That much? Come on, it says 25 percent discount.
Shopkeeper: That’s after the discount.
L: Ok fine.
L turns to his friends.
L: Come on dudes, pay up…please.
Dev: Why we do that? It’s your girl’s birthday, you should give her a gift not us.
L: Yes quite true and I am the one giving her the gift.
Alex: So why you are not paying up?
L: I am paying up. See. This is my 50 bucks. Now take out your 150 each.
Dev: But why we should pay up for your girl’s gift?
L: Coz you are my best friends and very very soon she gonna be my wife.
Dev: But she is 16.
L: I know that idiot. That is why I have to wait two more years.
Alex: But you still can’t marry her, you have to be 21 to be eligible to marry.
L: Yes true, that is why I am waiting 4 years, you idiots. Now silently pay up and stop asking utterly nonsensical questions.

06:00 PM. A visibly sad and dejected Moon opens her new school bag. This was her birthday gift from her parents. A new school bag, the last one was far more spacious and lucky for her. She hates her life. It is her 16th birthday, which she was expecting to be extraordinary. Or at least, memorable. But here she is; in her room, with her books doing homework.
She sees the Maths textbook and it reminds her what L did in the morning, which makes her furious. She throws the Maths textbook away on the table. While in the air, something falls from the textbook. Moon looks at it, it’s an envelope.
Moon opens the envelope, there is a letter. It’s from L.

My sweetest girl,
Wish you a very happy birthday my baby! I know you will be mad that I haven’t wished you yet but actually, I remember your birthday all along. I wanted to tease you a little that is why I didn’t wish you in the school. Anyways I have planned something special for you tonight. Here is the itinerary for our date.

07:00 PM: I will come to your house and shout your name while standing in front of your door. You will be inside your house doing homework but your parents will come out and not mention, dozens of other nosy neighbors.
07:05 PM: I will ask your father, his permission to take you out for a date. Of course, he will say no. But then at first, I will threaten him that if he won’t let me take you on a date, I will kidnap you. Then I will say him politely that, I am gonna marry you one day anyway, so let me take you out. If that doesn’t work, I will beg him to let me take you for a date coz it’s your birthday.
07:15 PM: He still will be reluctant. Your mother will stare me from the sofa, cursing me inside her head. She doesn’t like me much. Then I will assure your father that I will bring you very soon, finally, he will agree to let me take you out.
07:20 PM: I will take you to my favorite restaurant; they make the best pastries in the city. We will eat until we are full.
07:45 PM: I will take you to a movie show. There is a romantic Hollywood movie that is releasing today. I want to watch a movie with you holding your hand.
09:45 PM: After the movie, I will take you on a long ride on my bike to the highest point of the city.
10:00 PM: Under the full moon, and clear winter sky, we will watch our beautiful city glowing with thousand lights. The night will be a little cold. First, I will give you my jacket and then I will hug you from behind to make you warm. In the quiet night, we will be alone there and we will talk, talk and talk.
10:45 PM: You will tell me that we are late and your father is going to kill you, so I will speed my bike fast to your house.
11:00 PM: Your mom and dad will be standing at the door with their glaring eyes on us. Before they could scold you, I will tell them that tyre of my bike got punctured so we got late. Your father will want to scold me but when he will see the joyful face of yours he will let it slide this time but not without a last warning, which I will accept with a playful smile. You will go upstairs to your room as I will watch you.
11:05 PM: As I will come out of your house, you will be standing on your balcony. You will say I love you to me (in sign language) I will do the same. Then you will give me a flying kiss and I will accept it on my heart. You will say (in sign language) that if I will come closer to you now, you will kiss me. I will ask you, really? You will say, yes. But very little you know, I will look at the pipe running along with your house and climb it to come to your balcony, much to your surprise, where you have to kiss me. THEN YOU WILL KISS ME.
11:11 PM. Yipeee! I will be so happy, I will say you goodnight and speed my bike towards my home as you watch me from the balcony.
That’s our date for tonight baby. I promise I won’t be late. Be ready by 7. See you then.

Only Yours Love L.

Moon finishes reading the letter, a beautiful smile read on her lips and reflects on her pretty face. She kisses the letter.
Moon: My silly boy. I really hate you.

06: 55 PM. L is riding his bike towards Moon’s house. He is excited about the date. He sees the little gift box in the upper pocket of his jacket. He imagines that when he will take Moon to the highest point of the city in the night, under the moonlight, he will tie the pendant on her neck and when she will be happy seeing it, he will kiss her pink lips. He is very happy and can’t wait to reach Moon’s house. Before L could realize, his bike comes in front of a speeding truck and a loud ear deafening screech of tyres stops in silence.

06: 58 PM. People gathered around the accident site. There are shouts, cries, horns, and people talking.
A passing man on a motorcycle inquires to one of the bystanders.
Passing Man: What happened?
Bystander: Nothing, a bike collided with a truck.
Passing Man: Anybody dead?
Bystander: Yes, the boy on the bike.

07:15 PM. Moon impatiently waits for L. She calls him 15th time on his mobile. But there is no answer. Moon throws her phone on the bed.
Moon: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

On the accident site, under the tyres of the truck, the gift box is crushed and the heart-shaped pendant is dipped in the pool of blood…


[Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash]