Somebody shouted from a junction of a main road. It was a very harsh voice. I did not see the person. I could only recognize the matured voice of a woman scolding someone offensively.
I was standing in veranda staring the people walking in the street. I would see them from front to back. All faces would be new. And whenever the street would be empty I would spit over it.
"Why do you frequently throw spittle in the yard, don't you abhor of this. Look you have made these stains all over yard." These were my mothers' words. She used to scold me this way when I was in the house. Sister used to support mother and help her add more words in opposition to me. Father usually used to be in the office, so he was unknown about my habit. I understand now, it was own yard and own people scolding me. They loved me hence they scolded me. There was love hidden in their scold. I used to get inside the room silently. Afterwards, I again used to come out to throw spit, this time a bit outside at the corner of the yard.
I was staying in rented room for two years. My neighbors' brother was staying in the same room before. Later my family sent me there to stay with him. He had helped me to find college. He also made me aware of urban culture, rules of rent and discipline, dos and don'ts. His college was over after one year and he shifted somewhere. I started staying alone.
A girl is spotted in road below. She might be of 12 years. She is thin so she seems to be tall. She was wearing red kurtha filled with white spotted circles. Where was she going bare foots. I gave attention to her with no reason. Immediately someone shouted in harsh voice with offensive words. I was shocked to know she was the girls' mother. Girl halted. Her long legs turned. She ran as if she was fawn. I again spitted over road, this time I also spitted at the word told by the girls' mother.
"Good afternoon!" This was followed by the tapping sound of short heel in the stairs. The girl who stays in upper flat usually starts her conversation this way. I did not know where she was coming from. She seems to be very happy and beautiful as well. We had an eye contact until she finished climbing the stairs. I already had replied, "Yes, Good afternoon."
"Will you please help me?" She spoke stepping and standing on the upper-most steps of the stairs.
"Nothing that serious, I will come afterwards." She was climbing stairs of second flat. Her speed was constantly increased resulting the fall in intensity of voice. I had gone home finishing my first years examination. When I returned back I saw a new girl in the same house I had rented. First I thought she could be relative of the house-lord. Later I saw her in same college I was studying second year. Then I had dared to ask her.
"You too are here?"
"Oh! Yes, since it is nearer from room." Then only I knew that she had also taken a rented room. "By the way, it's me ........." In this way I had introduced myself. She also told me that she was Simran.
This was all we talked that day. We were in different grades so our class times were different. We also had different flat so we generally did not see each other. If we happen to meet we would just wish each other depending upon that time of the day it is.
It was the middle of April. Somebody knocked the door. It was holiday so I had woke up late. And I had brought half liter of milk pouch from the shop I was supposed to go very day. As soon as I had poured the milk and lit the stove for boiling it someone had knocked the door. Who may it be? I had guessed it could be the owner of the house. I had already paid the rent money of April, so he could not be the owner knocking outside. I stepped towards the door with curiosity.
I opened the door. She was the same Simran standing smiling. She was looking as cute as ever. Her hair was wet and water was leaking through it. But it wasn't that enough to make her wet.
Good morning! She wished me earlier as before.
Before I could reply, she had raised the white plastic packet she was carrying and added, “It's my birthday today!”
“Well, happy birthday! And many many happy returns of the day." I wished her taking out two chocolate labeled as strawberry flavored. Thank you, she had replied immediately.
"Bye, I also need to distribute other". She had turned soon after.
"No, how can you go from the door itself?" Come inside. I insisted someone for the first time.
I don’t know what made her convinced. She was ready to get in. I opened the door and kept opening.
She came and sat in the same chair I used to sit. It was the only chair I had. She had soon tuned the radio to another station. While I was talking to her, I poured one each glass of water and milk in a tea-pan to prepare a coffee.
I know I should not ask, but I will ask you. I asked her lighting the second stove.
She laughed first. "You are a cunning person. Well, I am seventeen and what about you?" She sounded childish.
"I am seventeen and half.” I don't know whether I flirted with her.
I put about seven coffee beans in the cup and poured a hot mixture into it. Then I handed it to her. Again I poured it for myself. She thanked me and kept the cup on the table near the radio.
As soon as we had taken the first sip of coffee, she made a face because the coffee was insipid. I had forgotten to ask how much sugar she wanted, since we were busy talking. .
She had chucked. I soon handed sugar's can and spoon in her hand. Rather she had asked me. "How much spoon will you take?"
"Two." I replied with regret. I should not have forgotten to ask her the sugar.
First she poured two spoon sugar in my cup and then to her. Then she stirred my cup. I had just turned back to get another spoon.
"Don't bring it!" As soon as she had finished saying she already had stirred her cup with the same spoon.
"But why ...." I haven't finished my question.
"I don’t care actually." She replied.
I was speechless and kept standing, staring at her.
She finished drinking coffee faster than me. She stood up thanking me for the coffee once again. She was ready to go. I wished her again in the door. I heard her heels tap knocking door next to mine when I was shutting the door. When I came back to my room and picked the coffee cup I had many unanswered questions.
I had no idea why she was coming to my room again. I still remember what had happened last time she had visited my room. I rushed to my room. I was so busy during exam days I haven't cleaned the floor. I soon ran a broom over it. I arranged the books scattered on the table. I folded the blanket, arranged the bed-sheet. Corner which had a kitchen was clean. I relaxed since the job was decreased. I opened the window and lifted the curtain. I felt fresh air blowing inside. I never knew my room could be this bright and refreshing. I felt overjoyed.
The door was knocked in the same way as before. It was open. She had carried a laptop with her. She wanted me to help her in making a college project report. I edited the project I had submitted last year and gave it to her.
This time I did not repeat the mistake asking her for sugar and served her a cup of coffee. I don't know whether she remembered the previous incident, she laughed cranking once again. This time she thanked me for two reasons. One for helping her making a project and second was for my delicious 'art of making coffee' in her words.
Anyway, she looked charming and happy as always. After she went back I kept thinking whether I deserve the praise for 'art of coffee making.'
Half the roof was separated for boarders. We had a facility of washing and drying clothes there. In winter we use to utilize the spot for gathering and sitting under the sun. Brother who used to stay with me used to study in the roof. But I used to find pleasure in the room itself. Otherwise, I would stand in the veranda and stare at strangers and spit over the road roughly.
I was fully free after my exams were over. Otherwise I was busy following the same routine. After I returned back from college, I used to climb on the roof and bring back dried cloths. Generally, Simran would be seen there reading. Some day she used to be busy using laptop. Sometime she used to ask me about the study matter. I would teach her if I knew and would soon get down carrying the cloths.
I told her I was returning home before few days. I don't myself know why I felt important to tell her. Anyway I shared with her. Did she have to become distressed on my words? Or she had to become happy and wish me luck for upcoming years? She did not express how she felt. She told nothing regarding this. She only thanked me for helping her.
"And listen!" I halted in stairs and looked towards her. I was going down to my room.
"The insipid coffee! ….." She spoke loud; crackling.
Her sentence was not complete. I interrupted her in middle.
"Haven't you still forgotten it?" I spoke bold. And started stepping downward; holding my laughter.
Some days later, my cousin came to sit in the same room where I lived. I had already talked with the owner that someone other would be staying there. She also gave me the money and shopping list which I was asked to take home when I returned.
I remembered Simran when I was about to go. I just wanted to say her goodbye. I was also willing to introduce my cousin with her. But this did not happen. She was outdoors and her room was locked. I instructed my cousin to meet her and got back home visiting the supermarket.
It was the following day I had arrived home. I was sleeping under a tree. My sister was frequently asking how I felt at home again. I had nothing to answer than to remind her incidents that used to happen when I used to be at home two years back.
"She is a girl who resides in flat just above mine. But how did you know her?" I asked with curiosity.
"Look at this, I found in your shirts. It got wet and can't be understood now." She showed me the sheet of paper which was hand written with blue ink. It seems to be written in letter format. It was now smudged and was illegible. Only word that could be understood was 'Simran' at the end.
"How can this be in my shirt?" I was shocked myself.
"And didn't you ever understand her?" She told hanging my shirt to dry.
"What was I supposed to understand?" I asked her making my shirt inside out which was just hung by sister, but she was already gone. I always dry my clothes inside out. One day, when I was staying in the rent. And went to bring back my dried shirt, I found it was hanged in proper order. I thought I was mistaken and I ignored it. But now the shirt and insipid coffee is giving me signal of something else. I once again looked at the wet shirt hanging in the rope. It has been ironed as well.