SRIJANI PAL DREAMS AWAY MOST OF HER SUMMER BECAUSE TIME TO HER, IS AN ILLUSION. Ever since she could remember, she had spent most of her summers at her grandmother's bakery cum café in Kolkata. Her dida, Sushmita Pal, was the grandmother you always read about, a soft-spoken woman with a heart as big as the ocean and a hug that would temporarily erase all your afflictions. A young Srijani would look with wide-eyed amusement as her grandmother made mishti doi, rasgullas, sandesh, special fish cutlet and mughlai parathas for the café. As a kid she would offer the customers tissue papers, and now she waitressed. Time slowly nibbled at her dida and so the café was now only open in the evenings. The café was at the end of a cobblestone street in the town part of Kolkata, busy with foreigners, Bengali women, their toddlers scrambling behind them and hawkers, lined next to knick knack shops and mithaiwallahs. The café with it's peeling blue paint walls always played old Bollywood songs and had wooden furniture that had aged with time, tables covered with red and white tablecloth and freshly picked flowers from dida's garden.
Srijani was saturated with love she had for her hometown. She had moved out for college a couple of years ago but missing home always felt like spirit on a wound; a sharp sting at the heartstrings.
Droplets of sweat trickled away down Srijani's calves like the summer passing by, full of nothing but anticipation for something better to happen. She loved working with her grandmother, it made her content but life had felt like an unfinished puzzle for the past couple of years. Tor bhalobashar dorkar (you need love) dida had said but she brushed it off like a bug on the skin. On uneventful evenings when the traffic smoke hadn't begun to nauseate her and her arms weren't heavy with carrying all the plates around, Srijani thought about how some amount of bhalobasha, love, could subtly help with the void that lay unrelentingly inside of her. Loving is so easy! Everyone around her said but for her, loving was so terribly hard! Hard to come around and even if it comes around, having to hold onto it like an anchor holds the ship felt like a Herculean task. Maybe this isn't for me, she thought to herself, biting softly on her lower lip, trying to make herself feel okay with the entire lovelessness situation. So when love struck her in the most unfamiliar place, her heart grew the size of her entire being.
NYX DESAI WAS THE GIRL EVERYONE DREAMT ABOUT WHEN ASKED TO RECREATE AN IMAGE OF THE GIRL YOU WOULD WANT TO LOVE IN THE LABORATORY OF YOUR MIND. The mid summer afternoon, seventeenth of May, at five fifty seven pm, Nyx had asked her if their café was open because mainly wanted to use the loo and then perhaps get a chilled lemonade for "rejuvenation" she added with what Srijani swore was a smirk. The spit in her mouth seemed to have dried she saw the new girl and her cheeks grew red because of the way her heart palpitated. Nyx actually stayed for more than just a glass of lemonade, she stayed there the entire evening, saying she was waiting for her friend but not a single visitor had paid her a visit. Srijani would steal glances at her, for Nyx looked like a goddess dressed in a yellow floral dress and bright red lipstick that never seemed to come off her full lips. Nyx had chatted with her dida twice, smiling a smile that could give the moon a run for it's beauty. Her hair, oh her hair, were endless soft curls that were dyed pink near the end, gently adding to her beauty. "Jaani, help this lovely lady out before you pull down the shutters", her dida had told her. So when it was Srijani's time to help Nyx out, she tried very hard to get rid of the fish curry and sweat odour that permeated off her. Pretty girls scared her because she fell in love with every single one of them and they would disappear in the blink of an eye, all of them but Nyx. Nyx wanted to know more about the old part of Kolkata and revealed that she did not actually have a visitor, she was vacationing alone in the city and did not have a single clue about things.
All Srijani had to do was guide the stranger about places in her city but that seemed impossible with the brown skinned goddess sitting across her. Nyx told her about how she had dropped out of law school that summer, two semesters before her graduation because the course was eating away her bones and turning her into a corporate slave, she said, in-between drags of a Marlboro Menthol. Srijani hadn't managed to put across many words in their conversation, it was mostly Nyx's rants about how the late stage capitalism kills the working class and how much of a pain in the arse law school was but she had managed to put her entire dil, heart, on the red and white tablecloth for the girl with golden-sweet laughter. In the few words that had left her perpetually dry mouth, she had agreed to show Nyx the old part of the city. For free, she swore to Nyx. As if I have the balls to charge someone this beautiful, Srijani thought to herself. She remembers their first night they spent talking together, playing it like a tape on repeat until it stops working on replay. She fell headfirst into this infatuation, similar to falling off a balcony, rapidly and beyond her control.