A Chai Lover

With a bag half-zipped, hair all messed up and College ID hanging from her wrist, Riya rushed towards the shared auto that was leaving. The auto was filled with five people already, yet she decided to get in. Adjusting here is better than standing out on the road convincing the watchmen to open the college gate for me. I should wake up early from tomorrow at least she thought to herself, just like every other morning.

The time was 8:55 am and the college gates closed by 9:05 am. As she got down from the auto, she started walking towards the tea stall that was right in front of her college. She asked for a ginger tea, grabbed a stool and started sipping her tea.

“I’m sure, this is exactly how elixir would have tasted like in heaven,” she said to herself while enjoying every sip of tea.

As she was looking around, she found a guy who was sitting right beside her. He was tall and dark with pretty looking eyes. She stayed still as she looked at him and soon realized that she was staring at him and pretended to look away.

In no time, she caught him looking at her. “What’s that look for?” She asked with a very casual look on her face. “Me? Are you talking to me?” He asked with a hesitant tone.

“Oh, come on. You know that I’m talking to you. I can hear all the judgmental comments coming from the people around us, just with their looks. But your look seems surprisingly non-judgmental. Now tell me, what’s that look for?” She asked him again.

With a pleasant smile, he said, “I was wondering, how you manage to look pretty despite being messy, right from your hair that looks like a nest to your slip-on that’s ready to slip from your feet at any moment.”
Riya stopped sipping her tea and took a look at her slip-on immediately. “Is that supposed to be a compliment or…?” She asked him, doubting her appearance.

“Whatever you feel like, suit yourself”, he said. Giving the slightest of a smirk, as he took the last sip of his tea, he placed the glass on the table and left.

“Did he just say that my hair looks like a nest? Well, that’s okay. He also said I look pretty,” she said and smiled as she took her last sip of tea. Hearing the college bell, she left her glass there and rushed to her college doing the exact thing that she didn’t want to do (convincing the watchmen to open the gate again).

The next day when she asked for tea, her eyes were anxiously and constantly searching for him. Riya finally found him walking towards the tea stall. The moment she found him walking towards her heart began to race.

“Are you looking for me?” He asked, grabbing a chair that was right next to her. “Me? Are you talking to me?” asked Riya mockingly.

“Oh. Come on. You know that I’m talking to you.” he said. Both of them smiled. “By the way, I’m Rithwik,” he said. “I’m Riya,” she said as they looked at each other with a smile that you get when you finally meet someone you wanted to meet from a very long time.

Days passed and they kept meeting again and again. He was a nerd and she on the other hand, had no interest in studying. He was all organized and she was an embodiment of mess. He always talked about his future while she was worried that Pizza Hut would not have her favorite onion pizza like the last time. Both of them were just like antonyms. But as they say, opposites attract. He adored her careless nature and she adored his sense of responsibility. They found a sense of balance in their lives with each other’s presence.

One night Rithwik messaged Riya, “Be ready by 10 am. I’ll pick you up at the bus stop. Don’t ask me where we are going because I’m not going to tell you. Goodnight.”
Riya woke up in the morning and it was 9:40 am already. She brushed her teeth, washed her face and changed into a pair of jeans, wearing the same shirt that she wore yesterday. Half-awake, she walked downstairs only to find Rithwik waiting for her in the parking lot.

“Don’t tell me you woke up late – AGAIN!” he said. “Why would I wake up late? I woke up at 6 in the morning and was ready by almost 6:15,” she said in a sleepy voice. “Look at yourself. You look like you are sleep-walking. When did you wake up? Answer truthfully.” He said, having an obvious look on his face. “Okay. I woke up at 9:45, changed my clothes and walked straight out of my bed.” She said as she sat on his bike. “How can you be so confident when you lie?” he asked. “I was born with confidence though.” She said and rested her head on his back.

They went to a movie and then to a restaurant to have lunch. Around 6 pm, Rithwik took Riya to a beautiful lake. There were benches along the lake and to the right side of the lake there was a tea stall. As soon as they got down, Riya grabbed Rithwik’s hand and dragged him towards the tea stall. “What a perfect time to have tea,” she said with a big smile.

As Riya was sipping her tea, Rithwik admired how she was enjoying every sip of her tea. He smiled fondly and asked, “Why do you love tea so much?”
“For me, Chai isn’t just chai, it’s an emotion Rithwik,” she said as she continued sipping her tea.”

“Yes, I can see that. In fact, I see that every time you have tea and I love to look at you that way,” he said with his eyes fixed on her.

I just love the way tea keeps me warm from the chills of cold weather. In the ad mist of the cold breeze that passes by, I love how the aroma of ginger soothes my soul,” she said as she took her last sip of tea.

As soon as Riya finished narrating her love for tea, Rithwik asked Riya, “You never noticed me in the class right?” “What?” Riya asked Rithwik surprisingly. Rithwik continued, “I always wanted to tell you something and I guess this is the time to do so. Now listen to me.”

“You and I were from the same class in our intermediate. Even back then you were a mess. You never bothered about looking good. You always used to stick to the wall so that the teacher doesn’t catch you sleeping. You sleep almost in every class and yet you manage to get a good score and I still wonder how.

One day I saw you standing at the tea stall and stopped to see what you were up to. You took a cup of tea and despite people looking at you as if it was a crime for a girl to have tea outside, you sat there in your world, enjoying your Chai.

You are just like a child. That child who holds the courage of not thinking for a second to do something weird or absurd. That child, who is annoying when she needs love and calm when she’s content. I guess I helplessly fell in love with that child.

I love the comfort that my heart feels when I look at you. Just like the aroma of your tea, I love the aura that you carry with you, which soothes every inch of my soul. Just like the way you love your tea, I love you.

“Is this for real or is it some kind of a pleasant dream that I will never want to wake up from? I can’t imagine a person that I loved for so long finally coming and
confessing that he loved me too, without me saying I love you first,” she said
with a smile accompanied by tears that rushed out, unable to hold the happiness of that beautiful moment.

“What? What did you just say?” Rithwik asked Riya in astonishment.

“I saw you at the tea stall having tea. When I took the last sip of my tea and accidentally looked at you, you were smiling at the ground. You placed your glass on the table, turned around and left. This was the first time I saw you.

I know your presence in the class more than anybody else. I walked right behind you when we headed home from college. You were right opposite to me. You were literally a book-worm. I never saw you without a book in your hand. You were all organized right from the moment I saw you. You had these pretty eyes and a beautiful smile.

The only thing that we had in common was, you enjoyed your own personal space just like I do and that attracted me the most. This might sound creepy but the place where you stay, the college that you are currently in, your college timings, the time you reach home, your hangout places, I know all of them. I always wanted to talk to you but I found no reason why a person like you would love someone like me who is either sleepy or messy all the time.

It was okay for me to love you and keep that love to myself. Every time I took a step to come and confess what you meant to me, the thought of rejection or being judged pulled me 10 steps back. I didn’t want the love that I had for you to fade.

I loved you for who you were back then and I love you for all that you are today. Adoring and falling for a book-worm like you was a pretty tough decision for me to make too.” She said as she chuckled through her tears.
After listening to Riya, Rithwik rushed towards her and hugged her as tight as possible. “Despite your awful humor, the nest that you carry in the name of hair, and the beautiful mess that you always are, I fell in love too. So let’s not be judgmental and just hug for now.” He said as he kissed her forehead and hugged her a little tighter. As the sun was slowly setting and disappearing into the lake, Riya and Rithwik walked along the lake holding hands, living that beautiful moment, creating a bond that will never break.

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