10 years back:
The air was cool yet, still humid. It had drizzled two hours back. It was already March. Ah! How time flies! The wind blew on our face as we ran down the slope licking the ice-cream before it could dribble down our fingers. The roads in Darjeeling were like uphill and downhill, some slopes gentle but some too steep for any vehicle. We friends loved day outs like this, gliding on our skateboards, or pedaling on cycles down the road and walking the rest chatting and laughing together. High school and Intermediate in Darjeeling was quite, calm, soothing yet very eventful.
‘It’s the last month of school, do you all realize,’ Myra started. ‘Ya, next month we would be taking our board exams, and then off we’d go to places far from here, far from each other,’ Jane chimed in. ‘ISC is just a month away,’ I mock panicked just to change the course the conversation was taking. Such talks usually made an emotional mess of me. ‘Oh, stop it Rano, why do you have to mention the exams now? We’ll not talk of studies now, we shall chat, gossip and giggle our time together, alright,’ Malhar chastised me. He was the only guy among us, very sweet and homely, yet always pretended to be above us. We loved him. Well, actually he was like an outcast in other friends-circles in school.
I had suspected he was gay at first, years back, but it was something else. It was perhaps a phobia or something that he couldn’t connect well with people. ‘We should go trekking someday,’ Myra again started excitedly, making the same plans which almost always culminated into nothing in the end. ‘And when is that ‘someday’, you always have your last minute emergencies and murder our excitements with all your drama,’ I asked irritated. They laughed, ’Let’s plan something else.’ ‘For now, I’m going to the TeaTown, who wants to accompany me?’ I said finally unable to suppress my eagerness anymore. I had waited the whole day to go there, and it’s almost six in the evening. ‘Yes, Of course,’ they said in unison. I knew, I knew, they would never let me go there alone, or they would die of jealousy. I was giggling in my mind as we turned to a corner towards the Tea&Treats.
We walked up the steep slope feeling and imbibing the gradual change in our surroundings. There were no street vendors selling apricots, strawberries and extra orange carrots. Towards our right was a valley- the view was beautiful beyond words; we stood by the low height barricade against steep cliff-like edge that led to the green pine trees and the clouds in the valley. Each time we came here, we were mesmerized, and the view was the best at sunset. It was always difficult to let go of such a sight. But there was something else that piqued our interest and curiosity recently.
We walked up the stone and brick stairs admiring the exotic flowering plants in the sidelines. Oh, everything in this place was so beautiful. One has just too many things to admire here; you can never get tired of appreciating and adoring the place. The smooth colorful stones, tiles on the floor, Chinese patterns on the wall, vines hanging from the balcony, the red and pink tiny flowers on every table, and the golden card requesting a revisit given to customers while leaving- oh my god- there’s just too much mini treasures to hoard. I already cherish the glitter stones from behind the aquarium; three golden colored cards and a red flower now rest within the pages of my journal. It’s the perfect haven for a dreamy girl like me.
Now, hold still, I have not yet started about the interiors. It was an elaborate tea shop, inaugurated just recently, offering flavors you could have never imagined existed or was likable, with recommended food items combination for every type of tea. Work of a brilliant tea sommelier. And the book shelves with beautifully covered novels, just enhanced the charm.
We entered the glass doors. There were students like us all over the place- lovebirds, and chitter-chatter troupes. ‘Hello,’ dark eyes and easy grin of Rehaan welcomed us. I felt his eyes lingering on my face a few more seconds than others. He wore his black and white uniform with style, as we wore our school uniform with pride. I liked that. Apart from everything else that TeaTown boasted of, Rehaan was the best. Ever since I had been here, my eyes wandered searching for him every time I entered the doors, and I had grown a liking towards the sweet thrill that I felt every time our eyes met. I wonder if my friends noticed it, or worse, felt the same.
We were led to a table beside the Manga book section, Malhar’s favorite. ‘Would you like to try today’s recommended combo?’ Rehaan asked us. ‘Yes, for me,’ Myra raised a finger, smiling. ‘Yeah, me too,’ the rest of us said together. Rehaan smiled, as if he knew our reactions prior to asking. He perhaps knew the effect he was having on us, oh, of course he did, this guy. He was extremely handsome, with an edge of mystery. Again I felt his eyes linger on my face, I wonder it was real or just my imagination.
My eyes sought him every five seconds. He deftly poured the brewed mixture into beautiful shaped cups. But somehow it felt he did not fit here, his persona oozed of something more umm, important, yes and superiority, demanding respect perhaps. I could not pin point that feeling, or that word. We were served Belgian Mint Tea, Coco Truffle Tea, Orchid Vanilla Tea and Raspberry Nectar along with cakes and brownies. Yumm!! ‘Raspberry Nectar for you Miss. Rano,’ he said, He knew my name! O.M.G.. thank god I had that much of restraint not to smile foolishly at that. Everyone was looking at me. Myra’s expression was almost a scowl. Jealousy? Oh no. Jane teased, ’Oh, he knows your name. But Rehaan, why so special a recommendation for her?’ He hesitated a bit,’ No, I just overheard the name. Enjoy your time.’
‘Woah..You have an admirer Rano,’ Malhar began. ‘Let me taste your tea too,’ Myra demanded with a puckered face that made me laugh.
I have to talk to this guy.
The next day I woke up early enough and took the city ride to Tea&Treats with my assignments and journal. There’s no one to be seen so early, but Rehaan reclined on the window sill reading something intently in the newspaper.