I had just moved to Bangalore after completing my engineering from Delhi University. Right after that I got placement into a big IT Tech company here.
“Hey Manoj, can you pick the groceries today? I will be at least couple hours late. I will do the dishes after dinner”, Hari called to me from the far end of his cubicle in his Tamilian accent.
“Sure, no worries. I will leave in few minutes”, I replied.
Hari was a colleague, and one of the guys I shared my apartment with. The other one was Sundar who was in the apartment too, sharing the room with Hari. They had both moved to Bangalore from Trichy post their engineering. I met them during the first week of our induction process.
We all had come from outside Bangalore and were looking for an apartment to rent. But the rents were crazy even for a small apartment. After strolling through a number of appointments, I landed up on a two-bedroom apartment that was not very far from our company. Since it was overbudget, I had no option but to look for someone ready to share so I didn’t have to take the full cost.
When I floated the idea in our induction group, Hari confirmed within the same day. But to my surprise, Sundar came along to see the apartment. Later during the conversation, they revealed they were school buddies from Trichy. They were looking for a place where they could stay together. There were only two rooms, and three of us. And I wasn’t going to share the room with anyone. So, there was no conflict. They both took the bigger room while I got my independent room.
Work was divided from day 1, Hari gets the groceries while Sundar will cook the food. I don’t know how to cook, and I can’t survive on restaurant food for more than a couple days. So, the only chore left for me was doing the dishes after dinner.
As the clock struck 6, I wrapped up my work and soon I was at the usual store nearby our apartment.
“Bhaiya, yeh items milega kya”, I asked the guy working at the store handing over the paper with list of items on it.
“Haan, sab milega. 2-minute ruko, abhi lata hoon”, the guy replied back in a tired lazy voice.
While he brought the items, I could visualize the dinner from the ingredients. Again, a South Indian one, huh! I was fond of South Indian food few months ago, but now, I can’t take it anymore. But then beggars can’t be choosers, I thought.
Carrying my thoughts about the uninteresting dinner, I stepped out of the store and my eyes got stuck at something I couldn’t imagine. “A Panipuri stall!!!”
Although I didn’t use to go much to the market, I hadn’t seen that earlier. Seeing the stall, my eyes lit up, mouth watering down like a waterfall. I couldn’t resist but to run towards the heavenly direction.
As I was closing in towards the stall, I saw this gorgeous lady in a red floral dress waiting for her turn. She had the plate in front of panipuri wala bhaiya.
As I reached near the stall, I heard her mesmerizing voice, “Bhaiya thora theekha wala paani dalna”, she asked the panipuri vendor.
The evening had just got super interesting. From the boring life of sambar dosa to the nostalgic taste of panipuri and cherry on the top with a beautiful girl in front of me.
“Hey, you work at Infy”, before I could even utter a word, the lady looked at me and asked.
“Yes, how do you know? Do you also work there?”
“I can read it on your face”, she laughed.
“No, seriously. Tell me”, I joined in her laughter but wasn’t sure how she knew.
“Your badge, silly”, pointing at the ID card that was hanging from one of the loops in my trouser.
“Off-course, silly me. My name is Akshay and am from Delhi. How about you?”
“O, so you think you will get my details just like that. It’s not that easy Mr.”, she was still laughing and enjoying the fun in all that.
And here I was, falling in love with every heartbeat, every laughter, every word that fell into my ears.
“Madam ji aapka ho gaya”, said the panipuri wala.
“Thanks, bhaiya.”, she replied and then looking at me she said, “You will have panipuri too, or you are just here to talk to pretty girls like me”, still enjoying the fun.
“Aap Panipuri khayengay bhaiya ji? Ya fir aapke peeche wale bhai sahab ke liye pehle bana doon?”, Panipuri wala asked me in a cunning tone as if pulling my leg too.
I didn’t have the answer for I loved panipuri, but that love was just replaced by her laughter. Even though I didn’t have her name or anything, I was ready to get down on my knees with a ring in my hand and ask her the one question. But then I knew it was too early for that, and I was happy to have met her. And relieved too to an extent that she had started the conversation.
I tried asking her name again or something that I could get hands on to trace her. But she was hard as a spy and gave no details at all.
It’s been two weeks now. I come every day to the panipuri stall. I stay here for an hour, sometimes two. In the hope, that she will turn up again and my love story may just begin one day.