“Hey Teju, are you done with the decorations? We must have done it by today evening.” asks Aadat Daftari, owner of “Shailu’s”, a bakery cum café. Shailu’s is a popular hang out place amongst the youngsters in the town.
“Sir, I don’t understand why do you celebrate the Valentine’s Day more than any other festival? We don’t furbish the place throughout the year and as the Valentine’s comes, everything changes.” asks Teju, one of the employees.
“Have you loved someone ever?”
“Then you won’t understand, you moron! Keep working. I want you to finish this by the noon now. Got it?” says Aadat in an authoritative voice.
Teju runs to finish the undone.
Aadat opens the drawer of the counter table that he uses to sit every day for managing the place; brings out a group photo of his college final year. Takes a look and his mind runs down the memory lane.
There was this girl from his class. Both were friends rather more than friends! None of them ever confessed about their feelings for each other. But everyone in the class knew that they would one day. Aadat was also thinking to ask her for marriage after graduation. But nothing expected happened. She flew abroad after graduation and it looked like happening on the spur of the moment. She neither returned nor contacted. Aadat Daftari was left alone with his broken heart but he was a spirited man, moved on, started his small but successful business and today he has been a well-loved name in the town.
It is around 11:30 am. The place has started getting crowded. A young man comes to the counter. Aadat is busy with something. The man stands quietly.
“Oh sorry my boy, I couldn’t notice. What can I do for you?” says Aadat.
“It’s totally fine. I am Sahaj. I want you to meet someone. Can you spare few minutes please?” the guy asks pointing towards a corner table where a decent lady was sitting facing the display window.
Aadat is unable to see her face but agrees to meet out of curiosity. He tells this not so familiar face to wait for few minutes as to finish his work. Sahaj returns to their table.
Aadat after wrapping up his work comes to the table where this young man and the lady are sitting. As he approaches, the lady looks at him and Aadat’s heart misses a beat. He is floored to see Shailaja in front of him after so many years. He couldn’t utter a word at once. Few moments pass by silently. At last, Shailaja breaking the silence says, “Hey Aadat, nice to see you after so long.”
“Yes, the long stands for 20 years only. But it’s okay. It is nice to see you too.” Though controlled, bitterness is poured in Aadat’s voice.
He continues, “how come? I mean how after so many years…. And you just vanished …. Couldn’t get a chance to…”
Aadat is unable to compose himself today as Shailaja has appeared suddenly. He has so many questions but of all, why is she here? Who is this young man? Where does she live now? Why didn’t she ever try to contact?
All these questions have flooded abruptly into his confused mind.
Sahaj interrupting says, “I know I shouldn’t interfere in your matter but someone has to start at least. So, allow me.”
He continuing tells Aadat why and how Shailaja departed. It was after they got graduated, one day message came from Shailaja’s brother who was abroad that her brother and sister-in-law met with an accident. They were the only family to Shailaja and her mother as her father died long ago. Shailaja left for her brother’s due to the casualty. There she found both of them demised, leaving behind a five year old son- Sahaj. She became the sole guardian, bringing him up like her son. Her mother helped her with the same but in these many years, her life got rooted around Sahaj only! She never tried to contact Aadat as she didn’t want to load him with her responsibilities and also thinking that he must be settled with his family as the time had taken no time to pass by!! The one thing she couldn’t manage to get away from her past was her unspoken feeling for Aadat. And therefore she couldn’t marry to anyone else though her mother wanted her to.
Aadat is speechless.
Sahaj goes on, “Last year I visited the town to decide about selling our place we have here as there was no point in returning here for any of us. At that time, I noticed this place named “Shailu’s”! It struck my mind as only few of us call Shailaja aunty by this name. And as she had already discussed about you with granny, I was well aware about who you were. So, I got into everything about both of you and the picture was clear…..”
“….. So, cutting it short, it took a year to convince Shailu aunty to meet you for once and now we are here; this is it. Do you want to say something?”
Aadat grabbing a glass of water from the table takes few sips and says, “It has been a very long time and considering our situation now, it is really difficult…”
Aadat takes a pause.
Shailaja looks at Sahaj as to leave the place before Aadat says something she doesn’t expect to listen.
Aadat continues looking into Shailaja’s eyes, “… it is really difficult to ask if you want to be my Valentine.”
She exults, “You haven’t changed a bit in these many years. Your head is stuffed with these filmy ideas!”
“Yes of course.” says a voice in unison with Shailaja.
Three of them turns to the voice. Teju is there holding a heart shaped piece of decoration made of yellow Crysanths!!
“Are you decorating the place with yellow flowers for the Valentine’s Day?” asks Shailaja surprisingly.
“Yes because I knew it from college days that you don’t like red roses and these are your favorite, aren’t they?” says Aadat
Sahaj hasn’t seen Shailaja blushing like this in past years. Aadat declares everything on the house that day as his Valentine’s Day has already fallen in.