It was an ordinary day in Mumbai. Thousands of people in the streets, the traffic was still and the food markets were full. It was in the middle of October and I was on my way to the biggest food market of them all, to help my parents. The usual routine began to be a bit boring. Sleep, eat, sell, eat and then sleep again. And sometimes, school. Every hour, every day, I did the same things. Why would my own parents make me do this, you ask? Well, I wanted to help them, because they did not have a lot of money after my study trip to the U.S. They needed the help after my third year at Yale, which was last year, so I travelled back to India. I still studied, but not as much as I used to when I lived in the states. I missed it too, but I couldn’t leave my parents behind, not after their help from all these years. So I guessed I’d be stuck with the routine. Well, that’s what I though.
After the first rush, I was exhausted. Why would so many people buy peas and paprika? Anyways, I saw an old friend by the store. She waved and walked towards me. “Lakshmi!” I cried and smiled. “How are you, Dakshi?” she asked and hugged me. “I’m great, thank you, just tired. And you? I haven’t seen you in years!” I answered. “I’ve been in Thailand the past couple of years after we graduated. And you went to the states! That’s amazing, you have to tell me all about it,” she said and grabbed my arm. “Wait, I have to tell my parents I’m going with you,” I said and let go of her arm. “Come on, you’re not twelve any more! You can go anywhere you please! We’ll just be around the corner, I promise,” she said and dragged me with her. I got bad conscience but followed her to a little café around the corner.
“Coffee’s on me,” she said as I sat down by a table inside. The café was small, but cosy and there were not many people inside. The walls were painted dark red and the tables and chairs were dark brown. It smelled cinnamon and coffee. There were two fans in one corner and a fan in the roof. It was cold in there, but comfortable. Lakshmi came back with to small espressos and sat down by my side. “Tell me, Dakshi, were there any romances in the U.S.?” she said and handed me my cup. I laughed. “No, are you crazy,” I answered. “You sure?” she asked. She always did this. She loved gossip. “Well, it was this one girl in my freshman year, but nothing else. You know I love schoolwork,” I said and tasted the coffee. “This espresso is delicious!” I wanted my thoughts in another place. I didn’t want her to ask about the girl. But my little comment didn’t stop her. “I know, it’s the best in town! So, tell me about this girl. Were you guys dating a lot? What did she look like? How was she? Tell me,” she asked.
I couldn’t sleep. I just lay in bed and though about Lakshmi. We were planning to be together at Diwali with some other friends from school. I smiled at the picture in my head. Five-six people around one table having a great time, fireworks, lights all over the city and maybe a little romance. I closed my eyes and thought of different days and meetings with Lakshmi until dawn. I hadn’t slept a bit, and I felt sick. At 7 am, my mum came in and told me the breakfast was ready. “Sorry, mom, I haven’t slept at all... I feel ill, I don’t think I can go with you to the market today,” I said. She brought me some papadou and cucumber. “If you feel better, you know where we are,” she told me before they left. I slept for a few hours and ate a small amount of rice since we were almost out of it. I felt better and I could go down to the market, on the other hand I wanted to meet Lakshmi again, so I called her and we arranged a meeting by the little café at noon. Diwali was in two days, and in the city preparations had already started. Candles were placed all over buildings and staircases and the trees were filled with flowers. People shopped for good food and fine clothes, and children talked about what they wanted to do with their parents and friends. Teenage boys and girls asked each other on dates and dances and old people sat on benches and talked about how Diwali was in their golden ages. In other words, the city was full of love, peace and hope. “This is going to be a perfect day,” I though as a walked around the corner to the little café. Lakshmi sat outside and as she saw me she smiled and waved. I walked faster towards her. A man sat down by her side and kissed her. I was confused. Was she married? She didn’t tell me about anyone. I never asked, but still. The love, hope and peace suddenly fell down and broke in pieces.
“This is my boyfriend, Khan,” she told me and we shook hands. “A pleasure to meet you, Dakshi,” he said and smiled. “You too. I’ve heard so much about you,” I said and looked at Lakshmi. She smiled nervously. As we sat down, I wanted to get away from them. By the two hours we sat there, I nearly spoke. Finally Kahn went to the toilet. “You never told me you had a boyfriend?” I said. She hesitated. “I didn’t know how to say it,” she said. “I was afraid of how you’d react,” I though about that. “Did you think I would care?” I asked. She looked confused. “I mean, did you think I would, um, be angry or sad?” She didn’t answer. Kahn came back and kissed her cheek again. “Sorry, but I have to get back to work, I’m already late,” he said. He shook my hand again and waved good bye. “Now?” I asked. “Hm? What do you mean?” she said confused. “Are you going to answer my question?” She hesitated again, and this time it took two-three minutes before she answered. “I don’t know, okay? After you left I didn’t knew what we were, I don’t even know now. There is something between us and I know you know, I just can’t put my finger on it,” she said as she looked down. “What about Kahn?” I asked. “I don’t love him...” “But he loves you,” I interrupted her. She nodded. “I know,” We paused for some minutes. “So, what are you going to do?” I asked carefully. “I have no idea,”