Geishana hated the new city.

She had always dreamed of moving out of her house, out from under the overbearing shadow of her mother. All her midnight adventures focused on her living alone and doing nothing in an empty house. But now that she had actually moved out, miles away, right at the opposite end of the country, she hated it. Pune was a big city, indeed. But the bigger the place, the emptier it feels. She hated the loneliness, she hated the emptiness; she hated that she hated it.

The college was nice, the teachers were sweet but impersonal. Most of the people spoke the local language, Marathi. And, for some reason, she hated the sound of it. The crowd seemed different to what she was used to. People talked to her but that was all it had to it. She hadn’t been able to make a strong connection with anyone. She had no friends, nobody to talk to. Nevertheless, as with everyone else, the world went on for her.

That day also seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. She woke up to the loud snoring of her roommate, who, for some odd reason, liked to sleep with her butt up in the air. It was hilarious and super awkward at the same time. She had an early morning class and had to rush through the whole process of waking up and leaving. Stand-offish faces and bitter, indifferent voices accompanied her as she walked to her class. The bad vibes that had been with her ever since she had moved to this wretched city continued to follow her.

“Geishana, hi! Do you know if ma’am is coming today?” a peppy girl with thick glasses asked her. It was Revi. Geishana wondered where she got all that energy that early in the morning. “I don’t know re. She didn’t say anything in the class group chat” she sighed. “It’s been 20 minutes, though. I don’t think she’s coming”. Typical, Geishana had only one class that day. 4 hours of sleep wasted. “Guess, she won’t be coming then. Bye, Revi” Geishana drawled and turned to leave.

She was sipping on some coffee at her favorite café, waiting for some pancakes when this tall lanky guy barged in through the door. “Barge” is the right word to use here as the slam of the door turned almost all the heads present there. He plopped down into a chair two tables away from Geishana. Then he looked straight at her. Her brows contorted in confusion as he made his ways to her table and sat down facing her and whispered, “Listen, I know why we accept the love we think we deserve”.

Geishana was shook! That was her favorite quote from her favorite book. She glared at him incredulously and stuttered, “Dude, are you high?” “A little, yes. But I really do know,” he replied.

“Why then?” she decided to indulge him.

“Because human beings deem themselves unlovable. The megalomaniacs and the narcissists are a different bunch of complications altogether but most of the entire human race truly believes that there is nothing lovable about the self. Think about it. From the minute we are born, the world asks us to change. Change our body; change our thoughts, our very core of being. And if it wants us to change, then how can it love us. We equate the love that comes out of us with the love we receive from the external. And that makes it a vicious cycle of self-hatred. The world teaches us to hate ourselves and we only accept the love it gives us upon changing.”

Geishana and Abir

He drawled all of that out in one single breath. Geishana just kept staring at him with her face cupped in her hand. “And what about the love we give back?” she asked him. That cleared his cloudy eyes a little and he seemed to come back out of his dystopian dream world. He shook his head as if to clear out the cobwebs in his head and said, “Interesting question! Can I get back to you on that later?” He asked while scratching at his eyes with his left hand.

“Rise and shine, young man!” Geishana said jokingly, as if he had just woken up. “Sorry. I tend to blurt out long philosophical monologues to total strangers when I’m high. I’m not any more, though. Your question shook me awake.” “Sorry to harm your buzz, man” Geishana replied while sipping her coffee. “I’m Abir, by the way! Nice to meet you.” “I’m Geishana” she told him with a shake of her head.

“So, Geishana, interesting name. Do you, perchance, know what it means? Does it have any connection to the Geishas of Japan? Because that would be interesting.”

“No, I’m afraid not, young man. It’s basically another word for “singer”. And before you ask, no, I’m not a prolific singer.”

“I wasn’t gonna ask that!”

“You sure about that?” she asked him with a sarcastic tilt of the head.

“Okay, maybe I was” he replied sheepishly. “So, miss not-a-singer, what brings you to this big, indifferent city?”

“Currently, I’m squandering away my youth on books and TV shows while ignoring summons from my university. What about you?” Geishana asked him as the waiter delivered her syrupy pancakes. She dug into them before a word could leave the boy’s lips.

“Me too, more or less,” Abir answered. “But it’s so hard to find someone whom one could soliloquize to while being high; you were a welcome delight and that too so early in the morning. Add to that an equally philosophical rebuttal that jerks me out of my inebriation. You must be majoring in philosophy.”

“Close, it’s psychology actually,” Geshana spoke on while simultaneously gorging on some fluffy pancakes. “And to be honest, I’m not so smart when I first meet someone. It was probably your half-drunk stupor that gave me the confidence to do so. If only everyone could be like you in first meetings.” She punctuated that with a smirk that Abir could not help but reciprocate.

“I’m afraid I’m pretty unique in that matter. Glad my hangover could help bring out your wit” he remarked.

“Glad my wit could end your hangover” Geishana replied with a swig of her coffee.

A twin smile took hold of the both of them as their gaze held on each other.

Geishana was not someone who could easily be swept off her feet, and she wasn’t then. But a tremor of hope did creep into her heart, a hope of a friendship in that desert of despondency.

Abir decided to order some chicken sausages to go with her pancakes and they decided to share the meal. They talked about their lives in that city as well as in their native cities. Abir was from the North, from the snow-capped valleys and green hills. Geishana’s nativity lay in the green plains and undulating rivers of the North-East. They talked about how they missed their families, how they were looking for their way in the city and how the lights seemed to have lost their sheen lately. They talked about the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, all the while gobbling their meals as if they were talking about something as frivolous as the weather. They exchanged stories. Geishana was actually surprised by the number of the tales she had lived and gathered over time to ultimately share them with a complete stranger. They exchanged dreams, and how they had come to change. Geishana told him about how she wanted to be a writer but how she had now decided to write poems about the patriarchal bruises all girls have. Abir told her about how he wanted to be a pilot but how he had come to wish to make stories come alive on the stage.

Their conversation stretched on, unbeknownst to them, for hours. But the changing angles of the sunlight reminded Geishana of her unfinished obligations for the day.

“I wish we could do this for ages but alas, responsibilities beckon, and the waiters have been staring at us for the last twenty minutes. I should get going.” Geishana sighed as she looked for cash in her bag to pay the bill.

“You know, as much as I liked being high while we met, I would really like to see you again… sober, of course. I’m curious about how we would react under normal circumstances” Abir remarked while riffling through his wallet to pay his half.

“I’m sure I won’t be my usual dumb self the next time around, since I’ve found my wit in our first encounter. But yes, doing this again would be a delight.” Geishana replied with a spark in her caramel eyes. Abir nodded with a dimpled smile.

In that sea of indifference and unnecessary offense, Geishana had managed to find a charming rendezvous when she had least expected it. After months of small-talk, she had finally had a meaningful conversation. Sitting on her bed, at night, she realized that she had, at last, found a connection in a fellow human being and had, quite remarkably, forgotten to ask for his number.

Nevertheless, she wasn’t worried.

A conversation had occurred.

Stories had been exchanged.

And for now, that was enough.

…now that you’re here

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Ria and her love affair with reading

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