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  • Writer's pictureAditi

The Coincidence

‘Morning, Mom! Morning Nani!’ Iris chirped as she stepped out of her bedroom. She tied her long curly hair into a messy bun and pecked her Nani on the cheek.

‘Oh! You’re awake! Thank goodness! Can you please go and buy me a liter of milk. Your father needs his cup of tea with his breakfast.’ Mom said.

‘How come we don’t have any milk in the house?’ Iris replied. ‘And why can’t you just blink it?’

‘Well, I forgot to buy milk on my way back from work yesterday. Everything has been so hectic since we moved into the new house. And I haven’t had the chance to update the blink it app with our new address.’

‘But we moved in a week ago?!?’

‘Iris! Please! Give your mother a hand,’ Mom insisted. ‘Come on. Here’s some money. Now hurry along.’

‘Why don’t I come with you,’ Nani suggested as she stood up.

‘No, Nani. It’s okay. Don’t bother yourself. I’ll be back in a jiffy.’

‘No, no. I want to. It’ll give me a chance to get out of the house,’ Nani said. ‘Ever since we moved to this neighborhood, my morning walks have come to a standstill.’

A while later, grandmother and granddaughter returned home.

‘Where have you been? And what took you so long?’ Mom asked. ‘Your father has already left for work. I ended up giving him a cup of green tea.’

‘Sorry, Mom. We saw Dad drive by, that's when I realized we were really late. Actually, we kind of got held up,’ Iris replied.

‘With what? I just sent you to buy a liter of milk.’ Mom said

‘Umm… well…. Nani bumped into someone.’

‘Oh! Who?’

Iris exchanged looks with her sweet, loving grandma and smiled. Nani rolled her eyes, grinned a sheepish grin, and took a seat at the table.

‘It’s a long story,’ Iris giggled.

‘Uff! Tell me who you bumped into?’ Mom asked.

‘It’s no big deal,’ Nani interrupted.

Mom stared at Nani’s face searching for answers.

‘Oh, okay!’ Nani said with that grin still plastered on her face. ‘I bumped into my old college friend, Shekhar. At first, I couldn’t recognize him. He’s changed so much over the years. Well, obviously, he would. So have I. He lives here, in this colony a few houses away. Who would have ever imagined that I would bump into my old friend after all these years.’

‘Wow! What a small world, after all,’ Mom smiled. ‘This must be so exciting for you.’

‘Someone called me by my name after so long,’ Nani beamed. ‘It felt so nice to be called Tina.’

The following morning, Tina woke up early. She was determined to get back to her regular morning routine. She quietly left her house while the rest of the family was sound asleep. It so happened that Tina bumped into Shekhar while she was on her first round of the block. The two walked together and couldn’t stop talking about their crazy happy college days. It brought back fond memories of their time spent together. Soon Shekhar walked his old friend back to her home. Shekhar had sheepishly invited her over for breakfast, but Tina politely declined. The old friends had decided to meet every day for their morning walk to reminisce about their good times together.

Towards the end of the week, Tina’s morning schedule had become a regular routine. It had been almost two weeks since the family had moved into their new home, and they decided to have a housewarming get-together. Over dinner, the family discussed the guest list - Close relatives, good friends, and a few close business associates.

‘Are you sure we aren’t missing out on anyone?’ Dad asked.

‘I don’t think so,’ Mom replied.

‘Aren’t you both going to ask Nani?’ Iris frowned.

Her parents exchanged looks and shuffled their feet.

‘Nani has friends too, you know,’ their daughter added.

‘No, no. I don’t need to invite anyone from my side.’ Nani replied as she ate her dinner.

‘Of course, you should. Why don’t you invite your friend from our old neighborhood?’ Iris suggested. ‘Oh, wait…wait! You can invite that man we met at the grocery store. Do you remember? Your college friend.’

‘Ummmm,’ Nani mumbled.

‘Dad, did you know Nani met her old college friend in our colony? He lives a few houses away. What was his name again, Nani?’ Iris asked.

‘Shekhar,’ Nani smiled. ‘But I’m not too sure if I should invite him.’

‘Why not? How do you know until you ask?’ Iris responded.

‘You have too many questions running through your head for a thirteen-year-old,’ Nani giggled.

‘I think you should ask him,’ Iris insisted.

‘Let’s first finish off our dinner, and then maybe I’ll think about it,’ Nani said.

Later that night, Iris entered her grandmother’s room. Nani had her nose dug into a book. One of her regular habits before going to sleep.

‘Nani,’ Iris said softly.

‘Iris! I didn’t hear you come in. Sit next to me, my dear,’ Nani said.

‘Can I say something?’

‘Of course, You know you can tell me anything,’ Nani smiled.

‘I really think you should invite Shekhar Uncle for the housewarming dinner,’ Iris said slowly.

‘Well, I can ask him tomorrow. Actually, Shekar has asked me to join him for dinner,’ Nani admitted.

‘He has?!?’ Iris said excitedly. ‘Were you two good friends in college?’

‘Well, I’m not sure If I should take you with me down memory lane,’ Nani said slowly.

‘Come on! I’m all ears!’ Iris pleaded. ‘I’m old enough to know many things now.’

‘Well, here goes. I met Shekhar on my first day of college. We were in the same class. There was an instant connection between us. I could feel it in my gut the moment I laid eyes on him. Soon he had so many women who were crazy about him; he just always stuck by my side. We’d spend our entire day together, and he insisted that he drop me home every evening. We couldn’t do without each other. He was my sweet heartthrob, and I was his breath of fresh air. One evening, I finally gathered the courage and told him how madly in love I was with him. I knew he was too shy to take the first step. We thought we would soon get married and start our lives together. But as we reached the end of our college days, I told my parents about Shekhar. My father was furious. Fuming with rage. Totally disappointed in me! He had never agreed to us moving ahead in our relationship. My father was a very strict man. I just had never had the guts to go against him. By chance, my father got a job transfer, and we moved to another city. It was like God was on father’s side, listening to his desperate prayers.’

‘Then what happened?’ Iris asked curiously.

‘I couldn’t even say goodbye to my Shekhar. I couldn’t even meet him or hold him in my arms for the last time. But I managed to call him and tell him that we had moved and that my father disapproved of our three-year relationship. After that, my emotional world fell apart. So I decided to start working. I needed to find something to do to get my mind off my pathetic, sad state. A year later, my father began searching for the ideal match for me. Looking at my condition, he was worried I would run away from home and elope with Shekhar. Months later, he found your Nanaji for me. I got married but with deep reservations. I could never love your Nanaji like I had loved Shekhar. He was my first and only love. I had too much respect and love for my father to do anything to hurt him. But then, left with no choice, I eventually had to let go and move on with my life. Soon, I got pregnant, and after that, of course, my life was never the same.’

‘So, were you ever able to love Nanaji?’ Iris asked.

‘I did eventually… in a very different respectful way. He was a good man. He never fought with me or hit me. He was a decent bloke. Although a bit too particular about the little things in life. Everything always had to be in order. The house always had to be neat and tidy. His mutton had to be boneless and cut into cubes. He always expected his food to be served to him. But I continued to be a dedicated wife, a dedicated mother, and a dedicated earning member of the family. Our relationship was more like a family agreement.’

‘And then Nanaji passed away when I was born,’ Iris added.

‘Yes. That’s when I moved in with your mother. I felt she needed me. And you needed me.’

‘So, now what’s going to happen between you and Shekhar Uncle? Is he married?’

‘He did marry. But his relationship didn’t last either. And now we both are two old single beings, who have found each other after all these years,’ Nani smiled.

‘Your story can be made into a Bollywood movie, Nani,’ Iris giggled.

Nani laughed. ‘Life goes on…. Whether you choose to move on and take a chance in the unknown or stay behind and lock yourself in the past, thinking of what could have happened.’

‘So, are you going for dinner tomorrow?’

‘Of course. Why shouldn’t I? When life gives you another chance, you take it!’

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