#7 That Demon Within

I remember that day clearly – the day when my life collided with her's. I remember entering the Mitti Café on that Saturday afternoon and Eddie Vedder’s song ‘Long Nights’ from the movie Into The Wild reaching my ears. Monsoons in Indore had arrived late. For days, the dark clouds had not allowed any sunshine over the city. I remember these fine details of that day, not only because my life had collided with her, but also because it was the day when I met that demon within me.

It all began when I stumbled upon her Twitter account and got hooked while exploring it. The way she expressed her thoughts in her tweets, her emotions and her way of seeing this world kept my curiosity about her growing. I had met a lot of amazing people during my travels and she was ‘everything that’s opposite of the wanderlust’ as she had written in one of her tweets. In spite of no common attributes in our personalities, she intrigued me in some unexplainable way.

The more I got to know her, the more I got reluctant about approaching her. I felt she was so much more than me in every aspect. Her beautiful thoughts and the depth she had as a person made me feel quite undeserving of her. I would only retweet her best tweets, praise her blogs and she would simply thank me for it. I was happy to know a person like her, admire her and to be able to witness her story unfold, one tweet at a time.

“An ‘Acchi Wali Adrakh Chai’ (A Well Made Ginger Tea) for me,” I ordered as soon as I reached the billing counter. I wasn’t trying to tell them to make it better; it’s just what they named ginger tea on the menu. I collected my token number, parked myself at one of the workstations at the corner of the café and opened my laptop. Within a few minutes, she entered the café.

I had started coming to Mitti Café every Saturday afternoon and she was the reason for it. A few weeks back, on a Saturday, I had come to celebrate a friend’s birthday in the café and coincidentally saw her. I did not approach her, but could not thank my stars enough to see her in person. Following Saturday, I came to the café hoping to see her again and fortunately I did. Understanding the pattern, I realized that she comes here every weekend and I used to show up only to be around her.

Five minutes later, I heard the beep announcing the arrival of an order. Display machine flashed token number 61 and I walked up to the billing counter to collect my tea. Just when I was about to pick the tray, I saw another hand reaching for it too – her hand.

“61?” I nervously said and pulled the bill out of my pocket.

“Yeah, 61,” she showed the bill too.

“I think there’s some confusion. I ordered Adrak Chai and my token number is 61,” I said.

“I ordered the same and mine says 61 too,” she said.

Before we could talk further, the staff member at the billing counter intervened and took the bills from us to understand the issue. I nervously looked around while pretending to not recognize her. She pulled her phone out and tapped it a few times.

“Excuse me; are you @WanderlustWits by any chance?” She said and turned her phone screen towards me. My Twitter account was flashing on it.

“Yeah,” I pointed my finger at the screen, “that is me.”

She laughed, tapped her screen a few times and turned it towards me again. This time her Twitter account was flashing on it.

“I am @AlwaysAgrestic,” she said.

“Oh wow, this is crazy!” I acted surprised, “what a coincidence!”

“This order belongs to you, sir,” said the guy at the billing counter, “Ma'am, if you look closely, your order number is 67, I think a drop of water spilled on it, maybe that’s why it’s looking like 61,” he said with a satisfaction of resolving the case.

“Oh, I am sorry. Please go ahead,” she said.

“The tea’s cold already though.”

“Sir, why don’t you wait for a few minutes, I’ll get a fresh one for you along with madam’s order,” the guy at the billing counter suggested and we agreed.

“Would you like to join me? If you’re not waiting for someone,” I offered and she nodded.

Silence followed the moment we shared the table. She double checked the bookmark in the book she was carrying and I aimlessly tapped my phone screen a few times. This went on for a while. I knew I had to say something before it got too weird.

“Hashtag, awkward silence,” I said, referring Twitter.

She chuckled.

“Hashtag, you’re right. Hashtag, let’s talk rather,” she said and we shared a synchronized laugh.

We heard the beep again. Our teas were waiting for us at the counter and I brought them to our table.

“It’s quite a weird coincidence, right? Same order, similar token number and both of us reaching for it almost at the same time,” I said.

“It is. I order Adrak Chai over here all the time though. For a tea lover like me…”

“I know your love for tea. It’s all over your Twitter timeline. I am sure this must be your third or fourth tea of the day,” I said.

“Fifth,” she said and tried to hide her face behind the kullad in which the tea was served.

We took a few sips of the tea and I was still coming to terms with the fact that I was sharing a table with her. I shook myself within and realized it’s my best chance to say things that I wanted to tell her – things that I felt while going through her tweets every day but never said online.

“I think you should stop underestimating yourself,” I said.

“Er --”

“I mean, you keep tweeting about how you think that you have a wrong body, how you’re a disappointment to your parents and the way you often call yourself ugly. I think you should stop doing that,” I said.

“I just rant about things that I go through. You have no clue how people make you conscious of your body – as if being a small breasted skinny girl is a curse. They don’t say it on your face, but it’s all there in the jokes they crack at you and the looks they give you. Trust me, this world is turning into a haven for stupid pretentious pricks,” she said.

I sighed. It was like she was reading out her rant tweets to me. I scoffed within for a moment because my imagination of how she would sound in person while ranting was quite close to the reality.

“Look, forget about body and appearance for a moment. Think about your blogs. Do you realize how beautiful they are? I have to travel places just to find enough inspiration to put together my blog posts, which I can only hope people would like. You make your regular life and those small things in it so much more beautiful through your words. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I retweet and comment on each one of your posts,” I said.

“I’ve noticed. Thank you, for appreciating them the way you just did. But you know what the problem is? No one appreciates the inner beauty these days. What matters now is the kind of show one puts up on the social media. It’s not about ‘classy’ anymore; it’s all just ‘flashy’.”

“I appreciate your inner beauty over anything else. I am sure there are more people like me. You know, you’ve inspired me to be a traveler within my own city and see beauty in the mundane things. Trust me, I am your fan,” I said.

“Hashtag, I am flattered,” she said and smiled, “but I assure you that you’re not as much of a fan as I am. I used to find travel bloggers and their blogs overrated until I read your work. When you first appreciated my blog, I went through your tweets, read all your blogs in one go and have been hooked since then. It was so enchanting to read your philosophical take on the amazing people you meet and the places you go. I keep wondering why you tweet so less. It’s almost frustrating to see no updates on your timeline.”

“You look up my profile regularly?” I asked in suppressed excitement.

“Er --” she got conscious, “yeah, I mean not every day, for sure, but I look forward to the updates, you know,” she did not know what to say next. She sipped the tea and looked towards a wall in the café that had frames with beautiful quotes written on them. “Have you read these quotes here? I love how they’re done.”

I suppressed my laughter. The way she tried to change the topic was super cute. It amazed me to know that all this while she was as much interested in my Twitter profile as I was. This gave me the confidence to open up more.

“Honestly, it’s not the first time I have seen you here. I notice you every weekend,” I said, “I am glad that we’re finally talking after all these days of being around each other.”

“Why would you never approach me, if you knew I am around?” She asked.

“I was… Um…” I did not know how to explain. Just then, something triggered in her head; as if she sniffed something fishy.

“Why do you hang out here every weekend anyway? That too all alone,” she asked.

“Maybe it’s the vibe of this place. It’s well lit, 80% of the food they serve is organic,” I said and looked at her unconvinced expressions; “they serve in eco-friendly plates and bowls. And… if you remember my tweet from a few days back… about how much I love being lonely…?”

She looked at me with raised eyebrows and had a smile on her face that said ‘spill-the-beans-dude’. I sighed, bowed my head for a second and then looked up.

“Look, I admire you a lot – you’re part of my daily routine. It’s like meeting a friend at the end of every single day. I would reach home after a tiring day, make myself some tea and while sipping it, I open your Twitter profile to check what you were up to all day. I never tried to chat with you on Twitter or never approached you here because I find you too awesome to be my anything,” I blurted it all out.

She looked surprised, but also laughed when I made the confession.

“What happened?” I curiously asked.

“Do you remember the tweet you did when you came to this café for the first time?”

I recalled the Tweet immediately - ‘Going to a place called @mitticafé for a friend’s birthday. Wondering since morning, why a café would be named Mitti (Soil)’

“Yeah, I even asked the staff here about the name that day and they told me…”

“That’s not the point! What I am telling you is that when I saw that tweet, I came to this café looking for you that very day,” she said.

“Wait, what?” I was astonished to hear that, “you started coming here only after seeing me in that birthday celebration?”

She nodded.

“…and I began coming here after that day to be around you… which means… we both have been…”

“…coming here for each other every week and not approaching the other person,” she said.

“And you did not approach me because…”

“…I think you’re a traveler and have a way more happening life than mine, why would you even consider talking to an ugly, skinny and a crazy girl like me,” she said.

We both went silent for a while and then burst out laughing. We discussed our visits to the café and kept laughing on the incidents when we would notice each other and yet pretend to mind our own business. A while later, our laughter stopped and my nervousness eased off completely.

“Why are we like this? Why is it that when we encounter someone amazing, we just put a sad smile on our face and decide that we don’t deserve it in our lives?” I said.

“Like you, even I wanted to discuss a lot of your tweets and write-ups; wanted to ask you more. But then, I just told myself I was undeserving of it,” she said.

I nodded and processed this for a few seconds.

“You know what? I think there’s a demon within us that feeds on our confidence and excretes self-doubt. The demon that keeps telling us that we don’t deserve things or people that we think are better than us,” I said, “people like us need to learn to defeat that demon and tell ourselves that we can have something that we feel is beautiful.”

“You’re right,” she sighed and smiled, “in a strange way it’s such a relief to spot this inner demon, confront it and defeat it. I am glad we talked about this with each other,” she said. “It’s a good moment.”

Our table was cleaned and the empty kullads were taken away by a staff member. I looked out and realized that it had begun to drizzle.

“So how do we start? I mean knowing each other on Twitter is one thing; but do we start hanging out regularly or is this a one-off meeting? Or, um… hashtag, I am confused,” I scoffed.

“I have a plan,” she said, “I’ve been tempted to try the Pakoda Basket here for a while. I wasn’t doing it all this while because I knew I can’t finish it alone. How about we start by trying that,” she said.

“Sounds like a good plan,” he said.

We walked up to the billing counter to order Pakoda Basket and another round of Adrak Chai. However, for the first of many times, our token number was same for real.

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