Ten years ago, if you were a kid with more than twenty rupees at any given point in your wallet, you were treated with awe and respect by your fellow classmates. After school, my friends would decide how best to spend the money that their parents gave them. Me? I would hold onto my money and not give in to childish temptations like Pokemon trading cards and Uno decks. I would head on over to the CC Café, a stone’s throw away from the school gates, to get away from the maddening crowd. Inside, Aneez, the waiter, would greet me with a smile and fetch me a menu; knowing well that I would order the coffee every time. Other days, he would greet me with a half-mocking “Back for more coffee, young sir?” before offering the menu. I would order the coffee (as always) and continue to stare at my classmates outside through the glass. And as I frequented CC more often, Aneez would add a dollop of information from his life as he served me the coffee. And over the years I found myself piecing together the bits of knowledge I knew about Aneez and a picture began to develop. A young lad trying to make ends meet waiting tables. A good brother at his sister’s wedding. The day he became a proud uncle. And finally one day, Aneez would not accept my money. My last day here, he says. It’s on me.
Years later, I stand at where CC once stood only to be confronted by a supermarket chain store. And why not? The memories of school and that of Aneez were irreplaceable but that didn’t change the fact that the coffee sucked.
Nikhil Rajagopalan is a Masters student from the University of Leeds and resides currently in Chennai, India. He enjoys writing flash fiction.