‘Do you mind if I sit on this chair?’ Alisha, with her coffee tray, asks the person sitting on the other side of the table.
‘Please,’ comes a deep male voice from behind the Business Standard.
Alisha wastes no time to take her seat. Ah! What a relief ! She thinks after leaning on the cushioned chair. You need luck to get a seat in this ever-busy coffee shop and that too on a Friday evening.
Rajat told her to wait for him in the lobby. Akash Chopra, his company’s new CEO has come to visit the Bangalore office for a day. Throughout the day, he was busy doing meetings with each department separately, discussing the reasons behind the software company’s poor performance in the market this year. The sales team is the last one that was going to bear the brunt. This is what Rajat said when Alisha called him to ask about this evening’s plans. After reaching near the office building twenty minutes back, Alisha pinged Rajat in WhatsApp.
Are you still in the meeting?
Rajat’s reply came after five minutes.
Yes.Wait in the lobby.
Rajat’s authoritative tone doesn’t spare even his WhatsApp messages. The receptionist is staring at her. A desperate Alisha typed :
How long will it continue?
To which, Rajat replied :
I am telling you to wait. Do you have any other work now? Then what’s the problem?
Manners – this is something Rajat needs to learn. Is Rajat the only person who has stress at work?Alisha too has a job. Running a boutique is not as easy as it sounds. Her meeting with that fashion house didn’t go well. Did she complain about it?
Anyway, all she needed to improve her mood was a cup of hot coffee. She entered the coffee shop on the opposite side of the office building. Let Rajat look out for her.
‘Drink your coffee before it gets cold,’ the Business Standard reader finally decides to give a face to his voice. And Alisha’s heart comes to her mouth. Has she met this man before?But when and where?
‘Please give me another cup of coffee,’ the man, in an accented English, tells the waiter who came to take his empty cup.
‘Sure, Sir,’ the waiter replies.
‘Coffee is really good here,’ the man smiles. A chill runs down Alisha’s spine. He is a spitting image of Alisha. If Alisha had a moustache, cut her hair short and did a side parting, then she would exactly look like him. She has heard that there are seven similar faces in the world. How would she know someday one of them would be sitting in a coffee shop opposite to her?
‘Do you come here often?’ he asks Alisha. ‘I am new in the city.’
‘Um….yes. I have come here a couple of times…..where are you from?’ Alisha looks at him. From his behaviour, it’s clear that he hasn’t noticed the uncanny similarities between both of them.
‘New York,’ he replies. That explains his accent. ‘The IISC campus…..a conference was going on there for last three days. I came here to participate in it.’
Alisha saw a headline International Conference on Artificial Intelligence few days back in The Deccan Chronicle. Is he talking about that?
‘Ah ! Thank you,’ he says with satisfaction as the waiter keeps a steaming cup of coffee and three sugar sachets. ‘The conference was over yesterday. But I wanted to keep some time in hand and explore the city. Will fly back to New York tomorrow.’
‘Do you like this place?’
‘Yes. People are good and warm. But, there is a lot of work required to improve the traffic and pollution,’ he replies while taking a sip from his cup.
‘Yeah….I agree.’ She is slowly feeling at ease sitting opposite to him. His striking resemblance with her is not bothering Alisha much now.
‘In fact, this was the subject of my speech in the conference. How AI can help in controlling traffic and pollution?’
‘Speech? What do you do exactly?’ Alisha asks. He should be a couple of years older than her, but doesn’t look that aged to give a boring speech in an even more boring conference.
‘I am a scientist,’ he answers. ‘ And you?’
‘I am a fashion designer,’ Alisha replies. In her mind, she is thinking you are too handsome to be a scientist. She always gets compliments about her good looks. But she had no idea that her male version would look so charming.
‘Wow! That means I am sitting with a creative genius.’
‘I just run a small boutique,’ Alisha feels shy.
‘A self-made woman…quite impressive.Are these your designs? Can I see them?’ he points finger towards a paper hanging out of Alisha’s file.
‘Yeah…,’ she hesitates but pulls out few sketches from the file anticipating another smirk just like that senior designer in the fashion house.
He looks at them for some time and says, ‘I would be the last person who should comment anything related to fashion….but your designs are pretty good….’
It is the first time in years that someone has appreciated Alisha’s designs. She feels grateful.
‘But..’ he says. ‘I feel…something is missing.’
‘Missing?’ Alisha feels curious. Scientist giving suggestions on fashion designing is definitely a sight to behold.
‘You are lacking confidence in yourself…am I right?’
Alisha looks at him in surprise. It’s true that her designs get rejected most of the time. She has borrowed a lot of money from Rajat and invested in the boutique. But business isn’t in great shape either. Her boutique has become Rajat’s favourite joke. All these have only lowered Alisha’s self-esteem. But how did this man know about what she feels inside?
‘It seems you want to succeed without taking any risk. You are very conscious with your designs,’her look-alike shares his observations.
‘My business is running in losses. I can’t afford taking risks,’ Alisha justifies.
‘That’s wonderful. It means you have very little in your hands to lose. Then you should feel free to make mistakes. Let your imagination flow.’
‘You are a scientist…..people listen to your speeches in conferences. You will not know how it feels to get rejected and be made fun of,’ Alisha says.
‘Are you under the impression that I have never failed in life?’ the man laughs. ‘Let me tell you, I have never succeeded doing anything in life in my first attempt. My designs fail often too, sometimes people disagree with my research work, they criticise….but I don’t see them as failures. My real failure will be on that day when I stop believing in myself. So, always believe in what you are doing and keep trying. However, I think you are already doing some great job.’
‘Thank you….’ Alisha says. ‘Talking to you is the only good thing that has happened to me throughout the day.’
‘My pleasure,’ he smiles. ‘Moreover, it’s my good luck that I am spending time with such a pretty woman. By the way, may I know your name?’
‘Vikram Chauhan,’ he extends his hand across the table. Alisha’s phone rings and Rajat’s name flashes on the screen.
‘Work?’ Vikram asks.
‘Husband.’ Alisha replies.
‘Oh…please carry on,’ he gets up from the chair and brings something out of his pocket. ‘Here is my card. If you and your family visit New York any time, don’t hesitate to give me a call.’
‘That’s so nice of you, Vikram,’ Alisha says.
He gives his dazzling smile in return and proceeds towards the guy sitting in the cash counter.’
‘I told you to be in the lobby. Where the hell are you?Why do I need to wait for you? What have you thought about me?’ Rajat fires the moment Alisha calls him back. His rudeness brings Alisha back to reality. She walks towards the counter to pay her bill.
‘Your bill is already paid, Ma’am,’ the waiter says.
‘Paid? By whom?’Alisha asks astonished.
‘The gentleman who was sitting with you. And he has left this note for you.’ The waiter gives her a tissue paper. The hand-written note says:
It has been nice talking to you. You must have heard many times that obstacles and failures are the assured roads towards success. So don’t let them scare the hell out of you. Live your dreams. I can sense you have a great potential.
P.S: Couldn’t resist myself from paying your bill. It is the least I can do to make you feel a bit cheerful.
Alisha stands there with tears and surprise in her eyes. Attempts, failures, rejections and being taken for granted has taken a toll on her. It is the first time in months someone has shown some care about her dreams , appreciated her efforts instead of criticising her. She looks at the table where they were sitting. A Business Standard is lying there reminding her about some nice moments she had spent minutes ago.