Tso Moriri, Ladakh

Tso Moriri, Ladakh

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Meeting

This story is a sequel to the previous post 'The Stranger'. In case you haven't already, do read it first. 

It was a little after 4 am when Dinesh decided to get out of bed. Sleep had evaded him all night. He had tried to meditate but there was no rest for either mind or body. 

Sitting by the window, a large cup of tea in his hand, Dinesh knew that today was going to be a very difficult day. He hadn’t seen his son in about 26 years, had no idea what he looked like. The image he had in his mind was still of a 3 month old boy who he had left without saying goodbye to. That and the voice he had heard over the phone yesterday.

Dinesh was a year younger than his son was today when he got married to Naina. ‘Naina’ which literally means ‘eyes’. Would she be the one who would, along with him, see life in a way that nobody else around him did? Dinesh and Naina had just had a few formal meetings after the families had arranged their marriage. He wondered how he was letting himself commit to someone he barely knew anything about. Yes, she was pretty, educated, well mannered and belonged to a cultured family. Was that enough to get into a relationship that was meant to last a lifetime?

One time when they were out for lunch, he wanted to probe into her mind and ask her all these questions. 
‘If you could live your life without worrying about society or family, what would you be doing?’  ‘What is true freedom?’ 
‘What actions in our lives have the longest reaching consequences?’
‘What single event has had the biggest impact in your life?’ 
‘Have you ever thought about the meaning of life and how we can find it?’
’Do you ever stay up at night worrying about where humanity is headed?’
‘Why is there so much suffering in the world?’

There were so many questions he wanted to ask but didn’t. Instead they talked about movies, friends, college etc. Conversations that most people in their mid 20’s usually had. Superficial chit chat that did not delve into either mind. 

Turned out that while Naina checked all the boxes that an Indian man would look for in a wife, her way of looking at life was completely different than his. She was just like the other people he knew, wanting the same things, happy to be the stereotypical wife, daughter, daughter-in-law. He wished that he too was like them. It would make his life so much easier. 

Three months into the marriage when they found out that she was pregnant, all he felt was distress. He hadn’t been ready to be a husband and he was by no means ready to be a father. Everyone was celebrating the arrival of the new baby, but that strange feeling in his stomach would not leave him. His friends, who were still all single, joked about him being a father before his 26th birthday. 

His heart pounded every time someone said it. A father? How could he be responsible for another human being when he was still struggling for answers about his own life?

Nothing changed with the birth of Shiv. He thought that seeing the little one would bring in all these paternal feelings and he would become ‘normal’. As normal as wanting to go to work everyday, being a great dad, wanting nothing but the best for his son, being a good husband and genuinely loving his wife, being the son his parents expected him to be etc etc. Without pretending and without having to make an effort. But none of that happened. All he wanted was to run away from it all.

Which is exactly what he did. 

Tossing and turning, he got out of bed in the middle of one night, feeling like he was about to suffocate. Was he about to have a heart attack because it certainly felt like his heart would explode at any moment? Pouring himself some water, he was barely able to drink any. He began pacing up and down the bedroom, Naina and Shiv at her parents home, oblivious to what was going on. Dinesh waited for his heart to give way but instead tears began flowing down his eyes. Loudly sobbing, he continued to pace, feeling claustrophobic in a way that he had never thought was possible. 

Once the tears stopped, he sat down and just let himself breathe for a while. It felt like he hadn’t inhaled any oxygen in a really long time. It took about an hour for him to calm himself down. An hour when he did a lot of thinking. An hour after which he packed a small bag, took all the cash he had and left his home. He knew that financially his wife and son would be taken care of by both families and that was all that his young mind was ready to be concerned about.

Twenty six years had passed and today he was about to meet a young man who shared his genes. The restaurant they were to meet at, opened at 11 am and he was waiting outside when they did. After consuming endless cups of tea, at 12:50 pm he left and stood out on the street, turning himself invisible in the crowd. Exactly at 1 pm he saw Shiv enter the restaurant, looking nervous. He observed him for a few minutes and suddenly realized that the anxiety he had been experiencing all this time, was no longer there. 

Taking a deep breath, Dinesh walked into the restaurant. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Stranger

He walked into the restaurant at exactly 1 pm, which was the time that they had decided to meet at. It wasn’t a very large place and a quick glance showed that it was mostly empty. 
Shiv requested for a table for two. “How about that one?” he said pointing to one in the far corner. 

Seating himself, he self consciously began reading the book that he was carrying. The fact of the matter was that the book was only a crutch and the words meant nothing. Over and over he kept reading the same paragraph, unable to absorb any of what was written.

Barely a minute had passed by and Shiv jumped up, noticing a man in his 50’s standing beside him. Unlike Shiv, the older man looked somewhat composed, with a slight smile on his face.
“May I?” he asked gently, pointing towards the chair across from the younger man. 
Shiv nodded but words wouldn’t come out of his mouth. In fact he felt himself freeze, except for the feeling of his heart pounding, until the man gently touched his arm and asked him to have a seat.

The waiter came by to take their lunch order and Shiv managed to find a little bit of his voice. Very few words had been exchanged between the two men, mostly because Shiv would respond to everything in monosyllables. 

Their lunch order arrived in a few minutes but neither one of them made any attempt to even begin eating.
“I can imagine how awkward this must be for you,” said Dinesh. “It’s just as awkward for me too.”
Dinesh continued speaking as Shiv, refusing to make eye contact, began playing with his food.
“You’re probably wondering why I got in touch with you. Why, after all these years, I wanted to meet you. I have no idea what you think of me but I’m sure whatever it may be, isn’t very good.”

He paused and looked towards Shiv, who now began glancing towards the older man. Dinesh couldn’t tell if those eyes were filled with hatred or indifference. 
“I don’t hate you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” said Shiv quietly, almost as if he was a mind reader. “It’s hard to hate someone that I have no memory of.”
There was silence for a minute as both of them began picking on their food. 
“Yes I do dislike my dad,” continued Shiv. “But I can’t think of you as being that man. I have no mental picture of my father so no, I don’t hate the person sitting in front of me.”

The wave of emotion that had overcome Shiv upon seeing his biological father, had passed. Always articulate and well spoken, he had regained his composure and was somewhat in command of himself once again.

“You’re probably wondering why I wanted to see you after all these years,” said Dinesh once again.
‘Are you dying?”, Shiv blurted out. 
The older man smiled but didn’t say anything.
Continuing to speak, Shiv said, “For the longest time I wanted to meet you, mostly just to see what kind of a man leaves his wife and 3 month old son and doesn’t care to even find out what condition they may be in.”
“I’m not proud of what I did," Dinesh responded. "I thought I was the modern day Buddha and wanted to attain Nirvana.”
Shiv laughed out loud. “And?”
Dinesh didn’t respond. He seemed to be getting more flustered with every passing minute. Shiv almost began feeling sorry for the man sitting in front of him, who all of a sudden looked older than his years. 

‘Your grandfather passed away a couple of months ago,” said Dinesh. “He left all his money and property for me, but I have no use for it.”
“Neither do we,” said Shiv getting a drift of where this was headed. “Giving us money isn’t going to make everything okay.”
“I’m well aware of that, but as I said, I have no use for it.”
“So give it away to charity,” said Shiv curtly.
Dinesh, dug inside a small bag that he was carrying, pulled out an envelope and pushed it towards Shiv, who at this point was starting to get angry.
“I don’t want anything from you,” he said, louder than he had intended to.
Dinesh stood up to leave. “The cheque is in your mother’s name. Do me a favor and give it to her. That’s all I ask.”
Shiv felt his eyes turning moist. 
“I’m not asking for your forgiveness,” said Dinesh. “That would be unrealistic. But if someday you decide to get in touch with me, maybe we can get to know each other. Not as father and son, since I've never been a father to you. Just as two human beings.”
The young man couldn’t speak and turned away, embarrassed to have gotten emotional in front of a stranger. By the time he  turned back, Dinesh had left. 

For the longest time Shiv kept sitting in the restaurant, having sent away his plate of food almost untouched. Each time the server would come towards him, he’d order another coffee. After ignoring several calls from the newspaper’s office he worked at, Shiv had switched off his phone. Finally when he felt ready to leave, he turned his phone back on and began going through his call history. He stopped at the number he had received a call from yesterday. From a man who wanted to meet for lunch. 

Shiv saved his number as ‘Dinesh’. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It's a Minuscule World

A few years ago I went to Hong Kong to spend a couple of months with my cousin who was struggling with cancer at the time. While she is sadly no longer with us, she was an exceptional host and always enjoyed having people over. Which was a really good thing since food would be a diversion from her disease and the two of us would spend a lot of time discussing menus. Meals at her home were always elaborate with multiple appetizers, a large main course and at least a couple of desserts. Dessert was a weakness for both of us and was what we ended up spending the most time over. We’d google recipes so there would be the excitement of creating something new, shop for ingredients and do a taste test before the actual meal. 

My brother-in-law would often invite colleagues who were visiting from other countries, over for lunch. Which of course, was also a production! It was on one of those days that 5 of us were at the dining table making conversation over indulgent Punjabi food. The gentleman, an Indian living in Houston, sitting next to me was, I figured about my age, very tall and sharply dressed. Over the course of the meal it was discovered that both of us grew up in Calcutta. And that’s when we began interrogating each other.
“Which school did you study in?” he asked.
“Don Bosco,” I replied.
“Me too! Which batch?”
The batch was mentioned and he happened to be in the same one. This was becoming more and more interesting, although there were 4 sections in every class/grade and about 45 boys in each of them. Obviously it was impossible to know everyone.
Until we found out that we were in the same section.
“What’s your last name?” we both asked almost in unison.
At that point we realized that while we were never close, we of course knew each other. He was the tall, lanky, quiet guy who usually sat in the last row. Our transportation after school, before I was old enough to use public buses, would often be late and we’d be shooting hoops at the basketball court or playing marbles when the court wasn’t available!!

For the longest time, this became a story to tell. It just seemed like the biggest coincidence that a classmate in Calcutta (we were together until the 10th grade) happened to be sitting next to me, having lunch at my cousins home in Hong Kong. 
Until last month, when the world became even smaller.

I was staying at the Taj in Kumarakom for a couple of days with family that was visiting from the US. On our second day we came across another Indian family visiting from Atlanta, consisting of a lady, her two young boys and her parents that had just checked in. They looked like a friendly lot and we stopped to say hello to them. The next morning at breakfast our tables happened to be at close quarters and I overheard them speaking in Bengali. Which of course immediately got my attention!

Turning towards the mother, who was sitting closest to me, I asked her if they were Bengali. Which, in retrospect was a stupid question. Why would they be speaking in Bengali if they weren’t? However, it was a conversation starter and she nodded yes.
“How about you?”, she asked.
“I grew up in Calcutta,” I replied. “But am not a Bengali”
I could see that I had her attention now.
“Oh really?”, she responded. “Where in Calcutta?”
I said that I was from New Alipore.
“So was I!”, she exclaimed. “Which block were you in?”
I was in O Block.
“I was too!”, she said. “Number 617”
617? 617 was where I lived. It was just a 3 storey building with one apartment on each floor, so I obviously knew everyone. How could this be?
“Are you Ratan?” she asked.
I replied that I was, still a little puzzled about not making a connection.
“I’m Jayshree, the landlord’s daughter!”

In my defense, I was just a child when Jayshree got married and moved out of the building and thus have no memory of her. The rest of our landlord’s family, I am of course intimately familiar with. However, the fact that we grew up in the same address and were sitting right next to each other in a town that neither one of us lives in, seemed a little more than just a coincidence. 

In a country with over a billion people what are the chances of running into someone you were so closely associated with at some point in your lives? Very high apparently! So many people, such a small world. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Life and Living

There’s a lot of talk these days about living life to the fullest, not having any regrets etc. This  comes with a certain level of affluence, without which one is too occupied making ends meet so that life may be lived somehow. Or in some instances, even when one can afford a certain quality of life, you get dealt with a hand that gives you no option to stay in the game of celebratory living. 

My sisters and I recently went to Kolkata, the city we grew up in, to attend a wedding. We used the opportunity to extend our trip by a few extra days so we could catch up with family and friends that we’ve known our entire lives, as well as eating our favorite foods. And while I list ‘eating our favorite foods’ at the end, there is a part of me that thinks that it may have been the primary reason for us to have spent that extra time in the city. A post of all the things that we enjoyed eating during those 10 days would run into pages so I should save it for my food blog loveequalsfood.com.

The Chugani’s were one of the families that was on our list of people to meet. They live in the neighborhood that we grew up in and we had gotten close towards the last few years of our lives in Kolkata. Their family was made up of the parents and their two daughters, who were probably 9 and 13 when I left the city. The mother was a vibrant and ‘bubbly’ lady, a go-getter with a perpetually smiling face. One of those people you don’t forget very easily. 

I hadn’t met the Chugani’s in many years and even though I had wanted to the past couple of times I was in Kolkata, I didn’t make enough of an effort to do so. This time though, when my sister, Rajni, mentioned that she had been to see them, Sujata, my other sister and I expressed our desire to visit them too. 

Honestly, while on the one hand I was looking forward to seeing them, I was also a little nervous. The older daughter, now a young woman, had been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis since several years. My last memory of her running around the house had now changed to a reality of her being confined to a wheelchair.

When Alka, who has a young daughter of her own now, was wheeled into the living room, the first thing that struck me was how pretty she looked and how bright her eyes were. A little shy to begin with and not remembering who I was, she started opening up slowly. And of course when the conversation quickly moved to our favorite topic - food, she was salivating just like the rest of us, talking about where her favorite samosa’s were from and other delicacies that she enjoyed eating. While her voice was animated and excited, she couldn’t express those emotions with any sort of body movement. 

Although at no point of time was I unaware of her disability, the person inside that body, during the course of our visit, overcame her limitations and made us look beyond them. That, my dear reader, we all have to admit, is no mean feat. 

When we got up to leave, she expressed a desire for a photograph with Rajni, who she’s always known as the aunt with the long black hair. Of course I had everyone else get into the picture too and took a couple of shots, until she was happy with how she looked. Having gone through a few months of disability myself caused by an accident last year and being miserable the entire time, I was overwhelmed by her normalcy and her attitude. It was almost as if life had put me in front of someone saying ‘here’s a lesson for you to learn’. 

Shortly before we left she looked at me and said, “I remember you now - you used to live in 'O' Block, right?”. It made me happy, I guess because nobody likes to be forgotten. I also made a mental note to myself that whenever I was in Kolkata again, I would make it a point to spend more time with her. I hoped that her cognitive skills would always remain as sharp and we could create new and fun memories together.

Life and living it bravely. A lesson for each and every one of us. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Spring Cleaning

Turning off the alarm, he began rubbing his eyes gently as if they needed to be woken up in a separate manner. Even though it was a Saturday and Shiv didn’t have to go to work, it was a habit for him to set the alarm so he wouldn’t sleep past 9 am. Reaching out for his phone, he began checking out all the notifications from various apps. As soon as he kept the phone back on the bed, he picked it up again, knowing that there was one message he would read first. The message was almost two weeks old but he began his day by reading it, as if he had to be sure that this wasn’t a dream.

“I feel horrible doing this over text but I don’t have the courage to face you or even speak to you over the phone. I’ve met someone. Actually I met him the same week that you left. But until a few days ago, I didn’t realize that I had fallen in love with him. I don’t expect you to understand because sometimes even I don’t understand it myself. But this is as real as it gets and I have to be honest with you. I hope that we can get past this and be friends.”

Shiv had often wondered how long it must have taken her to write the message. It was well crafted, not something that she would have written in a rush. Did she really meet this person right after he had left or had it started before his move? After all he had only been gone for about 6 weeks. Can one fall in love and be so sure about it that quickly? Be certain enough to break up a relationship that was over a decade old? He hadn’t been able to fathom it. The words ‘this is as real as it gets’ had haunted him the most. It was as if she was mocking what had been between them, though he knew that it probably wasn’t her intention. 

They had met in college and somewhere during the ten years that they had known each other, their friendship had turned into love. He wondered if once the friendship line had been crossed, could one really go back to being friends again?

Shiv had never responded to Simi’s message and there hadn’t been any further communication from her. There was nothing that he wanted to say to her or even ask her. What would be the point of it? She had found ‘real’ love, something that had apparently never existed between them.

It suddenly struck him that today was Simi’s birthday. March 21st, the first day of spring. The previous year he had woken her up with a big bouquet of flowers that he had handpicked at the florist’s. He didn’t know the names of the flowers but the yellows and whites looked like spring to him. As much as he didn’t want to think about it, he couldn’t but help wondering what her morning had been like this year. 

Putting on his glasses he looked at the potted dahlia plant on the window sill, breaking into a slight smile as he noticed that yesterday’s bud had bloomed into a beautiful flower. It was the first gift he had received, shortly after he had moved into the city.
“Don’t forget to take good care of it,” Simi’s card had read. “This is my way of being with you.”
He continued to smile, thinking of the irony of those words. This is now the only way you will be with me.

And then all of a sudden Shiv picked up the potted dahlia, grabbed his apartment keys and still in his boxer shorts and T-shirt, got into the elevator. He walked across to the little garden in the apartment complex and set the flower down along with the other potted plants. You’re not my responsibility any longer, he thought. Someone else will take care of you.

The lady who lived across from his apartment was holding the elevator for him as he got in. She looked at his clothes and then at him questioningly. 
“Where are you coming from?” she asked.
Shiv let out a laugh, saying that there was some spring cleaning he had to get done.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Healing

It’s been a while since I've posted a piece on my blog and I hope to change that going forward. You see, I’ve been too busy feeling sorry for myself all year and wasn’t being able to take time out to write - something that I love to do.

Many of you know that I met with a pretty bad accident last December, resulting in multiple fractures across the body, two surgeries and 6 months of recovery, getting me to the point where I could wobble around without a crutch. In a nutshell, it hasn’t been one of my most memorable years though it may be a reminder for a long time to come. 

So while I was going through being mad at the world, angry with God and asking ‘why me?’ constantly, my body was being a lot more sensible and healing itself. Since all of it was on the inside and x-ray glasses haven’t been invented (And why not? We’ve been to the moon but we can’t come up with a simple invention like this?), I wasn’t able to monitor any of the healing. Of course every time I went to the hospital and got a new set of x-rays, it did tell my doctor that I was getting better. While my shoulder and ribs healed a lot faster, the progress on my leg was very slow. Unfortunately the tibia is a slow bone to heal and fractures on the lower part, take even longer. And being old doesn’t exactly help. As an aside, I had never thought of myself as old until this happened. 

So the six months of agony passed and the day finally arrived when my doctor gave me permission to start walking on my own. Meanwhile I had convinced myself that my life was over, I would never walk again, I would never travel again etc etc. So while my body was doing it’s job of fixing itself, my mind was completely messing me up. 

In theory I should have been positive, strong, confident about getting well. Instead I had all the negative thoughts possible. And let me tell you - this mind of ours is a very powerful and dangerous tool and thinks up all kinds of ‘what if’ scenarios. Believe me, I probably thought of every single one of them, idiot that I am. 

Once I began walking, using my arm and shoulder again, one would think that my life was good. While I was doing much better physically, mentally I was still in a very dark place. I had got so used to being sad, it was really hard for me to be happy. I had got so used to feeling sorry for myself that even though I had begun moving around on my own, I was convinced that something else was going to happen to me. God didn’t want me to be happy any longer. I was being punished. I was a bad person. I would never have a good life again. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Yes I was clinically depressed. 

The good news here is that while we have the power to be miserable by listening to our negative thoughts, we also have the ability to change our thinking. I began seeing a healer, reading books about positivity, the mind, spirituality. I had towers of books brought to me by my loved ones, that I began going through. I began understanding the power of meditation, affirmations, of keeping the mind still, of chanting and praying not just for myself, but for all my loved ones and the people I knew were in pain. 

My family and closest friends stood by me constantly, cheering me up or just being with me (many times virtually), sometimes listening to my nonsense and other times sharing my silence. People I hadn’t met in a long while came into my life by themselves, bringing positivity in various ways. I began hearing about their problems and how they had overcome them or were in the process. People I barely knew shared intimate details about their difficult lives. 

Beginning to understand that I wasn’t the ‘chosen one’, I took it upon myself to re-train my mind to be positive. To start laughing again and living my life. It hasn’t been that easy but when you put your ‘mind’ to it, it’s doable. I’m not saying that I’m a 100% healed, either physically or mentally. However, now I know that I am definitely getting there. 

Being a private person, it’s not easy for me to share this. I’m good at sharing travel pictures but not my feelings. I felt that if my experience can help even one person, it will be worthwhile. I realize now that most of us have stresses in our lives, regardless of what our Facebook page would like our 'friends' to believe. Our lives go through both good and bad times. Sometimes the bad times stay with us for a while and that’s when we find out if we are able to deal with them or not. I could be a case study on being negative during a physical recovery. 

Somewhere I read a quote saying “I’m not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become”. 
I choose to be happy and at peace.

If you have a comment or something you'd like to say, please send me an email at ratan.sethi@gmail.com. I get easily embarrassed in a public forum. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Once Upon a Star

The all too brief time that I spent living in New York City was in many ways life altering for me. This was the city that I always wanted to have as a part of my unwritten biography. Even though I may not have stayed very long in The Big Apple, my time there was significant, largely due to the people that I came across. The Wall Street crowd, that I saw some but not too much of, worked their days and nights with the sole purpose of making excessive amounts of money. When you looked into their eyes, you could almost see dollar signs. This post however, is not about them. 

It was really the others who were of greater interest to me. The artists, the actors, the dancers, musicians, writers, comedians etc. Some of that abundant talent would make it to the Lincoln Center, Broadway or a hip bar in The Village, while many would perform at parks, subway stations and other public places, reaching out to a larger audience, making a lot of folks happy, most waiting to be discovered and some who were satisfied doing just that. This post is about one of those performing artists that I know absolutely nothing about.

A lady, who I’m guessing was in her mid to late eighties, lived in an apartment building close to mine on the Upper West Side. Small in stature, possibly having shrunk a few inches over the years, her companion was one of those pocket sized dogs that she’d have on a tacky jeweled leash while holding a walking stick in her other hand. 

The thing that always struck me was how even on a bustling Manhattan sidewalk, there was no way you could miss her. Although she probably had no specific place to go to, each time she stepped out of her apartment she looked like a million bucks. Not a single strand of auburn brown hair out of place, her face a little theatrically painted, always in the sharpest of outfits with shoes and a purse that looked expensive. I had seen her getting into the neighborhood Thrift Store a few times, so even though she may not have spent much money, she certainly knew how to put herself together. 

I usually made it a point to go up to her and say hello. After a few times, she began recognizing me and I’d get rewarded with a smile. There was this one time when she looked especially sharp in a black turtleneck, black pants, a shocking pink blazer, matching shoes and a glittery black bag. It was a sunny day and her eyes were covered with fashionable sunglasses. When I made a comment that she looked like a movie star, she giggled. Her speech was a little incoherent but I’m pretty sure she told me that she used to be an actress. 

We never exchanged many words during the time that I lived there. It was her presence that always fascinated me. How even in her twilight years, she continued to be a star. I wondered if she was a leading lady in the grand old days, when people would dress up to go to the theater. I could picture her in a shiny gown, cigarette in hand, signing autographs and having her picture taken. Or was she a struggling actor who couldn’t make it past the bit parts, but still performed on stage every night? 

A couple of weeks before I left New York, I followed her into a diner where she would always go for her mid-morning coffee. The diner was in the same block as my apartment and I myself was fairly regular there, usually for a beverage and sometimes a slice of pie. The owner, Mike and one of the servers, Ralph, knew me by name and were also aware that I was heading back to India soon. 

I walked over to the next table in the same line as hers, facing her back. Upon entering the diner, I had told Mike that I would be paying for the lady’s order. It was the only way I could think of establishing some sort of connection with her. She ordered a coffee and along with it Ralph brought her a slice of peach cobbler that he knew was her favorite. When she protested that she hadn’t asked for it, he said that it was compliments of the gentleman sitting behind her, who happened to be a fan. She turned around to look at me and with those lips painted bright red, gave me the biggest smile I had seen coming from her. 

At that hour of the morning, the diner was mostly empty - Ralph brought over my coffee and sat down across for me. 

“That was a nice thing you did,” he said. “I can see how special you made her feel.”

It was an emotional time for me. While I knew that my fling with the city had come to an end, I was in so many ways not ready to let go of it. In fact I was clinging on to everything I could, making new memories and savoring old ones in the little time that I had left. That lady had been a part of my New York adventure, brought a smile to my face several times without her even knowing it and all I was doing in return was buying her coffee. On my way out I asked Mike if he knew her name. 

That was the last time I saw Evelyn. 

The next year when I went back for a two month visit to New York, the economy was in shambles and I was shocked to see that the diner had shut down. I had specifically gotten there at 10:30 am, the time that Evelyn would usually drink her coffee. Where could she possibly be now? I waited around for a while, expecting that she would walk by and show me a glimmer of recognition. 

I continued to wait at the corner of 75th Street and Columbus Avenue, which is where I would see her most often, hoping I’d get a glimpse of the star making a special appearance just for me.

Corner of 75th Street and Columbus Avenue (Picture Google Maps)