Snow falls in a rhythmic pattern like dancing angels from the sky. The white cotton-like snow covers everything from Mall Road to Lakkar Bazaar, from the shady to five star hotels.
Strawberry chacha sells chai in winters with small cupcakes that his wife, Cherry chachi bakes. Himanshu often stops at his stall for the love of kadak chai and before starting the day at Wake & Bake Café, he chit chats about Shimla and his future travel plans with chacha.
Today, just like other days he stops at his shop for the chai. But something is different, there on the bench sits a little girl. Her cheeks as pink as a blossoming cherry flower. She sits there and sips the warm soup that chacha has cooked for her.
‘Who is she, chacha?’
‘She is my granddaughter, Petal.’
‘Her parents have left for Chennai, so she will be with us.’
Himanshu, instantly, connects and sits next to her. He watches her play with snow that falls from the roof.
‘Chacha, can I take her with me to the café?’
‘Yes, sure beta’
‘Petal, you wish to go with bhaiya?’
She grabs Himanshu’s finger, all set to go to a new place. On the way, they talk about snow and why it is not pink in colour. She shares that how much she misses her mum and dad and wants them to come to Shimla with her.
He listens to her talks attentively. Her tiny palm clasps Himanshu’s and he could feel the warmth and love of that of a sister.
They reach the cafe, Dhananjay is busy with the mise en place as Mesha arranges the chairs for the guests.
‘Oh we have a chotu guest at our café.’
‘What’s your name darling?’ Mesha asks.
‘My name is Petal’ she answers.
‘She is Strawberry chacha’s grand daughter.’
With Petal in the café, the ambience becomes childlike and innocent. Petal jumps from one table to another. The customers enjoy her presence and so does Himanshu and Mesha.
As dusk descends and Mall Road becomes quiet, Himanshu calls it a day.
‘Come Petal, I will drop you at chacha’s.’
‘Yes, Himanshu bhaiya.’
Tonight the night sky is clear as stars twinkle and sing the song of the night. Himanshu and Petal gaze at the stars as she tries to name the constellations.
‘Chacha, we loved her presence at the café; she is one chirpy soul.’
Chacha’s face appears sad.
‘What happened Chacha?’
‘Petal go inside, granny is waiting for you.’
She jumps and hugs granny.
‘Himanshu, Petal’s parents died in a tragic accident last week and she is unaware of this fact.’
‘I don’t know how to break this news.’
‘Will you help me?’
‘Please help me.’
Himanshu stands there, numb as if words are dead inside.
‘Chacha, don’t worry.’ he says as tears trickle down his cheek.
‘We will take care of Petal.’
‘Yes, we will.’