It started when we were in school, class eight – Ritu and I. Ritu – our neighbour Guptaji’s daughter – the bubbly, chatty, cheerful girl who never ceased to amaze me. The school bus picked us up together from the colony. I was very coy and never gathered the courage to speak with her. She would smile at me and sit right in front of my seat. The thought of sharing the seat with her in the school bus occurred to me many a times and made me blush, but I was happy just with the thought; and that someday I would find the perfect excuse to speak with her. Our school started at 7 a.m. and the bus picked us up at 6.15 a.m. My biggest motivation to wake up early and get ready on time to be there before Ritu and jump into the school bus with her.
Waking up so early didn’t allow us time to have breakfast at home before leaving for school. So the ritual was to have ghar ka nashta (home-made breakfast) in the school bus. Being a Punjabi boy my mother usually gave me aloo ka paratha in the tiffin. But Ritu was very different. She preferred healthier food and cornflakes were her all-time favourite. Each day, her mother would prepare some special recipe from the Kellogg’s mouth watering recipes and she would relish it during the bus ride. A few others from the bus would flock around her to taste her tiffin, but I was happy just with her smile.
One day, when she opened the tiffin, there were Cornflake Coconut Laddoos. For the first time she offered me one, and I tripped, well, literally! She handed over one laddoo and our fingers brushed ever so slightly, and a 100 volts current passed through my body. If a single touch could create this magic, what would life with Ritu be? And if food could help create this magic, even words didn’t seem a necessity. I took the laddoo and stared back at her, not realising that she has already turned ahead and was happily chatting away with other bus mates. I was in a trance. The laddoo, the smile, the affection, I was completely overwhelmed. That day I decided I would become friends with her and not stay aloof just admiring her smile.
After school, when I went home that day, I told my mother that I would like to change my breakfast habits and move to healthier food like cornflakes. Thanks to Ritu, by now I had learnt that cornflakes weren’t boring, but there was so much that one could do with them and whip up the perfect snack for every occasion. From the next morning, I sat next to Ritu and we shared our delectable breakfast. I couldn’t have been happier, because suddenly things started looking up. I improved in my studies as well and the friendship between Ritu and me turned into a deep connection for life.
Years flew and we reached college. Finally after five years of college, I gathered the strength to formally propose to her. Even though, the unspoken words between us spoke a lot, it was time to move to the next level; since I would soon be leaving for the US for higher studies. Over the years, we also got to spend quality time with each and now it was time to be together for good. So tomorrow morning, I am off to Guptaji’s house not just for nashta, but also to ask his daughter’s hand in marriage. I know Ritu will choose the best recipe for me from her list of favourites. And the best part is, I will not be going empty handed. I have geared myself to prepare Walnut Cornflake Choco balls for Ritu. Afterall, is there a better way to say “I love you” to your first crush than with a homemade first crush wala nashta!? 🙂
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