Sour Grapes and a Love Story
“What is your favorite fruit?” someone asked her. “Sour grapes,” she replied.
Hers was an unusual story. Harini worked for an NGO in Chennai that was involved in educating children in rural India. She was set to travel to Mazhalaipuram in remote Tamil Nadu soon. Upon her arrival at the village school on the first day, she was not as surprised as one would think. She expected the school to have a few dilapidated walls, a shaky and broken roof, noisy children and some chaos. The school met her expectation. However, the white dhoti and crisp shirt clad man who stood at the head of the class, she did not expect. Raghu was the only teacher the school could boast of and had been running it for four years now, since he graduated from a prestigious engineering college. Like Harini, he had wanted to be a teacher who made a difference. She knew, of course, that there were volunteer groups everywhere for social causes. But she was not prepared for Raghu.
What happened in the following six years is probably enough ground for another story, perhaps. But you must know how it all began. On the fourth day of her third month at the school, Harini had just dismissed the class when Raghu stopped by. She was erasing the blackboard and made a small kolam (rangoli) in one corner, that one of her students had taught her. Raghu leaned against the open door and cleared his throat. He smiled at her lopsided pattern on the board but clapped in admiration. He said he would like to show her around the village and she was more than happy to oblige. If she was surprised, she disguised it well. As they closed the school gate and headed out into a palm orchard nearby, they spotted a boy sitting under a tree, selling grapes.
Raghu bought a bunch of them wrapped in newspaper and brought them to Harini. As they sunk their teeth into the grapes, sourness flooded their senses. They might have twitched their noses a bit, perhaps, but neither of them wanted to be the first one to make a face. Between conversations ranging from why he chose to wear dhotis over pants to how the dust settled once the monsoon arrived, they explored the orchard and a little stream that ran nearby. Then they walked around the local temple under a Banyan tree and sat down for a cup of coffee at Amma’s Tiffin Center. The crumpled newspaper lay in front of them on a rickety table. It had one grape left. He offered it to her and she ate it gladly.
Looking back at that day now, perhaps you’d realize that it was their first unofficial date. And since then, their favorite fruit has always been grapes. Sour grapes.
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