“I really need your help.”
“Of course. I’ll do anything for friends.” I said as my mind raced off to another direction. He was still speaking when it came back and kicked off the smelly shoes.
“… you see that is the crux of the problem.”
Whoa! Had I just miss the crux of the entire conversation?
“Could you repeat it slowly once again? I would like to go over the facts once more.” I said as I put up my hands in the best Sherlock imitation since, well, Sherlock, my voice raspy with attention.
“Okay. The main thing is …” Phew. Saved by a breath.
Saved by a breath. ‘Saved by a breath’ is that even a phrase you would use in daily life? What does that even mean? If a breath is –
"Aditya?” Somehow a waving hand had appeared in my field of vision. “Did you even hear what I just said?”
Oh. “Of course I did. Wouldn’t I be the worst kind of friend if I hadn’t?” Damn. I started to nod my head rigorously, hoping to ease the tension.
Rajeev sat back in his chair with a sigh, “So you see that is the crux of the problem.”
I stopped nodding, clearly he was convinced. “Okay, so that is the crux of the whole problem.” I said, clueless about any cruxes. Man, my neck was paining.
“Yes, that is the crux of the problem I am in currently.” He said, taking a swig out of the half empty cup.
On cue, I swept my hands broadly, “Crux of the problem is the reason why there is a problem.” Wow. My mind sometimes amazed me.
“What are you saying?”
Oh, these puny humans.
“You see if there is a problem,” I picked up an imaginary box, “then there is a crux of the problem.” I reduced the size of the imaginary box down to a third. “This then is the crux of the problem, the root, the bottom, the nitty-gritty, the heart of the issue.”
“But what about my problem?”
Man, this imaginary box was heavy. What was there in it? Stones? I gingerly kept it on the table and drew in a deep breath, “I need something to simulate my mind. Something strong.”
“You already had three cups of coffee since I came here. You need more simulant?”
“Do not question how great minds work, O little one. Fetch me another, and then I shall help you.”
As Rajeev frantically did the coffee dance, I tried to piece together fragments of the conversation he just had with me. Evidently there was a problem, and evidently there was a crux of the problem. By addressing the crux of the problem, I could just do away with the problem itself. Remove the foundation, and the building falls, as the saying goes.
But the crux eluded me. No matter how I tried my mind refused to turn over any knowledge of the crux of the problem.
It was time to get the groove on. “So you are saying the crux of the problem is …” I paused, hoping that the pause was indicative enough of the fact that it was now his baton to carry.
Rajeev began, “Yes, the crux of the problem is that –“
Just then Ramu appeared. With his once-white apron approaching red on the color wheel and that hellish smirk, it was a wonder other patrons did not notice the evident evil that he radiated. Ramu was not a man, he was a sheep in a wolf’s clothing. Wait is that the other way round? Oh yes, wolf in sheep’s clothing, devil in guise of a man.
Slamming the cups down with enough force to shake the rickety table, he said, “Your coffees.” With this dramatic announcement, he turned and walked away, and a small piece of earth was scorched forever.
As a diligent and the most faithful of friends, I turned back to the matter at hand. “So you are saying that is the crux of the matter, and that solving the crux would solve your problem.”
Where did I keep that box? Oh yes.
I picked up the heavy box and showed it to him. “This is the crux of the matter and I will help you solve it. Here hold it for a second.” I passed the box to Rajeev and picked up the coffee cup.
Rajeev looked confused as he held up the imaginary box. The coffee shop was usually empty this time of the day, for at nine in the morning, other people had to go out to work. Only a single patron, a regular like me, twiddled with his morning cup of freshness in the corner. I knew his name, just couldn’t put my finger on it –
“What am I supposed to do with this?!” Rajeev’s hands were now wavering in the air.
- His name. I knew his name. I have met him before. His name, his name. Ahh. Shuklaji. Old teacher, retired-
“Ohh sorry. Give it to me.” I took the box from him and kept back on the table with an inaudible thump. “So, that is the crux of the problem.” I said pointing to the box.
Rajeev looked confused as he searched for the non-existent box.
“Here, can’t you see that?” I pointed again for clarity.
“Whatever.” Rajeev brushed aside with a wave of his hand. How dare he?
Staring away into the horizon that was obscured by rows upon rows of century old houses and the ever present stream of people, Rajeev sighed. “No one can help me I’m afraid.”
“My dear friend!” I cried aghast at this blatant disregard of our friendship, “I’ll solve your problem. Like I said, we need to solve the crux of the problem, and all the blocks will come tumbling down!”
“But what if the foundation is the hardest thing to remove? What then?” he said, his voice barely a whisper.
“Then we shall remove it piece by piece, chipping away until it is done. It is not our choice that we falter, we shall overcome every obstacle if we are one.” I clammed shut the fingers to make a fist, “You see, these fingers are nothing alone, but once they join, they become a rock.” I struck the table to drive home the point. Surprisingly, the table barely moved.
He definitely was moved by my display of emotion for his face lit up. He got up, and straightened his jacket. “Thanks Aditya. I knew I could count on you. See you tomorrow then.” He flicked a couple of notes on the table.
Not to be outdone, I too got up. “Tomorrow it is.” We shook hands and he left a happier man.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Ramu slithered over, smirking. “What is tomorrow?”
“Why do you care?”
Ramu’s smirk just went up a notch, “Nothing, just wondering if you even knew where you are to go tomorrow.”
Pah! I picked up the last free cup of coffee of the hour. “Of course.”