This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
The world seemed to be border lining on illusion that morning. Illusionary droplets of rainbows showered from nowhere, an illusionary sweet scent of a strange wild flower he had never been acquainted with filled every darkest corner of his heart, an illusionary numbness to the sun that was blistering mercilessly upon him, an illusionary aural hum that floated in from nowhere made his heartbeat resonate with hers and an illusionary magnetic force that pulled him towards her.
Above all, an illusionary illusion, that illumined over the existing state of his illusionary reality.
Surya was very well aware of the fact that there was something exclusively attractive about the way Meghna carried herself. It was either her stride of confidence or the way her eyes glittered every time she smiled or the piercingly beautiful sharp look she threw at him every time they walked past each other or the way her long hair swayed about her shoulders when she was in an animated discussion with her friends or all of the above.
Surya was certain that he had fallen into the depths of her dark eyes. Bad news was that he did not know a way out. Worst news was that she was not even slightly aware of the fact that he was utterly and unalterably in love with her. In fact, love seemed like an understatement here. Eternal commitment seemed like a closely relatable word.
Being the recklessly daring guy he had always been, he decided to meet head-on with his destiny and open his heart out to her.
It was at the end of the physics class that he spotted her in the library, quietly buried into a serious looking non-fiction book titled ‘Advanced VLSI Design’. He walked up to her, paused for a nanosecond, picked up a tattered magazine that was already lying on the table and sat beside her.
‘Meghna, I think…nope, I’m a cent percent sure, and I’m in love with you.’
Meghna looked up. She was first shocked, then confused.
‘It’s a lot like magic and a little like destiny’ he continued. ‘All the pieces of my life are finally falling into place.’
Her face was now iced up; a thick layer of contempt came up her sculpted facial frame.
‘You do understand what I’m trying to tell, don’t you?’ he continued further. ‘All my previous actions, my present intentions, and my future prospects add up to you. Meghna, you are my past, present and future.’
She finally opened her pursed lips. For a minute, Surya thought she was going to hit him or scream for help. She looked highly taken aback, but she covered it up quickly and the look of contempt returned.
‘Dude, who are you?’
The shock was subtle in her deep deceptive eyes.
‘If you are trying to make a proposal here, you have to stop talking like Lord Voldemort.’ She grabbed her book and walked out of the library.
Surya was frozen. He had been in her class for more than a year and a half and she had just asked him who he was. Either the girl must be blind or he must’ve been dead in class hours. He knew that the latter was a much more acceptable fact than the former.
She doesn’t know that I exist. He thought. Damn it, I should’ve been a little more expressive during one of those boring digital electronics class she used to be so inter-active in.
There is only one point that can be stated to prove that a first bencher and a last bencher in the same section of an Engineering classroom are of the same species. It’s that the samples of their DNA’s can be used to technically prove that they’re both Homo sapiens of the same age. A million other things can be cited to prove otherwise. They are like the aristocrats and peasants of mediaeval Europe. They simply don’t and can’t mix.
Later in the middle of mathematic class, Surya brought up the topic to his friends.
‘I told her.’ Surya whispered.
‘Man, really? Cool!’ said one excited fellow, extending a high five to him under the desk.
‘What did she say?’ enquired an inquisitive one.
‘She would’ve said yes, of course!’ concluded one of his most optimistic buddies in a rather shrill whisper that the mathematics teacher gave them a glare of warning.
‘Nah, I know that girl.’ This one was a pessimist. ‘Surya must’ve got slapped or punched.’
‘Nope.’ concluded a thoughtful one. ‘Considering the fact that she’s one of the nerdiest girls on campus, I say she ran away crying. ’
Surya lay dumbstruck as the brain storming continued. He was shocked that any of the normally expected reactions did not match with what had actually happened. She had asked him who he was, rather than slapping or crying or punching. That sounded dreadful. How he wished he had been slapped or punched rather than enquired if he existed.
His council of men were now discussing of all the possible ways to abduct the girl when he interrupted them.
‘Guys.’ He said in a deep mournful voice. ‘She asked me who I was.’
Six people reacted in six diverse ways to the tragedy that had happened.
The excited boy let out a cry of terror. The inquisitive one clasped his palms to his cheeks and gasped. The optimistic one sympathetically shook his head in regret. The frustrated pessimist slapped on the desk loudly. The thoughtful one gave Surya an apologetic pat on the back. The mathematics teacher casually turned around and asked all of them to get out of her class.
Ninety nine seconds later, they were strolling out of the corridor.
‘Of all the tragedies that have ensued in all the love stories that were ever written, this one is the worst and the most dreaded.’ Said one of his guys.
‘Yes. Yes.’ The rest of them agreed to express their regret.
‘Well, what do I do?’ Surya asked. He was now vastly depressed.
‘The problem here is that she has hasn’t noticed you, isn’t it?’ The thoughtful one asked.
‘Well, then get yourself noticed.’
There are believers. There are non-believers. And then there are those that are caught up in between the two.
It takes a moment of hatred for believers to turn into non-believers. It takes a moment of enchantment to turn non-believers into believers. But even an eternity of obsessive stalking cannot convince a person who belongs to neither of the two categories to be aware of the magic.
Surya realised this on the second encounter he had with Meghna.
‘You make such a dismally pitiable stalker.’ She said walking up to him at the canteen with a cup of coffee after she had noticed that he had followed her right from the Digital Signal Processing lab to the canteen.
She was the most annoyingly stubborn yet most adorably adamant girl he had ever met. She was willing to listen to him, but refused to understand. She willing to talk, but refused to open her heart.
‘The point was to get noticed. And I think I did a great job on that, though I failed the stalking part.’ Surya was gleaming.
Meghna smiled back, and sat down with her huge pile of books.
‘Why do you read all the time?’ he asked leaning forward.
‘Why do you breathe all the time?’ she snapped, the smile had vanished. ‘The very same reason.’
Surya was taken aback. He tried re-thinking what was so offensive about his question. After a brief coffee break, she got up, lifted the titanic heap of books, waved him goodbye and walked out.
Surya rushed out to catch up with her.
‘With all due respect to you incredible hulk strength, I would feel privileged if you would let me help you carry your heaviness of knowledge.’
Surya expected a torment of anger. He figured she would now get offended. He was right.
‘What is it with boys that they think they are the only gender who have the right to carry weight?’ she spoke very fast and a substantial film of anger landed on her arched eyebrows. ‘I can take care of myself and my books, Thank you.’
Whoa. Surya thought. A nerd AND a feminist. Now that’s going to be a tough one to flatter.
‘God, Meg! I did not mean it that way!’ he said. ‘I said ‘hulk strength’ right?’
Meghna rolled her eyes. Nevertheless she couldn’t help notice how he had called her Meg instead of Meghna.
‘I just want to take the PRIVILEGE of carrying the books.’ He re-phrased. ‘No, I’m NOT helping you here.’
She walked away.
Surya went back with a grave heart to the classroom.
The stalking continued for the two years that followed, and though Meghna noticed him, she remained indifferent. The fact that an average rocket’s five hundred ton weight is composed of four hundred tonnes of propellant bothered her much more than the lunatic who followed her wherever she went.
One Sunday, Meghna was comfortably seated in her balcony, helping her little sister with her physics homework. However she seemed highly distracted.
‘Mithra, you can’t learn if you can’t concentrate.’ Meghna warned her sister for the millionth time in the evening.
‘Listen,Meg.’ The nine year old girl whispered with wide eyes. ‘I have a feeling we are being watched.’
Meghna told herself that she has to watch the kind of fiction her sister reads. The little girl was reading way too much Nancy Drew that she was starting to grow highly self conscious.
‘No, we are not being watched.’ Meghna argued. ‘You can’t concentrate and you’re bringing up lame excuses to cover that up.’
‘No!’ Mithra argued further. ‘Look over the porch of Mrs.Menon’s house. I swear we are being watched by a youngish looking guy in a grey tee shirt and black cargo.’
Meghna immediately turned around and caught sight of Surya waving at her with a huge grin pasted on his face. Mithra caught hold of the loose end of Meghna’s Salwar and tightened her grip on it.
‘Who is he?’ she enquired in an alarmed tone ‘A serial killer? A terrorist? An undercover agent? A silent assassin?’
Meghna felt Mithra’s trembling hands in hers.
‘Relax Mithra!’ Meghna held her sister’s hand and trying to restrain a giggle. ‘He’s just a retarded idiot. Highly irritating but quite harmless.’
She asked Mithra to stay behind the gate and marched towards him.
‘Go away Surya.’ Meghna looked fiercely into his eyes. ‘You’re scaring my little sister.’
‘I didn’t intend to do that.’ He continued smirking. ‘I just came to get some attention and some answers.’
‘Okay, shoot.’ Meghna felt frustrated.
Surya was fighting hard not to fall into her eyes again.
‘Why can’t I own your heart?’ he asked trying to unlock his eyes from hers in vain.
‘Because I don’t have a heart that can be owned by a man, it already belongs to rockets.’ Meghna replied in a bitter cold voice.
Surya was still battling to turn away from her, but he found himself starring at her involuntarily.
‘Do you realise that with your every single rejection you only make me want you more?’ He asked trying not to sound desperate.
‘I really hate to break it to you, but there’s no way I’m going to be yours.’ Meghna said in the same frosty tone.
‘It’s this simple, Surya.’ Meghna said. ‘ ‘Will you be my wife?’ sounds much more dignifying than ‘will you be my girlfriend.’’
The stalking ended that moment. Surya realised that he had misinterpreted her. She wasn’t just a feminist. She was a feminist who had strong family values. He was taken aback for a moment. Of all the people propagating the principles of arranged marriage, never in his wildest dreams did he expect someone like Meghna to talk about it.
The eye contact broke without effort. Surya did not argue any further. Meghna walked away, on her path to become a Space Scientist and somebody’s future wife.
That was the last time Meghna got stalked and Surya was a stalker.
‘You know the pink Kancheevaram silk saree that Mrs.Mekala got for your last birthday?’ Mrs. Oviya asked her daughter. ‘You should wear that.’
‘Nope.’ Meghna was scanning through the pages of an electronics journal. ‘I’m wearing my pink cotton Kurta and faded blue jeans.’
Mrs. Oviya had nothing more to bargain. Two years back Meghna wouldn’t have allowed for this to happen. Now that she’d said yes to a wedding arranged by her was news good enough that she didn’t care what she wore.
‘Your hair, what are you going to do with your hair?’ she continued ‘Shall I ask the driver to go get some fresh flowers?’
Meghna looked up from the magazine and rolled her eyes.
‘Forge it Maa!!!’ She shrieked. ‘I’m letting my hair loose.’
Meghna now found the whole process of an arranged marriage incredibly infuriating. It was like her mother was setting her up on a blind date. She didn’t even know the guy she was supposed to spend the rest of her life together. There was no way she was dolling up for him.
Let him see her for who she actually was, rather than viewing her as a commodity for running the family.
Thirty minutes later, she was on her way to a restaurant where the blind date had been arranged.
‘Try not to say anything too smart and offend the poor guy.’ Her mother warned her as she left.
One particularly disturbing thought kept coming back to her mind. What was she doing? Risking her life in an arranged marriage? How well did she know this guy? Was she ready for a wedding at all?
And for some strange reason, Surya came popping up in her mind. That annoyingly obsessive stalker who claimed that she was the reason for his existence. She wondered what he must be doing now. He would’ve been married for sure. At least he knew what he wanted and what he believed in. Meghna apprehended she wasn’t just as stable in the emotional level like she was in the mental echelon. The very fact that she had turned down the proposal of an obsessive stalker and was going on to a blind dinner date with a stranger proved it.
There wasn’t much difference between dating a stalker and a stranger. The former is self sought while the latter is arranged by parents. It was clearly the biggest mistake of her life and she already regretted having made such a wrong choice.
Arranged marriages and the twenty first century weren’t even closer than Cleopatra and the invention of iphone.
Meghna pushed the door open and found herself in a dimly lit yet fine-looking restaurant. There in a cozy table for two, by the window was an oddly recognizable stature in a formal white shirt and blue jeans, gleaming a flashy familiar smile at her.
‘Meghna, will you be my wife?’ Surya was bright and breezy, extending a warm grin at her triumphantly.