This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 16 Mar 2013 and won INR 500 (US$ 10)
STATE BANK OF INDIA shone the board outside. Two guards with thick and big moustaches were standing at the gate. They had riffles too, or may be AK-47, not too sure about that.
‘Mam, could you please guide me how to deposit money in someone else’s account?’, I asked the young lady at the Help Desk as I entered. She is in her early 30s, but we will enjoy together, I fantasized. Being a male, fantasizing was my favourite sport.
She looked at me with an astonishing expression; scanned me from head to toe. I instantly got a thought that she, too, was interested in me, but her staring broke my personal fantasy. I realised she was checking my age and wondering if I was some sort of illiterate.
‘Actually, my mummy handles all these bank-related issues. I don’t have much knowledge about all these things,’ I said in self-defense and flashed my not-so-good-looking teeth.
‘Sir, there you see’, she pointed her finger towards a public slab. ‘You can get a white slip, fill it up with the necessary details and submit it with the cash on either Counter No. 3 or 4’.
Her voice was like of an Indian Idol finalist. She should have opted for another career, I thought.
‘Thank you mam,’ I smiled, keeping my thoughts aside.
‘You have the account number. Right?’
‘Yes yes I have that. I’m not that illiterate mam’, I chuckled and smiled back to my Indian Idol finalist.
Removing the earphone from my left ear, I approached to the direction that the lady gave. The slab had a gathering of fat uncles like the bank was not distributing free slips but money. I took the white slip and began reading it.
God! I forgot the pen, I thought as I saw the blank spaces to be filled.
‘Bro, do you have pen?’, I asked the boy filling the same form near me.
‘I have it. But it is for me’, came the weird reply.
I abused him in my head. If I had been a girl, he would have surely given me the pen and wagged his tail too. He is a pen-less boy.
I stood on my toe to look for someone sweeter and suddenly, ‘So you looking for pen? Here it is Anand’ came a soft voice from behind.
I turned back. It was Shweta; saw her after God-knows-how-many days.
‘Shweta? Is it you?’, I said with widened eyes.
We were ex-classmates. Last time I saw her was in school, that too during our tenth. So calculatedly, I was seeing her after four years.
‘Why? Don’t you recognize me anymore Anand?’, she laughed and poked me.
‘Yes, I do’, I smiled in conformation.
‘So? You here?’, she asked.
‘Yeah. Got some money to deposit’
I was a geek and having a face-to-face conversation with her was not the skill I was best at. Still, I tried to continue. ‘How much is it?’, I asked.
‘A lot. Enough to survive for two months’
‘Why don’t we run away with this money?’, I joked.
‘Yes sure. But we will do that with your money’
‘Bad idea Shweta!’, I exclaimed.
‘Shut up and fill the form’, she laughed and patted my back. She touched me – special.
‘Hmmmmm.. As you wish’. She took out a pen from her handbag and started filling her form.
‘To err is to human and to hmmmmmm is to Shweta’, I remarked and laughed.
‘Is your stupidity is evergreen?’
‘Yep’. My confidence was growing with every passing lame jokes.
I saw her long beautiful finger with longer nails. They were painted light-pink, in contrast with her white kurti and denim jeans. Her hair was not tied and were reaching her waist. It was typical Shweta-stuff, like in all of her pictures on Facebook.
She looked beautiful in the pictures and as well as in the real world. Her plumy cheeks had the innocence just the way it was seven years back. I was staring at her, just like I used to do in class. She used to sit on my adjacent bench in our class and I used to spend most of the time staring her. I always used to research at the multiple ways of kissing her lips, though my fantasy never came to life.
Suddenly an Uncle, passing by, hit me and I returned back at the chaotic bank.
‘You know something? I don’t know how to fill it, so I asked you first’, I said.
‘Seriously? You knew most of the things that teachers used to ask you’, she said in surprised tone.
‘Naah. I never topped in the class.’
‘But you always scored better than me’
‘Scoring higher than you was an easy task’, I laughed.
‘Whatever!’, she said and did not laugh.
‘I did not mean to insult to you’. I made a guilty face.
She laughed and asked me to just chill about it. We were bonding really well.
‘But you know na how to fill this mess?’, I said in a confused tone.
‘Its not messy Anand’
‘But I mess these things’
‘Haha! Don’t worry. Though I was a dumb student, but I know these thing’, she said sarcastically.
‘OK Miss Dumb Student, fill my form too’, I laughed.
‘Yeah. Give it’
I passed her the deposit-slip and my mobile phone which displayed the account number and started to stare at her again.
I knew Shweta since school days but we were not friends then. I was just like those average dumb students who were good for nothing and didn’t get any recognition in the class. After school, I moved to Delhi for further studies and she stayed in Surat (Gujrat) only.
But thanks to Mark Zuckerburg, we lately became friends, facebook-friends. I don’t know how close I was to her, but she was really close to me. We had planned to meet when I would visit Surat in my holidays but it never happened. We used to chat for long sessions but avoided calling each-other. I tended to loose words hearing her hello but had once confronted her that I like her since school days; she had thrashed me at that time. Then after, I tried a many times again but she was struck at her decision. So, I gave up.
The stubborn girl was still struck at her decision. She had decided to be friends only, close friends but nothing more than that.
I was still looking at her only. She filled my form and we both approached our way to the long queue. The queue had variety of people – an aunt with biceps triple of mine, an uncle who looked like suffering constipation, a young girl with such a thin body that if she took a bite of food, we could map its way to her stomach, and the boy who did not give me the pen. The pen-less boy was standing next to the girl and was gazing at her without a blink.
I tuned back to Shweta. She looked in a jovial mood, so I thought of approaching her once again. I was thinking of giving one more try at her. I rejoiced.
‘Hey Shweta, I didn’t expect that you will talk to me’, I started the conversation in the queue. We were standing together. The bald uncle at the counter must have enjoyed the last night; he was very slow. His slow processing indicated that today I had a big chance with Shweta.
‘Why so?’ she rolled her eyes.
Her eyes were eternally beautiful. Those big eyes were being complimented by big eye lashes – beautiful. Colours and hues made her look beautiful, it was the other way around.
‘I have not been replying to your messages for a month, that’s why’ I said and bowed my head. ‘But see, your number is saved in the ‘Special Group’ in my cell phone’, I said and showed it to her.
He put her hand on mine and said, ‘Never mind! You might have some issues with me. But whatever those issues are, I apologize. We were friends and are’. Her beautiful lips curved a smile.
I smiled back but didn’t utter a word. Just as her words walked past me, I felt the world came to a standstill; the noise of the bank got silent, the Manager got mute while shouting at the poor peon and the AC froze time. The warmth of her palm arose every cell in my body.
I really like her, I said in my heart. I can’t call it love but still I had genuine feelings for her. Facebook really does connect people and I was connected, re-connected with Shweta.
We talked about the monotonous working system of the bank and really gelled up well. Shweta complained that banks don’t play music and that is why it’s a very boring place.
‘Hey I am getting a call. Could you please deposit this? I will return in a couple of minutes’, she interrupted as we were counting the number of bald uncles in the bank. She gave me her deposit-slip and a wad of notes – really much enough to survive for two months.
‘But why are you going?’
She directed my vision to a wall, winked and got away to attend the call. The wall had DO NOT USE MOBILE PHONES PLEASE. IT IS FOR YOUR SAFETY ONLY. THANKS. written over it. The little voice inside me cursed this so-called safety-rule.
After depositing the money, I was waiting at the visitor’s chair. I took this opportunity and over checked my appearance; finger-combed my hairs and tightened my shirt. I was preparing myself to ask her for a movie or lunch together.
I saw that pen-less boy going out, following the thin chick with the flat stomach. He had a cunning smile. As they stepped out, Shweta came back with a smile. Her call had extended for over ten minutes, but I did not mind.
Was she happy to me?, I thought and got boosted. I gave her return-slip and took a deep breath. My heart-beat was racing against the increasing population of India, was growing with every passing second.
I was prepared.
I asked, ‘Will go out with me?’.
‘I mean I am hungry. Wanna join?’.’ I said and tried to control my joy.
‘Are you on bike?’, came the surprising response. Although she was in fresh mood, a yes from her and that too in such a straight way.
‘Yes. I am’. My inner-self was dancing like Micheal Jackson in joy.
I will never forget this day, I can never forget this day.
‘OK. But first, I want you to meet someone,’ she said and moved to the exit.
Meet someone? Meet whom?, I questioned myself. There was a persistence tingling feeling in my heart and a constant flow of adrenaline.
I was clueless what was next. Many questions popped in my head and left me in a terrified condition.
I walked with her outside the bank. A boy was waiting on a bike – he looked suave, had big biceps and was wearing aviator sunglasses. Shweta went near him.
‘Meet him. He is Anand – my ex-classmate and a friend’, she introduced me to the boy.
‘Hi! I am Ishan’ greeted the guy and shook my hand. Ishan shook my hand and Shweta broke my dream – dream that I had seen in the bank. My heart ached and I felt a cracking-mirror sound background.
‘Ishan?’, I was perplexed.
‘Yeah. Don’t you remember him? I had told you na? And don’t you see me smiling today? Its all because of him’, Shweta beamed a smile and so did Ishan. Ishan gave her a flying-kiss.
‘Oh! I thought . . . you are smiling because . . ‘, I paused.
Ishan was Shweta’s boyfriend with whom she had broken up earlier. I thought it was over between them, but much to my surprise, they had patched up their relationship.
‘Come. Let’s go somewhere’, said Shweta in triumph. She continued, ‘Thank you Anand. I owe you a lot. Ishan, he is the one who supported me selflessly when you were not there’.
Ishan removed his sunglasses and raised his eyebrows. Brown eyes, I saw. I guess, when you were not there hurt him.
But he should be hurt. He deserves that, I thought.
Shweta corrected herself, ‘I mean, when we were not able to communicate and I was broke, Anand gave me a shoulder and didn’t let my hopes die’. She smiled at me – a smile to die for.
‘Thanks buddy! You are really nice. Come. A treat from my side’, he asked me to come with him and Shweta.
‘Yeah! I know I am nice’, I said in dropping voice. My responses went minimal. I felt like my heart was in a commode and Shweta had just pressed the Flush button – the heart sank.
‘But I will join you guys next time. For now, you couple enjoy,’ I said and smiled.
‘No buddy. You must come’, Ishan insisted.
‘Sorry. You looked built-up, you will eat my meal’, I tried cracking a joke. I was acting normal.
‘Haha! You are funny, man!’, he gave a big laugh and flexed his fore-arms..
Shweta joined us too. ‘I told you na, Anand is a gem’
‘Shweta aske her na . . .’, Ishan insisted again. I doubted his interests in men.
‘Not this time, dude. Sorry’, I gestured a smile.
‘You sure?’, asked Shweta. She was a nice girl with super nice etiquettes.
‘Yeah very sure’, I shook hands with Ishan. His mild handshake confirmed my doubt – his interests were not only restricted to girls.
Shweta, too, came forward to shake hands with me, but I shivered. All my confidence went downhill and I became nervous.
I stammered but said, ‘You look beautiful together’.
Shweta stood looking into my eyes but I tried skipping the hypnotism of her beauty. My heart was weeping and did not want to want my eyes to do the same.
‘Really? Anand?’, she asked. Her tone was changing, I felt she had something more to say.
I, too, had so much to say, so much to express but my throat closed and my voice cords jammed. I nodded, but without eye contact. I tried hard to smile but the smile was fake. Wrinkles did not come near my eyes as it does in a natural laugh.
She took a step back and they vroomed away.
I was standing there, still there, all alone. A part of me cursed the other part of me. A part of me was happy that I, somehow, helped a couple unite while other part cursed me for acting too generous. It cursed me that I should have done something, said something. You should have said that you like her, it shouted.
I kicked both the parts and did not move an inch for few minutes. Her sensation stayed with me for long. A tear rolled down my cheek just when a boy shouted ‘Kai. . Po. . Chhe!’.
I looked above and the sun kissed my eyelids. It was hot today. I blinked the dots from my vision. The voice was of a boy, invisible at eight floor, from the adjacent apartment. He was probably flying kite and had cut someone’s kite.
In our Gujrat, ‘Kai Po Chhe!’ was an exclamation which meant ‘the kite has been cut’.
I laughed as I saw a cut kite dancing towards me. I shouted back at the invisible boy, ‘Kai. . Po. . Chhe!’.
The kite of my life had been cut.