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‘Now how about this girl?’
And she passed on a piece of photograph to my mother, who seemed to have lost herself in the plethora of the snapshots lying on the table that she barely noticed my arrival. All thanks to that irritating piece of woman seated beside her who greeted me with a wide artificial grin on her face.
‘Look beta, Kavita aunty brought us so many marriage proposals to check out for you’, said my mom with glee as I slumbered myself into a bean-bag beside her, and then she said flashing out one of the pics to me, ‘check out this one. She’s too working at Wipro Bangalore, as a HR manager.’
I briefly glanced at the snap, not to check out her looks, but to see who’s that bi*ch who had bagged that vacancy in her kitty. Oh yes, I had seen her at the interview at the headquarters. Great assets, she had.
‘Nah…’ I said rubbing my eyes giving a violent yawn, ‘I’m tired mom. I’m off to sleep… And don’t starve for me at the dinner table. I’ve already had some at office.’ Saying that, I hauled myself up and left the living room without any word.
As the age-old wisdom says, the people or things you hate the most are the ones you most often bump into at every corner of life, and as a matter of fact, this was turning into a reality for me.
Mrs.Kavita Dutta, hailed as the best match-maker in our community was back again to tie a knot around my neck and put a ritualistic end to my happy-to-go bachelor freedom by a so called ceremony named Marriage. These people have a strategy, a way to emotionally torment the feelings of the parents, in such a way that they get eager to see their kids married and settled. And unfortunately, my mom had fallen deep into that trap.
As I ascended to my bedroom slowly against my muscles wishes, I gladly summoned up my fortnight old memories of the prank I had played with one of the girls my parents had sent me to go out on a date with hoping I would fall in for her. Poor thing! After listening to my wild expectations from my partner, she strode herself out of the café, with disgust and mumbling abuses under her breath. There’s a whole multitude of people out there who break themselves down so easily, and that’s what I make use of to get rid of them, be it my office or these proposals.
I have had passed through some small itsy-bitsy relationships, but none of them seemed to interest me, and so did this whole institution of married life. Life is always meant to be bountiful, and all this gets obscured in some or the other way, by getting into a relationship. Now, last generation elders would definitely not get all this, because they were not exposed to this wide arena of possibilities and emotional independence. But we are.
I woke up, shocked as my cellphone screamed at its might piercing the deep nocturnal silence. At that very moment looking at its screen, I had the irrepressible urge to smash my cell into pieces. (Of course, it was not one of those lavish ones).
The screen showed ‘Danger’, the alias that I had bestowed upon my boss, who just always loved to be the Satan in my dreams. Just when I was about to connect it, he hung up! Now this was the height of nuisance. The very next moment, without any second thought, I switched my phone off.
I sat propped up on my bed, savouring the tranquillity of the darkness around me. Soon I sensed my tongue had turned leathery dry, the reason being obvious. I had not even taken a single drop of water since my return from work. Nor had I taken food, and now my stomach had crazily joined in the protest too.
Getting up from my bed, I staggered my way in the darkness down to the kitchen and pulled open the refrigerator door. The abrupt light from inside it almost blinded me for a few seconds. Getting hold of a water jug and a loaf of bread, I switched on the living room lights and settled myself on the sofa still trying to accommodate my eyes in the light.
By now, the hunger had predominated over the thirst and without further delay; I began nibbling on a piece of bread. Angered by this bias, thirst overcharged upon me. The dry bread got stuck midway into my throat choking my airway and I burst into a bout of coughing. Dropping the remaining portion of the bread from my hands, I reached for the water immediately. Few sips of it definitely proved some relief for me, but still I was feeling uncomfortable; and the whole room echoed with my coughs. Mom came out of her room, half suspended in sleep to check out what was wrong with me. I assured her that I was fine and sent her back to sleep. Finally within five minutes or so, the cough subsided and I heaved a breath of relief.
Without any further attempt to take risk again, I chose to give up on satisfying-my-hunger part and decided to quench my thirst itself till morning. Just when I was about to rise, my eyes fell on the remaining ‘culprit’ bread piece lying on the floor. Just when I bent to get it, I spotted a small postcard sized white page below the table. There was something scribbled on it, and so thinking it to be some important note, I picked it up.
A ten-digit mobile number.
As I wondered for few seconds about whose it could be, I felt a polished surface on the other side and so I flipped it…
I wish I would have not done that. I wish.
‘Come on, Nikhil!! When the hell are you gonna finish this little piece of work I gave you?’ blasted my boss slamming a pile of files on my table. ‘Since 9, you have done nothing except checking out your cell phone every now and then.’
Actually whatever he said was absolutely legitimate. Since my arrival to work, I had done nothing productive except for thinking about that number and the wonderful tragedy that had befallen me last night.
I was myself unable to track down my thoughts and feelings and cage them back in my mind, for they had spread their wings and were unwilling to return inside. What had happened to them!!! It was as if I had shed off an outer cloak of my cold emotions and embraced a new warm blanket of attraction.
No sooner had I turned that piece of paper to the other side last night, I just couldn’t control myself staring at the beauty drawn into that film daubed with chemicals. Her eyes had already hypnotised me and I stood there with my mouth wide open in awe. It was an instantaneous appeal, a feeling I just didn’t know what to do with.
Destiny, very well, knows the exact method, the precise moment and the quickest way to bring two people close to each other. Maybe that’s why the snapshot was left mistakenly beneath the table, maybe that’s the reason I was choked to death and maybe that’s why I didn’t get into any permanent relationship till date.
But now, the problem had reached its zenith. First, I didn’t know her name and I didn’t wish to ask it from my mom who would without any doubt contact Mrs. Kavita for the needful. Second, my thoughts were in a debacle. Till last evening, I was the preacher of ‘bachelor-fantasies’ and now within six hours, I had been converted into a ‘love-hungry disciple’. So the former devil was having a debate with the present angel. And third, and the most important, how do I contact her??
Should I call her and say I had fallen in love just seeing her image? Won’t she tag me as a despo? What if she refuses to talk to me without parents getting involved?
Finally I had made up my mind, taken some brew, gathered little courage and called on that number.
‘Yes?’ replied a polite voice.
‘Can I know whom I talking to?’
‘Sorry but I don’t know you, so can’t do that.’
‘Oh well! Pardon me for that. This is Nikhil. Umm, do you know Kavita aunty?’
‘Well the thing is, by mistake she left your pic here and it reached into my hands. So I…. I just wanted to return it.’
There was a brief pause before she replied, ‘That’s okay I don’t want it.’
I sensed her slip away from my hands and so without any second guess I confessed it to her, ‘But hey…hey, the thing is I like you.’
And now there was a longer silence from the other side.
‘Hey, you there?’
‘Yeah so I was thinking if we could see each other somewhere out today. Could we?’
There was no word from the other side except for the mild buzzing of a mixer-grinder back at her home, enough to tell me that she was still on the line.
‘Do your parents know about this?’ she asked curtly.
‘Nope. Actually telling them about this would involve Kavita aunty too whom I hate to confront every time, so I refrained from telling them. But still if you want them to know, I’ll inform them.’
‘Okay fine. Leave it. See you at CCD at six.’ And she hung up abruptly. Awesome.
Since then, I was just cursing each minute as it passed with a snail’s speed. Man, I was myself amazed seeing the drastic change inside me.
Further, as the minutes passed by and the minute-hand crossed the five o’clock barrier, my heart kind of went into a beating frenzy. All kinds of weird thoughts started flooding in my head. What if she doesn’t like you? What if she is not impressed by you? What if she REJECTS you? For the first time, I was feeling guilty of how I had played with the emotions of those previous girls I had met with and blatantly rejected them. Obviously not all of them were bad. It was just my hardcore determination not to leave my bachelor fun life for the sake of relationships. And now, making me go mad after her, destiny had turned its tables on me.
It was half past five and I decided to leave for the café. It was hard time apologizing and convincing my boss to allow me to leave, but I did it. It seemed as if God had planned a huge bonanza for me as it eradicated every last-minute obstacles from my path. Finally I left my workplace to look out for what my fate had in store for me.
I had reached there about five minutes earlier than the scheduled time. Like people say, girls hate to wait whenever you call them for a date, so I managed to take the precautions. These last five minutes seemed to be the longest minutes of my life.
I was scanning every lone girl entering the café with the pic I had with me. Some of them, sceptic of what I had been doing, passed a scornful look to me. Ten minutes passed by and she was still not there. I thought to call her and ask where she had reached.
Just then I received a text from her.
‘Hey where hv u reached?
Waiting since last 10 mins. Reply asap.’
Now that did me a double-take. She had already reached? Was there another CCD in the town? Did I come to the wrong place? Now my heartbeats quadrupled. Damn, I blew up my first date. I called her.
‘Hey I’m waiting there only, but I didn’t notice you. Where are you? You are at the Koramangala CCD, nah?’
‘Yeah’, she gave a sigh.
Damn, she must have been thinking what a jerk I am.
‘Umm what coloured dress ar……’
She disconnected the line.
Just then, I heard a small soft voice beside me.
As I followed my gaze to the voice, my eyes finally rested upon the visage that had been tormenting me since last night. An angel sent from the heavens for me. Yes! It was her.
‘So Tamanna, what else do you do apart from studying psychology?’
‘Nothing much…just little hobbies like everyone else. Love reading and researching about conspiracy theories and weird stuff, aliens, codes, secrets and all, you know’ she replied.
‘Yeah yeah I get that. That’s cool!’
I was unable to get any further topic what to start with. To buy some time and think what to proceed with further, I complemented about her earrings and managed to take few sips from my coffee.
‘So seen any girl before me? Have had any relationships earlier ever?’ she asked unexpectedly.
Now I was busted! I wanted to keep my life transparent before her and at the same time didn’t wish to ruin this whole thing off. So I gave it a thought and resolved to speak up everything to her. Yeah, she was going to be the first one to know about all this in my life.
‘Umm…yeah I had some sort of small, tiny relationships in past. But none of those were serious. I mean I was sort of immature that time and didn’t know about all this. All I wanted was just fun…’
‘So what’s the guarantee I take that you are serious about it this time?’ she asked.
Now I was getting emotionally molested gradually. And she had come with full preps to do that.
‘Well I don’t know how I can make you believe about it this time. One time after those itsy-bitsy relationships, I had totally passed out from these love-shove things. I just adored my life of freedom and independence, until I saw you and couldn’t help myself. One time in life I just found women the most desolate creatures on this earth, until I saw you and realised the serene tranquillity inside the heart of a feminine…’
In all this, I forgot an important disclaimer friends always advise. Never get carried away in expressing your thoughts.
‘So according to you, women are an impediment to a man’s success?’ she interrogated.
‘Yeah absolutely, it’s been preached since ages and time immemorial. But now since I have seen ….’
‘…seen you, all that has been erased from your mind, right?’ she asked sarcastically.
‘Yup, something similar to that.’ I replied with a sheepish smile.
‘You know what, you all guys are like this only. First of all, you people don’t know what all to do with your life and when you completely find yourself clueless; just blame it on the fairer sex as to have distracted you.
‘Do one thing. Go carry on with your life and ambitions, and when you get rid of such repugnant thoughts about women from your mind, then call me. Bye.’
Before I could swallow the whole fiasco that happened between us, she was gone.
Of course, I had made a huge mistake, but I only wanted to make myself clear in front of her. What wrong did I do?
As I had anticipated, destiny did pull its strings on me and left me back there from where I had started. Rejections. Now were they going to be a part and parcel of my life? How many more would I have to face such? Or this was the final and only one?
Four years later
‘Daddy, look what I found?’ she came running with a small golden bracelet in her hands to me.
‘Hey my baby, let me see, let me see. Wow! So where did you find this cute li’l treasure darling?’
‘In mommy’s jewellery box…’
‘Great! You like that box, don’t you?’
She nodded with interest, eyeing the precious wristlet as I tied it on her wrist.
‘Soon, it will be yours one day. Your mommy has left everything for you, my baby.’
She planted a light kiss on my cheek and two small crystals of tear formed at the corners of my eyes and rolled down slowly to the deep chasms within my heart.
Four years back, even after that unexpected rejection from her, I had managed to prove myself to Tamanna. And so even against destiny’s wishes, I had won her at last. After marriage, she told me how she badly wanted to change my outlook towards life and had to deliberately take such stern steps. She would also add how mad she was in love with my transparency towards her and never wanted to lose me.
But to stand against nature’s forces, is a herculean task. And so, one year later, she left me and this evergreen world following an unpredictable medical catastrophe during her delivery.
I still remember the day as I sat crouched near her death-bed staring at her elegance and austerity so evident on her face, I felt a chill as she woke up from her deep sleep, crawled to lay in my arms and whispered to me staring into my eyes, ‘You will always find me in our daughter’s eyes, honey. Never ever I could have rejected you…’
And her small little fingers brushed my cheeks and wiped away my tears. Yes, she was with me there. Always there.