- People change.
- Timing is everything.
- Money is not everything, but at times, it is. Figure out which is when.
- Life is short. Enjoy it while you can. Try to even when you cannot.
- Earn respect; never demand.
- Read more. Make others do the same.
- Early morning walk is heaven.
- Don’t wait for anything. That’s the stupidest thing to do.
- Family is precious. Never overlook them.
- Health is important. Keep your body active and flexible. You will thank yourself for it later.
- People get sick. It’s normal. No matter how bad you do, focus on the recovery. It is in your hands.
- Friends are everywhere. Find them. Or let them find you.
- Real friends are rare. Hold on to them.
- Never be busy for your friends; even better, for anyone.
- Help everyone, including the ones whom you don’t like or who don’t like you.
- Never let go of anyone you care about.
- Religion is an absolute nothing. Don’t let it or anyone in the name of it influence you.
- Nothing beats the feeling of winning, but always remember that winning is temporary.
- You age. Make peace with it.
- People say it’s hard to find a good soul. That’s not true. Plenty are around us.
- It is easy to earn haters. Learn the trick to lose them soon.
- You are no less than anyone; you are no more than anyone.
- ‘I’ is the single strongest word. It’s also the weakest when used against someone.
- Never do something you would regret later. Don’t hang on to it, in case you did.
- There is no shame in apologizing when you are wrong.
- Never look down on anyone. You will be surprised to know what they are capable of.
- Time flies. It is obvious, but you seldom care until it matters.
- Bad times won’t last long, you think. But sometimes, they do. Whatever happens, life goes on.
- Get into sports. Any sports. Just do it.
- True love exists. Or doesn’t. You will never know.
“Hey, it’s me.”
“Nishanth,” I said, completely aware of the fact that she was pretending not to recognize my voice.
Your voice is the essence of my day, she had once told me while showing her disappointment for not returning her calls for almost the whole day.
It won’t happen again. I had to convince her with my best-pleasing-apology. It as well cost me two large ice creams the next day.
“Sorry, but which one, the one in College or the one in School?”
“The ex-colleague one.” I said plainly. As a matter of fact, she neither had a Nishanth in College nor in School.
“Oh, the ex. I’m sorry. I couldn’t recollect your voice.” Her voice stuttered clearly.
“Yeah, the ex.” I got caught up in her play with words. Wow, she is still good at it, I thought.
No words from her after. Was she plotting her next act? I didn’t want to give her a chance to act smart again.
“Well, how have you been?”
“Do you even care?”
“Of course, I do. You know that too.”
“Listen, sorry about the unanswered calls. Okay?”
“Forget it. It’s not something that’s new to me anyway.”
Sarcasm, it is. The one she is also good at. The one which comes naturally (in a good way, though) to her.
“Will you even let me say what I wanted to?” I said, totally annoyed with her words. Yep, I did even though I didn’t have any right to do so.
“Sorry,” she gave in finally. Lucky me.
“So, how have you been?”
“Not so great. Thanks to you.”
“It still is about me, no?”
“It always will be.”
“It, precisely, is the reason I didn’t return any of your calls.”
“I know, idiot.”
Idiot, that was how she called me mostly. That was the signal that she got back to a normal mood. It was time to say what I wanted to.
“Look, I just wanted to say, I love you.”
She remained silent.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s inappropriate, but I couldn’t help it. I have been thinking of the past, of how I could have acted differently, of how things would be now had I made a better decision, and these thoughts kill me inside.”
“Hey, I know you. You did what you had to, what I would probably have done. Don’t stress yourself over it. Our bad luck, my bad luck, it was. What else could I say?” She almost cried.
I didn’t know what else to say either.
“And just so you know. I love you too. I always did, more than anything in this world. I always will.”
“I…” just when I started, I heard her husband’s voice in the background. He was calling out to her.
“Alright. Gotta go. Please feel better. I’ll call you tomorrow,” she said and disconnected the call instantly. Maybe, he came near. I will never know. If only she knew her call the next day might as well go unanswered.
A Friday night:
“Where are you?” my roomie screamed at the other end.
It was evident she was miffed. She wouldn’t have if it was any other day. It was her birthday, and she had planned for a special dinner, all by herself. Yeah, I hear you. It should have been me, but what could I do when my entire mind was planning for something else – something big, something that could possibly turn out to be one of the eventful happenings in my life.
“Two minutes, dear.” I was at my pleasing best. I had to for it had been more than half an hour since she was waiting for me. It was almost 8pm already.
“Oye, it’s the fourth two-minutes from you,” she continued. “At least tell me where you are. I will come over there. It really is terrible to wait at the gate all alone. You know the guys’ stare out here.”
“I’m so sorry, birthday girl. This is the final two-minutes. Trust me,” I lied.
I counted the heads ahead of me in the line. Even if it took a minute for each of them, it would easily take twenty minutes for me to pay my bill and get out of the store. I cursed everyone. I cursed the store employees even more. It was a Friday evening. It was typical of our company employees to storm the store to buy stuffs as if it was the only store available in the whole world, yet only one was at the billing counter.
“Alright. Final call, come soon or I am leaving.” She dropped the call, hastily.
I hated myself for troubling her on her special day, but I was helpless. I knew she would understand if she found the reason, which I clearly had no intention of telling her – at least not by then.
I looked at the Little Hearts biscuit pack I was holding. I felt like an idiot to wait for more than thirty minutes to buy this one biscuit pack. Love, you see, makes us do such stupid things.
“Just this?” the store guy asked with a what-a-jobless-person-you-are-to-wait-this-long-to-buy-this-one-item sort of reaction on his face.
Man, what’s with the face? If anything, I should be the one to react for making me wait so long, I thought.
“Yep.” I said staring at him, and that made him look away and complete my transaction.
I was too busy, or rather too late, to stand there a second more. I rushed to the gate. I got sight of my roomie. As I got closer to her, her focus was on the bag I was holding.
“A biscuit pack? You made me wait for an hour to get this single pack of Little Hearts? Really?”
“I’m sorry, dear. You know the Friday rush, no?” I dear her every time I want to mollify her. That had always been my trick, and surprisingly, it had cent percent success rate.
“You know that our reservation is for 8pm, right?”
“Oh, is it? I thought it is for nine,” I winked at her and continued, “Listen, I called the restaurant and rescheduled it to thirty past eight.”
“Yep, I had to as I have another two-minutes work before we get to the restaurant.”
“What? Are you crazy?” She said behind me as I walked to the roadside to get an auto.
As we were on the auto, I took out a box, kept my Little Hearts inside, sealed it and wrote his address on it. I signed the box in the name of ‘Anne Sandhya.’ (That was the name I decided for me if I ever wrote a book.) I caught my roomie’s stare, but I was smart enough to pretend I was occupied with what I was doing. She kept staring at me steadily, by the way.
“You really are doing it, aren’t you?” she said and knocked my hand.
“I thought you were joking when you told me your plan last night.”
“Nope, I meant it. I thought long and hard. It seems to be the best option given I don’t have the courage to face him and say all the stuffs I want to say to him.” I said as soft as I could as I didn’t want the auto driver to hear my stupidity.
“Whatever. You girls are mad when in love.”
All I could do was to shrug my shoulders and lay my head on her shoulder.
“This would work out na?” I asked her hoping for a positive response from her.
“I wish. From the Little Hearts vs Bourbon stories I heard from you, I really hope so, but honestly, you could do better. Why this hide and seek game? God forbid, but what if he doesn’t find out?”
“I will keep sending him a pack every week until he finds out, one way or the other. He knows more than anyone how much I love Little Hearts, only he doesn’t know it’s second only to him.”
She hugged me.
We couriered the pack before we reached the restaurant. The dinner was perfect. How could it not be when I have a good friend in my roomie? She tried her best to divert me from my nervousness about the courier. We discussed so many stuffs, from our house owner naggings to the usual office gossips. I was sure she had a great time as well.
“Priya, it was one of the best times. I’m so lucky to have met you. Thanks for being there for me, always.” She said before she slept.
For someone who lost their parents to a freaky accident, she was unbelievably strong and calm. She was my inspiration to face life as it happens. “I am lucky, indeed, to have met you,” I said and kissed her good night.
The following Monday:
Like every other Monday since I fell in love with him, I was so excited to meet him. However, it was still different that day. It’s not an exaggeration, but a weekend without seeing his face was like an unbearable punishment. I did wish that we worked on weekends too.
I got to office early although I knew he wouldn’t be there by then. I kept turning back constantly to look at the empty desk behind me. Dude, where are you? I wondered.
I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I sat there staring at the mailbox caring less to read the unread mails. As much as I checked his desk, there were several texts from my roomie. No wonder she was as curious as I was.
“Hey, Priya. Good morning. How was your weekend?” my manager enquired with the usual unwarranted smile as he passed by.
“Great. How was yours?” I had to ask, out of courtesy.
I regretted it instantly. My manager did a U-turn and stopped by my desk only to start listing his weekend happenings. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the most awaited guy entered right then.
There it was, the hateful look whenever he saw my manager with me. I kind of admired it secretly, you know. He gets all furious with me as soon as my manager leaves. He always finds that my manager flirts with me (and few other girls in the team) needlessly. I disagreed with him most of times just to see him at his furious best.
Oh my God. Not now, please. I was worried. Do something, I thought.
“Hey Krishna, Sorry. I have to make a call,” I said and left my desk without waiting for my manager’s response. He may have felt insulted, but who cares. As I strolled out, I didn’t fail to notice my guy staring at me through the corner of his eyes. I loved it.
I dialed my guy’s number. “Hey, come out. Let’s go grab a cup of coffee.”
“Sorry, I’m busy. Why don’t you call your guy?” he said with his tone varying from loud-enough decibels to almost-muted decibels.
“My guy? Who?”
“You know who I mean,” he replied. Of course, I knew who he meant.
“You are my guy. Come soon to the fourth-floor pantry,” I said and dropped the call. It took me a few seconds to realize what I said. If only I say that in a serious conversation. If only he gets it. Life is not that easy, is it?
I had to explain him what had happened before. He laughed it away. He never holds anything against anyone for long. Although he may seem serious or angry at times, deep down he is that one cool guy who listens to the other side of the story and then reacts sanely. That’s one of the many I like in him.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. The whole day, the whole week, he didn’t mention anything about the Little Hearts in the countless conversations we had. So did I.
My roomie was more disappointed that I was. It made her more involved in my plan of sending a biscuit pack every week. One Friday, when I was sick and took off from work, it was my roomie who bought one and sent it to him.
A few more following Mondays:
I got to office early hoping it would be the day, finally.
I waited curiously for him to talk about Little Hearts.
We had our regular countless conversations about everything but the Little Hearts.
A Saturday night:
As my roomie and I were immersed in our late-night conversations after a heavy dinner, my mobile beeped. I knew it was from my guy. My roomie knew it too. That was because of the special message tone I had assigned for him. We both rushed to get my mobile, but I lost to her. She read out the text loud, “Hey, come to office early on Monday, say around 7:30am. Have something important to discuss.”
The sixth Little Hearts of mine did the trick, I thought.
“Ha, after all these weeks, your guy figures out,” she said and hugged me. It was the first time she used ‘your guy,’ and I hugged her tight for that.
Since his text was blunt and there weren’t any follow up texts, we both decided not to reply to his message. Yep, we both did. We were in this together as a team, you see.
I was too nervous to reach office by 7:30am. By the time I got to office, he was already at his desk.
“Hey, good morning.” He greeted me.
“Two minutes,” I said and went straight to my desk. How stupid of me? After all these weeks of wait, is that all I could do? God, I hated myself.
I didn’t know it was the nervousness or the fact that I didn’t respond well to his greeting, but I just sat at my desk pretending to be busy with something. It was like testing his patience.
After ten or so minutes, he came near me and started, “Hey, I have to ask you something.” I figured that his words were coated with hesitation. I knew that feeling. I wanted to make him comfortable. As I was about to say something, we were interrupted by our manager, Mr. Krishna, the great. He stopped by to ask for a pen. I cursed my luck.
I took out a pen from my bag and handed it over to him as fast as I could, or anyone could. If there was a world record for that, I would have beaten it by a mile.
He left us, but not before throwing some, as my guy puts it, the usual unwarranted smiles. I remained a statue to him as I didn’t want to piss my guy off.
“I didn’t mean to look, but what’s that book?” he asked. It wasn’t what I wanted him to ask.
I told him about the book and how I always carried it with me. He didn’t seem to care. He just said, “Oh, okay,” and turned back.
“Wait. What did you want to talk about?” I didn’t want him to leave, not without talking about my Little Hearts. I was dying for that moment.
“Nothing,” he said.
I remained statue to my guy as well. I didn’t know how else to react.
“Priya, you do remember that Bourbon is my favorite, no? It will be forever.” He said and walked away.
I dialed my roomie and told her what happened. She was equally shocked and confused. She, however, talked me out of my reason-searching-mind.
Just so you know, we – my guy and I – didn’t talk much for the rest of the week.
My roomie and I broke our heads to figured out if he knew it was me who sent the Little Hearts. Eventually, as one last attempt, we decided to send him a big Bourbon pack that Friday.
I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. My roomie tried her best to make me sleep. Her words failed to do the trick. I was awake wondering about his reaction for the Bourbon pack.
Saturday morning was no different. The same questions, the same unable-to-sleep-mindset until around 12:30pm. It was when my mobile rang. It was none other than my guy. I answered the call with my shivering hands and rapid heartbeats.
A Saturday afternoon:
“Sir, courier,” the guy at the door called.
I got out leisurely and received the courier. It, me getting a courier every Sunday, had been a routine for the past few weeks. The item in the courier box had also been the same – a Little Hearts biscuit pack. It’s weird, right? I know. It got me thinking for the first couple of weeks. I spent time wondering about this unknown person and about the reason for the biscuit pack. I didn’t have a clue.
“Look at the sign. It’s definitely a girl. A girl who is crazy on you to give signals through her hearts – I mean the Little Hearts,” my roommate pitched in.
“Dude, someone is messing with you. It could be a guy,” said the other munching the biscuits as fast as he could. Needless to say, he was more focused on the biscuits than on who sent it.
I stared at the box. It was signed as Anne Sandhya. The name sounded unfamiliar, no matter how hard I tried to recall.
“It must be a girl at your office only. I don’t think anyone from College or School does this after these many years,” the first guy continued. “Talk to someone close to you in your team. Or just think. There must have been some signals of sort.”
I tried hard. Either my mind didn’t work well or there weren’t any such signals that I paid attention to.
That night, I texted her asking her to come early to office on Monday. She was one of my teammates whom I trusted, and has always been an honest well-wisher to say the least.
“Hey, good morning,” I greeted her as soon as I saw her face.
She smiled. “Two minutes,” she said and went on to sit at her desk.
I waited. For ten minutes or so. She was still at her desk. My patience held good, but only for few more minutes. I wanted to get it over with before my other teammates got in. I walked to her desk and stood next to her chair. She looked at me. From what I saw, she wasn’t doing anything worthy. I didn’t care.
“Hey, I have to ask you something,” I started hesitantly. Before I could say more, our manager, Mr. Krishna, cut me off.
“Do you have a pen?” he asked her.
What the hell is he doing here at this time? I thought. Who knows, he might probably have thought the same about me too.
“Dude, I am right here. She being your right hand and all fine, but why can’t you ask me first?” It’s something I wish I asked him. But then, hey, he was the manager and I was just another team member.
As my mind was busy with such random thoughts, her hands fumbled in her bag for a few seconds. Meanwhile, something got my attention. I knew for a fact that looking into a girl’s bag was a profane thing to do, but trust me, it was accidental.
As soon as he left (only after throwing some unwarranted smiles at her,) I asked, “I didn’t mean to look, but what’s that book?”
“It is my favorite book, “The diary of a young girl.” It is a book of the writings from the dairy kept by a girl, Anne Frank, during World WAR II. I always carry it in my bag,” she said enthusiastically.
“Oh, okay,” I said and turned back.
“Wait. What did you want to talk about?”
“Nothing,” I said inconspicuously.
My mind wasn’t ready to brush it off as a coincidence and rather started connecting the dots. I remembered her fighting with me once when I strongly argued that Bourbon was the best biscuit ever made. Of course, she was on Little Hearts’ side. And then there was one more incident about our favorite Girl Names. She said her favorite was ‘Sandhya’. In case you are interested, mine was ‘Neha’.
“Sandhya? Really?” I said.
“Oye, what’s with the really emphasis?” she said, clearly feeling annoyed. “Remember the movie, ‘Love Today’ and the heroine’s name?”
“I remember the heroine. She was my sweetheart for a while, but name, no.”
“Her name was Sandhya. I loved her character. She was simple and soft. As a kid, I was impressed by her character. Hers became my favorite name since then,” she elucidated.
So, she is Anne Sandhya, the unknown who sends me Little hearts. Or could be. I wasn’t still sure then.
“Priya, you do remember that Bourbon is my favorite, no? It will be forever.” I said and walked away. We didn’t talk much for the rest of the week.
The next Saturday:
“Sir, courier,” the usual guy at my door.
I opened the box. There was a big Bourbon pack inside. My roommates said something about it. I remained deaf to their words.
I rushed to my room, closed the door behind, and dialed her number.
I get home from work late evening all tired out.
“Fix me a drink,” I say.
“Orange juice or apple juice?” She asks.
I give up.
What’s your love story? I ask.
We have 26 mutual friends between us, yet I’m not friends with her on FB, and it is only a gist of it, he says.
“Happy?” I ask.
“No. Certainly not,” he replies.
“Alright. Let’s go grab a beer,” I say.
He rises happily, like all his teeth visible.
“Read me,” he said. “I am, like, the best novel ever written.”
“Sorry, I don’t like fiction,” she said and walked away.
He crumbled like a trash paper.
“You aren’t going to let go of it, are you? I asked.
“Nope, not until I know who she is,” she said instantly and continued. “Unless you don’t want me to. No pressure.”
As much as I wanted to tell her the truth that I used ‘Sneha’ as a cover up, I didn’t want to strain our friendship – that was only in the budding stage yet – by doing so. How awkward would it be to reveal that I meant to say her name, not Sneha? I thought. Among several alternatives that flashed in my mind, I chose what I thought was the best.
“It is not a big deal. She is a fictional character I made up to have an interaction whenever I want to.”
“Never mind. It’s not something you need to worry about.”
“Do you really have a fictional character? I mean, do you really talk to some invisible, I don’t know, a person?”
I made a mistake. That was not the best; that was a lame excuse I came up with. I ran through my memory disk hard and fast. I wanted to come up with something that wouldn’t project me as a psychopath.
“Nope. I was kidding,” I said and laughed. The follow-up laugh was to make me sound real.
“I don’t know what to say anymore.”
“Listen, I want to be honest with you. There is no Sneha. There is no fictional character either. I meant to say your name when you asked me whom would I dedicate the story to, but in order not to make the situation uncomfortable, I said ‘Sneha’. Neha, Sneha, you see. The rhyming.”
“Achcha… I knew it.”
“What do you mean you knew it?”
“I knew you meant to say my name. Do you really think I would have asked you about Sneha persistently otherwise?”
I pictured her stare back in the library when I said ‘Sneha.’ The meaning of the stare was all the more palpable now.
“I’m speechless. Who are you?”
“Haha… Okay, listen, I got to go. My roommates are here. We have planned to go for a movie. I will catch you later tonight.”
“That’s fine. Have fun. Bye.”
“Bye.” She said and disconnected the call.
I turned back. My friend was there, just a few meters away. He came to dry the clothes and stood there to listen to what I was talking. Friends, you see.
“Dude, what are you doing here? I thought you were washing,” I said confused and worried more so, wondering how much of my call would he have heard.
“Who is Neha? And who is Sneha? What are you up to?”
“Don’t read too much into it. It’s just this girl who visited the library today. There was a mix-up with her name. A funny incident. I was talking to the librarian about it.”
“Whatever,” he said with a mocking smile.
I didn’t want to stay there any longer. I rushed downstairs. I thought it was over. I was wrong.
“Did you know he met a girl, some Neha or Sneha, today?” My friend started as soon as he came down to the hall after doing his laundry.
“Uh-huh, interesting. Who is she?” My other friend didn’t want to spare even a second.
“Man, you didn’t believe me, did you?” I looked at the other guy.
“What is not to believe? You said you met someone at the library, and that there was a funny incident too, right?” he said and winked at me.
“What’s the issue then? I merely said what you told me. Don’t he need to know about her?” he said pointing to the other guy.
Of course, he didn’t want to be left-alone. And in fact, that was more than enough to make him curious. He then started nagging me to tell more about the funny incident.
Lying to my friends was not a problem. It never was. It was just that I couldn’t come up with something funny related to Neha-Sneha. They both were totally jobless and tremendously interested to overlook anything that I said. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, after all. I didn’t want them to dig deep into what I said and continue that conversation any long. As I was on the spot, my mobile flashed.
“Hi,” a text from her.
The message tone was a welcome catalyst to their burning appetite. It only made them extra-hungry to know more about the girl.
“It is from her. Isn’t it?” One of my friends shot at me.
“What is from her? And who is that her?” I wasn’t ready to give up.
“The message. From the library girl.”
Library girl? Sounds cool. I might as well call her that, I thought.
“Nope, it is just a promotional message from the mobile operator,” I said. Since they themselves were the haters of such annoying, unwanted, frequent messages, they didn’t dig further into it. I was glad I came up with something spontaneous, and thanked the operators for the first time.
It took me a few more minutes to make them skip the topic. I managed to do it by stating that the funny incident was just a mix up with the girl’s name and by diverting them to another conversation involving their respective favorite actors. I spent some time with them fueling their argument-fire before stepping into my room. Afternoon nap was the excuse.
“Hey, Library girl.” I replied as soon as I got to my room. It was only some 30-odd minutes too late. Addressing her as “Library girl” made me surprisingly so happy.
“Movie time. I will catch you later. Sorry.” She texted back.
“Okay. Enjoy the movie.” I replied and went for a nap.
… to be continued (part 11)
~ Originally posted on Feb 17, 2017.
He dialed the number he found on the ad. His fingers were too shaky, just as his mind was, to hold the mobile properly.
“Hello,” said the old lady in her seductive voice.
“Hi. I want to fix an appointment.”
“Okay. Name and time, please.” I didn’t know until then that if anyone could ask for the details that seductively.
“Gautham. 8 P.M.” Of course, I used a false name.
“See you at 8 then. I will text you the address.”
“Hold on. I’m looking for a specific girl.”
I told her name. After a few seconds, she said, “Well, but she isn’t available until after 9.”
Fuck, I thought. “Make it 9 then. Listen, I want this girl specifically. No one else.” I said firmly.
The call was disconnected. The ‘Sir’ had a sugar-coated-respect all over it. I couldn’t help but smile at the fake-respect people throw at others just to please them, to show them their fake-care.
Her face flashed in my mind. The face I saw almost eleven years back on the last day of the school. We both didn’t know where we would end up, but wished each other well for the future. I saw my love, my first (and the last), walk away. Certain things are better left unsaid, some say. I followed, assuming fate would get us together some day, foolishly.
Amidst the thoughts about her, I dozed off. It was almost 7:30 P.M. when I woke up. I rushed to get ready. My whole body was shaking as I locked the door. Man, it’s been more than a decade and I still haven’t gotten over the nervousness of meeting her.
I reached the hotel by 8:40 P.M. I dialed the number. I was directed to head to a room in the second floor. The number struck a chord with me. I was also told that she was with someone and that she would meet me at 9 in the room. My heart broke. I knew I can’t fix it back. Helplessly, I walked to the room with a broken heart.
In a few minutes, I was in front of the room. The number plate read 2106. What a coincidence, it was. It’s her birthday, June 21. Ever since I knew of it, it became my passcode, for everything. Love, you see. The door was unlocked. I entered in and sat on the bed. Yes, I was still shaking.
It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I heard a knock at the door. I stood up. She entered in and locked the door behind. She looked tired. She was, literally. It wasn’t surprising given what she was up to in the past hour or more. I didn’t realize I was crying.
She looked at me as she adjusted her dress. Her face showed that she recognized me instantly. We both stood speechless. She walked towards me and tried to say something. Only the words didn’t come out. I hushed.
I knelt down in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me, please?” with a purposeful stress on the ‘please.’