One Night With Her

~ Originally posted on Apr 8, 2015.

It all started with a sad smiley. He wasn’t someone who spends much time chatting, and on the dot, he wasn’t comfortable chatting with mobile. He didn’t like the pain his fingers develop when he constantly texts, but things changed once he got into WhatsApp. Even if he doesn’t start, someone would message him – and the notification pops up – which he couldn’t ignore.

Worst part was being a part of a group – a group for school friends, a group for college friends, a group for colleagues, a group for cricket team, a group for roommates, and one for ex-roommates and then a group for whatnot. He didn’t want to become that guy among the group who would be a scapegoat for not being active in the group and often being accused of for not respecting others. From the little experience he had, he knew that it would unarguably become a talking point on the days when no one in the group has anything to chat about. It’s more prudent to reply than to ignore, he thought. So he replied to almost every message he got, be it in a group or direct.

Eventually, he sort of became an addict, and used to check WhatsApp even when there weren’t any notifications at all. What he did was to glance over the list of contacts and read their respective status messages. He knew he gained nothing out of it, but still, he did. Checking WhatsApp replaced reading and became his number one, or rather only, activity to beat the stretches of boredom. Anything that’s done beyond convention becomes an ineluctable addiction, he realized it later – only it was too late.

It was one night when he was scrolling down the contacts, it hit him. The status of his friend (to be precise, friend is too good a word to use considering the fact that they hardly spoke before) was a simple sad smiley. He stopped. He clicked her open in a chat window and typed, “Hey….” He was hesitant to send it. The message, it stayed there in the text box for a while just as he stayed in his bed – helpless and lost.

All this while, he wondered how he still had her contact saved in his mobile. It’s been three years since he had seen her. He didn’t even remember talking to her then. She was from his college, and not even from his department. She was the girl whom he met on the very first day of their college when she asked him the way for her department. Only then he knew that her department existed in their college. It was the time when he didn’t know the way for his department in the first place and was ruing his decision to go to his class all alone after getting tired of waiting for his roommate.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Thank You,” she replied and turned around to walk away.

He didn’t want her go. He called her instantly provoked by the fear of losing her from his sight.

“Hey, I can help you find it,” he said.

She looked perplexed.

“I mean I’m looking for my department anyway, and the other guy told me that it’s near yours,” he lied.

She nodded her approval. They both walked together. After few left and right turns, and with the help of a couple of passers-by, they reached her department only to find it was an idle building in one corner of the campus.

She looked at him. He got the words out of it.

“Oh my god, that guy must have misled me,” he said and pretended his disappointment.

“What’s yours, by the way?” she asked.

When he said his, she laughed and said, “Come, let me walk you to your department. I have seen it across the playground when I was searching mine.”

“No problem, I can find it myself. I don’t want you to be late to your first class,” he said reluctantly, hoping that she wouldn’t be obliged by his words. Sadly, she did.

“Alright then, you have a great day, and thanks,” she said and stormed into her department. It was the first time he grumbled about his stupidity in a long while.

For the next few weeks, he stalked her. She, or anyone for that matter, didn’t know about it. He kept it that way. Years passed. It almost took four years for him to cross her path again. It was in the final year, at their college cultural organizing committee meeting, he happened to meet her. They exchanged numbers, not because they knew each other before, but because they had to, for the sake of the committee activities. To be honest, it was heartbreaking for him that she didn’t recognize him. He, in order to maintain his dignity, didn’t bring it to her either.

The next few days, he refrained himself from calling or sending texts to her, no matter what. The night before the first day of their cultural, he received a text from her asking to come early to the stage the next day. He felt happy, but chose not to respond to it assuming she would send him another text to check on him. His wait wasn’t fruitful. No more texts came his way. He slept. Next day, he reached the stage as early as he could only to find a bunch of other people there. It was then he realized that she had sent that text the other night to everyone in the committee. He laughed at his stupidity.

Three years later…. You could imagine his hesitation in sending the message to her. A lot had happened in those three years. He had rejected the job in a leading IT company that he got selected to in the campus interview only to follow his passion. He had pursued journalism against his family’s wishes and was working as an intern in a leading regional daily. She, on the other hand, had taken the job she got selected to (for a different IT company) and was living in the United States for the past few months on a short term assignment. He came to know about her whereabouts when he bumped into an old college friend few weeks back.

After all these thoughts, he finally composed himself and sent the message. He didn’t get a reply, although her status showed online. He waited for few minutes. No reply yet. He thought maybe she would have lost his number and chose not to reply to an unknown number. She is nice, he thought. He wanted to send a message with his name next, maybe, after a few minutes. Meanwhile, the boredom made him to browse through the contacts to read their respective status again. It was by then he noticed her updated status – which was still reflecting the sadness in her.

He didn’t want to wait anymore. He started typing the usual pleasantry words with his name this time. Before he could send it, he got a message from her.

It read, “Hey…”

“Wow, is she messaging a stranger?” he wondered.

Before he could respond, the next message popped, “How are you? It’s been ages.”

Ha, this is good. This is so freaking good. She remembers you, buddy, his inner voice echoed.

“I’m doing well. How about you?” he replied.

“I’m good….,” her words were direct, but he knew she didn’t mean it.

“Good? Then what’s the sad smiley for?”

“It’s just the mood swings.”

“Oh… is it? It’s Friday. You should actually be happy,” he messaged as he was already rejoicing the fact that it was a Friday night. Given where she was, he knew it was only Friday morning for her, but Friday is Friday anyway.

“Well, yeah. I should be. :)”

“Hmmm…” He didn’t know what else to send.

“It’s changed now…. I mean the status,” she replied.

He browsed back to the contacts list to check her status. It read something in Hindi. He is kind of mein-thoda-thoda-maalum-hai kind. He almost read all the words, but couldn’t get the complete meaning of it. He felt bad for not learning Hindi when he had a chance. He thought he should have listened to his mom’s repeated requests to learn Hindi when he was a kid. His mom even tried the trick of insult by quoting his sister who had been a Hindi prodigy by then. Nothing worked. It was just the age that he seldom cared about the advantages of learning Hindi. Had he known that he would miss out on girls just because of this language, he would have mastered it.

“Hmm… I see it. That’s great, but I didn’t understand it,” he decided to lose his dignity this time.

“Oh, actually it means, weekend is here; so is the happiness,” she replied.

“See, so you have a reason to be happy :),” he tried to go on with the topic, as he couldn’t find any other at that moment to extend the conversation.

“Yeah, but I’m not at home anyway,” she sounded homesick.

“Oh, so you are feeling homesick, aren’t you?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Go watch a movie tomorrow. You will feel better. That’s my remedy when I’m down. It always works for me,” he texted back.

“I have the dance class on weekends. So I enjoy the weekends.”

He was excited on seeing the words, “dance class”, and wanted to enquire about it. He thought that he had got something to chat about, but it lasted only for a few seconds.

He got another message that read, “Bye for now. It’s my cooking time.”

“Sorry, you carry on. Have a nice day,” he responded.

“You don’t have to be sorry. I just said that it’s my cooking time,” she replied back, almost immediately.

“Alright.” He ended the conversation.

He couldn’t come out of the conversation. He felt bad for her. He did wish that he was with her to make her feel okay by doing whatever it took.

He couldn’t lie on his bed anymore. He went out for a walk. That’s what he normally did whenever he had to calm his mind. Immersed in his thoughts, he left his mobile at his home.

When he came back, the first thing he did was to check for any notifications. None other than a couple from NDTV app was there. He then opened her chat window. The last seen time showed that she was active in WhatsApp five minutes back. Why didn’t she message him thenDidn’t she want to chat with him anymore? he wondered.

He checked her status again. It was changed. The same Hindi words remained, but the text, “Missing you Mom and Papa,” was appended to it.

“Hey… still feeling home sick?” he messaged her. He knew it was lame to ask within few hours since their last conversation, but he felt he had to.

“Hmmm…. Nothing changed my mood,” she replied. Though the content made him feel sorry for her, the fact that she replied instantly made him happy.

He didn’t want to seem desperate. He replied, “Just saw your status… And, thought of checking on you. Not intruding or something.”

“Cool, no problem.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in office by now?”

“Yes, I am, but I took the option of working from home as I wasn’t in a good mood since morning,” she replied.

He had heard from his IT friends about the work-from-home option, and how people actually work when choosing work-from-home, if by chance they do in the first place.

“Don’t you hang out with your friends? I mean, that would keep you from being home sick, right?”

“Yes, I do, but both my roommates have gone to India for vacation,” she replied.

“That’s unfortunate for you. So being alone makes you feel homesick?”

“Hmmm…” she replied blatantly.

“Weren’t you in hostel when you did your college?” he asked though he knew the answer.

“Yes, I was. Don’t you know that, huh?”

“I do know, but was just wondering how come you are feeling homesick still? Being in hostel makes the difference, you see,” he replied.

“Yeah, but still I’m not used to it.”

“Hmmm…”

“Even I went to one of my colleagues’ home yesterday evening to spend some time with his wife and kids. It didn’t help either. I will meet them again today. Hope that changes my mood,” she elaborated.

He wanted to change the conversation for the fact that he didn’t want her to feel any sadder by digging into the same topic.

“Hey, I guess I’m holding you from your work. You carry on,” that’s the best he could come up with, hoping she would say that what it is like when anyone works from home.

“Okay, bye. Have a good night. Sleep well,” she replied.

That reply wasn’t what he had expected before he sent his message.

He remembered the words he told his friend sometime back – “Don’t complain about missing out on things. Enjoy them as long as they last.” It applied to his situation then.

He tried to sleep, but he couldn’t. Few hours later he messaged her again, “Hi… how are you feeling now, better?”

“Hmmm, somewhat normal,” came the reply.

“Feel better. Or just try to,” he replied.

“Hmmm… the thing is that there are other things going weird in my life.”

“Is it? What happened? Is it something that can be shared? Feel free to share it with me,” he asked even though he knew that she wouldn’t. They weren’t that close after all.

“Sorry, but I can’t share it right now. I’m not at all stable.” Her response wasn’t a surprise for him. Who would share something intense with someone who is more of a stranger, he thought.

A sad smiley followed her last message. It only made him feel bad for her again. He desperately wanted to make her feel better. He thought of the ways. All he could come up with was to make her share whatever that’s bothering her because there is nothing better than to talk your worries through with someone who would hear you patiently and comfort you in the best possible way.

Oh, okay. That’s fine, he wanted to send, but that wasn’t fine at all. So he deleted the text and sent, “Oh, I don’t want to compel you, but just so you know, you can message me if you want to, anytime, if that makes you feel better.”

“Hmmm, thanks,” she sent while he continued typing.

“Is it work-related or personal?” he asked wanting to figure things out himself.

“Personal,” she replied. Nothing more.

“I know that you don’t know me personally. I can understand that. And frankly, I don’t know if I’m right in messaging you to check on you, but I felt like I should. It’s up to you to share what you want to. I’m sorry again if I’m crossing my line,” he sent.

He sent it not only because she was someone whom he knew, even if it was for a short while and a long time ago, but also because he was a person who feels he should do something when someone is not feeling good.

“No, no. It’s okay. I know you are just asking me to make me feel normal. But I’m going through a phase which I can’t share,” she replied. It made him wonder what she was going through.

“Oh, okay then. I can’t ask you again.”

No response from her, for the next five minutes. Was she offended? He has to do something, he thought.

“You know what, whatever phase you are in, it will pass,” he messaged again.

Then came the reply, “yeah, that’s true, but it will take a long time.”

It was a reply to provoke his desperation, again. He felt that he had to know the reason, somehow, before she ended the conversation. He thought deep and decided to go ahead with what he thought was the best thing to do, what people call as give and take policy.

“I’m in a bad phase myself. In fact, that’s the reason I care about people whom I know…. When they aren’t alright,” he started, “I only wish there is nothing serious.”

“Not that serious and all,” she seemed to care less to answer.

“Okay, I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, but I repeat, if you want to share something, feel free to share with me. You can trust me.”

He didn’t know why he used the word trust then, but he meant what he said.

“Sure, I will do if I feel like sharing. Thanks again for your care.”

For some reason, he felt she wanted to end the conversation. Maybe because he himself wanted to as he was disappointed that the so called give and take policy didn’t work out. In fact it wasn’t even played at all. He expected her to ask about his problems, but she didn’t.

He slept.

He woke up few hours later. The first thing he did was to check his mobile. There was one WhatsApp notification. It was from her. It was half an hour after he had slept. Will she be available now to respond if he messaged? he thought. She will; she is working from home anyway. he said to himself and smiled.

Her message read, “You are also having a personal problem?”

“Yeah, some issues. But I’m okay, I guess,” he replied to her message.

After few minutes, my mobile flashed. It was her, “Are you awake at this time?”

“Yeah, couldn’t sleep. So woke up few minutes back,” he replied and prayed to God that she shouldn’t end the conversation again by saying something like “Go to sleep” or “Sleep well. Good night”.

“Is it? Don’t worry about anything. Everything will be alright.”

“Hope so. Listen, do you have any siblings?” he wanted to extend the conversation. It was obvious.

“Yes, an elder brother.”

“Had bf?” he asked without realizing it was lunchtime for her already.

“No. You think so?” she replied.

What, he thought before realizing what she meant.

“Ha, I meant breakfast. But it’s good to know otherwise too.”

“Ah, you fooled me,” she replied. He could sense her disappointment.

“No, no. That wasn’t my intention. Sorry. However, to answer your question, I actually thought so. I was even thinking that the problem you are going through is related to it.”

“No… No… That’s not my problem. I’m a good girl of my Mom and Papa. So I never thought about these things. And don’t say sorry, again and again.”

“That’s so great of you. I appreciate that. No offense to others, but it’s hard to see this kind of a girl these days. I mean not many worry about their parents,” he replied with great enthusiasm because he really liked that about her.

“Thank You. I don’t like going against my parents’ decision and telling lies, you know.”

He just sent a thumbs-up smiley as a reply.

“Even I do have the permission to do love-marriage. I mean selecting the life partner of my choice, but the condition is he should be of my caste,” she replied.

He wasn’t expecting that from her. He hated the caste concept. The words, coming from her, hurt him. He didn’t reply for a couple of minutes until he got her next message.

“Everyone things about society and about what others think.”

“That’s not good. I hate this caste concept, totally. I’m just saying what I feel. Don’t mistake me,” he tried to play it safe.

“Yeah, I know. But there is a generation gap, you see.”

“I agree.” He didn’t actually.

“You can’t change anyone’s mentality,” she replied.

That’s bulls**t. You actually can. All we have to do is to make an attempt to change the people, at least. Otherwise how will anyone change, he thought.

“Hmmm… What to do? That’s how some people are. We can’t blame them too. That’s how they grew up,” he sent, as he tried not to show his disagreement to her.

“Exactly, that’s my point,” she replied. She didn’t know that he didn’t want that to be her point.

He wanted to put his thought in her. So he replied, “My mindset is that we should try to convince our parents if we really like someone whom we trust will be of a good life partner to us even if he or she is from other caste. That’s true love. Isn’t it?”

“Know what, if I want to marry someone from other caste, my parents will accept, but not without compromising their wishes,” she said.

“Of course, they will get compromised, but when they see you lead a happy life, they will feel happy and will be proud of you that you had made a better decision. That’s how I feel,” he replied.

“Hmmm… I have never been in love, but yes, if that was the case, I mean if I had bf, I would have convinced my parents somehow.” Her reply made him happy. He grew much more respect for her. He was dealing with the right kind of a girl, he thought.

“Hmmm….”

“Arranged marriage is risky, I think,” she said.

“Maybe, yes. You never know. Considering the divorce rate these days, it’s kind of scary too.”

“Well, yes. I’m already scared.”

“Reading and hearing some unpleasant things about the divorce cases everyday made me a better person. I made myself clear and strong that I should never behave like those idiotic guys.”

“That’s great. :)”

“One of my close friends who knows me well once told me that I will a better husband. She knows how much I respect women,” he said on the flow. He later realized that it seemed self-praising.

“Sometimes, I feel that meeting a person once or twice and then deciding to get married to him or her is really not good. In fact, I’m advising my cousins to select a life partner of their choice because I know how it feels if you don’t know much about a person whom you will spend rest of your whole life with.” Her words were unarguably appropriate. He almost saw her speak for him. He had never heard a girl say these things until then.

“Did your parents start looking for a guy for you?” he messaged her and got a message almost at the same second. It read, “Are your parents searching a girl for you?”

“Co-incidence,” he messaged.

“Yes, it is. And yes, they have started,” she replied.

“Know what, even I was thinking of marrying someone I fall in love with. I didn’t want to marry any random girl. I wanted to meet someone, get to know her completely and then fall in love and marry her, but…” he decided to take a break. Unfortunately, before he deleted the text, he had hit send by mistake.

He became restless. He planted this part of the discussion as a part of the give and take policy, but that was when he knew it would make her trust him and share what’s bothering her. In the past few messages, it had become evident that no matter what, she wouldn’t bulge. At least he would have kept his secret safe with him.

“But what?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on. Tell me. Is this something related to your problem?” she asked promptly. No wonder, people say Girls are smart when need be.

He didn’t want to do to her what she did to him. So he gave up and sent, “… but it didn’t work out.”

“Didn’t work out in the sense, were you in love?” she asked.

“Yes,” he didn’t find any word to continue further.

“Is she from our college? What happened?” she sounded desperate now.

“Nothing happened actually. Two years back, when I joined the journalism course, I met a girl in my class. We were together for several months. We studied together, researched together, went out together. We almost did everything together. We had this connection between us. I was awestruck by her smartness. The way she carried herself, the way she composed herself during the tough times, it made me fall for her. Maybe I was selfish. I thought she would make me a better person. I wanted her in my life. When I felt I was in love with her, I didn’t think about anything. I just decided to propose to her without any delay. When I proposed, she became a different person altogether. She rejected me giving the caste difference as the reason. It was a shock for me to hear her say those words. It was devastating. We didn’t talk afterwards. We hardly saw each other.”

“I’m sorry to hear this.”

“Hmmm… It’s not the rejection that hurts me till date, but the reason she gave me. My God, it’s obnoxious.”

“You shouldn’t pay importance to this. You should probably hate her for that. It might help you get over her easily,” she tried to make him feel better.

“I can’t hate her. I simply can’t. In fact, I’m happy that she was honest and said what she felt rather than giving some lame excuses. I respect her for that.”

“Hmmm…. You are something,” she replied.

He didn’t understand when she meant by that. He seldom cared.

“Whatever, that’s the problem I have. The thing is I’m getting better these days. You know what, it’s good that it happened soon. Imagine me developing my love for her for many years only to get disappointed at the end. It would have killed me, like, literally.”

“That’s true. You are lucky that way.”

“Yes, I am. And I’m sure I will get over her sooner or later.”

‘It is good to hear that.”

“Sorry to bore you with my story. I don’t know why, but I felt like sharing. Don’t worry about it. Thanks for listening,” he messaged back.

“No, I’m glad you opened up to me. I’m always there to make my friends feel better,” she replied without realizing how glad he would be if she had opened up to him when he asked. He didn’t fail to notice the word “friends” in her message. Did she mean him as a friend or was it a generic statement, he wondered.

“Thanks. That’s how I am too. Whenever I feel someone is not fine, I will try my maximum to make him or her feel better. That’s the reason I messaged today when I saw your status, even though we had hardly spoken before.”

“Hmmm… I understand.”

“Okay, I don’t want to hold you for more time. I will leave you to your work now.”

“He he… There is nothing much to do. I’m working from home, remember?”

“Hmmm,” he used the usual filler as he didn’t know what to say next.

“Okay, don’t worry about anything now. Sleep well.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good Night.”

“Thanks. You have a good day.”

“Thanks, bye.”

The conversation ended. It was 3:42 am for him. He couldn’t sleep anyway. Their conversation lingered in his mind for long. He read their conversation again and again for many times until he fell asleep around 5:00 am or so.

The next day as soon as he woke up, he checked his mobile. There were 121 new messages in WhatsApp, but all were from different groups that he was a part of. Nothing was from her.

Few days passed. She changed her status several times, and he kept reading them. Every day he was hoping that she would message him at least to check on him. She didn’t. Meanwhile he read the conversation they had the other night whenever he thought of her, which was quite a few times a day. To be honest, he didn’t want her to message him to enquire about him; rather he wanted her to message him so that he could use it as a chance to enquire about her. Her words, “going through a phase” and “other things going weird in my life” made him worry about her.

The more he read their conversation, the more he liked her. He liked her for the person she was. He desperately wanted to get to know more about her. He decided to wait patiently for her to message him so that he could build the conversation to know her. Surprisingly, she didn’t.

Five-ten years back, if you had wanted to get to know about someone, you would have to be friends with him or her. Or you would either have to spend some quality time with him or her, or you would have to ask directly to him or her. It’s not the same anymore. You have Google. The smarter you are with the keywords, the more information you can get on your screen. Nothing much is required.

He was smart. He googled her with the necessary keywords. He came across a document that had some information about her life during the training period. Most of the information was in Hindi – not in Hindi-Hindi, but in English-Hindi (like kaam karte ho bhi yaa nahi…). It made him to rue his mistake, time and again, of not learning Hindi. Nevertheless, he got Google Translate. He navigated between English to Hindi and then from Hindi to English tabs, and somehow, got something out of it. From what he had got, he found her to be caring, sensitive, and smart. He liked her for that.

After knowing more about her, he didn’t want to rely on her message. He just wanted to message her. He started typing, “Hey, I happened to stumble upon your training scrapbook. It was interesting. I came to know how you were then. It made me to like you. I like you from what I know about you until now, but I want to know more about you. Shall we be friends? I mean real friends who share things and are constantly in touch with each other. Let’s see how it turns out. I’m just saying. If you aren’t interested, then it’s fine with me too. The thing is if I know you more, I might fall in love with you, and I’m also sure that if you know me, you might too. Well, when I say this, I also realize that it’s not only the caste, but also the language that would be a problem. But from what I know, I can confidently say that we could sort these things out. What do you say?”

But he didn’t send it. He was nervous. What if she reacts angrily and feels bad for what he had to say, he thought. The whole whatever they had would break into pieces. That moment he just felt content with the outcome of the conversation they had the other night. He felt happy that at least the conversation led him to know more about her as a person, even though if that’s only a little of what he wanted. He felt that the time he spent the other night with her was simply great and something to be cherished. He, deep down, had this gut feeling that if she had felt something, she would eventually message him one day or the other. He decided to wait with the hope that it wouldn’t merely end as a one-night-chat-with-her.

“Never give up on your guts. It’s what that takes you to the places you couldn’t even dream of reaching,” he remembered the words he once read.

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