Friday, January 22, 2010
The face of the voice...
It was just another busy day in my office life. Meetings with clients, internal meetings, briefing sessions, deadlines and deliveries, preparing proposals, the list was endless. I knew that it was going to be a long day at work.
I was at my desk when chief called me inside for the briefing session. I carried my notebook and pencil and drove my flock of creative team towards his cabin. This was a new project that had come across. The deadlines were short but the visibility through this project was extremely great. We all wanted this project to work out best as that would eventually lead to more business and further towards our target of achieving a crore a quarter. We all settled down and chief started to give us gyan on the new client and the new project.
As the briefing continued in heated discussion (which is our way or brain-storming) I heard my phone ringing at my desk. I cursed under my breath as I had left it there instead of carrying it along with me. Being in client servicing it was understood that half your day will get blown up in attending calls. But the worst is when you get from home!
I excused myself to answer the phone. And with a light irritation I realized that it's my mom calling. Usually when she calls I would cut her call and call her back to save her, her money. But I was in hurry to get back, as a whole team was waiting for me to return. I barked "hello! Is it urgent? Can we have this call later?" Without getting affected my mom replied,"Yeah it is urgent. We have got a proposal for you. He is interested in your profile and has liked your photo. Would like to talk to you. Can you? Are you free?" I felt like screaming. I controlled my emotion and said patiently, “Look mom, I’m in middle of a meeting. I really don’t have time for this. I-", "arrey tell me if it is okay for him to call you. I will give him your number." my mom cut in. Fighting with myself I said, “Okay you know my conditions. If he matches it ask him to call me. Right now I don't have time. I have to get back to that meeting. I’m cutting the call. Bye" without even waiting for her reply I punched the disconnect button and went back to chief's cabin.
The rest of day as I had expected was stuffed. I hardly had time to catch my breath. It was 8.00 pm before I could wind up. I shut my work station and walked towards the parking lot. It's then that I remembered what my mom had said. "Alright a guy was going to call me any moment now." I had butterflies in my stomach at the very thought because I knew what my parents would have wanted me to do. While I was engrossed in this thought my phone rang. My heart leapt. I pulled the phone out of my pocket to see my mom's name flashing on the display. I cursed again as I knew what this call was going to be about. "Yes mom?" I said. "Nothing, just wanted to know if he called?" asked my mom. I answered in negative and from there she went on to say, don't say anything stupid to the guy, don't talk too much, answer to his queries but you don’t ask any question...blah blah blah... When I heard this, only thought that ran though my head was what nonsense is she saying? I'm a complete city girl with an independent soul and spirit. Well capable to take care of my-self. I don’t want a man to take care of me. And then if he cannot put up with my nonsense now how was he going to spend his whole life with me? I had decide that I will do what I feel is right. After all I was 26! Till now I had listened to what my parents had to say. But now it was time to take the decision of my life. But I never shared these thoughts with my mom. I was snapped back into the present when my mom asked "understood?" I said, "Yeah yeah, will take care". So saying I pulled my bike out of parking lot and zoomed back home.
I was in Bangalore and my parents in Mangalore. I stayed with my friends in a two room house. One of them was a very close friend of mine who always gave me lecture on practicality. She shared room with the other girl who was our hostel mate too. Luckily I had a whole room to myself, the place which I could only share with one person in the whole world, my best friend Kirti, who had gone on an official trip to America. I missed her. And that too after this call I missed her more. I needed somebody to speak to about this whole issue. My parents are the last in list here. They will never understand what I wanted to tell them. For they still believed that I can’t decide what is good for me and what's not. I don’t know who put that idea in their head, that they have to do everything for me even take my decisions for me. May be I was too lethargic in my life to notice that they had gotten used to doing so all the while and I just woke up from my damned slumber to see that I had lost the pitch!
Anyway, I thought, let me talk to this guy and see. I waited till 10.30 pm and didn't find any call. While waiting I realized I had never asked my mom for his name. I took the phone to dial her number to find a message on the screen. It was my dad's. It read "Krishnan Namboodiri" followed by his phone number. I thought namboodiri? Interesting! I saved the number. And I went to my friend's room to wish her good night. At that time my phone beeped to indicate new message and it was from Krishnan. I opened the message it said, “I Neha, this is Krishnan. Sorry had a busy day in office. Let me know when I can call you." I replied, "Any time is okay with me." Five minutes later I was in conversation with this guy. He called me to apologize and fix a time for next day. Since we both were busy we decided that we will talk in the evening. So saying we wished each other good night and I proceeded to close the day.
Next day mom called me up in the morning. Asked me if he had called. I replied in affirmative and said I was impressed with the fact that he had courtesy to call up say that he was busy and that he couldn't call earlier. We have decided to speak today. Mom was relieved to see that I was okay about the guy. As I got ready to go to office I received a message from Krishnan asking if we can speak. I apologized and said since I’m on my way to office and I would be driving the bike it will be impossible for me to talk to him, but I can call him as soon as I reached office. He answered with an Ok and I rode to office.
I called him while entering the office just to hear him say, “Sorry Neha got a customer at my desk. Will call you in the evening." We hung up and I waited for the day to get dark. Krishnan called me at the scheduled time. That was our first real conversation but it never felt like that. I was in complete ease talking with this guy. I had no jittery feeling. He sounded as if he was my long lost friend who happened to get my contact number on face book. We spoke and spoke about each other, our likes and dislikes and the time wore off. After two ‘short’ hours we realized that we had actually been talking for a long time. He asked me worriedly, “isn’t it time for you to sleep?" I wanted to chat with some body. I missed Kirti. I wanted to talk to somebody and this guy had put me at ease. I said, “No. I will take some more time before I retire to bed." But then sensing that it was really too late I told him it's better if we end our call now. Before cutting the call he asked me, "if not a problem, can I call you tomorrow?" I said smiling, "yes. Will wait."
Before I could close my eyes I realized that I had not seen his profile which my father had sent across. I logged on to my mail and went through his details. His photo was also there. He looked chubby and cute. Had a baby innocence on his face and he was educated with a good job and an impressive family background. What else. I decide to try this out.
Next day again he called. We casually chatted about our profiles. And he said, "Know what? That photo in the profile is very old. It was clicked in 2003. I don’t look like that now. I have put on more weight." I was struck. Not that he was over weight. At his honesty. I have all throughout my life respected people who are honest. And this was just what he had. He scored his brownie points. I playfully told him to send me his latest image otherwise I will be looking over his shoulders when he would come to see me, hoping to meet some other Krishnan.
Every evening I used to look forward for this call. Easy one and half, two hours would go in this chat. I had almost decided that this is the guy. We had lot of likes in common. Our vision on life was same and the best was what our zodiac sign match said. These two signs' match is made in heaven. Angels sing when they come together and they are just perfect for each other. The match is 10/10. It just fueled my decision.
From the second call on I used to subtly or directly hint him to send his photo. He used to say yes but then never sent. I asked him once if we could do a video chat. He was open for that, but again gave me reasons of why not today, why not tomorrow. My parents started asking me when he intended to meet me. I had no answer. My dad after having lost his patience called his parents up. They said Krishnan till now has been fine about this proposal but will need few more days to decide.
That's it! My parents lost their interest and calm. They asked me to ditch this profile and move on with life. I was not game for it. I wanted to give Krishnan a chance as I was interested in this. Meanwhile my parents got me a new profile. I out right rejected it! I said I was ready to wait for Krishnan to say yes or no. Till then I don't want to see any more profile.
Krishnan's indecisiveness and my parents call started driving me crazy. I found it too much to contain. I called up Kirti, fought back my tears but poured my heart out. She could sense my pain. She said, “for once you have to take your decision in life. I know your parents want the best for you. But their displeasure now will only lead to happiness when they see that you are happy in life. And Krishnan. I don’t think that it's a guy worth waiting for. If he can't even send you his photo then he has got some problem." And somehow I knew what it was. He was insecured of his looks. He felt he was fat and he had lost his hair. In short he was bald and fat. This came out when I spoke to Krishnan and told him of my dilemma. I told him how my parents had got a new proposal and that the horoscope over there matched and the guy and his mother wanted to meet me. It was put on hold only because of Krishnan. For that he replied, "you go ahead and meet him, may be you would like him and you would get somebody slimmer than me". That day I lost my cool and almost screamed," Do you think I will reject you on the basis of your look? Do actually think I'm interested not in the person you are but how you look? Then let me make one thing clear. I have decided what I should do. My final decision will come on the day that I see you even if that is on video chat. I am tired of speaking to a faceless voice. I'm tired of thinking how you look. When I speak I speak with a blank mind. I go out and if I see a guy who is heavy I wonder if you would like that guy. I tired of playing this game. If you don’t decide then my parents will drop this and force me to move on. My deadline is one week from now. I don’t want to blow this last chance that I have. That's the reason I'm asking you. They want to get me engaged by next month!" Krishnan lost his calm. I could clearly feel the stress in his voice. I tried to soothe him down. But was actually feeling nice that he now felt the heat. He said he will discuss with his parents and let me know. Kirti complimented me for taking the right decision by putting my foot down. I was fed up of the whole nonsense of indecisiveness.
He called me next day to say that he was traveling to Malaysia with his brother and his family for four days. His company had chosen him as the star performer in the country and has sponsored to and fro tickets to any destination of his choice. And he chose to travel with his bother to Malaysia. My heart sank. I knew this was going to be another week of nothingness. I wished him good luck and chewed on my finger tips.
This was just too much to take. I decided I will follow the deadline of one week. The day after he comes back and if he still is indecisive I will drop this whole thing. I had planned to meet my parents during the weekend. And I knew this time it was going to be hard. On one side it was Krishnan, whose profile they had asked me to drop on the other it was the other profile which I had rejected and they were willing to take it ahead.
Krishnan's day of travel came. He called me to say bye. I mentally bade him good bye forever. Wished him and others happy journey and waited for my turn to go home. I was traveling next day. I had nothing to carry this time other than books and a heavy heart.
Friday 8.30 pm, I was at station waiting for the train when dad called me up to see if I had reached the station on right time and if the train had come. While talking he said he had his relatives visiting him from Mumbai. It pained, because Mumbai was Krishnan's home town. And these relatives of my dad knew Krishnan. I mumbled Okay and disconnected the call. I could feel my mind rewinding the last two weeks conversation with Krishnan in my head. I wanted to shut that voice off. I was not mentally committed to him but then waiting and shooting into nothingness was unbearable. Nobody understood what I went through. I had lost weight in two weeks. Thanks to Krishnan and my parents. I wanted to talk to Kirti and cry my heart out but that was impossible. She would get unnecessarily worried. It was while I was caught in this whirlwind that my mind stuck on one particular dialogue that Krishnan had said. I had wished Krishnan to have a good and enjoyable journey. He was apprehensive as he had got a news that due to bad weather 21 flights were cancelled. He was worried if one of it would be his. I assured him saying buddy you will make it. And eventually he did. He called from international airport to say he was catching his flight for Malaysia. I said, “see my wish has come true for you". He said, "Yeah. Thanks. This indicates that I should bring you into my life as soon as possible to enjoy more good luck." I smiled and replied, "You bet? That's the only reason I’m asking you to hurry up. This is a limited edition. Won’t wait for long. Only lucky ones can get it." He laughed, “you are being modest now." and I coyly replied in a very soft voice, "am I?" I had never made note of this exchange between us. But strangely before I boarded the train his line vibrated in loop inside my head and heart.
I shook that off and thought,"well this is not going to work. So let me just forget it. Guys can say many things. But they will never stick to it."
I dozed off to get up next day morning half an hour before I reached my stop. I called my father up to inform him that I was just half an hour away. At 8.30 am I reached Mangalore central. My dad was there to receive me. We both headed home in our car.
When I reached home I found mom was in her morose mood more because I was clinging on to Krishnan's profile and had rejected the other proposal. I was pained heavily. I was meeting her after a month and she was in no mood to talk to me. It has always been a rule with me that when I feel pained I pull out my walkman later ipod, plug the head phone in my ears and play the song in full volume. I spent rest of the day in front of the computer to avoid facing my parents lest some arguments flare up.
By the time it was evening my father walked to me and said," Neha get ready. We are going out to Sandhya aunty's place. I told you about those relatives right? They are coming over there." I had half a mind to say I'm not in mood. But I wanted some breath of fresh air so got ready to go.
Sandhya aunty is my mom's cousin and stays very close to our place. We walked down to her place. The minute I entered Ashwini my cousin rushed towards me screaming, "hey Neha... how are you lady? Long time? No calls or messages? Why you are not getting time is it?" I glared at my dad and mom for having shared Krishnan’s details with Sandhya aunty and family. Ashwini caught my look and sheepishly backed off. I was notorious for my dark foul mood and with the things that were happening I had a smoldering volcano inside my heart that would burst open with even a slightest prompt. I smiled weakly at Ashwini and went inside. Everybody greeted me and I just nodded my head towards everybody. My mom smiled and talked to everybody as if nothing had happened. My heart bled more. I wanted to cry but fought my tears back. I felt as if there was a lump stuck in my throat. I couldn't swallow. I was chocking within. But the world was happy.
At 6.00 pm the guests arrived. A middle aged couple with, two young guys one in mid thirties and other in late twenties and a young lady with a baby. I was literally not interested in meeting them but manners are something that you cannot forget no matter what. They were meeting me and Ashwini for the first time. So we both were introduced to them. But my dad as usual didn’t introduce them to us.
After the formal greeting I excused myself and went to terrace to lick my wound. Ashwini wanted to come but I silently forbade her. I went up, the wind was cool but my whole self within was hot with hurt. I sat there listening to the winds rustling through leafs; I opened my mind so that the wind could cool my senses. I got lost in the darkness with gratitude.
After sometime I heard a foot step behind me. My foul mood came back. I didn't want anybody to disturb this tranquil moment. I waited for Ashwini to say something for I was sure it was her. But nothing happened. I silently mumbled, "Go away. I want to be alone for sometime." to my relief the foot step moved only to be shocked later at it's owner's audacity as it moved closer to me. Before I could scream the voice spoke. "Hi Neha, this is Krishnan. Should say you look better than your picture." God I can't explain the anger which had been lying dormant and which had now seeped out of my bone into my tongue and on my face. I couldn't bear to think that my parents had got some moron to meet me when I had clearly said I want to see what decision Krishnan was going to take. I turned around to face the voice. It was the guy in the late twenties. He had a smile on his face. His eyes twinkled with familiarity. I cringed. Through my gritting teeth I asked, "Who are you? And what are you doing here? I'm sorry but right now I'm not ready for this and I'm not interested in this meeting." I scowled as the smile still remained unfaded. He calmly repeated, but I felt he was suppressing his laugh, "I’m Krishnan. Krishnan Namboodiri. Remember? The guy from Mumbai?" I thought I was imagining. I got confused. I couldn't comprehend. While caught in this quagmire I heard some more foot steps and that was of mine and this guy's families'. I looked at them. Everybody was smiling. But me? I was frowning. I had failed to realize that I was hearing the same voice which had put me at ease and then pushed me into distress. I had failed to realize that the voice in my head had finally come with a face. I failed to realize that it was Krishnan standing in front of me. It slowly sunk in. I didn’t know what to do. Cry, laugh, scream, tear my head apart, jump down the building...what the hell should I do?
Krishnan came forward and repeated again, “I’m Krishnan Neha. The same insensitive, indecisive guy, who put you in an embarrassing situation with your family. I have come to meet you and ask you if I can take you into my life and improve my luck. Can you be my lucky charm?”
I looked lost. All through the last two weeks I wanted to see him and when finally he came I had gone numb. But as it became clearer I knew what was happening. I asked him, "but you were supposed to be in Malaysia right?" He laughed lightly and said," yeah should have been but then nobody actually travels with out the lucky charm you see. I didn't go. I had planned to meet you. But then I wanted it to be a surprise for you. What joy would it be if you knew that I was coming? And what joy it would have been if you had seen me earlier also? I wanted to see you as you are. I had told your parents not to tell you. We secretly planned this." I just stared at him. I didn't know if I should believe or not. Or if I were dreaming. Even worse! I looked at mom and dad. They stood in baited breath.
I sat down clutching my head in my hands. Krishnan called my name. But I refused to look up. He sat next to me and whispered, "Are you alright?" Yes that was the prompt. The volcano inside me burst open and I bathed him in its hot lava. I screamed, "you moron, you have the audacity to ask me if I'm alright? Do you have any idea how bad this last week was? How torn I was? The pain of waiting and making my parents understand? How many times have I pictured murdering you? Or skinning you alive? Of kicking you black and blue? I used to think why couldn’t you understand what I was going through? I wanted to cry but didn't, thinking that would make me weak. I was fighting with my feeling all throughout. And you were planning behind my back giving me all the heart burns?" He said in his soothing voice, “you have a whole life to punish me for this. It's an interesting proposition. What say?" I barked, "Yeah that's what I'm going to do. Kick you life long for putting me in this situation." It took a whole minute for everybody to understand what I was saying. There was a cry of jubilation from mine and his family. Everybody got busy hugging each other while Krishnan leaned and whispered into my ears, “have to say, you look sweet with moist eyes. I think I actually fell for you now." I punched him on his upper arm, whispered back, “Asshole!” And let my-self lean against him while enjoying the moment and the happiness of my family. He slid his fingers into mine and locked them for eternity.