Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Closure


Prashanti looks at her phone and then to the wall clock in her room. “What’s taking him so long today,” she wondered. The phone rings, gleefully she grabs her phone, winks at her roommate, Suma, and hurries up to the terrace.

“Will you come back tonight,” asks Suma teasingly.

It’s been close to a month since Prashanti fell into this new routine. She returns from work getting into overcrowded city buses, quickly eats her dinner and waits for his call. Gone are the days when she would accompany her colleagues for shopping or wait for empty buses. Tall, slender with a wheatish complexion, she is aware of the admiring stares she gets from her male colleagues. Equally, she enjoys the jealous looks she gets from her female colleague. But it is her long hair that gets her the maximum compliments. Hailing from a village in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, she groomed herself well for a city life in the last one year.

Her parents owned a farmland. Unlike her brother, who had put a stop to his studies after school and decided to help his father in farming, Prashanti had dreams of living in the city. She spent most of her childhood in government residential schools at a nearby town. After graduating in Commerce, she stayed longer in the town to complete few certifications in computers and accounting.

Prashanti came to Hyderabad a year ago and took up a job as EA (Executive Assistant) in a private firm. She knew her English was weak; she would ask help from Suma, a convent educated, from time to time. She is a hard worker and doesn’t shy away from asking any doubts and corrects herself in case of mistakes. She had no intention of staying as an EA for long. She believed she was destined for bigger achievements in life. Her aunt, who stays in the city, got her registered with a local marriage bureau and as days passed by, her elders started getting impatient with slow response. However, things changed when she was informed by her aunt to expect a call from a potential groom in Bangalore. 

A formal 15 minutes call extended to an hour and then there was no stopping. Prashanti was completely smitten by his charisma over the phone. The boy is an F&B Manager with a resort in Bangalore. Prashanti’s photo was sent to him by the marriage agency once his elders liked her picture. Since it was festival time and peak season for Hospitality industry, the boy found it difficult to take leave and insisted on “getting-to-know” sessions over phone.

Life turned beautiful for Prashanti; she enjoyed listening to his funny customer tales. He made her laugh with his jokes; took an interest in her dreams and aspirations; appreciated her for the way she grew up and became this confident woman.

“He is nowhere closer to what you wanted. He doesn’t even earn great. Are you sure you liked him?” Suma asked, looking at his picture.
“Well, I wanted a tall guy and so much more. But it is okay. He has potential and sees me as an individual with aspirations and not merely a girl.” Prashanti replied.

The scheduled day of meeting arrived after being in touch for more than a month. The elders have been waiting for a nod, so that they can plan further.

“It’s going to be your fourth dress Prashanti and you still haven’t finalized one. I’m getting late for work.” Suma was irritated. But she knew how important it is for Prasanthi. She had no choice but to be patient.

Prashanti went to the beauty parlour the previous evening; she wanted to look her best.

“It’s been quite hectic for the past few days. You will meet a very tired man with eye bags as deep as my jeans pocket,” he quipped.

“Where did you learn to talk like this?” she asked halting in between her laugh. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

They planned to spend the entire day together. Prashanti bought movie tickets at the Prasad’s Imax for the evening show.

It was 8 pm when Suma returned from work. She wasn’t expecting anyone at home; however, she saw Prashanti sitting quietly in her room. She was still in her pink and blue salwar which she finalized after many trials.

Suma realized something went amiss but chose not to ask Prashanti at that moment.

That evening, the phone didn’t ring.

It’s been 10 days since there was hardly any conversation between the two girls. Prashanti went about her daily chores. She left home early and returned late, just in time for dinner.

Suma knew Prashanti will never discuss unless asked. She decided to wait for her for dinner. 

“Why is it so difficult to reach you? First, those long phone calls when your phone was perennially busy and now, you have become this impregnable wall. I can stay with a colleague for some days if you need some space. ”

Prashanti stared at her and then resumed her dinner.

“He didn’t turn up for the movie. He didn’t return my calls or replied to my messages. I returned home after waiting for him for two hours,” she said.

Suma sensed the calm unyielding anger in Prashanti’s voice.

“Why? Did he die?” asked Suma.

“We met for breakfast. He was quiet, formal; kept the conversation to minimal. It was unlike him but I assumed it was due to the tiredness from the overnight journey. He excused himself saying he had unfinished business and promised to meet me at the theatre. I didn’t hear from him after that.” Prashanti’s eyes sparked with unshed tears. She continued eating.

Suma went silent.

Prashanti smiled and said, “Enjoyed the dinner today. Did you make it?”

“Yes. The cook didn’t turn up,” Suma replied.

“You know whenever mother runs out of vegetables she makes spicy scrambled eggs, rasam and rice; one of my favourites. She always seems to have a solution for everything,” Prashanti said.

“A new restaurant has come up in the neighbourhood. Shall we try it out on Sunday?” Suma asked.

“You are right; he just died the minute he chose to ignore my calls. Oh! By the way, my aunt called in the morning to inform that his parents have asked the marriage agency to continue with the search,” Prashanti said and added, “let’s try the food on Sunday and watch a movie, may be?”   

                                       ------------------

They say friendships and relationships blossom in strange ways, at unexpected places and between completely opposite people. Sometimes, a goodbye after a short association leaves a lifelong impression. We must all owe each other the dignity and respect for the time spent and the memories made.

There is a reason why we say “bye” before ending a conversation; a movie ends with “The end” or something similar; music slows down as song ends; there is a period (.) at the end of a sentence. It’s because there cannot be Spring without Autumn.  

Goodbyes are not bitter. It is the way they are said make the difference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Man Friday

“Hope you filed your IT returns.” I got this blank mail last week with this as the subject line. I could not help smiling and replied, “Nope. Need help!!” Within few minutes I got a call from an international number with a baritone voice on the other side. I don’t remember if he asked about my well-being, the usual drill after picking up the call. All he said was, “send me your details; I’ll file it in the weekend.” Oh yeah, after that we did try to talk but as usual it ended up in an argument and calling names to each other. I’ve been sharing this love-hate weirdness for the past 5 years now.

It all began when I joined my present workplace 5 years back where I met this portly spectacled man who greeted me with a faint Bong accent (he disagrees with me) and a smile that instantly changes the contours of his face in a pleasant way. He along with other colleagues made me feel comfortable within no time and today, I owe it to them for making so many good memories. Of all the people, I enjoyed talking to him for his love for literature, art, books, music, architecture and life in general. Trust me you don’t find many with such varied interests among techies. Nothing makes me happier than an interesting and thought provoking conversation. At one such conversation, he asked me what I am doing in a software company. He still thinks I’m a misfit here and I can’t agree with him more.

I was often asked by many at work that how could I get along with him? Even I wondered. There’s nothing nice about him according to the usual conventions. He is not soft-spoken, arrogant and has zero tolerance for people with limited knowledge. Many times generic topics became personal, we argued passionately and soon the cafeteria turned into a battle field pushing others into uncomfortable silence or arbitrators at times. This led to many weeks and months working in silence and behaving as if the other person didn’t exist (our workstations were adjacent to each other). So, yeah I wondered why I put up with someone who drives me up the wall.

He knows how to keep me grounded and doesn’t hesitate calling me terrible sounding adjectives if he thought I made a mistake. He is ruthlessly honest; though his comments hurt but it’s one of his qualities I admire. Once I wanted his opinion on a sensitive mail. His feedback was, “humility is definitely not your virtue and whoever is going to receive that mail will not recover from the humiliation for a long time.”  He was quite upset with me for writing such a mail but it served my purpose.  He moved on 2 years back, got busy with his new job and since then we hardly met, spoke occasionally. But he was the first one I called when I was getting the agreement done for my house. He guided me to reach my lawyer’s destination while attending the meeting in the car. He read and re-read the documents before he allowed me sign on the dotted lines, he helped me buy electric fixtures for my house just before hours he was scheduled to fly to the US. He pushed one of his meetings so that he can drop me home when I wasn’t well, he never allowed me take a cab late in the night and dropped me home even though his house was on the opposite side of the city.

Our interests are different; we enjoy completely different kind of food, hardly socialize, and watch completely different genres of movies. I can’t think of at least one similarity. It took a lot of time for us to agree to disagree and stop proving a point.

I’m not sure when will we meet or talk again but, I’m sure he’ll not ask any reason when I ask him to come over at an ungodly hour during an emergency. I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful people who continue to be a part of my life though I talk to them once in a blue moon. Man Friday is one of them.