Sunday, July 18, 2010

Salutes and Half Waves- IV

The conversation

I got up in the morning and felt unwell. The monsoon was in Kolkata, and this city becomes a hotbed of viruses during this time. I had probably caught the flu virus myself. But unlike before, I was happy for this unwarranted attack on me, because it provided me with another opportunity to cross that shop as I go over to the Doctor’s Chamber. I had already resolved to strike up a conversation and exchange numbers. We were shifting home and both my parents had gone to the new house we were to shift to. The chamber was near our new house. I hadn’t told anyone at home that I was feeling unwell, lest my parents asked me to go along with them.

As noon approached, I dressed up. I informed Aagan that it was time I tried my luck. He wished me luck and bombarded me with the silliest of suggestions on how to strike up a conversation with him. I stepped outside and felt a chill run down my spine. The same emotions and activities repeated themselves. But Shankar wasn’t there. My heart broken, I hoped to see him in the shop when I returned back. As if the gods were with me, the chamber was closed, providing me with another chance to repeat my actions in the evening. I went to our new house; my parents were done with their chores too. My mother told me that the doctor was himself unwell and had come to take medicine for himself when she caught up with him. I thanked the gods again, else my mother would have accompanied me in the evening. I gave them the key to the home and let them return back before me, so that I could be alone when I approached the shop. Being on my bicycle, they would have reached before me anyways, meaning I was on safe grounds. I was excited and nervous again, but it seemed lady luck wasn’t to shine on me so soon. The rest of the afternoon I SMS-chatted with Aagan, expressing my desire and growing impatience to know Shankar better. I was turning into a hapless romantic and my facebook status reflected the same, inviting both congratulatory and enquiring comments. All these helped me kill my time, but my thoughts revolved around something else. I knew I wouldn’t be able to chat with him face-to-face for too long. I was never good at that. However, I seemed to have no problem chatting up on SMS or over internet.

It was quarter to seven when I started dressing up. This was the time I had seen him by his shop before, and hoped to meet him again. As I approached his shop, I could see from a distance a man of almost the same features sitting there. I was happy that Shankar, the man I had longed to talk to for so long, was all alone. I crossed over the road, but as I reached the shop, it turned out to be his co-worker. I stopped there momentarily and looked here and there, but my man was nowhere to be found. I looked up the sky, seeking an end to all my agony and went on to the doctor. My medicine taken, I hoped to get lucky now. I had resolved to go and ask for his number at the shop even if he wasn’t there. “Or shonge ektu kotha aache (There is something I need to talk to him about),” I had thought of saying.

I could see from a distance the light inside the shop. My man was standing there, all alone and busy with his chores. ‘This was it, this was my moment. It was now or never,’ I said to myself as I summoned all the gods and gathered all my courage. I straight away went inside the shop and called out his name. He looked up at me, our eyes met and I knew he had been longing for this moment as much as I did, if not more. It seemed that the gods had finally granted me my wish, that all my prayers had been answered, and that time would exist to move.
He came a little forward. He was wearing a ganjee and had a handkerchief placed around his neck. For the first time I got an opportunity to watch him up close. He was a few centimeters shorter than me, had slight hairs on his chest. While I will refrain from comparing him with Adonis or Brad Pitt, he definitely was handsome and good looking enough to have caught my eye that fateful day, leaving me staring at him. His arms had well-developed muscles, not the gym-toned ones, but one which you would find any hard working wage earner to be endowed with. He had a black band on his wrist while a blue jeans covered his legs. Going by the manner in which the handkerchief was wrapped around his neck and the wrist-band, I knew my man was fashionable and had a style.

“Ami ki tomarke jani? Kothai hoye to dekha hoyeche ? Amar theek bahabe mone prche na. (Do I know you? May be I have met you somewhere, I can’t recall properly.),” I enquired in Bengali.

“Na (No),” he said.

“Kintu janle hi kotha korbe erokum to kichu nahi. Bondhutwa korte toh kichu lage na.(But is it that only if a person knows another then only can he talk to him? It doesn’t take anything to befriend a person.),” he added quickly.

I had received the message wide and clear. My joy knew no limit now. All I needed to do now was keep up this conversation as long as I could and get his phone number.

“No, befriending someone doesn’t take anything. It was just that I saw you that day while coming out of my house and felt as if I knew you. Then I would see you waving at me. It seemed that I knew you,” I replied with a smile.
“I saw that you didn’t talk to anyone around much. I would often see you crossing from here. It’s been only a month since you are here, right?” he asked.

“Umm…yes, I was outside before for my studies. But I would come here during the holidays, though that would be for a few days only. But yes, now I am here for good and I have been around for a month,” I answered back.
I wanted to get as much information about him as possible. I wanted to know when I would find him there and how long had my eyes been blind to this beauty. I seemed to be conversing well with him and I went on to ask, “What is your timing here at work?”

“I come at around 11am and then leave at 7pm,” he replied.

“But I will be leaving this job soon. They don’t pay me much here,” he was quick to give out this piece of information to me.

“How much do they pay you?” I asked.

“Rs. 2000 per month, that’s it.”

“That is a paltry sum,” I said, “Don’t you know some other work? You can work elsewhere.”

“No, I work on glass only,” he replied with a sad tone.

“What about you? How many are there in your family?” he asked me.

I answered his question and went on to enquire about his family. I got to know that he was the only son of his parents. He then took the onus of keeping the conversation alive and asked me what glass I should be using for the window panes. He tried to educate me about the benefits of using glass over fiber, on how fibers tend to shrink or get folded due to the heat and break. I faked my interest in the topic, while my eyes devoured every little detail of his beautiful carved out body. I felt like telling him that all that chit-chat with the owner the previous day was meant only to get to you closer but refrained from doing so. I saw a golden opportunity here and jumped in, “Who would be going to repair it?” I asked,

“If I am there, I will go, or else someone else will.”

“When do you remain at the shop? When will YOU go for the repair?” I stressed on the you, making it amply clear that it was him that I was interested in.

“I told you, I come at around 11. You will find me then. If I haven’t gone to work at someone’s place, I remain here,” he replied back.

“So can I have your number? I will call you to know if you are there at the shop.”

“You can take the shop’s number,” he said.

“No, can’t I have your mobile number?” I cut him short in his sentence.

“Yes, if you wish. But I don’t carry the mobile. It remains at home,” he said, thus revealing his reluctance to share the number.

“Ok, I will call you once you have reached the home. At what time do you reach home?”

“I reach home at around 8pm,” he said, “But today I will have to stay here a bit late. So will reach at 9. You call me today after 9. On other days you can call after 8,” he quickly punched in this information.

“Ok, you take down my number then,” and I started taking out a piece of paper from my pocket on which had written down my number to pass on to him.

“No, you call me,” he said.

I understood what he meant and said that I will leave an SMS. I then said, “Ok then, I shall leave now.”
“You can stay and talk, I am free now,” pat came his reply.

So I talked to him for another 5 minutes and tried to ask him out, but he seemed to be surprised at the proposal. I was probably moving too fast now. An old lady who used to sit in the shop arrived and I soon bid him goodbye, with the promise of calling him up. I had chatted him up for around 20 minutes! It was quite a mark for a diffident person like me.

It was quarter past 7 when I came back from this rendezvous and the next one and half hour seemed to be eternity. I dropped him an SMS to give me a missed call after reading it. Over 20 minutes passed, but there was no response from that side. I grew restless by now. But to my relief, I found the SMS hadn’t been delivered and on calling him up, found his cell switched off. It was around 10 pm when I finally received his missed call.

Without wasting any more time, I quickly slipped out of home to call him up, which ended with the promise of meeting again the next day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Salutes and Half Waves -III

Day 5- My Man has a name

We were relocating to a new rented house as our current landlord had asked us to vacate, and so we were slowly shifting to the new one, which wasn’t too far away. My mother had filled a bag of some of the utensils that weren’t used regularly. A thought struck me that it could give me another chance to meet my man. I offered to carry the bag. My mother was pleasantly surprised by the gesture from her lazy son, but offered it graciously. My mother and father reached the house. They had to do some cleaning and all. I stayed put till 11 am, when I thought I had some prospects of meeting my man at the shop. However, as all the emotions repeated themselves within me as I crossed the shop, I only met with disappointment. It was around noon and my parents hadn’t yet returned from that house. I had been exchanging texts with Aagan all this while. Egged on by his support and encouragement, I decided it was time for me to make a move. I couldn’t be the helpless person that I was being and expect Cupid to strike his arrow. So, I decided to check at the shop again and start a conversation somehow. I peeped inside the shop, and he was working there, his back towards me; which meant he didn’t have the slightest inkling that I was there. I froze and instead of going inside, went a little farther along the road. I was exchanging texts with Aagan continuously. He sent me a message, “It’s now or never.” As if it stirred something inside me. I went ahead, my heart pounding so loudly that I feared a person standing nearby would be able to hear each heartbeat. By the time I went in, there was another person already inside, giving instructions to my man and his teenaged co-worker. I simply stood behind that person and kept eyeing my man. He had seen me, smiled at me, but didn’t wave; possibly due to the present of this foreign entity, who stood between us two; oblivious to my presence since he had his back towards me. He was shouting, “Shankar, didn’t I tell you to take these glasses to Sen’s house and get the job done?” By the tone of it, I guessed that he must be the shop owner.

“Shankar, so that’s his name,” I thought to myself.

I was elated at finally learning the name of my waving man, my joy knowing no bounds. I was constantly exchanging glances with Shankar, the two of us smiling at each other, as if we both knew the purpose of this visit. Suddenly the man turned and asked me, “Yes, what do you want?”

I was so taken aback by this sudden interruption that I didn’t know what to say. My mind went blank and I fumbled. My thoughts were still pre-occupied with Shankar. I tried to make some sense and finally got on track.

“Do you have that glass…..ummm…the plastic one that doesn’t break?”

“The fibre glass, yes we have it.”

“How much does it cost?”

Even as I was making this frivolous enquiry, I had my eyes transfixed on Shankar, who was standing behind the owner, smiling all along. I quickly raised my eyebrows a little, enough to be noticed by Shankar, but escaping that of any other man who didn’t have any idea of what was going on between the two of us. He saw me make the gesture, gave a big smile and blushed. That was enough for me. I now no longer had even an iota of doubt about what does salutes had meant.

“Where do you want it?” the owner asked me and I had to turn my attention away from Shankar.

“Our new home, we are shifting, a few of the window panes are broken and would need to be fixed. How much will it cost?”

“I will have to take the measurements and then suggest. I can’t tell you now.”
I saw an opportunity here and enquired who he would be sending. Even as I asked this question, I looked up at Shankar, who was giggling by now.

“I might go myself, or I might send someone form the shop.”

That was it, I had heard what I wanted to. I said I will get back to him later, and then instead of going back to my home, stood under a tree nearby, waiting for him to get out. As soon as he did, I went to the shop. Shankar was coming out and was surprised to find me there. He didn’t forget to salute me. As he raised his hand, I gathered all my courage and asked him in bengali, “Aage ki kokhun amarder kotha hoiche?” (Have we talked before?)

“No,” he said.

Even before I could ask him any further question, I saw the owner coming from behind me and I quickly walked away. I was a happy man today!

Needless to say, I remained jubilant throughout the day. I now wanted to engage him in a conversation. The first hurdle crossed, I now desperately sought a few minutes with him in isolation and exchange numbers, so that I could talk my heart out over the phone. Shankar had already made the first move, it was now my turn to take the next step.The whole evening I kept SMS-chatting with Aagan, who had by now turned into my Love Guru.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Salutes and Half-Waves II

Day 3
I was now looking for some or the other opportune moment to cross the shop. Luckily for me, the next day a school friend of mine named Suman was to visit me. We had never met after passing out from school, when I took up engineering and went to study in another state and she took up Basic Sciences, before dropping from the course and appearing in the entrance exams for engineering. We had lost touch, but after she had got herself admitted in B. Pharm course, she managed to get my number from a common friend and since then we would be in touch occasionally. Somehow, her enthusiasm while talking to me had always been a cause of concern for me. What more, she would then give her phone to her mother and father too, to talk to me. I had found this strange. Though I had met her parents in a few occasions, I never shared a kind of bond that they would be eager to talk to me so much over the phone. May be it was because I had always been the topper of my class throughout my school life. However, none of the parents of my other male friends ever seemed to be eager to talk to me over the phone when I would call them up. Why them then? But I had always ignored it all. She would always ask me to come to her house whenever I would come to Kolkata during vacations, but the lazy me would hardly get his ass up to anywhere, least of all for a girl.
Now things were different. I had finished my course and was here for a few months and she was all so eager to meet me. So I finally invited her over to my place. She was to come today, at around 10 am. And if her voice over the mobile was any indication, I knew she wouldn’t be late by even a second, come what may. She didn’t know the path to my house and so I was to go and bring her from the bus stop. And I was more than happy to do so, because it meant crossing that glass shop. I prayed to god as I stepped out for my man to be there. Monsoon had already arrived in Kolkata and it was extremely cloudy. I prayed that it starts raining suddenly and I take shelter in his shop. Throughout that 5 minute stretch between my house and the shop, I had prayers on my lips. As I approached it, my heart started thumping loudly. But alas! He wasn’t there.
As I reached the bus stop, another sight surprised me. Suman had her mother by her side. She never gave me the slightest of hint that her mother would be accompanying her. How should I decipher that? But then the thought crossed my mind that Bengali’s are too protective of their child, especially girls and often accompanied them to most places. After the customary Namaste and Hi, we started walking towards my home. I crossed the shop again. Even as I chatted with Suman, I looked inside the shop, there was no sign of him. I deliberately asked her to stop there so that her mother could catch up with us. But the brief stop failed to yield the result I had intended it to. I moved on with a heavy heart.
My mother was equally surprised to see Suman with her mother. She was cleaning up the wheat that my father had brought all the way from Punjab. She had to leave her current vocation and join us inside. After all, it would have been an extremely rude and unwelcoming behaviour if my mother wouldn’t chat with her counterpart. The chit-chat went on for nearly two hours. The topics ranged from how well a student I was in school to why and how my parents had come to Kolkata, with Suman’s mother occasionally advising to buy some property in Kolkata and settle down. However, when she sensed that my mother wouldn’t have a piece of that, she was all nostalgic about the days she had spent in Chandigarh when her husband was posted there. Finally, at 12:30 pm they decided it was time to leave and I received an invitation yet again to visit their home, both of them having extracted enough information about my likes and dislikes in food. And so, I received a lunch invitation to be precise.
The previous day it was around noon that I had seen him at the shop. This raised the prospects of stealing a glance at him today again, if I was to get lucky. Thankfully, a friend of mine who had recently joined a software giant in Salt Lake had called me up and asked me to get his cell recharged, since he couldn’t get the time to do so himself. So now, I had two excuses to go that side again. One, I had to see Suman and her mother off, and two I had to get my friends cellphone recharged. As had become the custom with me by now, I stepped out of my house with prayers on my lips. As I crossed the shop, I saw him there again. I was overjoyed. He didn’t see me and neither did I try to gain his attraction by standing there, since I was with Suman. In addition, now that I knew he was there at the shop, I would get another chance when I return to catch his eye. So, I saw my friend off, got the cell recharged and was back to where my heart seemed to have been left. I could hear my heart beating out loud inside my chest. Nervousness was taking over me. Should I stop by and talk to him? What should I say? How should I start conversing him? These thoughts were constantly unsettling me.
The shop arrived. He looked at me and stood up to give his customary salute, and I repeated my end of the gesture. I couldn’t muster enough courage to stop by and even ask his name on some flimsy context. All I could do was come back home and have self-pittance over my own inability.

Day 4

I could hardly concentrate on anything now. I had to let my feelings out in some way, to some one. I couldn’t keep the excitement within me and decided to share the new tryst in my life with my friend Aagan. I had befriended Aagan over the net and we had developed a nice friendship. The whole day I SMS-chatted with him, telling him about my feelings, and like a Love Guru, he kept advising me. I didn’t get lucky in the afternoon and in the evening, as I did meet him. He was on a bicycle, clothed in his finest accessories, and in the midst of the crowded street. But that didn’t stop him from performing his salutation. I was on a bicylce myself, my mother seated at the back and so, couldn’t stop him and talk to him. I had lost a golden opportunity to talk to him all alone.
All night long, only one song kept repeating itself inside my mind, “Ghar se nikalte hi, kuch dur chalet hi, raste pe hai uska ghar…” My situation was no better than the Hindi film hero who would roam around the house of the one he was eyeing and about whom he knew nothing, except for the time when she would come to the balcony to dry up the clothes and look at him and smile…only in my case, it was a man instead of a woman.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Salutes and Half Waves- I

It’s been so long since I have even logged onto this blog. I had been wanting to write down the bitter experience I had in the last two days at ISM, thanks to the administration and their whims. I actually fell ill due to that. But today I am in a different mood these days...and I have decided to write down the recent turn of events in the form a story....

Kindly note that it would be most real..with a few exaggerations here and there, what I would call as "Creative Freedom".. It is gonna e a long one..and even I don't know what turn it will take.

Something unexpected has been happening for the last few days and has been occupying my IMAGINATION since then. Yes, imagination I write, cause I still don’t know if it’s all in my head, or am I deciphering the signals correctly. Well, I am old enough to take note of the signals now, though I have never done that before, but yes, I have read it a thousand times online…and I think it is happening with me too. (Yay!!)

It all began about a week ago. I was getting out of my house, my cycle with me, to buy milk from the dairy shop. As I just got out of the door, there I saw, a guy of almost my age in his early 20s, riding his cycle along with his friend. I kept looking at him (the way I usually do with good looking guys) and he seemed to be doing the same, or at least had noticed the same. He smiled at me, and I sort of shied away. For a moment, it seemed as if I had seen the guy somewhere or knew him. Was that the reason he had also looked at me? Well, I didn’t waste much of my time and got up my cycle. I was headed in the same direction as him. I cycled fast to reach him, and then slowed down. He noticed me again, and this time said, “Nahi pehchante toh kya hua, baat toh kar hi sakte ho!” I momentarily stopped my cycle. My heartalmost skipping a beat. But then, out of no reason, I just sped away. He had reached his destination and he advanced no more, though his words rang in my ears, like the temple bells. How much I cursed myself for not stopping by and starting a conversation, for I didn’t know if I would be ever seeing him again. But then, when it came to talking to strangers or persons I am not too familiar with, I develop cold feet. I am such a crippled man in these terms, and it played spoilsport.

I thought it would be like the thousands of guys I just develop a fancy for while walking down the street or in any other crowded place and then forget as soon as I am out of it. But as luck would have it, it was not to be the case this time. As I returned back from my small trip to the dairy and was about to enter my house, I saw him coming again, this time without a shirt and only in his ganjee, sweat dripping from his body and his handkerchief around his neck. And there he was, smiling at me, and in fact, he waved at me. Not wave actually; he sort of saluted me. This time he was all alone, not in the company of any friend. I so dearly wanted to stop him and ask him was he actually hitting on me or was it just another Bengali catching the fancy of befriending a Punjabi? But as usual, I froze at the very thought of talking to him, and I let the moment pass again. Sighhh..

But destiny seems had some greater plans for me and I was to meet him very soon. And by very soon I mean a few hours later. It was around 7 pm and my stomach seemed to be asking to be fed with some light snack or evening meal. So I went to buy chops from the local shop, which was exactly at the place where I had sped away from him. As the Chopwallah was frying those chops, I stood there, trying to figure out among the dim light of the street lamp any good looking guy who could make my wait worth it and soothe my sore eyes. As I turned around, I saw two figures sitting outside a shop nearby. It wasn’t even a second that my eyes had wandered there but I saw someone waving at me and saluting in that typical manner I had seen a few hours back. My man was sitting there, chatting up with his friend, at the same time, keeping an eye on me. I wanted to run over to him and jump on him. I was all smiles, but from this distance and this darkness, he would have never seen that smile on my face. I lifted my hand to him, then pulling it back; not knowing what to do or how to respond. But even as this commotion within me continued, I did manage to half-wave at him back and he seemed to have seen that. I now felt like walking up to him, but he had his friend by his side. Even as my mind kept jostling between what should I do and what not, a lady came and sat beside them. She had a bowl in her hand and was making jhalmuri. I turned back, my head filled with thoughts of how to approach the guy. As the Chopwallah finished making the aloo chops for me, I paid him and began my journey back home. But to my dismay, he was no longer sitting there. He had suddenly disappeared, just as he had seemed to have appeared from nowhere before me. I lost my cheerful mood, but at least, I knew now that if I was to find him again, it had to be this place and shop. It was with these thoughts that I consoled my mind and prayed for another moment to meet him.

Day 2

It was just a one day meeting and for some reason, I seemed to have started longing to meet him again. But I was still not sure whether it was a chance encounter or I would be seeing more of him. The shop where I had seen him sitting with his friend the previous night was one that dealt with glass. From glass panes to glass tables…they dealt with everything. As the shop was a few meters away from my home and just on the roadside, I had to cross it whenever I would venture out of my home in that direction. These days, with my B.Tech having completed and me waiting for the joining dates to be mailed to me by the company, I didn’t have much to do and so would usually just doze off at home. But now, I seemed to long to go out in that direction. The next day at around noon, my mother asked me to bring something from the grocery shop. I had to pass the shop again. As I stepped out, I prayed to god to let him be there again. As I neared that shop, I slowed down my bicycle. I hadn’t approached the shop yet, but the road was very much visible in the glasses that lay within, resting against the wall. My man was sitting inside on a wooden table that I had seen being used to keep the glass on it to take measurements etc. He saw my reflection on the glass (which was acting like a mirror now) and was quick enough to look at me as I crossed the shop and raise his hand to give that customary salute of his. I, of course, was all smiles again and half-waved at him again. As I returned back, he was still there, only this time he had his face turned away and he didn’t see me coming. From within me, I waved at him and longed for him to turn back and look at me, but as I crossed the shop, no such thing happened.

The whole day I was now pre-occupied with thoughts of whether I was imagining it all up or whether it was heading towards the direction I thought it was. Then there was the bigger question, did he work there or was he just sitting there and chatting with his friend whom I had seen working there. After all, yesterday, he was just sitting outside the shop and was fully clothed, and today he was in his ganjee, though he did have a jeans covering his lower half. Would a worker be wearing jeans to his work? No, no way. The day passed with me contemplating the various possibilities and comforting myself with the fact that it was he who had initiated it all.

Direct Dil Se © 2008. Design By: SkinCorner