I was nervous. I was bound to be as it was my 1st day at my internship. After a tough interview process which drilled my nerves I managed to get a chance to intern at Spritle, one of the leading software companies in the country.
‘Dhruv, come with me,’ said Zoya, my in-charge and led me to a fairly small cubicle at the back of the work floor.
I was excited at the prospect of having my own cubicle to work in, my 1st personal professional workspace but to my dismay it was already occupied by someone else.
‘Dhruv, I’d like you to meet Anisha.’
‘Wow! She is pretty!’ was the 1st thought when I saw her.
‘She’s also an intern. She just joined yesterday and I have given her a project to do. I want you two to work together on this. She will tell you more and bring you upto speed. If you need any help I will be in my cabin,’ said Zoya and left us in an awkward silence.
‘Hi, my name is Dhruv,’ I started trying to break the ice and offered to shake her hand.
‘Yeah, I know. Zoya just told that now,’ she said shaking my hand.
I responded with a sheepish grin.
‘Take a seat and I’ll explain what I have been doing and after getting you upto speed we’ll decide our roles and get started.’
She was cute, tall, lean, fair and did I mention that she was cute? Her expression and her voice just mesmerized me. She was busy explaining the project at hand but I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. My mind had already drifted onto white sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains.
‘So, any questions?’ she asked at the end of it all.
‘Yeah, I didn’t understand a few parts.’
‘Could you go through it again and I will point you to it.’
She raised her eyebrows and went through it all over again. This time I paid attention as I didn’t want her to raise her eye-brows at me again.
It was simple. The company wanted to focus on making technology that helps for a cause. They weren’t interested in making money but just wanted to do something for the social good. Besides a company that tries to do something good would garner publicity and an image, so it is actually a win-win strategy. They didn’t want their employees in expending their efforts on a non-profit product so the project was assigned to interns instead. We had to build something right from scratch, from ideation to development. We had a month’s time to launch a beta version. We were quick to discover our strengths. Mine was coding, development and testing and hers was design, presentation and creativity. In other words, I gave to the project the bones and organs whereas she gave the muscles and skin.
It was she who came up with an idea.
‘Ma’am, we were thinking of making a website and mobile app that lets users register complaints about neighbourhood issues like electricity, road, garbage issues and so on,’ said Anisha excitedly.
‘Our website and app then consolidates this data and sends it to the authorities concerned. It acts like a bypass bridge between the people and the authorities. It can help speed up actions taken,’ I added enthusiastically standing in Zoya’s office expectantly awaiting her approval.
She considered the idea for a minute and then asked us to explain how we planned to make this idea a reality. After an hour of explanation and many of Anisha’s sketches and my scribbles of the design and development outline and strategy we managed to get the nod for approval. That got us going. We had another 27 more days to launch the beta version but we planned to release it much earlier, so as to rectify any potential bugs that might pop up.
‘What’s your number?’ I asked Anisha as we were leaving office.
‘Number? You have my email, right?’ she asked apprehensively.
‘Yeah, but in case of an emergency I think we should have each other’s number,’ I said trying not to look too hopeful.
She hesitated a little but exchanged her number in the end. And I convinced her to add me on Facebook too saying that real time chatting can help discussions progress faster.
That night I spent flicking through the photos in her Facebook profile. No, I was not stalking! I was just merely admiring how divine she looked. Wouldn’t you tirelessly gaze and drink in the mesmerizing scenery of a mountaintop view? She was that mountaintop view for me. When I looked at her I felt that I was at the peak of the tallest mountain on Earth. What was wrong with me? I had never been this crazy about a girl! Attraction? Infatuation? Lust? But I brushed aside those crude words and affixed only one word as the best possible explanation-love.
I worked hard day and night. We used to be at the office overtime till 8 p.m. even though it ends at 5 p.m. . I forgot the meaning of what a good sleep meant. I worked extra hard to impress her. She was my motivation that drove me harder. We started spending more time together even outside office, not in person but through phone and Facebook. We would chat well into the night but she barely wanted to speak about anything other than our project, though we did have small snippets of small talk when we felt too overwhelmed and decided to take a small break. That is how I got to know that she likes blue, she is a big movie buff and her favourite hangout is the theatres and she is a big shopaholic. In fact she almost always has something new to wear everyday be it a small earing, a new hairstyle or an outfit. She would ask me to guess what’s new about her every morning we meet. She is such a shopaholic that her Dad has given her, her own credit card which she jovially flashes at me when the weekend approaches and tells me what she plans to buy for her weekend shopping spree. Time went whizzing past and we finished the project successfully on the date we wanted. It was shown to Zoya who in turn showed it to the C.E.O. who was very pleased. We had a good reception for the site and app. And the rest of the time went in debugging and enhancing the product. It seemed just like yesterday that I had walked through these doors but there I was with Anisha standing in Zoya’s office on the last day. Zoya praised us and appreciated our efforts. She said that she had never seen such talented undergrads and that Anisha and I had impressed her by achieving so much in such less time with so little.
‘You two make a good team,’ said Zoya with a smile, ‘and of course here are your stipends.’
I felt like I was floating in the air. Anisha and I, a good team and some money to splurge! This was as good as things can get. Yet when I stepped out of that office to leave my heart felt heavy. Heavy that I wouldn’t be able to a share a cubicle with her anymore, not be able to see her anymore and the worst part was that we may part away as total strangers when we walk out of this building. True that she lived in the same city but what are the odds of meeting her again. Then suddenly as we walked out of the door I had an idea.
‘Hey! Our project is a huge success, so many appreciations and we got a nice pay off too. We have been working like crazy the past 1 month so why don’t we chillax and go celebrate somewhere?’ I started looking into her eyes. She had brown eyes. Not dark brown as in chocolate but more like caramel brown.
‘I don’t know…’ she said her voice trailing off.
‘We could go now. It would just be for half an hour or so. I know this great place nearby. It has Chinese, your favourite! How about we grab just a bite and toast to our success,’ I tried hopefully.
‘Sorry Dhruv. I am kind of busy. I’ve already made plans,’ she said biting her lip and stroking the strap of her bag. She avoided my eyes, it looked like she was lying.
‘Oh! Alright then, bye. Take care. Keep in touch. Nice knowing you,’ I said trying to sound cheerful, breaking the same awkward silence that prevailed between us during our 1st meeting.
She shook my hand, wished me well and left without even a second glance. She left along with the broken pieces of my heart.
I got back to my room as if I was under some trance. My mind was like a theatre running all my memories as movies one by one. I was glad to be back and I shut the door. My breath became shallow. My heart started racing. It was the same symptoms I had when I first met her but it was different now. There were no butterflies in my stomach, on the contrary it felt empty. There was a prickling sensation surging through me. It was a wave of disappointment that crashed over my fortress of hope. She would not even spend half an hour with me even when I asked her to just celebrate our success. It was not even a date. Yet she was not willing. It was over I thought bitterly, I am never going to see her again. The night laboured on with me lying in bed and listening to a collection of the saddest songs I can find in the music library on my iPod.
Days passed and I tried messaging her but her replies were erratic, not rude but she would not text consistently. She never spent much time on Facebook as she herself once said that she only uses it very sparingly so as not to get addicted to it. In other words I was beginning to lose touch with her and pretty soon it will be like she never existed. I knew that I would be better off doing other things but I just couldn’t focus.
One day morning I woke up at a time that was well into the afternoon. My heart felt heavy. Once upon a time which seemed so long ago I had dreamt of caring for her, making her laugh putting that cute dimple smile on her face, I wanted the best for her, pamper her like a queen, get her everything she wants before she even thinks of asking and so many other things which now makes me twist my face into a painful grimace. Where will I go now? I thought you were the answer? I thought I was your knight in shining armour and you my princess in need. I looked at myself in the mirror.
‘You can’t go on like this man! Put an end to this, do something!’ I scolded myself.
I needed a plan. A last ditch effort, something desperate before I totally lose myself. And then it struck me the next day. I had my last resort plan ready.
I dialled her number and waited for her to answer with a touch of nervousness.
‘Yeah, tell me!’ she answered.
‘Hey! Where are you?’ I asked trying to sound casual.
‘At home. Why?’
‘Can you do me a favour? I need to book online tickets for a movie. I am in hostel so I can’t go far to get tickets and my net got busted last night.’
‘Sure, no probs. I am online now. Which movie and show?’
‘Can you book tickets for a whole row for the movie “Game Over!” this Sunday, 11.30 at Nexus? Can you also pay with your card? I’ll pay you back later, I’ll be coming to your college next month for your cultural fest.’
‘Ummm…ok, which row do you want me to book?’
‘Something far off at the back, try a corner maybe.’
‘Hmmm…done! ’ she said after a few minutes.
‘Thanks a lot!’
‘You are welcome! As long as you pay me back. My dad checks my credit card bills. Not that he’s strict, he’d just want to know what have I been doing with his money.’
‘Chill! Come on Sunday and I’ll pay you back.’ I said with a grin.
‘Come to Nexus on Sunday and I’ll pay you back.’
‘Why should I come all the way to Nexus? It’s ok, you can pay me back next month.’
‘I forgot! I have my internals next month so I doubt if I’ll get On Duty.’
‘What do you mean?’ she asked her voice going cold.
‘I mean that the show starts at 11.30 so be there by 11. Shall I pick you up or will you come by yourself?’
‘What? Are you kidding me?’ she shouted.
‘I am dead serious.’ I replied holding the phone a little away from my ear.
‘Is this your style of asking a girl out? Keep dreaming! No way am I going to come!’ she said indignantly raising her voice.
‘Wow! 1200 rupees going to waste. What a pity…I wonder what your Dad would say…’ I said letting my voice trail off for added dramatic effect.
‘Are you blackmailing me?’ she growled…literally.
‘Ofcourse not! If you come I’ll surely pay you back in full. You also get to see the most talked about movie of the year. The reviews are amazing. What have you got to lose?’
‘Go to hell, loser!’ she yelled and cut the call.
I knew that she was a big movie buff and that she had a credit card. So I linked both together to force her out of her shell. Just that I might have been very tacky with the “force” used.
‘Well, that went well,’ I thought sarcastically,’ I am going to hell for this.’
To which I consoled myself by saying, ‘All’s fair in love and war.’
I usually don’t iron my clothes but she wasn’t any usual girl. I spent extra time combing my hair and trying on different shirts and finally settled on a light blue shirt. I am not exactly a fan of formals but she thinks that men in formals look good. I wanted to look my very best.
I started drumming the table nervously. I was seated at the food court. I had a clear view of anyone entering the mall. It was 11.10 and still there was no sign of her. Was she really that adamant? I sighed. So much for my great master plan. Maybe I should have been more subtle and smooth. Then out of the blue I saw her. I saw her for the first time then. I mean I have seen her before but she always had this formal wear of a plain salwar or a pant and shirt, she also used very little accessories. But today she wore a shiny headband, loopy silver ear-rings and she wore something like an ethnic salwar khameez. She was dazzlingly beautiful. She looked too good to be true. I felt like pinching myself to check if this was a dream but decided that this was real, however surreal it may seem. I smiled widely at her to which she replied with a glare.
‘Hi! Take a seat. There is still 20 more minutes left,’ I said drawing up a chair for her to sit.
‘What do you think of yourself?’ she said glaring at me with her arms folded and ignoring the chair I drew up for her, ‘Think you are pretty smart huh?’
‘Not exactly. This was the best way that I could think of to get you out for a movie. Personally I thought it was an almost fool-proof plan and considering that you turned up it means that I can consider myself pretty smart after all right?’ I said with a grin hoping to quell her anger.
She merely continued to glare at me.
‘Alright! I am sorry. Here is the money. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.’ I said heavily handing her the money in a big bundle.
She snatched it from my hand and stared at it.
‘Sorry. I only had 10 rupee notes. There are 120 notes in that bundle. Don’t believe me. Count that yourself.’ I said trying to keep a straight face.
If I had given her the money in proper notes as in 1000,500 or 100 rupee notes she would have easily snatched it and walked away without even a moment’s hesitation, but now while she counted those 120 ten rupee notes I get a few extra seconds with her.
‘This movie is number one at the box office! Must be really good. It’s a shame that you are missing out on it.’
She cast a glance at me while she muttered 1..2…3.. under her breath as she counted the notes.
‘Did you really come here just to get the cash and go? The masacara on your eyes, the grandness of your outfit, your hairdo…did you shampoo your hair? And your breath taking perfume say a different story.’
Another glance but this time she raised her eyebrows too.
‘Oh! Well! I guess I have to go alone then. Going to a movie all alone with no one to give company is one of the most heart breaking experiences ever.’ I said as she finished counting.
She looked at me and I mustered the best puppy dog face that I could manage.
‘How long had you been planning this?’ she asked in a demanding tone.
‘A month maybe?’ I said trying to look very pitiable.
‘And I thought you were a good guy, the kind of nerd who knows his manners and treats girls with some sense. But you turned out to be like every other average guy around. ’
‘Good guy?? Whatever gave you that idea? I am just a bad guy who tries to be good.’ I said with a wink, ‘And I am not your everyday average guy. Would this be the way an everyday average guy asks a girl out? I am even giving you a choice. See what a gentleman I am.’
I think I saw a smile creep into the corner of her mouth.
‘You know what? I was planning to come here, take my money and give you a good piece of my mind.’
‘Why do you want to give yourself in pieces? I would gladly accept you as a whole.’
She was silent. I could sense an inner conflict surging through her. Should I go with him or should I not? ‘Number 1 at the box office huh?’ she asked.
‘Yes…’ I said uncertainly, not because I was uncertain of the fact that it is No.1 but uncertain what her next response would be.
There was a pause. It was very hard to figure out which side she was tilting towards, but I was soon saved from that mystery.
‘Just this once. Ok? No more nonsense like this. Since you pestered me so much. I’ll come with you. Not for you but because I love movies. No more funny business.’
‘Awesome! I promise! I have turned over a new leaf! Come let’s go. It’s 11.28!’
My heart almost exploded with excitement. Luck favours the brave and I had been doing things I would have normally never dared to do, but for her I was ready to go to any lengths. Call me crazy, crazy in love. We were right at the back, right in the corner, one whole row. Besides from the fact that booking a whole row means that you get the cost of 10 tickets evaluating to huge sum of 1200 rupees thus giving her no choice but to come all this way and get the money from me there was also another advantage, the advantage of isolation, seclusion and privacy. But I never had really focused on this added advantage until now. Not that I was going to try anything funny but how many people have the kick of watching a movie with the one that they love to this extent of privacy, not even real lovers get this chance. It was an experience I would never forget. I guess I looked at her more than the screen. She shed her attitude and shirked off her grumpiness, but that was more because it was a horror movie and she spent more time clutching my arm in fright or burying her face in her hands. I had specifically chosen a horror film just for this reason. Her reactions and expressions were just too cute. She let out a sigh of relief when the credits finally rolled on-screen.
‘How was the movie?’ I asked on coming out.
‘Awesome! I had never been that scared in my life,’ she grinned with that cute dimple of hers.
Wow! That dimple steals my heart every time, only a few people are blessed with dimples. But I feel that it is not the people with dimples who are blessed but the ones who behold them are the ones who are truly blessed.
‘What was your favourite part?’ she asked.
‘I like that part where the writing on the wall says “Humans can lick too” and she looks under the sofa to find her dog missing. Then she realizes that it was the clown or his accomplice who had been licking her hand all that time.’ I said, in fact that was the scene where she clutched my arm hard and hid her face behind my shoulder.
‘Same here! It was half-creepy and half-funny, totally psychotic.’
‘See. I told you you’d have a good time, but you were more intent on leaving.’ She replied with a smile.
‘Ok, then. I’d better be on my way. Bye,’ she said.
‘Hey, wait! Let’s have a little something and go,’ I said trying to get her to stay a little longer
‘No way! I am already late!’ she said firmly shaking her head.
‘I came here without even having breakfast so as to be punctual for you. It’s close to 3 now, which means I didn’t have lunch too. Without 2 courses of meals I am starving. Give me some company na? I don’t like to eat alone.’ I said trying my innocent face.
It worked. A few minutes later we were at the food court feasting on Schezwan noodles and sweet and sour chicken. We started chatting and the minutes flew by. The plates and bowl was long laid empty. Could you call this a 1st date? Could be one of the most manipulatively deceptive dates ever.
‘Oh! Shoot! It’s going to be 5. I really have to get going,’ she said looking at her watch.
‘All right. You want me to drop you?’ I asked getting up.
‘No thanks. I came by scooty’ she said replying with her eyebrows raised.
‘Perfect! Then you can drop me at the bus stop maybe? It’s just that it’s a long walk from here.’ I said trying to look as though I was an athlete overcome by fatigue
I had chosen Nexus on purpose as the bus stop was pretty far from the mall.
‘Oh! Alright!’ she said rolling her eyes clearly not in a mood to argue.
A film, lunch and a two wheeler ride on the same day and that too on the 1st date? How lucky am I? I was seated at the back of her scooty as she chugged on at 40 kmph. She says she has a rule not to drive rashly so she maintains at 40 or it could be that she’s afraid of the need for speed.
‘Why are all you girls obsessed with the colour pink?’ I asked conversationally as I glanced at her scooter.
‘They do say that pink is a girl’s colour. When we have a colour all to ourselves then why not obsess about it? Call it pride or possessiveness. We are just trying to make the colour true to its definition.’
‘Fair enough,’ I said with a grin.
I just wished the scooter ride kept on going but it eventually was not to be so. I got down at the bus stand.
‘Ok then bye,’ she said.
‘Thanks for today. I had a really nice time.’
She paused a little before saying with a smile, ‘I had a nice time too.’
‘We should do this more often,’ I said trying to push my luck.
‘We’ll see about that,’ she said to which I gave thumbs up and a grin.
I sighed heavily as she left. It’s like she took a part of me with her and she left me feeling empty. I then caught an auto and went back to Nexus to get my bike which I had parked there. It was not my bike but my friend’s which I had borrowed just in case she had not come by her own transport and I thought maybe I could give her a lift. I smiled to myself as I kick-started the bike and sped away along with my memories….Do you think she loves me?