*Note: Inspired by a true story.*
I stood there at the bookstore pondering on whether to get the sci-fi novel or the romance novel. Funny how I got myself into this position. Me, out of all people, falling in love. I used to be sceptical about love. Brushing it aside as a fad fantasy my peers wanted to engage in rather than the true feeling it was. I just never managed to meet any girl who was of real interest. I wanted a girl who was smart, funny, cheerful, intelligent, kind, caring,has a good vocabulary and of course beautiful. 21 years of my lifetime had gone past and I still had not met the girl who fitted my requirements. I wasn’t particularly bothered about it as I was happy being single and offering relationship advice to my friends. Me, the guy who had never fallen in love actually gave tips about dating and relationships that people valued as “indispensable”. I guess I should have made a business out of it but since I was the sweetest of the sweet I looked upon it as a social service rather than an entrepreneurial venture. Life was a car and I was its driver, the car was going smoothly on the road and then came a sharp turn. It was August, I ascended to the next rung on my career ladder-a P.G. degree. A class of 37 students, 20 boys and 17 girls. Not a bad ratio for a P.G. degree. Will I be the only guy who didn’t have any love affairs or even the slightest crush during my college years? I am not gay! If I was then I would have at least hit on a guy…no I just haven’t met my match and I am pretty sure it is a “her”. And I did meet her. 1st day of class. The routine introduce yourself session took place.
‘Hi I am ABC. I am coming from DEF. I did my schooling in GHI. I studied B.E. in JKL. I selected M.E. because of MNO. My research interests are PQR. My hobbies are STU. I aim to be VWX.’
This was the usual template for everyone. I reserved the YZ for extra stuff that they said which didn’t confine to the template.
Then came Sasha.
‘Hi! My name starts with an ‘S’ and ends with an ‘A’, in between are the letters ‘A’,’S’,’H’. Good luck in figuring that out. I do not wish to share where I come from lest I get stalkers following me home. I selected M.E. because well…it’s cool. I am really interested in speech processing as I have been fascinated by it ever since I saw Hollywood futuristic sci-fi films where people can control things just by speaking to it. My ongoing project is based on gesture controlled speech translation which translates gesture to speech, useful for people who have lost their ability to speak. I value this project very much as I believe every single human being deserves the right to speech. Besides being a nerdy geek I am pretty fun too. I read a lot and my favourite authors are Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown, J.R.R.Tolkien and Isaac Asimov to name a few. I also write and have a blog all to myself named “Musings of an Insomniac”, check it out when you are free. I am also a movie buff and love sci-fi films like Minority Report, Terminator, Artificial Intelligence, Inception and so on. I play badminton, chess, table tennis and also engage in trekking and scuba diving. So my epic conclusion is that I am not only a geeky nerd but also a super cool diva, a zen blend. And oh! Yea! My aim is to get a Ph.D. from MIT, U.S.A. and become a full time researcher and hope to come up with cool gadgets and gizmos. Thank you.’
She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in class but hey she was beautiful though. I was dumbstruck by her after her introduction speech. She hits the tick mark in all the boxes on my checklist. Screw the checklist! She was the one! I knew it. I could feel it. My sixth sense known as “the instinct” screamed it in my ear. For the rest of the day I stole secret glances at her whenever I got the opportunity. She caught me looking at her once and I was like Whoopsie Daisie! And averted my gaze pretending as if I was just casually looking around the new class.
The first thing I did when I went to my hostel room was connect to the wi-fi and search Google for the term “Musings of an Insomniac” and yay! I found her. I fell in love with her writings. She had been blogging ever since her 10th grade. The way she was able to flawlessly transform her thoughts into words mesmerized me. I traced the evolution of her writing from her 15 year old self to her present 21 year old self.
The next day I tried to go up and say “Hi!” or something…anything but I froze! Me, the guy who gave so much expert level advice on relationships and dating got flustered in just introducing myself to a girl. How ironic? When it came to my own life I stuttered. I just became a nervous wreck. My heart started racing and my palms got sweaty.
Once she dropped her pen and it rolled near me. I grabbed it and gave it back to her to which she responded with a “Thank you.” and a smile. I tried to say “You are welcome!” but managed only to emit a high pitched squeak. I buried my face in my hands and skipped lunch and dinner the whole day.
A few days went past and I hoped for a miracle to somehow get her to talk to me. I usually don’t believe in miracles but desperate times call for desperate measures. And then as if God had heard me, a miracle did happen. It was Compilers lab. I was very good at programming and was always the 1st to finish my lab work. Sasha tended to be the opposite. She was not that bad, in fact she was better than half the class. Anyway she was having trouble with a practice problem that was assigned to us and the professor was busy attending to the other student’s queries.
‘Dev! Are you busy?’ she called.
At that moment I heard a bell chime somewhere! This was the moment I was craving for!
‘No.’ I said. That was all that I could manage.
‘Could you help me out here. I am not able to figure out this exception. The stack trace elements don’t make sense either.’ She said holding her head.
The next 10 minutes were bliss! She shot about a dozen questions at me and my mind was “question-proof” as in I had the answers to all of them. We spent time de-bugging her program. She would laugh at her silly coding mistakes and that was music to my ears. Oh! That was the most nerdy romantic time I have ever had.
‘Wow! You are really good! The next time I have a doubt I am going to call you.’ She said after the lab session got over.
‘Sure! My number is 9232233221.’ I said smiling all over.
‘I meant call you over to my system in the lab.’ She said laughing, ‘By the way, that is a pretty fancy number you’ve got.’
‘Thanks. I wouldn’t mind you calling me over the phone too. It’s ok. Don’t be shy. I wouldn’t mistake you if you do.’ I said trying to play it smooth.
One…two days passed and nothing. But on the 3rd day my cell rang. I frantically swiped it to answer the phone and my hope was rewarded, it was her.
‘Hello?’ she started.
‘Hello?’ I said pretending to not know who it was.
‘Hey! It’s me Sasha. Are you busy?’
She always asks me this question fully knowing what my answer would be. Such a courteous girl.
‘No. Tell me. What’s up?’
‘Are you free tomorrow? I have an idea to implement and I thought we could discuss it in lab.’
‘Sure. When shall we meet?’
‘I’ll ask Sir and let you know?’
‘Yeah that would be cool.’ I said trying to suppress my glee.
‘Ok then. Bye. Will meet you tomorrow.’
‘Hey! Is this your personal number?’ I asked.
‘Yeah it is.’
‘Cool then. See you tomorrow.’ I said and cut the call.
I immediately saved her number as “Darling” in my phone. Yeah, kind of cheesy but hey! It has a nice ring to it. “Darling Calling”-got a nice rhyme too.
Weeks passed by and we started texting, calling and chatting. Sms, Facebook, Yahoo! Messenger, Watsapp, E-mail, Skype, handwritten notes in class, sign language and what not. We pretty much exhausted all means of communication. I finally manned up and decided to take the plunge. Was hoping to get promoted from friend to boyfriend. And the day I picked for the promotion-14th February. I know! Pretty clichéd, right? Love is clichéd, you can’t help it. I thought and thought and well kept on thinking. I finally zeroed in on what I would want to gift her. She loves reading and is the intellectual type. So I figured the best gift would be a nice book. The next issue was what book? She wasn’t a choosy picky reader. She pretty much reads everything from fantasy, sci-fi, drama, romance, thriller, self-improvement, biographies, graphic novels and so on.
So that brings me back to the book store, sci-fi or romance? I settled on the romance as it was more illustrative of the occasion. I meticulously wrapped it up in a glossy gift wrapper. Then came the task of choosing a greeting card. I wanted to give a rose too but then that would be over the top so I settled with a gift and a card. Now all that was left was giving it to her. I was puzzled in deciding on how to give it to her. Her friend Ananya was always around. Girls have this bad habit of not commuting alone. How do I get rid of Ananya? At one point of time I considered confiding my feelings to Ananya and get her to join in on the scheme but then I decided that I want Sasha to be the 1st one to know about my love and wouldn’t want any intermediaries getting in the way. I wanted another miracle but would I be 2nd time lucky? Turns out I would be! We had Compilers lab scheduled that day and Ananya was not part of it as she had taken another lab. Was it the law of attraction at work? Anyway now that I knew the road ahead was clear I felt more confident. As soon as the lab gets over and we leave I will gift it to her. I could barely sleep the previous night as I kept rehearsing my lines and going through various scenarios. When the D-day finally arrived I was a nervous wreck. I wore a pink shirt, I read in one of those forward messages for Valentine’s day dress colour code that pink symbolizes that you are going to propose, yeah! I was that desperate and pathetic. I got to the lab way earlier than I should have. I was impatiently waiting for the lab to get over and my eyes kept darting towards her. The gift and card were safely stashed away in my bag ready to go to her the moment the clock struck 1 p.m. . The clock did strike 1 p.m. and she didn’t leave. I pretended to be working on some bug in my code when in truth I was just idly biding my time. She was working on her project overtime.
‘Hey! You are here too? You are usually the 1st to go out.’ She exclaimed looking up from her system.
‘Yeah, well. I have some more work to do.’ I said scratching my head and then turned around to furiously pound away on the keyboard to produce some gibberish code.
There was no one in the lab as the professor and the assistant had gone out for lunch. It was just the two of us. Couldn’t have asked for a better setting. After what seemed like ages she finally got up to leave and I followed suit.
‘Finished?’ she asked eyeing my system.
I hastily closed all the windows not wanting to let her see that I had been doodling on MS Paint all this while.
‘No. I’ll continue tomorrow. I am hungry.’ I said clutching my stomach.
We were just a few feet apart. In the lab. All alone. This is it.
‘I have something for you.’ I said sheepishly and fished out the gift and greeting card.
‘What is it?’ She asked her eyes widening as she stared at the card and gift in my outstretched hand.
‘Just a little gift. Take it.’ I said trying to shove the gift into her hand.
‘Why are you gifting me?’ she asked incredulously.
I was starting to feel annoyed. She perfectly well knew why I was gifting her.
‘Dev, I don’t feel that way. You have always been a friend.’ She said looking at the floor.
The romantic duet tune that played in my head a few minutes ago turned into the “Why this kolaveri di?” tune. My annoyance just hiked up.
‘It’s ok. I don’t care. Just take this book and go. I bought it for you.’
‘I can’t take it. I am sorry.’ She said shaking her head.
‘Look! I have no use for it. I have already read it. Just take it.’
‘No Dev. It won’t be right.’
I couldn’t bear it. I felt and looked like a fool.
‘I don’t want it either. I am going to leave it here! If you want take it.’ I said leaving the gift and card on my system table and then rushed out of the lab.
I was naturally distraught. I actually thought we had something going on there. A vibrant chemistry? But it turned out to be false. She stopped talking to me. And I figured it was best to move on. Yet my heart remained heavy. I felt foolish for buying her that book. It burnt quite a hole in my pocket too. How I regret it! Weeks passed by and then suddenly one day as I was mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook I got a text message on my phone.
“I read the book. It was so warm and heart touching. I loved every page in it. I am a fan of romantic novels. It is a pity that girl missed out on reading such a gem of a book. Take heart. You will find your love soon.”
In my sorrow I had totally forgotten about the fate of the book. Suddenly my hope was re-kindled. A curiosity awoke within me. Who could this person be? It was most probably a girl as it mentioned that they were a fan of romantic novels and also the lab had 10 girls and just 3 boys. And everyone returned back to the lab that day after lunch for the afternoon session. Could this be a new window of opportunity? My destiny? I eagerly punched in the number from the message and waited with bated breath as the phone rang.
“Hello?” came a voice.
My hopes were once again crushed mercilessly. I cut the call and felt like kicking myself. It was my professor from the Compilers lab. Life skidded on the sharp turn. Then something on my newsfeed caught my eye. It was my classmate from high school! Wow! She looked so damn pretty in that profile picture. I checked my calendar. Another 341 days to go. I wonder what gift she would like? What about Sasha? She is just another love story…