Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Goddess.

The Goddess

Kolkata it was. The City of Joy. The City of Bongs. The City of many more things that he, our protagonist, Shaan Ved, an MBA graduate, recently recruited into a small start up-firm, had heard of during his internship days at a factory in Durgapur. Born and brought up in Delhi, he was a ‘Delhi’ite at the core of his heart. When he first came to know about his posting at Kolkata, he was devastated. But, he did not – or rather could not – complain because for the campus interviews, he had very conveniently and mindlessly memorized one statement, which he repeated at every chance that he got – “I can tell you why you should hire me. Everyone would want and love to work for a start-up firm like yours, just for the sake of experiencing work in its truest sense. But, I have something more to offer. It does not matter what salary you give me or what job location you decide for me or how many hours you make me work daily. If it’s in the firm’s interest, it’s in my interest.” Asshole!

The last 10 days of Booze parties with parting friends had made him forget the forthcoming lonely chapter. Finally, it was time. With a heavy heart, he boarded the Rajdhani. He felt as if everything was falling apart. He was never so sad, never so dejected, ever in his life. He was so depressed that till half an hour after boarding the train, he was not aware who was sitting to his immediate next. All of a sudden, his state of inactivity was broken when he saw a figure climbing down from the upper berth.

It was momentary; the exchanging of glances. He felt as if she had looked at him a fraction of a second longer than normal. Just then, he started feeling better; he didn’t know why. She came back after washing her face. He just could not stop staring at her. Everything about her was mesmerizing, just too perfect – her hair, her sharp facial features, her curvy body, and her voice, when she answered a call from probably her mother.

One of his friends, during one of those several job treats, had said, “Shaan, you are an introvert! The Kolkata job is an opportunity, a challenge. Make the most of it. Meet new people. Make new friends. I am sure you will have a good time.” He decided. The girl was very pretty. He had to talk to her.

She was already talking to someone sitting beside her, and he could be her husband, her brother, her cousin brother, basically someone who is accompanying her to wherever she is going. They were talking very intently to each other, and more importantly, they were talking in Bengali. He could not just cut in.

Idleness makes you think and do crazy things. Shaan had had several casual flings but had never entered into a relationship. He thought, “Can’t she be the one? She’s a Goddess. What if that guy is some random person she’s talking to? Let me talk to her, and for long. And finally when we are just about to reach Kolkata, I will ask her out for dinner over the weekend.” He did not even spare day dreaming, about all the good things that can happen to him if something materializes. It was love at first sight.

Just when he was thinking to ask if she had some magazine or newspaper to kill time, she said, “Hi. My name is Anisha. Going to Cal?” “Thank God!” he thought “that guy cannot be her husband”. He initially stammered, “Sorry? … Err… Hmm??... Yeah”

“Oh Great! I am also going to Cal. Was in Delhi for the weekend attending a friend’s marriage. Do you work in Cal?”

He was perplexed. Was it really happening? “No. I mean yes. I have recently got a job offer there. Joining tomorrow. What do you do?”

“Cal’s my hometown. I am a fashion designer.”

“Oh cool! It’s not at all hard to believe – your chic top, the small tattoo behind your neck, the fashion magazines in your bag, and in general, your stylish poise.”

“OK. That’s a compliment. Very flattering. And, I must say you have a sharp eye. Which firm are you joining?”

“I am joining Capillary Technologies, in the Sales and Marketing division. Its product portfolio includes some of the latest technological breakthroughs, like Automated Customer Relationship Module which is very popular among the high end retail giants, and ….” She cut off.

“Oh shit! I completely forgot. Had to make an urgent call. Please excuse me.”

He thought, “What? I am such a loser. Why the hell would I have to talk about my job description? Great. I pissed her off. Now who the hell is she talking to over phone?”

“Hey Hi. I should reach Cal by 5. You are coming, right?”…. “Ok. Dinner at your place?” …. “Oh…. You are a sweetheart. I cannot believe we are going to La Cucina.”….. “Movie should be fine tomorrow”

“Shit! She has a boyfriend. She visits his place for dinner, and probably stays over. They go to nice restaurants. They go to movies. They have a lot of fun.”

He could not bear that. He got up and went out to wash his face; he returned after five minutes, to find her still on the phone. 5 more minutes, and she was done.

“Sorry. What were you saying about your company? What do they do?”

He was not interested anymore. “Han? Yeah. They develop some cool products which are technologically advanced.”

“Ok. I think I broke your line of thought. By the way, that was my sister. She has come from the States after 2 years. And, she has already made all the arrangements. I have a rocking week ahead.”

“Why do I always have to jump to conclusions? Stop being judgemental”, he said to himself. And, he was back on track, with all his energy, focusing on one single thing. “Oh really? That’s good. What does she do there?”

“She’s an Assistant Professor in the University of Illinois. She’s there since last 7 years”

That conversation went on for a while, and then, they started running out of topics. After a pause of 5 minutes, she asked, “What are your hobbies?”

Before thinking of an answer to that question, he thought, “Wow! She’s totally into me. She just cannot stop talking to me. This is my day. I am too good.”

“I like reading, and, at times, writing.” There was a pause. “But one thing I am really passionate about is dance”

She almost yelled, “Seriously? I am crazy about dance. I am an Odissi dancer. What kind of dance are you interested in?”

“I do Western Hip Hop. Add to that a bit lock-pop, a tad crumping, some B-Boying. And what you get is me”

“Wow! That sounds so amazing. Have you joined any dance group?”

“Oh no, no. I just do it for fun. Was in the dance club during college. You know what, we have won many inter-collegiate competitions. But I have never really thought of joining a professional group“

“You should join one. You can find many in Cal. I am in the “Nupur Dance Group”. Heard of it?”

He thought, “God is great. Everything is going just in the right direction. Dance, one of the closest things to my heart, is going to unite us. What more can I ask for?” “Oh, who hasn’t heard of Nupur Ma’am.? As far as I know, they also conduct international stage shows, right?”

“Yeah they do. I haven’t got a chance, but I should, some day.”

“Hmm. Nice. Dance is probably the purest, truest and noblest form of human expression.”

“Yeah…. It is. Rohan always says this. He is the one who made me join Nupur Dance Group, long back when we had started dating.”

He was thunderstruck. And, speechless. He wanted to ask, “Are you still dating him? If not him, then do you have any other boyfriend? Are you interested in me? Remotely?” He just managed to say, “Ok.”

“I suffered a huge setback when my father passed away four years back. I was not being able to concentrate on anything. Rohan was the one who lend me support. He did not show sympathy, he inspired me to move on. He spent a lot of time with me; that was the time when I actually started liking him. He is a Bharatnatyam dancer, but knows a bit Odissi too. We have performed together in many stage shows.”

“Hmmm” And then, it was a deafening silence. He could not bear her sight. Something made him feel that she was still thinking about her boyfriend. After about half an hour, he said, “I am so sleepy. I will go wash my face”, and got up and started walking towards the compartment door. He looked at himself in the mirror. His face looked weary. He pulled the outer door open, stood at the edge, to feel the blowing air past him, to feel the air zoom past his ears making it impossible to hear anything else; this somehow brought him pleasure, in his state of oblivion, after being drubbed by some guy named Rohan.

When he went back to his seat, she was on phone. No prize for guessing who was at the other end. They kept on talking for a long time. Finally the call ended; she did not hang up, the network failed. Shaan said to himself, “That lucky bastard. So what if I don’t have her. I will have someone better. I will ……… do this, do that …….. ” He kept on blabbering to himself.

She said, “Just called Rohan. Good news for you. His girlfriend is directing the next stage show to be held in Mumbai. They need one dancer, someone who can do hip hop. I suggested your name. They have a few other options; so they will hold auditions that might happen anytime next week. Will you be free?”

‘His girlfriend’ – he didn’t take notice of anything else that she spoke. That was enough to bring him back on track, again.

“Will you? Will you take part in the auditions?”

“Han? What auditions?”

“Are you even listening to me?” She repeated what she had said, to which he replied affirmatively.

The smile on his face couldn’t be more childlike, more innocent. He again prepared himself to dive into the ocean of hope, the ocean of love.

It took a while for the moment to sink in. But soon, he was restless to start chatting with her again.

Yet again, it was she who broke the silence, “So, do you have any friends in Cal?”

He wondered, “This is not luck. There is no such conception. The lady is as fascinated by my presence as I am by hers. And she is as anxious about knowing more about me as I am about her” He had two friends who were in IIM Calcutta and one friend who worked with ITC. But, something made him victimize himself so that he is projected as a lonely, poor soul in Kolkata who would need to make new friends. Probably then, he could invite her to a movie the next weekend.

“Absolutely no one.”

“Oh that’s sad. How do you plan to spend your weekends? Oh. But it’s always fun making new friends. I love making friends….. By the way, are you, by any chance, planning to put up in Salt Lake?”

“Yes. My office is located in Sector 5, Salt Lake. So, most probably, I will look for a place in Salt Lake. I will be staying in a Guest House in Salt Lake for 2 weeks.”

“Fantastic! I also live in Salt Lake. Sector 1. Hmmm …. Let me plan something. How about dinner at my place coming Sunday? I’ll also invite Rohan, so you can meet him before the auditions and inquire about what exactly they are looking for.”

He was being invited for dinner by her, the Goddess. There were many such instances during the conversation when he felt like pinching himself to ensure that everything that was happening was real, and hence irreversible.

“Yeah. Sure. Why not? I shall keep myself free on Sunday….. And what is there in Salt Lake for recreation?”

“Oh there are a hell lot of things to do. If you are interested in sports, then there is a Tennis Club, a swimming pool, and the Sports Authority of India complex having various sports facilities. The City Centre mall is very big and is the best place to hang out. You can find many good restaurants. And there are CCDs, Baristas, Subways. Night life is also buzzing with 4-5 lounge bars and discotheques. Do not worry. You will have a rocking time.”

“Oh she is so beautiful”, he thought, “I have to ask her out. Should I wait for the dinner at her place and then invite her for a movie, or is now the right time? The train would reach Kolkata tomorrow early morning. Oh yeah. I will ask her tomorrow. Just when we step down, I will say, ‘Anisha. It was nice meeting you. Would you want to meet me again at the CCD?…. The one in Salt Lake?’ What a train journey it has been! I hope I can get some sleep today.”

He woke up several times in the night, had a quick peek at Anisha, soundly asleep, each time. He wondered whether she was dreaming about him.

The train was scheduled to reach at 7. It was 6:30 when he woke up. All the other people had woken up. He quickly got up, went out to freshen up, and by 6:45, he was sitting in front of her thinking of some small talk to start with. They had just exchanged polite smiles. And they did just that. It was 7, and the train had slowed down, and soon it hit the platform. Suddenly, his heart was beating faster, his palms were moist, and he couldn’t maintain eye contact with her. “All the while during the journey, she was the one who broke off the silence”, he thought, “why was she not saying anything now? Was yesterday’s dream a nightmare? Is she expecting me to take it forward from now on, to be a man, to ask her out?” As each second passed by, he was growing more nervous.

Finally the train stopped. He was looking at her constantly now, gulping every now and then. All the while walking through the aisle towards the door, he was looking at her; her fanciful tattoo, her shiny hair, a little frizzy, though, from a night’s sleep, her beautiful hands struggling to lift her big suitcase. When they stepped out, she turned to him and said, “So, you have my number and address. Will see you on Sunday then.” He was blank. He just could not recollect anything of what he had rehearsed the day before for this big moment. There had been many situations during the journey, when he had almost lost her; he cannot lose her now. He had to do it.

He said, “Err … yeah …. Sure. Hey can I ask you something?” He froze. “Err … I was thinking …. If you … errr …. If I could help you carry that suitcase till the Taxi”

“Oh. Don’t bother. My husband should be here any time. Oh there he is”, she said, pointing away behind him, “Heyyy …. darling, missed you so much…. By the way, meet Shaan”

“Hey. I am Vishesh.”

He was looking at him, through him, past him. He just smiled, and said, “Hey. Hi. See you guys on Sunday then. I must hurry up to catch the Pre Paid Taxi queue”, turned and started walking. He never called her again. He never met her again.