Date till you drop!
Don't be such a wuss. Try it! Try it!"
She is totally in love. As it happens, the object of her affections is not a human being. It's not even an object. She might have had hope if it were.
No, but she has decided to fall hook, line and sinker for this spectre in the US called speed dating.
If you ever fantasized about dating more than two persons at the same time, speed dating is your answer. And a ticket to instant love affairs. Or so my friend claims.
Anyway, this is the deal. A bunch of youngsters gathers at a prefixed venue, like a bar or restaurant or something. All of them sport these badges that identify them as part of the same Suckers Anonymous group.
At the sound of a bell or gong, everyone scrambles to speak with one member of the opposite sex. At the sound of another bell or gong, which comes after three minutes or five, depending on the rules of your Suckers Anonymous club you cut off your conversation and move on to another person of the opposite sex.
It doesn't matter what you were saying, it doesn't matter how deeply you were into the conversation. When it gongs, you swap.
There's more. I don't quite want to get into the specifics, but the rest of this whole do resembles those online email signup forms where you tick your interests.
And I'm like, "Do I want to be such a loser?"
My friend retorts, "Do you want a man or not?"
I'm like, "Do I look that desperate?"
She says, "Whatever."
Think about it. Does it sound sane to you?
She keeps winning...
It was a day no different from the rest, but it was special to me and many in my team as it was to herald an end to an absence of 10 months from the Homeland. Soon I would be returning to my country, India, saying goodbye to the country of dreams for many, the United States of America.
I still remember how I was longing to come here and enjoy, but it was an altogether different experience that made me realise the worth of my people, my friends, my country.
It was early morning and a usual sight in New York where you can see everyone running to catch trains to reach office on time. As always I was grinning at the rush and walking perversely on the streets thinking of her.
Every day, while going to office and coming back, she would be in my thoughts. It seemed to have become a daily routine. The only time I used to stop thinking of her was when I got out of the subway and New York's chill wind sent me scurrying to my destination.
As soon as I entered the office, I looked at the chair, which lay empty. But I knew the office would be full of excitement the moment she came in to work.
When she first joined up, I was happy to know that I would have an Indian colleague working with me. I didn't think a day would come that I would curse the joy I experienced at that moment.
For, almost immediately after the first meeting she began boasting and shouting at every other person, if only to show the management that she was well-informed. I don't know if it was my masculine ego or her lack of knowledge that made me abhor her so within a week of her joining us. I joined the project as a team leader and I was the only guy working there at the time. Now there are nine of us, but the client grants her all the importance!
I still wonder, how was she able to do it when she knows nothing about our field? How does she so confidently ask silly questions at important meetings? Why does the client, knowing she is a fool, still respect her?
Sometimes I feel it is because she is beautiful woman; at others, I feel she's just street-smart, an attribute more important now than knowledge. How can someone be so cunning and witty and not have a guilty conscience?
Today was the last day of the project and, even without working on anything herself, she won the prize for best team member from the client. Her name was also printed in the month's newsletter for client appreciation.
I feel lonely today, like I'm a great loser who will go back to his home country without self-confidence and, of course, without accolades to show.
But then, isn't that how life is?
I was having dinner at a restaurant one pleasant night in Bangalore when a guy came up to me and said, "Hey Santosh, how are you? How come you are here?"
I was there because The Matrix put me there. But who was this guy? And how did he know my name?
"Hey, have you forgotten me? I was your classmate in the 10th standard!"
Oh no, I hadn't forgotten him. How could I forget him if I didn't remember him in the first place? I did remember that I had done my schooling (10th standard) at a place called Tenkasi, which is situated near a wonderful place called Courtallam. But I didn't remember any of my classmates. I tried very hard to map the face with a name, but failed.
The guy became nostalgic and started narrating the 'wonderful' time we had in school. I didn't remember any of the incidents he mentioned.
He also remarked, "You haven't changed after all these years."
That much was obvious. After all, hadn't he recognised me after all these years? But after finishing my tenth class, I had finished my higher secondary examination, gained an engineering degree, and worked in a company for three years. And still he says I haven't changed? I couldn't agree. Something must have changed.
"You are still that same old silent Santosh."
Now that was something I had to agree to. The fact that he said I was silent implied this guy was not someone close to me at school. My close friends would never have said that.
Suddenly, he asked, "Do you remember Venkat?" I could gather only two things from this question one, there was a guy called Venkat in my class. Two, this guy was NOT Venkat.
"Oh, yeah! How can I forget him? What is he doing these days?" I wanted to prove that I remembered every guy and gal from the batch of 1994 who studied in that tenth standard class.
"And what is Rajesh doing these days?" Rajesh was a name I had picked randomly from my memory.
"Rajesh? Which Rajesh?"
I had to get out of this now. "Oh, I am sorry. Rajesh was my classmate in college. I am a little confused." 'Little' in this context meant 'terribly'.
I was waiting for the torture to end. My brain was just not able to retrieve information from my memory and the guy kept on talking. Finally, our dinner was over and he gave me his visiting card and asked me to keep in touch. (Now, where did I keep the card? Maybe I gave it to the waiter along with the tip, I don't remember.)
Finally, I said, "Convey my regards to everyone in our gang."
He was surprised. "Gang! Which gang?"
Before he could say anymore, I fled the restaurant.
On my way to work one morning, I saw a truckload of furniture and household items standing below our building. Later that evening my husband informed me that we had new neighbours, a young Mangalorean couple.
Over the weekend, I decided to pay them a visit. The lady of the house welcomed me with a lilting "Heealo!" She had a singsong voice and only when I spotted the grand piano in the hallway did I put two and two together. She informed me that she was a qualified piano teacher and was looking for students.
The following week I knew she had had an enrolment, for I heard Do re mi... play over and over again. As months passed, the humdrum Do re mi... was transformed into melodious tunes.
But after the initial progress, I observed that the student seemed to be playing the same tunes for more than two months or so. Perplexed, I asked my neighbour how her student was faring.
"He's doing fine," she replied.
"Then why is he playing the same tunes for the past couple of months?" I asked.
Winking at me, she said, "I have to earn, you see!"
Little brother horrors
You are a B L N D _ P G now," my younger brother quipped.
"WHAT?!" I snapped.
"Oh, you are deaf too now, uh?" he said as he raced up the stairs to where Dad was. "Wish me luck, I'm the one who's going to get all the bashing."
I wasn't quite sure about that though, because younger siblings are always right and it is always the older sibling's fault.
We were on the banks of the River Tunga, much against the wishes of my mother, who had insisted that we don't go anywhere near the river after dark. It was moonless, but a starry 8pm then. So we went down to the river and sloshed the water about with our bare feet.
Then my brother got this brainwave of having a pebble-throwing contest. So he searched in the shallows with his hands and came up with some huge pebbles more like rocks actually and started throwing them into the water.
It didn't matter to him if the other contestant me wasn't quite contesting. As the pebbles fell near me and splashed water on me, I let out a volley of curses. I quit when I realised that annoying me gave my brother a thrill, only to find him sitting one nanometre away from me grinning ear to ear. And then he started throwing the rocks into the water again.
But he was too close to me, and when swung his hand forwards, he flicked my precariously balanced spectacles my window to the world, literally into the dark waters.
Was I screaming? No. Was I mad? No. Why? Simple. Because I knew my brother would be in hot soup soon.
The minute Mom saw us, she figured out that I'd donated my glasses to the river. She yelled at me for not listening to her and for dragging my brother along with me.
My brother owned up to my folks.
Last heard, he was muttering, "Why couldn't she have worn contacts?" All he got was a glare from Mom.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh