ANAMIKA - PART 2

Short story

Storizen Magazine - - Contents - – Ke­taki Pat­ward­han

I di­aled the num­ber with­out think­ing. The caller tune was the song "Na jaanu tum Kaun ho, khay­alon me jo Chaa Gaye"...mean­ing "I don't know who you are, you have oc­cu­pied my mind". It kept ring­ing and I was left won­der­ing how apt the song was for my sit­u­a­tion. She didn't pick up. Not know­ing what to do next, I took a bus back to Co­laba, the scarf still clutched against my chest. My trip had not been a to­tal waste. I now had a name and num­ber.

I came home and dozed off on the sofa, tired. It was past 7 pm when I woke up. As I stretched, I looked out of the win­dow. The sky looked a mes­mer­iz­ing shade of dark blue with streaks of crim­son red and orange splashed across. It was twi­light and the at­mos­phere seemed serene. I was too lazy to go out now. I di­aled domi­noes and or­dered a cheese burst pizza with all top­pings pos­si­ble. I brewed a cup of cof­fee and sat down with the steam­ing mug, mo­bile in my hand.

Anamika. She hadn't called me back. I went to What­sApp and searched her. There was no dis­play pic­ture. No sta­tus. No last seen. She prob­a­bly had very tight se­cur­ing set­tings. I de­cided to mes­sage her any­way. Be­fore I could think it over and my left brain could an­a­lyze and pro­hibit my right hand from do­ing so, my heart had taken over and I typed 'hi' and hit send. I kept wait­ing to see the let­ters 'on­line'

be­neath her name. To see the sin­gle black tick get­ting con­verted into dou­ble blue ticks. But they didn't. For a long time. I gave up. My pizza ar­rived. I switched on the tele­vi­sion. I ate piece af­ter piece of the cheese-laden pizza whilst ab­sent­mind­edly watch­ing an episode of 'The se­cret life of American teenager'. In the episode I watched, Adrian, who is Ricky's girl­friend, cheats on him with Ben, who is Amy's boyfriend, to get back at Ricky for kiss­ing Amy, who has a son from Ricky! Phew! It is so easy for th­ese American teenagers! Why is it so dif­fi­cult for me? I won­dered. Nearly an hour later, when there was still no re­ply from her, I set­tled into bed with the novel I was cur­rently reading. A love story ti­tled crazy af­fair’. Here I couldn't have a nor­mal af­fair, and this au­thor had had a crazy af­fair! But‘set­tled’is a hy­per­bole. In fact, I was to­tally un­set­tled. Though I had been hooked on this book, to­day I had no in­ter­est in the crazy way the au­thor pur­sued his lady. Ev­ery two min­utes, I took out my mo­bile to check What­sApp. But she never came on­line. I was glad that my dis­play pic­ture was that of a set­ting sun, and not me. At least she wouldn't im­me­di­ately know her lovelorn stalker. Next morn­ing, I was on au­topi­lot as I made my way to the of­fice. I couldn't for the love of God re­move Anamika from my mind. “So how was the week­end?” my cu­bi­cle neigh­bor, Varun asked me. He was more than just my cu­bi­cle neigh­bor. He was my friend, guide, and philoso­pher. And most im­por­tantly, booze buddy, which nec­es­sar­ily in­cludes the first three.

I turned around in my chair to speak to him and was trans­fixed. In front of me, down the aisle of our cu­bi­cles, stood Anamika. She looked re­splen­dent in the peach col­ored, slightly off- shoul­der top and a bronze col­ored skirt that reached just be­low her knees. Her dark brown curls played on her shoul­ders ca­ress­ing her silky soft white skin and I was, all over again, mes­mer­ized. Our mo­ment (read as me star­ing at an un­know­ing her) was bro­ken when our nasty floor man­ager walked up to her. I hate the guy. He be­gan talk­ing to her with au­thor­ity as she looked at him, her ex­pres­sions a mix­ture of shy­ness and fear. I wanted to pro­tect her from this man. My urge over­whelmed me, and be­fore I knew it, I got up, walked up to them and in­ter­rupted them, leav­ing an agape Varun behind, who, all this while, had been ex­pect­ing me to an­swer him. "Sir, it's okay, I will show her around”, I said, fake brevity bounc­ing off ev­ery inch of my be­ing. Had I shown this bravado any­time in my ca­reer be­fore, I wouldn't still be work­ing un­der this guy. But like they say, love makes you do unimag­in­able things and that was ex­actly what I was do­ing. Mr. Nasty stared me down, en­raged at my in­ter­rup­tion. But I didn't care. I could feel her eyes on me though I was not look­ing at her, and I felt but­ter­flies fly­ing hel­terskel­ter in my stom­ach. Just as I was about to re­gret my de­ci­sion and be­gan won­der­ing if this was it, my exit from the com­pany, Mr.Nasty’s ex­pres­sions changed and he mel­lowed down. “Okay then, Anamika, Rahul here will show you around. He has been with us for more than three years and knows everything well. You can then start off at your cu­bi­cle no. 12”.

He gave me a stern nod, turned his back and walked away, leav­ing a dumb­founded me behind, as­ton­ished at Mr.Nasty’s un­ex­pected kind de­meanor and fum­bling for what to say to her.

“So?” she said, rais­ing those carved eye­brows two notches higher.

So what, I thought, but she saved me from say­ing any­thing ab­surd by ex­tend­ing her hand.

“Anamika”, and she smiled such a sweet smile that I melted then and there. “Rahul’, I shook her hand with the newly ac­quired fake valor. We spent the next 45 min­utes walk­ing up and down our floor as I showed her each and ev­ery sec­tion, in­tro­duced her to our col­leagues and dis­cussed the cur­rent projects we were do­ing.

If she re­mem­bered me and our yes­ter­day's ren­dezvous, she showed no sign of it, so I was a bit re­laxed. Fi­nally, gath­er­ing courage, I said the line I had been re­hears­ing in my mind for the past 45 min­utes and 33 sec­onds. “So now that we are head­ing to the cafe­te­ria, can I buy you a cup of cof­fee?” She looked at me for a bit more than a mo­ment and I had a near panic at­tack.

“Of course”, she said. We headed to our cafe­te­ria. Guys around turned to look at us, at her. Till now, I had al­ways been the spec­ta­tor, the guy who watched with jeal­ousy as another one brings in a girl to have cof­fee with. To­day, the roles had re­versed and I had a sense of sadis­tic plea­sure. "The of­fice looks nice, peo­ple are warm and friendly here”, she said, pos­si­bly as a thanks­giv­ing re­mark. I wanted to tell her that peo­ple were ‘warm’ and ‘friendly’ only to­wards gor­geous girls like her.

“Thanks for show­ing me around,” she said, again giv­ing me that cute smile that ripped my heart apart.

“It's to­tally my plea­sure,” I replied. I meant it.

“But be­ware of our floor man­ager, Mr.Verma,”I added. “What? Why?” she asked, con­fused. “Well, he can be rude and bossy sometimes, not sometimes, all the times,” I added, to em­pha­size my point. “Oh!” she ex­claimed, star­ing down at the cof­fee. Was she smil­ing?

“So where do you stay?”I asked her, to make some con­ver­sa­tion. “Parel,” she replied, look­ing me in the eyes and I sud­denly felt like a thief caught red­handed. Of course, I knew that. I had fol­lowed her like a creep yes­ter­day. I even had her scarf. I won­dered what she would think of me if she got to know what I had done with her scarf. She would def­i­nitely think I was a per­vert. Was I?

There was no point in be­hav­ing like yes­ter­day didn't hap­pen. I had to face it.

“So how come you were in Co­laba yes­ter­day?” I asked. She smiled a know­ing smile at that, a smile that hinted that she knew how smit­ten I was with her.

“Meet­ing up some friends”, she replied. “And you?” she asked. “I stay near the restau­rant where...you know...”

I again men­tally facepalmed. I was be­ing such an a**hole! She laughed. “Yeah...got it”. Later, at my cu­bi­cle, I couldn't con­cen­trate on any­thing. I kept try­ing to catch a glimpse of her while Varun kept try­ing to catch a glimpse of me. I still hadn't told him any­thing. And I knew he was dy­ing to know.

As I re­versed my car out of the park­ing lot, I saw her stand­ing near the en­trance to the park­ing lot. But­ter­flies, which had been dor­mant in my tummy since morn­ing, got up with a start and again be­gan fly­ing. This was my chance of spend­ing some more time with her.

I halted the car in front of her and rolled the win­dow of pas­sen­ger seat down.

“Can I drop you some­where?” Of course, I would have liked to drop her home, but I stayed in Co­laba and she stayed in Parel and our of­fice is in By­culla, our des­ti­na­tions were 180 de­grees apart. So it would have seemed creepy if I had shown ea­ger­ness to drive all the way in the op­po­site di­rec­tion just to drop her off. “No, thanks, I have some­one who can give me a lift till home,” she said.

Dis­ap­pointed, I gave her a fake smile and a thumbs up, though I could feel my but­ter­flies get­ting par­a­lyzed.

I drove out of the park­ing lot and waited by the curb.

I felt a pang of jeal­ousy. Who was the per­son who could give her a lift till home, I won­dered?

And as I waited, I saw in my rearview mir­ror, Mr.Nasty’s car emerg­ing from the park­ing lot, with Anamika in the pas­sen­ger seat, both laugh­ing over some pri­vate joke they had just shared. Next day, I im­mersed my­self in my work. I didn't want to see her. I didn't want to hear her. I was angry. I felt be­trayed. Varun kept pes­ter­ing me to tell him all the juicy de­tails but I didn't want to give him that sat­is­fac­tion ei­ther. So I was holed up in my cu­bi­cle, eyes locked on my com­puter screen and fin­gers stuck to the key­board. A mes­sage popped up. We had a sep­a­rate mes­sen­ger for em­ploy­ees to com­mu­ni­cate with

each other, and the sender used to be rec­og­nized by cu­bi­cle num­ber.

12: Hey So fi­nally she re­mem­bered me! I was al­most about to ig­nore her mes­sage, but that would look rude and child­ish.

So I typed a re­ply. 5: Hi

12: Was­sup 5: Work, what else I gave a small sar­cas­tic laugh. 12. : Cof­fee? What? Did she just ask me out??

5: Now?

I asked as if it was mid­night or an un­godly hour for cof­fee 12: yup

5: Okay...

How could I say no to her?

12: Cafe­te­ria, in five I got up and stretched my arms above my head. Then as I turned for a side­ways stretch I caught Varun peep­ing into my cu­bi­cle, his body on his chair pressed against our com­mon wall and head dan­gling into my cu­bi­cle at an odd an­gle. He didn't care, ob­vi­ously, that I had caught him. He was busy reading our mes­sages. Our bloody per­sonal mes­sages. I smacked him on his head and he re­turned to his cu­bi­cle, head pressed in his palms, scream­ing out of pro­por­tion to the blow. “Stop be­ing melo­dra­matic” I scolded him.

“So no. 12, ha?”

I gave him a wary look. “Okay! None of my busi­ness,” he said, hands raised in de­feat and then winked at me fol­lowed by a con­vuls­ing laugh­ter. I shook my head and went out to­wards the cafe­te­ria. As I passed, I saw from the cor­ner of my eye that her cu­bi­cle was empty.

She must be al­ready there.

I reached the cafe­te­ria but couldn't spot her. I went to sit on my usual spot, from where all ex­its of our of­fice build­ing were vis­i­ble. A few mo­ments later, I saw her com­ing out of the exit from the floor

man­agers of­fice. I felt my blood be­gin to boil.

To be con­tin­ued....

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