Anamika

Storizen Magazine - - Contribute - by Dr. Ke­taki Pat­ward­han

Why was she twotim­ing us? Ei­ther be with him, or with me. That's it. I was go­ing to make it very clear to­day.

But as she came nearer, my re­solve be­gan to dis­solve. She looked rav­ish­ing in the pur­ple and sky blue dress that was skin hug­ging and ac­cen­tu­ated her fig­ure. Her hair was loosely tied be­hind in a more clutch and bounced up and down as she walked to­wards me with a dim­pled smile on her face.

I sud­denly re­al­ized I had been star­ing at her with my mouth open. I quickly closed my mouth and mut­tered a weak hello. “Looks like you have been busy to­day”, she said.

“Yes, some­what,”I said.

“What will you have?” she asked.

“Is this a treat?”

“Well, if you want one”, she said, a mis­chievous grin on her face.

I could feel the blood rush­ing to my cheeks, red­den­ing and warm­ing them. Was I blush­ing?

“Do you have a rea­son to give a treat?”

I pat­ted my­self for my in­tel­li­gent ques­tion. “Yes, there sure is” I felt my cheeks lose their color.

“Won't you ask what it is?” she asked when I didn't ask the ex­pected ques­tion.

“Yes yes, of course, I want to know,” I said, brac­ing my­self for what was to come next.

She would tell me that she is go­ing around with Mr nasty and then I would have to play the ‘good friend’ by con­grat­u­lat­ing her and act­ing that I was happy for her. Then she would ask me to be the best man for their wed­ding.

I had al­ways been the good friend to girls who got en­gaged to some­one else af­ter I had been with them through their bad times, tak­ing them out for din­ner to change their mood or giv­ing my shoul­der for them to cry on. I had had

enough of be­ing the peren­nial good friend. “Hello, Mr.Day­dreamer. Back to earth,” she was wav­ing her hand in front of me.

I came out of my reverie.

“Didn't you hear what I said?” she asked, still not sure whether or not I was with her. “Sorry, I was...just lost. What did you say?”

“They have hired me as a per­ma­nent em­ployee,” she said hap­pily. “Ini­tially I had been hired as a temp to fill in for some­body but that per­son re­signed to­day, so I am go­ing to be here for a long time,” she beamed.

I couldn't be­lieve this.

So this was not about Mr. Nasty. I was so re­lieved, be­fore think­ing I just got up and hugged her. To my ut­ter sur­prise, she too hugged me back.

But she re­leased me soon, even be­fore I started to count the sec­onds we were in each other's em­brace be­cause that was how I would have to re­port to Varun later on. “Con­grat­u­la­tions! I am so happy for you,”I said. She re­ally had no idea how happy I was.

“Thank you. Now you tell me, what's with all this grumpy and don'tdis­turb-me mood since morn­ing?” she asked.

So she had no­ticed. Should I tell her? No, it would spoil our mo­ment.

“Noth­ing, just homesick”.

Wait! Now, where did that come from? I do miss home but I didn't want to be por­trayed as an emo­tion­ally weak per­son in front of this girl.

But be­fore I could cor­rect my­self, she ex­claimed: “that's cute”.

Cute? As in a puppy? Why do girls use such ad­jec­tives? Wait, I know when they use such ad­jec­tives. When they like a guy as a friend but are not at­tracted to him.

That's when they call him “cute”.

So again my mood dipped down in a spi­ral.

“You find me cute?”I asked, to con­firm what I had just heard.

“No, not you,” she said and laughed.

Girls! If there is no third per­son here, and she didn't say that for me, then what did she mean??

My con­fu­sion must have been ev­i­dent on my face be­cause she clar­i­fied im­me­di­ately. “You ac­cept­ing and con­fess­ing that you were homesick, that is cute. Guys gen­er­ally don't do that”

What was she, Ph.D. on guys be­hav­ior? Any­ways, I was glad that I was not cute.

We or­dered 2 Latte and chat­ted on dif­fer­ent top­ics as we drank them. She was easy to talk to and had knowl­edge of lots of things. Her in­ter­est­ing anec­dotes im­pressed me and I found my­self en­joy­ing her com­pany. She told me she oc­ca­sion­ally wrote a blog ti­tled ‘the word charmer’ and I promised to check it out.

Back at my cu­bi­cle, I ig­nored Varun who was whistling to the tune of ‘Aa­jkal tere mere pyar ke charche’. But of course, I couldn't put off telling Varun ev­ery­thing for­ever. So that evening we hit our usual pub for a cou­ple of drinks and some bla­tant con­fes­sions. Over cans of chilled beer and some in­ter­est­ing chicken rolls, I told him ev­ery­thing, right from the first time I saw her. Varun was amused at the way I had pur­sued the girl. Ac­cord­ing to him, it was very un­like me, and so she must be re­ally spe­cial.

“But what about Mr. Nasty?”I asked him. “Looks like he is the vil­lain not just in my work life but my love life as well”.

“Don't make as­sump­tions, maybe he is just be­ing nice to her or maybe they are friends from be­fore”, Varun sug­gested. Varun makes sense only when he is drunk. So he must be right. “She con­sid­ers me a good friend I guess,

noth­ing more”, I said, as the beer gave me an in­sight into my world.

“Don't rush things, see how and where it goes. Mean­while, we will find out what Mr. Nasty is up to”, Varun said.

As I lay in bed that night, I thought of tex­ting her. She had taken my num­ber on the first day when I was show­ing her around. I grabbed my mo­bile and be­fore I could open What­sApp, I re­ceived a mes­sage from her.

“Hey”

“Hi” I replied, set­tling back on my pil­low to make my­self com­fort­able for a late night chat. But what she typed next blew me over. “How did you have my num­ber from be­fore we met at the of­fice? I just saw a mes­sage from you from Sun­day night,” she said. Oh shit! I was trapped! I had to­tally for­got­ten I had sent her a mes­sage that night. Now she would know what a lech­er­ous creep I had been. Now she would know I had been stalk­ing her. I didn't know what to say. Should I tell her I was in the US and I had ac­tu­ally sent that mes­sage next day? How ab­surd! What do I do now?

She was on­line, wait­ing for an an­swer. I switched off What­sApp and called Varun. He woke up from a deep sleep. “Whozzit,” he said, his voice heavy with post al­co­hol slum­ber. “Varun, wake up. It's me. There's a prob­lem”

It took two min­utes for him to prob­a­bly sit up and get ori­ented to time, place and per­son.

“What hap­pened?” he asked fi­nally. I ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion in short. “What do I do now? How do I ex­plain this to her with­out sound­ing like a per­vert?”I asked, des­per­a­tion and anx­i­ety echo­ing through my voice.

“Re­lax. Tell her you

had seen her ap­pli­ca­tion for the job and taken her num­ber to ac­quaint your­self with her. You can say maybe you found her photo at­trac­tive. That would sound less creepy than what you ac­tu­ally did”.

Oh! It was so sim­ple! Why didn't I think of this? Varun was a ge­nius. He al­ways had a so­lu­tion for such sit­u­a­tions.

“Thanks, bro, I would have kissed you if you were here”, I said, elated.

“Thank God I am not there”, he mum­bled be­fore re­turn­ing to his pre phone state.

I went back to What­sApp and typed what Varun had told me. Anamika bought it with­out any sus­pi­cion and I heaved a sigh of re­lief.

Anamika’s ar­rival into my of­fice changed my out­look com­pletely. Now I looked for­ward to go­ing to the of­fice, worked longer hours, even worked hol­i­days. Mr. Nasty was prob­a­bly im­pressed by my sud­den at­tack of worka­holism though he seemed un­aware of the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind it.

Days passed and I and Anamika be­came thick friends. I al­ways won­dered if she was that type of girl...well, ba­si­cally, there are two types of girls. One, who see through our façade and know our in­ten­tions very well, yet fake ig­no­rance, and two, who do not see through us at all. Be­cause ba­si­cally, boys are of only one type, with the same in­ten­tion in mind. Any­ways, I was not sure whether she re­al­ized why I was so at­ten­tive, kind and gen­er­ous around her (which I am but not to the ex­tent I por­trayed), or was naïve enough to be­lieve I was the same with ev­ery­one.

I still didn't know what the deal was with Mr. Nasty, but it an­noyed me to no end when­ever I saw Anamika chat­ting with him over a cup of cof­fee in the cafe­te­ria or com­ing out of his of­fice at odd times. I didn't want to come

across as nag­ging, jeal­ous, pos­ses­sive or even needy (hell I was not even her of­fi­cial boyfriend), but I had to ask her.

But as usual, when­ever I plan some­thing metic­u­lously, some­thing else hap­pens. I had prac­ticed how I was go­ing to broach the topic with her, in front of the mir­ror, to see if my face gave away my emo­tions. I had never done such prepa­ra­tion ever, not even for my in­ter­views. But that day I spent half an hour in the morn­ing, look­ing in the mir­ror, clear­ing my throat, ask­ing the ques­tion, restrict­ing the rise in my eye­brows and the tickle in my jaw.

As I went to the of­fice fully pre­pared, I saw cu­bi­cle no. 12 empty. That was un­usual. Anamika gen­er­ally came be­fore me.

Dis­ap­pointed, I waited. I couldn't con­cen­trate on my work that day. I had a pre­sen­ta­tion that af­ter­noon and I was fail­ing mis­er­ably while try­ing to re­vise what I was go­ing to speak. She didn't come by lunchtime, which told me she was prob­a­bly not go­ing to turn up at all.

At lunchtime, I mes­saged her.

Where are you? Didn't see you @of­fice 2day.

I am at Sa­mata hospi­tal, ad­mit­ted with a frac­tured an­kle :-(

What? How? I texted back, shocked. No one here was aware of it, okay, prob­a­bly no one ex­cept Mr. Nasty.

Had gone to ma­rine drive yes­ter­day. Slipped on the pave­ment.

Ohh..take care..will be there once free from here

Hey, it's okay, no need...

Don't worry it's ok, c u soon

I just counted the hours till I could leave the of­fice. I went

through the pre­sen­ta­tion as if on au­topi­lot. I was out of the of­fice doors at the stroke of 5, only to see the rear tire of my car flat.

Shit! I ex­claimed loudly.

“Prob­lem?”I turned around to see that Mr. Nasty had seen my out­break of frus­tra­tion. Flus­tered, I tried to keep anx­i­ety at bay. “I ur­gently needed to be some­where but have a flat tire”. He eyed me sus­pi­ciously, and then at my car.

“I can drop you if you wish to. Where do you want to go?” he asked, to my sur­prise.

“No, it's fine, I will take a cab,” the over smart me replied.

JUNE 2018

“Okay”, he shrugged and be­gan walk­ing to­wards his car. What had I been think­ing? I wasn't his girl­friend that he would in­sist on go­ing with him!

“Wait,”I called out, run­ning af­ter him, “Ac­tu­ally I need to be some­where...ur­gent,” I said.

Mr. Nasty looked at me, eye­brows raised in...sur­prise? Mock­ery? I am not sure.

“Okay, where should I drop you then?” he asked.

“Sa­mata hospi­tal”, I replied and watched, as ex­pected, as his ex­pres­sions changed. “Anamika?” he asked af­ter eye­ing me sus­pi­ciously for an un­com­fort­ably long time, brows fur­rowed to­gether.

“Yes”, I replied.

We got in the car. This was the first time I was sit­ting next to my boss. I felt a dev­il­ish plea­sure with him act­ing as my driver to­day.

I tried to make un­suc­cess­ful small talk, the at­tempts to which got aborted af­ter a few curt replies.

We both got down at the hospi­tal. I won­dered if he was al­ready plan­ning to come here or he made the plans af­ter learn­ing that I was vis­it­ing her. I men­tally slapped my­self. I had just lost the chance of earn­ing some brownie points over him, by be­ing the first one to visit her.

He led the way and

walked con­fi­dently through the hospi­tal to the first floor which housed the spe­cial rooms, mak­ing me won­der if this was not his first visit af­ter all, and that he had al­ready won all the brownie points I had been cov­et­ing for.

Feel­ing dis­ap­pointed, I just fol­lowed him.

Anamika sat on the hospi­tal bed, watch­ing a small TV in front of her, a mon­i­tor at­tached to her fin­ger shout­ing beep beep and her right foot in a plas­ter.

She looked at both of us si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and her gaze fixed on him first as she gave him a wide smile.

I felt a pang of jeal­ousy. I was fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle.

To my fur­ther dis­may, Mr. Nasty approached her and kissed her fore­head.

“How is your leg now?” he asked.

And as I stood there, won­der­ing if she had even no­ticed me and if she should leave, I heard the in­cred­i­ble words I had never ex­pected her to say.

“It's bet­ter Bro”

Bro???

He was her brother???????

I could have danced with joy then and there. I was prob­a­bly do­ing a men­tal merry jig when I re­al­ized both were star­ing at me. Did I

re­ally dance now? “I said hello, day­dreamer”, Anamika said and smiled.

“How are you now?”I asked her.

“I am good, bet­ter than yes­ter­day” she smiled that cute dim­pled smile. I was aware of Mr. Nasty’s gaze fixed on me, which pre­vented my face from show­ing any ex­ag­ger­ated re­ac­tion. Then came an awk­ward mo­ment where both of them were star­ing at me while I was al­ter­nat­ing be­tween look­ing at ei­ther of them.

Fi­nally Mr. Nasty cleared his throat.

“I will have a word with the doc”.

He gave me a small nod and left. Was that a nod of ap­proval? Or was I imag­in­ing it?

Once he was gone, I heaved a sigh of re­lief and went to sit on the chair next to her bed. “See? My bro is not re­ally that rude”, she said, with a wicked smile.

“I...I had no idea he was your brother..”I said sheep­ishly, feel­ing fool­ish.

She laughed heartily. “And he likes you,” she added.

“Oh, I thought you liked me”I replied.

And we both laughed to­gether.

We chat­ted for some­time and as usual, laughed our hearts out.

Mr. Nasty re­turned from his fake doc visit, and I had to leave as he of­fered to drop me till the near­est bus stop.

That night, I went to google chrome and searched ‘word charmer by Anamika’ in the google search. A web­site popped up im­me­di­ately. It was the blog she had men­tioned, and I was now re­ally cu­ri­ous to read what she wrote. I scrolled the page. There were many blogs on dif­fer­ent dates. I just scanned the head­ings. She had writ­ten on re­ally di­verse top­ics. Some were per­sonal like one was about her solo trip to New Zealand, an­other was about her school and the nostal­gia she ex­pe­ri­enced at the re­u­nion with her school friends. One was about the or­ganic plants her mom grew in the ter­race gar­den of the home she grew up in, while one more was about yoga and how she be­gan prac­tic­ing it and find­ing so­lace in it. One was about the dif­fer­ent po­ems she had read since child­hood that had left a deep im­pact on her. There was one ti­tled ‘Shake­speare’.

Cu­ri­ous, I opened the page and be­gan read­ing. She had writ­ten in de­tail about how she started read­ing the clas­sics writ­ten by

Shake­speare, how she had to sit with a dic­tionary ini­tially and found them hard to read, and how grad­u­ally she be­gan en­joy­ing read­ing them, to the point of get­ting ad­dicted. She was smit­ten by his word prow­ess and bowled over by his quotes. She had quoted a few, which af­ter read­ing, seemed to me like I was read­ing Latin or French, but were es­sen­tially English.

Be­ing a poor reader my­self, my re­spect for her in­creased ten­fold.

Cu­ri­ous, I opened an­other google page and searched for Shake­speare's quotes with an ex­pla­na­tion.

Just then my mo­bile vi­brated. It was a mes­sage from Anamika.

Thanks for vis­it­ing me to­day. Felt re­ally good.

I was about to re­ply when I had an idea. I scanned the page I had just opened.

There is noth­ing ei­ther good or bad but think­ing makes it so.

I waited to see if she rec­og­nized this ‘Shake­spearean quote’ Af­ter a few mo­ments de­lay, she replied

Whoa! Looks like some­one has been through my blog. Well done.

So she was sin­cere in what she wrote.

I can no other an­swer make but thanks, and thanks and ever thanks

It took me no time to guess that this was an­other one of Shake­speare's quotes. When words fail, mu­sic speaks, I quoted Shake­speare again.

The earth has mu­sic for those who lis­ten.

Whoa! I was im­pressed. She was quot­ing Shake­speare off- hand while I was strug­gling to keep up with my copy-past­ing.

If mu­sic is the food of love, play on, I wrote.

Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind, came her re­ply.

I was stunned for a mo­ment. Did she im­ply what I was think­ing she did?

Gath­er­ing courage, I typed the fol­low­ing quote of Shake­speare

When I saw you, I fell in love

And you smiled be­cause you knew

I waited for her re­ply with baited breath.

Then let thy love be younger than thy­self, or thy af­fec­tion can­not hold the bent.

I again scrolled the google page for a per­fect re­ply.

I love thee, I love but thee

With a love that shall not die

Till the sun grows cold and the stars grow old

I waited as she typed.

What if it's not in our des­tiny?

It is not in the stars to hold our des­tiny but our­selves, I replied with an­other of his quotes.

Will our fam­i­lies agree? Will my bro agree? She asked.

The course of true love never did run smooth, I wrote.

Wow...looks like I can't take Shake­speare out of you, she wrote. I could vi­su­al­ize the smile on her lips.

Doubt thou the stars are fire

Doubt that the sun doth move

Doubt truth to be a liar But never doubt I love

I wrote, mean­ing every word of Shake­speare.

I waited, anx­iously, be­fore typ­ing, So, what's your an­swer??

I would not wish any com­pan­ion in the world but you came to her Shake­spearean re­ply.

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