Dedicated to: You know who you are.
I had no intentions of looking forward to getting into a relationship. Commitments in a way scared me. I did not see myself ever wanting to meet a girl who could captivate me enough for me to be just myself in her company, shunning all the dramatic nonsense I usually do when I go out with different versions of the opposite gender. To me, most of them seemed to be the same with very minor variations. Self conscious, trying to be sappy all the freaking time, checking their make up in what they think is the time I am not noticing them, having the latest trend of the hair style that makes their head look like a huge sparrow nest and at times, brains bewitched enough to spend thousands on gifts for me. I just didn’t get it. No matter how many of them I went out with and shared unbelievable horrible jokes – for which they laughed like it was the funniest thing of the century – with, it always stayed as a one day entertainment factor for me, it failed to reach me personally.
It was just another day, I thought, reminding myself not to use the phone a lot and gearing up to talk endlessly as I packed my bag and checked my hair style in the mirror. Something seemed very out of place. A haircut, maybe. I rechecked if my camera and the additional lens were in their right spots in my bag and kick started my friend’s bike. It roared enough to awaken the whole neighborhood on that lazy Sunday morning. She was supposed to be meeting me at the mall. The rain clouds were gathering very prominently and I sped across the roads of Chennai; my Chennai. It has been two whole years since the bike I drove had kissed its streets and the feeling was just amazing as the breeze kissed me awake, prodding me to accelerate to the next degree. I parked the bike and came to the food court directly. She was waiting there, playing with her phone, making it ski on the table and catching it just before it fell. Nut case she is. I sat there, clicking a few pictures with my DSLR and posing for a few and making her take some, slowly relaxing myself and getting out of the sleep. This was about the second or third time I was meeting her and there was no need for either of us to pretend with each other. Being in my natural element, it felt good. As usual, I started bragging about the stupidity quotient of the mall we were in and she was slowly brimming with temper. I was beginning to enjoy it. After loafing around aimlessly in there, she finally made up her mind that she wanted to go to the bigger mall in the city. Women, I tell you. I always have this feeling that they know just exactly what they want and how to do a thing but they keep the men guessing and swear that they have no idea, hoping that all of a sudden we men could turn into mind readers and magician at the same time.
Some ten minutes later, we were driving towards the next mall, weaving our way through the traffic. She held my bag with my life, my camera in between and held onto some bar on the side of the bike’s seat. She kept shooing me off as I went on ranting about how Bangalore was a better place with a better climate and better looking girls to drool at. She kept telling me the directions, chiding me for not having listened to her to leave the bike and go by the train or bus. The sky was threatening to open up any moment and I was determined to reach the place before it started drizzling. The wind kept lashing my face with cold streaks of atmosphere and I shivered as we entered the parking lot. As usual, we headed straight to the food court and went around searching for the right place to buy food from. It wasn’t surprising that she pointed straight at the only vegetarian outlet there. It beat me how people could survive eating just green things – vegetables, greens, peas, fruits. Eew. I pitied them very genuinely and considered them very unlucky and cursed souls. But there I was, dragging myself to the vegetarian food. I ordered a plate of fried rice for the both of us and with one last sigh looking at all the chicken barbecue on the either side of me, I moved to the place where she was sitting, rotating her mobile between her fingers. Hardly 5 minutes into eating, she demands fried cauliflower and I go to wait in the long queue yet again. I could not get myself to say no to her. And it was just not fair because she seemed incapable of demanding anything that came with a huge price tag. I kept glancing back at the table and saw her concentrating very hard on doing something to the food on my plate. 10 highly irritating minutes later I walked back to the table with steaming hot manjurian and I saw that she had arranged the rice in such a manner that I could read her name between it. She smiled. I clicked a couple of pictures and ate the whole thing up, telling her how the manjurian reminded me of another girl in my past life and the story that related to it. She hummed at the right places and listened to me attentively. After eating at a torturous slow pace, we moved and walked around only to stop for ice golas. I picked up my favourite orange and she picked up a seemingly boring looking lychee flavor. Are girls always like that? They pick up the exact thing that will disgust guys and make them run for their lives.
We settled to some bench like thing where I spotted a really nice looking girl. After inquiring about the name of the hair cut she had and naming her as my dark parrot, I spoke more about myself. She was listening dreamily. She then clicked a picture of my tongue much to my horror – all of my mouth was painted in bright orange. Too many girls around. I couldn’t afford to look like an idiot. She had the time of her life, laughing at how much I could crib about my hair style and all my choices of sun shades that we tried to shop for me. We went through the movie hall waiting lobby, walked through practically all the floors, staring out through all the windows. Do women find pleasure in proving men that they are always right and not listening to them makes us men wrong? This one sure seemed to have some weird fun in telling me that I should’ve listened to her. It was raining cats and dogs outside and there was no way we could venture out of the mall. She had wanted to go to the beach and it didn’t look like she was looking forward to a drenching ride. We went down to the ground floor, to the centre of the mall where a gigantic Christmas tree stood with many hanging stream lights falling from the ceiling. It looked like all the kids less than 3 years of age in the city had been brought to that very place then. I was only too delighted to go clicking each of their cute expressions. She sat on some bench, tired of walking around for hours together.
I should admit that it was absolute delight bringing to use my 46k worth camera. I shifted lenses and for the next half an hour, I was lost in my own world. Occasionally, she would tag at my collar, looking at some adorable kid – her cue to me, asking me to click a picture of the kid she was looking at. I took some shots of her too, when she was posing for me and when she was dreamily look away somewhere. After what seemed like forever, the rain subsided and we decided to rush to the beach in between. Standing at the counter to pay the parking fee, I looked around at a couple walking beneath a single umbrella and wished I could capture that moment. When you become the owner of a camera, at least for a few months, the world seems to be arranged in various frames for you, waiting to be captured by you. I went around searching for the right route. I saw the tiny hotel that lay right across the street from the western side of the mall where I had had breakfast for the 2 years of my stay at Chennai. Only the board looked shinier now with a new coat of paint and I wondered silently how this huge mall had sprung up there all of a sudden.
Finding myself the right road, I felt at home, driving through lanes that I had lost touch with, those that had frozen in my memories that were now 2 years old. At that moment, I forgot about the girl on my bike, about the people in my life, about the responsibilities that governed me. Chennai was experiencing the best weather of the year and I accelerated even more, slowly taking in all the surroundings that then seemed to exist with a new shine after the showers. It somehow existed in the male adrenaline to enjoy the higher numbers of the speed factor. I had fun looking at the speedometer rising and falling every now and then. The beach welcomed me. It was hardly six in the evening and it was already growing dark. I parked my bike along the road adjacent to the beach sand and got myself an orange ice-cream bar. She pointed towards a bajji stall and jumped excitedly, running towards it even before I could catch up with her. I looked around at the waves there and she was visibly happy to be there. We ordered some and I took hold of my camera again, giving my bag to her.
I went around, running behind couples at a safe distance, capturing anything from human beings to crows to dust bins. She sat there in a small plastic chair clutching my bag tightly, shivering visibly and trying to eat an onion bajji. It was fun watching her to that. She hardly seemed to know how to eat it. I should admit, it was extremely tasty and hot, just the right thing to eat in the climate. We walked right to the waves under her blue umbrella, the winds accelerating to the wailing forties. At the sight of the waves, she ran into the water, making footprints on the wet beach sand. It was pure delight for me, capturing her, the waves, the rain clouds. I made her pose for a few pictures and she screamed in delight at my annoyed face when the waves refused to spare my branded shoes. Only I knew that those were my only pair of socks for the next 2 days as well. After she satisfyingly wrote our names on the beach sand and took one last glance at it, we walked back towards the bike. It was almost completely dark by then save for the street lights and a few ice-cream stands that were minimal on that rainy day. She was walking bare foot next to me, happy all over. As she tried to put on her sandals somewhere in between, she extended her hand towards me. I stood there wondering what I was supposed to do. “Hold my hand you idiot!” she said and I immediately extended mine and understood she needed it for balancing as she put on her footwear. Instinctively, I wrapped my left arm across her shoulder and held her close to me. Now that I think of it, I don’t have any clue how I did what I did do at that moment but it somehow felt right. I started the bike and she got on. I sped through the roads again, the rain starting to pour slowly. She directed me around and I filled her in with more stories of myself. I could feel her right hand gripping my shoulder tightly. It gave me a rush to speed on. The grip froze right there as if he hand was bound to my shoulder. Her fingers hardly moved.
At one point, I was beginning to wonder if she was guiding me through all the wrong ways just to prolong the ride and I asked it aloud too. In a way, I didn’t mind it. The ride was easily moving up to the top ten best rides of the year. I didn’t mind it, apart from the fact that the drizzle was settling down at a more regular pace and my fingers were going numb. I stooped the bike at what seemed to be the last signal near her house and what seemed to be the longest as well. I rested my left elbow on her leg and thought about the day. Beautiful it sure had been. We went to the MC Donald’s nearby and only while leaving from there it struck me that we had no picture of us together taken for that day. My friend who had come to meet us there clicked a few snaps of us as she sat snugly next to me, my arms around her shoulder and her head resting against mine – I am definitely a few inches taller than her. I walked her to the lane nearby and told her to be safe and text me after she reached home. She nodded and hugged me goodbye at the same spot where I had waved at her a few months ago.
Somewhere in the night, around 12, when I was messaging her and reflecting on the day, I admitted that though I had spoken so much to her, everything that was about me and my life, it still felt like there was a lot more to share, a lot more to discuss about and I had no clue why. She told me that she was extremely happy that I had hardly used the phone when I was with her. That was something, I noted for myself. Between some text regarding how the day had been, she had dozed off. Eventually, I did too.
The next day seemed to be my nightmare hangover. I had to get back to Bangalore and get back to work. The cold outside was freezing me and I did not like it in the least when my office id wouldn’t let me login to work from home. My junior - Jun – starts messaging me and trying to calm me down. I grab a cup of hot coffee and settle down in front of my laptop, arranging enough pillows and bedspreads around me. A message pops on my screen: Have you ever dreamt of how your date should be, with the girl you would like to spend the rest of your life with? I smile. Of course, I smile. I want to take her to a mall, be myself, talk with her about me, never pretend to be anything that I am not, maybe have lunch with her and spend a quiet evening with her. My Jun hums.
I go back to the refrigerator to check if there’s any dairy milk silk left in there to on much on while I wait for someone from office to respond regarding the login problem I was facing. I come and read my last message on screen and some realization strikes. Some girls are not the same after all.
P.s: I have tried to write through a different perspective for the first time. Hope I have done at least a little justice to the same.
Photography Courtesy: Fahad Y Mohammed.
~ Just Someone.