28th July 2010, Airport Road, Bangalore, 10.00 a.m…..
“Damn! Another red signal- another 3 minutes lost! That too on a day when I am already late for office! Murphy loves me!” muttered Ashok under his breath, as his car lined up in the huge Bangalore traffic pile-up on Airport road, resembling a snake lying lazily on the ground, with its coils wrapped in a hap-hazard fashion on the ground. He was working for a telecom engineering firm, and was one of the stars for his company. Bright and energetic, he was an integral part of the R&D team which churned out products according to client specifications, as well as developed new products for the market. Ashok had joined the firm 5 years back straight from engineering college, it was the place he had always wanted to be in, and where he could fully use his engineering knowledge and had a free hand in a product development environment.
Today morning was a chaos at home- Radhika, his wife of two years, had her cousin sister come over at their place, along with her family of her hen-pecked husband, and hen-pecking kids, and their normally calm and quiet house was resembling a madhouse, what with the brattish kids screaming and dancing around right from early morning, Ashok having woken up to their piercing shrieks and mournful wails, interspersed with each other rhythmically! The entire morning, set meticulously to every minute of the clock, had gone awry, and Ashok somehow managed to squeeze out of the house half an hour late, Radhika having decided to take the day off from her bank HR role.
Ashok was cursing his luck and those stuck around him in the jam, when a black Santro pulled up in the minutest of gaps alongside him, narrowly escaping scraping his car. He shot an irritated glance sideways, and was about to deliver an obscenity to the rogue driver, when his eyes fell on the driver- and he couldn’t speak another word- it was Sonia!
3rd June 2001, SVCE, Bangalore, 9.00 a.m.
“All fuchha boys stand on the left, with one hand in the air, another holding your ears, and girls, stand on the right, one hand holding your ear, another on your mouth! Good, now girls, blow kisses to the boys, and each boy will catch one kiss from the air, and tell which girl’s kiss he caught. If he is wrong, which we seniors will decide, the boy has to run around the ground in his undies! Now start!”
And thus started the strange spectacle of a group of first year engineering girls blowing kisses to the boys, who started catching them as if catching flies from the air. After the acrobatics ended, the fun started with the seniors singling out the boys, and taking their turns at ragging them. “Hey you! Yes you, with the spectacles, come here!” A shy, gangling boy hesitantly stepped forward, afraid to make eye contact with the seniors. “You look like you have stolen something! You pathetic creature! Come here and undress!” The boy was by now close to tears, and hearing this, they came streaming down his face. “Why don’t you leave him alone! Can’t you see he is crying? What kind of behavior is this? Or do you want to impress the girls by this stupidity?” Everybody turned their heads to see where that came from, and found a petite girl, with ponytailed hair, a pretty face and defiant eyes, seething in anger, standing among the first year girls group. “And who are you, Rani Lakshmi Bai?” bellowed the senior guy. “Who I am is none of your business, but if you don’t want me to go and complain to the hostel warden right now about this, let him go!” This did the trick, all the seniors were afraid of the strict warden, who only last year had expelled two from their senior batch owing to complaints of ragging. They let the boy go, but the others had to stay back for some more treatment. He looked up at the girl, with a shy smile on his lips, and their eyes met, for the first time. “Thank you” he murmured, and she replied with a sweet smile, and thus they met- Ashok Shaw and Sonia Fernandes, first year telecom engineering students at the prestigious SVCE.
5th June 2001, SVCE, Bangalore, 9.30 a.m.
First class of the first semester, and that too Quants, Ashok was thrilled to bits, this was what he had chose engineering for- he adored mathematics, and wanted to be a telecom engineer and use his mathematical acumen in developing more and more improved products. He rushed to class, only to find to his dismay it had already started! “Sorry sir” he mumbled to the teacher who gave him a stern look, and told him to come in and sit down. He looked around, all seats were taken except one- the one next to Sonia. He quickly moved over and took the seat, smiling nervously at her. “Hi” she flashed her smile at him. The class started. This was the first time in his life he was sitting next to a girl, studying that he had in an all-boys’ school. He was feeling a bit uncomfortable, and started shifting in his seat nervously. “Are you feeling okay?” she whispered over to him, leaning across, making him catch a wisp of her sweet fruity perfume. “Ah, yes, am..am.. fine”, the perfume, the smile, the girl next to him, were taking his mind away from the exciting quants problem being solved on the board. “Steady Ashok, you have come here to study!” he told himself, and sternly looked ahead towards the board, making an expression that made Sonia giggle out loud. “Who is that?” shouted the professor, “Is that you, young lady? Please leave my class right now!” Sonia looked at Ashok, sadness in her eyes, and got up slowly. “Um, wait, sir, it was me who was talking to her” blurted out Ashok. “What am I doing? Have I gone mad?” But it was too late, both were sent out of the class.
“Sorry Ashok, it was my fault. But why did you have to say that to sir?” Sonia looked at him. “Anyways, now that we’re out, and we have almost an hour to go, lets go to the canteen and have some coffee and pakoras. What say?” Ashok was hesitant, “Oh come on” she pulled his hand along with her, making him feel extremely awkward, but something inside him pushed him along with the girl. That day, they chatted for two hours, missing the next class in the process, but Ashok’s guilt was overtaken by his desire to be with this bubbly girl, who was in every way his polar opposite.
The next two months saw their friendship deepening, and gradually they became the best of friends. They started hanging out together everywhere, all of Ashok’s boundaries were simply washed away by this sweet talkative girl. He started enjoying things he never thought he would enjoy, he began to live, laugh and run, he began to enjoy every moment of life!
21st April 2002, SVCE, Bangalore, 4 p.m.
“What are you looking at?” asked Sonia, with a smile adorning her sweet face. “Uhh, nothing, think there’s something on your face”, mumbled Ashok, as they sat on the steep rockface near to their college, on the highway. “Oh really? What is it?” she asked, mock concern in her voice. “You know, Sonia, there is something I have been wanting to tell you for some time”, “Ok, what is it Ash?” only she used this name for him, and it made him feel special. “Umm, well, nothing, leave it”, “Oh come on Ash, I know when you want to say something important, stop tweedling your thumbs and say it”. “Ok Ashok, here you go” he thought to himself, took a deep breath, looked at Sonia’s deep eyes, and as usual, got lost in them! “Ah Sonia, eh, umm, would you, I mean, would you like to, umm, would you like to….”, “Yes, Ash, I would love to be your girlfriend!” she shouted out, holding his hand, they looked at each other, with the sun setting behind them, it seemed the entire world had come to a standstill, they had forgotten who they were, where they were, everything around them had ceased to exist. Their lips met, and for the first time in both their lives, they kissed.
They went back to their hostel hand-in-hand, not to their respective rooms, but to Sonia’s room, which was empty as her roommate was away for a week. That night, they made love, two young adults discovering their sexuality and their bodies, how they reacted to each other’s touch and that night, they lost their virginity. It was the best night of their lives, and they went to sleep in each other’s arms, looking out of the window at the moon, her head on his chest.
The next few years were the best in their lives. They literally stayed with each other every minute of their lives, they ate out of the same plate, sat together, studied and exchanged notes, went for long bike rides and walks with each other. The world had become beautiful, seasons brought with them different colours, rain drops falling on the thirsty soil created music, there were dreams in their eyes, love in their hearts and music in their souls. Life was complete.
3rd February 2005, S.V.C.E. Placement Office, 3 p.m.
“Hey Sonia, I have got through Telecom Solutions, my dream company!” “Oh Ash, I’m so happy for you!” she gave him a bear hug. “Where will you be placed, Ash?” “Bangalore” A glum look came over her face. “Ash, I have got through IT Horizons, location will be Delhi”. “What? Sonia, how can you do this to me? Cant you give this up and try some other company for Bangalore?” “Ash, just like you have got through your dream company, so have I, I didn’t know they were going to give me Delhi as the location” “So what, Sonia? Come on, we love each other. Why should we live away from each other? Plus..” he hesitated. “Plus what, Ash?” “Plus, I was going to ask you to marry me, Sonia” he blurted out. “What! Are you out of your mind Ash? We have not yet started earning! And why does everything need to end in marriage? Why ruin this perfect relationship?” Ashok looked at her incredulously. “Ruin? What better culmination can there be to this than marriage?” “Oh come on Ash, grow up. We aren’t kids anymore, and anyways I never had the intention of marrying you. I don’t believe in marriages, Ash. I have seen that of my parents fail, I don’t intend to go through all that!” and she stormed out of the room, leaving him shocked. He couldn’t believe what had just happened, his entire future life, which he had planned so meticulously with Sonia in it, had just shattered around him. He slowly left the room, forgetting the joy of having got through his dream company.
He left S.V.C.E. next evening, for his hometown Bhilai, from where he left for Bangalore a month later to join his dream job, minus of course a large portion of the dream that was once Sonia. He never heard from her again.
Three years later, his parents, after undertaking an extensive matrimonial search, finally zeroed in on Radhika, the beautiful, homely daughter of one of their family friends, and they got married after two months of courtship.
28th July 2010, Airport Road, Bangalore, 10.05 a.m…..
“Move, you idiot, and stop day-dreaming!” shouted out the cab driver from behind. Ashok realized he and Sonia were looking at each other for the last few minutes, and his entire past life was playing out before his eyes, on flashback. He steadied himself, started the car, shot a smile and a nod at her, which she returned duly, and looked at the road ahead. The lights had turned green, and it was time to move on………