“Sorry, but I don’t talk to strangers.”
I smile as these words play over and over in my head without any sign of tiring anytime soon. Apparently, The Girl from Dihan never disappoints her mother by disobeying her. The Girl from Dihan never talks to strangers.
But she certainly does add them on Facebook.
She would make a wonderful mother herself. “Kids, don’t talk to strangers. But you may add them on Facebook. But don’t you dare talk to them.”
A wonderful mother indeed.
My imagination, which is planning to run wild and crazy, is heartlessly shot down by the unintentionally insensitive words of an asshole of a friend, Nirodh.
Nirodh is his nickname.
Nirodh, the brand of condoms the government supplies for free at your local health center.
No matter how shitty life decides to show you that it can be, he will always come by to make it all look like cakewalk. He’s that kind of a guy. Two parts asshole, one part maniac, and two parts homie. Not the best of combinations, but he is what I am looking for. What I need. But today, he’s more like four parts asshole and one part maniac.
It all adds up fine in the end.
“So what’s the plan?” Nirodh asks, kicking me out of my dream space. I look at him, shrug, and look the other way, hoping I’ll find the words that will describe exactly what it is that I’m going through right then. The road is deserted and we are the only two living souls on the sidewalk that Sunday evening, idling away our much anticipated and hard earned weekend after three weeks of germ infested internship. After all, we are ‘scrubs’.
“She avoids me,” I say, borrowing the cigarette he holds between the index and middle fingers of his right hand. I look at the bike that whizzes past us as I bring the poison close to my lips. Two deep puffs and I let the nicotine embalm my insides as I breathe in the thick fog. My lungs let out a silent wail as I slowly burn them inch by inch. Come to think of it, I am a masochist.
Nirodh scoffs in reply, murmurs something inaudible, which I am sure is aimed at my spine. I shake my head grinning as I let the smoke out slowly. Things they say are bad for you always feel better than their counterpart.
The Girl from Dihan realized my existence sixteen months back to be precise. It was coincidental to be honest. Or was it brutally unintentional? I still am not sure. Whatever it was, it did happen, and sixteen months later, here I am, still trying desperately to get through, while the person on the other end of the line seems to have hung up. Not that I had not tried to make contact with her; I did and I had fucked up, miserably.
Nirodh isn’t aware. And I plan to keep it that way.
There are the know-it-all intellectuals that we love to hate. And then there is Aashaan. Aashaan, though he never looks the part, makes up for whatever he lacks in the physical department with his oversized mental department. Aashaan is always the brains of our operations.
Aashaan always has answers, no matter how much he coats it obnoxiously in self-love, end of the day, he means no harm. He cares. And even though we all get that in bits and pieces, it still is a chip of a truth that is well hidden to say the least.
I sit in his room, sharing the munchies we bought the other day. Our stipends for the month of January are finally out, and it is only April.
It could have been worse.
Rob Thomas blares on the stereo.
This is How A Heart Breaks.
‘AASHAAAANNN!!!’ I blare over it sounding louder than I plan to.
Aashaan doesn’t budge. He knows exactly where this conversation is heading. I never call him by that moniker for free. It always follows with something that is very ‘trivial’ in his words. Well, those are his words. Like everything else that comes before. Aashaan is ‘cool’. Aashaan is ‘class’. And when it comes to advice, the Aashaan is good. And that never comes free.
He sings that notorious song when I say her name, the way he teases me whenever her topic comes up. I smile shaking my head in disbelief and calm him down with my middle finger and decide to carry on. Aashaan knows about The Girl From Dihan. More or less. More than Nirodh, less than Nice Guy. I don’t know what he thinks but he never says anything against it. He was the one who told me to make contact seven months back. In person. It isn’t easy to confront her when she is alone because that could easily turn creepy. And she is never alone. The only time she did turn out so was that one time in Surgery ward. And that did not end as expected. I had attendance to make up and hence was sitting with my juniors who were three years younger to me, they were having their first posting and I hopefully my last. Call it coincidence. Call it destiny (forgive the hopeless romantic in me). I don’t know, I had three days to do and it was obvious that she was aware of my presence from the roll calls we had at the start of the session. Day 1 was pathetic. Day 2 followed suite.
Day 3 however was kind enough to gift me with that awkward encounter.
‘Honestly? She ain’t worth all that attitude she throws at you.’
I laugh out loud.
‘I understand playing hard to get, and I for one enjoy that for all the challenge it gives. I’m surprised you are still playing this game. We both know how much you hate attitude.’, he goes on.
He is right. I should have stopped singing a long time ago. But here I am, still crooning continuously for the past fourteen months. With a smile on my face.
That isn’t supposed to be me. I am supposed to lose interest within six months.
‘The Six Month Limitation’ as Simi-sama puts it.
Maybe Aashaan doesn’t have all the answers. Or maybe the answer is staring at me all this while and I don’t have the balls to face it.
I can’t take it! I can’t take it! I can’t take it!
You sneaky son-of-a-bitch, you.
It is a running joke among my friends, the million and one names we make for Anish. And Cowboy is one among the more polite ones. Cowboy is the tallest among us. He sings, he dances (in secret). He has a huge fan following. Yes, he is popular. In fact he is the only one in our gang who isn’t famous for all the wrong reasons (Aashaan would disagree with this but who cares what Aashaan thinks, this is my story, and when I’m offered the chance to narrate, I rather go for ‘unreliable’ than ‘based on actual events’).
Cowboy is the complete package, sans the lactose intolerance that plagues his bowels and our senses. The silent ones are the deadliest.
I’m sorry I said that. I know I can go back.
I choose not to.
The fact that Cowboy is friendly with The Girl From Dihan does not come off as a surprise. Well, alright it does. To an extent. The fact that she is alright in conversing with him and shooting down my advances which are indeed genuine does not hurt my feelings, it murders them. And I make it a point to never make that obvious.
There is this joke. A guy meets a girl. Not “meets” meets, but yeah he does and he is smitten. He tries to find ways to approach her. He doesn’t find any so he does the next logical thing: make his own way. Create opportunities. Trace the right steps towards her. He realizes he is still right where he started, thanks to his sociopathic nature of shutting every soul out. So what does he do next? He turns to a bunch of no gooders like himself whom he calls ‘friends’ in the hour of need. Does that go well? Does it ever? No, he doesn’t realize its a game of snakes and shitholes. And each time the dice rolls, he believes he’s been swallowed by the biggest one only to be proved wrong by every other throw that follows.
If that’s the joke, then I am indeed the butt of it.
Cowboy agrees to talk to her. After all, the girls love him.
And she never talks to strangers.
My attendance shortage of 18 hours could be bought at a fixed price of three working days. There is no alternate offer in sight and the only choice, available on the table is to sit there and take it. I don’t fancy Surgery. I just don’t like it, that’s all. Medicine, yes. But Surgery? No thank you. So I guess fate is indeed having a laugh when I am posted here to clear my above mentioned. But I guess it does come with its perks. Fate really isn’t planning to be a total son of a bitch you know. Because among the juniors, there she sits. Second row, from the professor’s bench.
A reply to all my desperate prayers?
More like a ‘I’ve had it with these motherfucking requests from this motherfucking dipshit’.
Three working days.
It is horrible. It is like whatever that is in my skull does not want to follow whatever that beats inside my chest. Not that I’m trying to be dramatic here, but yeah.
Day 1: pathetic.
Day 2: Refer Day 1.
Day 3 however is kind enough to gift me with this awkward encounter.
We meet at the door, as we try to get out of the rush, both moving for the door at the same time. It is unintentional. It is all because of the commotion that surrounds us. And there we are, standing opposite, frozen for a moment or two, unsure on who should leave first. I smile as I take a step back looking at her. But our eyes never meet. Hell, there she is looking away as she drags her feet out of the seminar room.
Yes. She walks dragging her feet. The same way I do all these years.
And there I stand, smiling stupidly.
There is this talk among my friends, on how hilariously absent minded I am. I’m the embodiment of absent mindedness. The true king. Hell, if the Greeks had a God for absent mindedness, he would worship me.
Yes, I am that bad.
‘Excuse me’, I croak, sounding like a horny eighth grader.
So much for all the rehearsals in front of the mirror for the past one month. So much for trying to sound calm, sophisticated and confident. So much for all the charisma I imagined that would flow out of my mouth as I opened it to speak. The only things flowing today were my gastric juices and that growing sense of dread in my heart that had decided, now was the best time to come up and sit in my mouth.
Thank the heavens I don’t die of a stroke.
She looks at me, unmoved.
There I stand, like a log with nothing but air in my head, wondering whether it will be alright if I turn and run the other way. The Girl from Dihan has made my legs weak. It is her fault that I am here.
It is her fault that I cannot leave.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
Calm. Confident. Sophisticated.
So much for that.
‘Did you ask?’
‘All that I asked you to?’
‘Dude, she’s not your type.’
Simi-sama gives me that look, that look that I have grown accustomed to over the past few years. She too is friends with The Girl from Dihan. Come to think of it, the whole world is friends with her except me. That kind of makes me feel special in a way that I certainly do not want to feel. Simi-sama has been against the whole idea from day one. Not that I am expecting any support from her, but she could at least pretend that she is trying.
“Six months. I give you six months before you walk out of this shitpickle,” she swears. ‘It’s been so all these years, and it isn’t gonna change now. You see someone, you stalk her profile day and night, dream all these scenarios in that hollow head of yours that you are certain will never happen, end up being a douche in the end when she rejects you. All in the span of six fucking months. And then you find someone new, and the whole cycle repeats’.
The Six Month Limitation.
I exhale tiredly, looking sideways first then at the steering wheel as we both wait for her train in my car. She is going home for Christmas and I am at the station to drop her off. For some reason, I cannot find the courage to face her this time. Yes, she is staring, and is waiting to make eye contact patiently. I finally decide to face her and get this over with.
It’s different this time, I begin.
Sure, she retorts.
‘I’m serious’, my voice slowly losing it’s coolness.
Six months –, she pities.
It’s almost a year, I cut her off, as I stare angrily at her. Somehow I have managed to win our argument just by saying that. She opens her mouth to say something but thinks the better of it.
Probably thinks I’m not worth it.
But I am being honest; it’s been almost a year now. I’ve somehow broken her so called ‘Six Month Limitation’. I wonder if all this silence is because I have proven her wrong, or the realization of the fact that she can be proven wrong. Simi-sama is a good friend.
But she is also a bitch. A stubborn, and unforgiving one at that.
‘Fine then, what do you want?’
‘Do you have her number?’
‘Why do you want her number?’
“Simply”, I say sounding more coy than I intend to.
She stares for a moment before saying,
“You know what, I couldn’t care less.” She sends me You-Know-Who’s details via WhatsApp . I grin as my phone lights up with another notification. She opens the car door and leaves with a curt ‘Merry Christmas’.
As I drive my way back, I wonder where it is that I’m going with this. Getting a girl’s number in one of the worst possible ways I can imagine, distancing a friend who is the only one who cares for me from the opposite sex in the process, utilizing her to get ahead. Hell, I don’t think I have been this serious since grade school. Am I that seriously smitten?
Or am I that pathetic and desperate?
Two days later I decide to text her.
If there ever is time travel, this would be the moment I would wish to travel back to.
The moment I decided to text her, instead of calling. The moment I decided to get her number from Simi-sama. The moment I decided to screw this all up.
Too many moments.
Too many bad decisions.
Fuck this shit.
No regrets, whatsoever.
Me and Nice Guy have a lot in common. We are assholes in disguise. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. The only difference being that I show my true nature once in a while, while his stays dormant.
Nice Guy likes to listen.
Nice Guy loves to observe the world through his camera lens.
Nice Guy laughs at his own jokes.
Nice Guy is not popular.
Nice Guy is a needle in a haystack.
So here I am sending screenshots of my one sided conversations with The Girl From Dihan. Ever since she’s blocked me on WhatsApp, I inbox her on Facebook once in a while. She is the silent type with me. Its always been so. And I don’t know, I guess I’m kinda used to it by now.
I call it being persistent.
You might call it a million other things.
None of them good, I am certain.
July 25, 19:35
The next time we meet by accident, I hope you smile. That look you gave me today, something tells me I’m the big bad wolf on your friendship scale.
Very intense. 🙂
August 7, 15:45
Hey, I’ve been wondering for quite a while now. I pretty much have got nothing to anymore so here goes:
Why can’t you and I be friends? I know you and I got off on the wrong foot, and I have been nothing but a creep to you (unintentional). Yeah I know you don’t talk to strangers, but look at me!
Do I look harmful? *amused*
Did I sound desperate back there?
Did this seem long?
Again, unintentional. 🙂
August 15, 22:03
There is this book that I read about a year ago. Where the protagonist writes letters to Richard Gere, the actor. Sort of like buddies. Sort of like a correspondence. No Richard Gere does not know the protagonist, nor does he respond to these letters. The protagonist uses them as a coping device, to deal with his mother’s loss. Kind of relatable.
No, my mother’s alive.
No, we ain’t buddies.
And no, you are not Richard Gere.
But this does feel like a correspondence.
And it makes me smile.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick.
Try it. 🙂
October 1, 00:00
The Memories app by Facebook is more embarrassing than nostalgic in my humble opinion. It reminds you how big of a douche you have been over the years.
The status updates.
Still, amusing. I must admit. 🙂
Nice Guy is probably facepalming right now. Or feeling intimidated by the sheer idea of a contender for the world’s longest essay writer.
You’re not the only one, Nice Guy.
The truth is, nothing ever happens according to plan. You either improvise or just leave it as it is. It’s always Expectations V/S Reality. Like in that movie I saw the other day. And then come the questions. And everybody wants answers.
Who was she?
What did you see in her?
Where is Dihan?
I have nothing.
Its been quite a while. I always think of this as something I had to experience myself. This isn’t about not giving up or being annoying. The whole world got to meet her from time to time. Sometimes at the canteen, sometimes at our local bus stop, sometimes at our go-to mall. But us, we never got to meet each other. Maybe that’s the sole reason we remain strangers. I don’t exactly know what it is that I saw in her. Was it beauty? Was it the fact that she was hard to get? Was it the part where she was witty and wild? I find all that superficial, reasons enough for nothing but infatuation. Nothing more, nothing less.
Maybe it was my thrill in discovering something new. The joy in getting to know someone new. Yes, I did open up to her. Yes, it was me who called her up one night, and asked her to listen to me calmly. She did say she wasn’t interested. She did tell me it was nothing personal. She did point out that she never lead me on. I don’t think she ever realized that the only thing that mattered to me was that she never ceased to make me smile. Even though I have never made her feel the same way.
Was it love?
Maybe it was just friendship I was looking for after all.
I can never be Matthew Quick.
And don’t you dare compare me with Chetan Bhagat, I will murder you in your sleep.
“There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.”
– Lawrence Durell
Love her: checked.
Suffer humiliation: checked
Turn her into literature: Haha.
What now, Mr. Durell?