Empty thoughts and mutterings

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is my first attempt at a short story ! Your comments will be greatly appreciated.

Vinay: A none too complicated person. Does what is expected out of him. Never a straight A’s guy. But never misses out on the B’s. Loves to play tennis and sings in his prestigious college music band. Has completed his B.E in Comp. Sc and is in the US for an M.S because all his friends thought this was Promise land. Enjoys having a beer with his friends after a hard day of work and tennis. Has a wonderful sense of humor !

Priyamvadha (Priya): Is a fun loving bubbly girl. Was in Chennai till 10 th grade. Later moved to the US because her Dad was posted in the US. Never completely made the transition. Tried going back to India to college, to see if that was what she was missing.. No. She missed her parents, sister and her new American friends more. Came running back in 6 months. Also posesses a great sense of humor.

Vinay was never a chat person and he thought it was an uncool habit. He had seen so many of his friends’ lives take big turns for the worse and he wasn’t ready to follow suit. But he was told there was a Boris Becker chat room in IRC, where BB himself came to talk to his fans once in a while. Now, that, he couldn’t pass up. That’s where he met her. It all started casually. No names were exchanged as was the culture. Some “trust” had to be built before all that. Vinay didn’t care for her name anyway. He wasn’t going to see her the next day on anyway, or so he thought. He came back the next day, just to take a peek. And she was there. And they talked again. Vinay didn’t realize this would turn into a habit. And in a matter of weeks, he was logging in between classes to see if she was online. They knew each other’s names, likes, dislikes, hobbies and all the basic stuff. Vinay liked it that she was a Becker fan, and that she knew more about Becker than he did. He loved it that she remembered the same little things in inconsequential matches that he thought only he had bothered to notice and remember.

Priya liked Vinay too. He was simple. Very trusting and very trustworthy, she thought. She never envisioned herself as a chat person too. That’s for losers she used to think. There was something missing from her life though. She had a bunch of sweet friends from high school. They hung out every once in a while. Went to parties, sleep overs. She had some good college buddies too now that she played tennis with, went to movies with. “I have a good life” she told herself in a consoling tone. But a wry involuntary smile often followed that statement. She didn’t know why. Something was missing. All of my friends like me, they enjoy my company. But they don’t know me. They like what they see of me. But they don’t see the whole me. I wish somebody did, she thought. “Is it because I don’t have a boy friend ?” she asked herself. But that wasn’t it too. A lot of good looking guys wanted to go out with her. But she wanted to go out with a guy, she could “relate to”. Now, what that “relating to” meant, she wasn’t sure.

She liked talking to Vinay. It had become clear to her that he didn’t want what every other guy in the chat room seemed to want. She would normally be very cautious when it came to divulging personal information online. But Vinay didn’t take a long time to make her feel comfortable and throw all her concerns about “Guys on the Internet” out of the window. Also, he sounded genuine. There was nothing made up or exaggerated about him. And more importantly, he had a lot of time for her. When she had a bad day, or a tired day, or even a good day, he seemed to be online and waiting to listen to it. He seemed to know just the right thing to say to every situation. As for Vinay, he was slowly getting addicted to talking to her. He spent lesser and lesser time with his friends and room mates. He didn’t know what exactly was so special about her. Was it her sense of humor? Was it because she was very sweet to him? He really didn’t have an answer. But he knew one thing for sure. The days she left her dorm to be with her parents, those were the dull days in his life! He’d wait tirelessly for her to come back.

A few weeks had passed and he had gotten her phone number because that seemed to be the logical thing to do. He was afraid to call because the mechanics of a phone conversation was different from a chat room’s. He knew that she had built a lot of respect for him and his opinion over the weeks and he didn’t want to spoil that. She had been his recreation.. his entertainment… for the past few weeks and he didn’t want one phone call to end it. “But what about her?” he thought. “What if she’s not like how she was on chat?” …”Naaah, she’d be the same sweet girl, I know it” and he quickly dismissed the idea. And so he called at 7.15 pm. He promised that he’d call at 7.00. But he didn’t want to seem anxious. To him, the “fashionably late” concept applied here too. And he was right. She was the same sweet girl. And what’s more, she made him feel comfortable too. The initial nervousness frittered away and he was himself very soon. After a 20 minute conversation, she hung up and promised to call during the weekend. That night as he lay in bed, he thought, “Hopefully she doesn’t think I sounded nervous” “Did I sound too anxious ?” “Was my tone different from what she’s used to ?”. And after a lot of analysis, he realized ” Man, why am I thinking about her so much? I never used to worry about what people thought about me. That’s just not my style. Something’s getting into me”. Right he was once again. Something was getting into him!

Priya hated people who drank alcohol. Her dad had consumed way more alcohol than he should have and she found the habit disgusting. Cool people don't drink, she thought. Vinay is cool too. But he drinks. She wanted to get him to stop. She promised to herself that she'd try. A typical friday evening chat conversation would go like this:

P: Innikku evening enna da panna pora ?

V: Onnum perisa ille. As usual. Friends oda BW3.

P: Enna beeer a ?

V: Amaam. Konjamaa.

P: Hey enakkaga innikku beer adikkaadhe da.

V: Adheppadi mudiyum priya. Pasanga ellam irupaanga.

P: Hmmm. Seri oru beer oda niruthikkanum. Okay va ?

V: Oru beer a. Adheppadi paththum priya.

P: Please da. "Enakkaaga"

V: Seri. try panren.

That night true to his promise, Vinay would stop with one beer. He would fake a cold much to his friends' confusion and irritation.

Soon the phone conversations increased in frequency. At first it was about once a week. To priya, his phone call was always a little different from everybody else’s. She wasn’t ready to categorize it as “special” just yet. But it was definitely not normal and she knew it. When she heard her room phone ring, she’d spring up from her bed hoping it’d be him. “He’s nicer on the phone than he is in the chat room” she thought. Somehow she felt it was easier to tell him things that she couldn’t tell anybody else. Because he always understood. And he always knew what exactly to say in return. “He’s so in-sync with my mind” she thought. That night as she lay in bed, she thought, “Hmmm, funny. The sad forlorn person in me has been missing for a while now. Is it him ? Did he open the doors ? Is this the person that completes me ?”. Or is it a temporary cloud ?

A few more weeks passed. Vinay and priya now acknowledged openly that they were close friends. Priya called Vinay for little things that she needed. And Vinay liked it that Priya depended on him more now. He enjoyed being that banking shoulder. Priya opened up more about her life to him and talked about her general theories of every day living. Some of these theories didn’t match up well with Vinay’s own. But he often underplayed the differences, and over played the similarities. Or that’s how he projected it to priya. And to himself. Before they knew it, their conversations were getting well into the nights. And they had started to become very close. “Hey, you sing right ? Oru paattu paaden please” she’d ask. “Phone laya ? No way…” he’d say. “Enakkaaga paaden please” she’d beg. “I’ve never sung on the phone for anyone in my life” he’d say. He hated it when people asked him to sing. Even in a gathering. He always felt shy. When a situation arose, he’d feign a cough or a fever and escape. “Enakkaaaga” she begged one more time. His heart melted every time she said “enakkaaga”. And so he gave in.

“Ennavale, adi ennavale, yen idhayathai tholaithu vitten
Endha idam adhu tholaindha idam andha edathayum marandhu vitten
Undhan kaal golusil…”

From that day on, he sang a song to her every night. She wouldn’t hang up otherwise.

His room mates Subodh and Nari had become suspicious of his activity and sensed that their infallible buddy had fallen prey. They kept asking him “Enna da, maattikitte pola irukke” And he’d say “ille machi, nalla friends avlo dhaan”. But both Nari and Subodh knew, that something in vinay had changed. Was it for his good ? They weren’t sure”.

Priya’s long awaited tennis tournament in abu dhabi was coming up. She had been given the wild card to play in the singles event. This was going to be the make or break tournament in her tennis career. However the trip or the stay was not funded by the tournament sponsors. Priya had toiled hard with the university to help her with the travel expenses. But she still needed a place to stay in abu dhabi. The hotels for 10 days would come out to be very expensive. She had to find somebody that could house her for a week. Vinay knew that Nari’s parents lived in Abu Dhabi and would be happy to host her. “But Nari’s a flirtatious guy. What if he …..?” he started to think. “No, No, don’t be silly, you know priya too well for that, shut up” he said to himself, almost guilty that he had these thoughts. . And so the next time he spoke to priya, he mentioned to her that Nari might be able to help her. She was excited and extremely thankful. The arrangements were done. “Can I talk to Nari” she asked. “Sure, here ..330-376-2427, this is his number, call him” said vinay.

After 10 long days of waiting, Priya comes back home fro Abu Dhabi. Vinay had called her but she was too sleepy. So he said he’d call back the next morning. Subodh asked Vinay during dinner, if he knew what happened to her tournament. Vinay said “No, not yet, she’s sleeping, haven’t talked to her yet, will call her tomorrow”. In the mean time Nari quips casually “She lost in the 4 th round to the eventual champion. She called me like an hour back”. Vinay’s heart stopped for a second. He looked at Nari surprised. He was hurt for a few minutes, but he sat down, thought about it, gave the benefit of the doubt to circumstances and moved on.

Priya took a few days to recover from her arduous journey. Vinay had realized in the 10 days that he did really like her and life without her was miserable. The 10 days helped him understand how special this relationship was to him and he was now determined to make more out of the relationship than he had originally planned for. So he was waiting for her to return. Priya’s tiredness and jet lag severely limited vinay’s phone time with her.Involuntarily he had started to monitor Nari’s phone calls. He thought he had heard a girl’s voice at the other end a couple of these times. “But Nari rarely speaks to girls on the phone. What if..”. he thought. “Don’t be paranoid” told his inner self. He was even tempted to pick up Nari’s phone in his absence and look at the phone log. He stopped himself just in time. One of those days, Priya had increased his suspicion, when they were on the phone. She had said “It’a nari on the other line. Can I call you back”. Vinay did not know how to react. “He managed “Okay…..sure” and hung up. He tried to treat every suspicious instance like it was going to be the last. But heart of hearts, he knew that wasn’t the case.

He decided that he was going to tell her how he felt about her. He knew that it may not be the solution. But he had to do this. For him. He had started to feel miserable and he could not put his mind on anything he was doing. And this was his only way out. “Funny how when you’re in a mess, the wrong way out is often your only way out” he thought. He knew heart of hearts that this was a losing effort, but he still became ready for it. And so he called her and told her that he needed to talk to her about something important and asked her what would be a good time. “We can talk now da chellam” he hoped she’d say, as she usually did, before Abu Dhabi. Instead it was “How about 9.15”. He said “Okay I’ll call then” and hung up. So he went to his lab (so he could talk to her in privacy) and called her form there at 9.15. They had barely started to talk when she got another call, and told him “hey, it’s from another friend, can I call you back da”. He said “Fine”. He was very disappointed with her, because he had mentioned to her how important this was. But he hung up and waited for her call. 2 hours had passed and no signs of a call yet. So he tried calling her, She wouldn’t pick up. He was so determined to clean his heart out today, that it didn’t matter how long it was going to take. He was going to wait and finish this right here. Right now !

1 AM. 2.00 AM. 3.00 AM….no response. Did she fall asleep ? No. If she had, I would have gotten her room’s voice mail. She was on the phone. At 4.30 Am, after giving up all hopes, Vinay started his slow walk back home. On reaching home, he saw Nari’s room lit. He made a connection there. But his love for Priya, would not allow him to convict her yet. So he walked up to the door, and just before he knocked, put his ear to the door and listened….

He heard Nari’s muffled voice.

Nari: ille ma, innum thookkam varale. Onakku varale ?

Other side: ………………………………….

Nari: Inge ellarum thoongiyaachu. In fact indha country laye ellarum thoongiyaachu. Neeeyum naanum mattum dhaan da priya kutti.

Vinay was distraught ! But he still wanted to make sure he had heard it right. Did he say “Priya kutti” or was it something else ?

Nari: Paatta, enakku adhellam paada varaadhe priya kutti.

This time it was clear. Vinay held his forehead. He thought he was going to Burst into flames ! This was the worst moment in his life.

Nari: Seri enna paattu sollu….

Other side: ……………………..

Nari: Hmmm….naan seriya paada maatten, irundhaalum nee kekkaraye nu try panren

“Ennavale adi ennavale yen idhayathai tholaithu vitten
Endha idam adhu tholaindha edam andha edathayum marandhu vitten”