IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN: THE GIFT FOR MY FIRST CRUSH
"Okay. I understand. Just calm down. I will do something," I assured her. How else do you console someone who had a breakup twenty minutes ago and chooses you to share her feelings with. I imagined the smoky eyes that must have been red and swollen up. Her sniffing after every word said it all. I said that I will do something but I didn't know what I'll do.
Just then, Sid called me. I thought what to say but could find nothing reasonable so I received his call with a usual HELLO. He said, "How are you? Am I disturbing you right now?" He was being too gentleman so I doubted his state. I finally said, " I am fine. Why are you being so formal?" He replied, " I am fine. Come to my place. I have a story for you author" and hung up.
He tried his best to sound normal. I decided to meet him because he usually called me at the roundabout near the Momo stalls. We would relish chicken momos and fight for the last momo and by this time, his problem was generally solved. It was something different this time, maybe something serious. I booked an OLA cab and reached his house twenty minutes later.
As he opened the door, he gave me a bear hug and my well ironed crisp linen shirt was crushed. He was behaving strange. His hair was fussier than ever, his eyes were bloodshot and he was in his Pink T-shirt which had the words TOGETHER written on it. I saw him head to toe and said, " You look like shit."
"Thanks," he replied. I was now getting scared by his behaviour. Usually he would have shaken hands with me and punched me after the comment. The last time his behaviour changed was when he failed to crack JEE MAINS and we had hard time to cheer him up. But this time, he looked suicidal.
I sat on the sofa and said, " Where are your parents? "
"Out of Patna. I go to my Uncle for lunch," he said. I saw a box of Pizza Hut thrown under the table.
"I didn't know you have an Uncle," I said. He didn't reply. I heard the sound of metal cap of a glass bottle being opened. Then another. He came back with two beer bottles. He kept one in front of me and said, "Cheers!"
"You know I don't drink."
"Have it for my sake. Please," he insisted. I wondered if he jumped out of the balcony, what reasons can I give to the police to prove my innocence. I took the bottle but didn't drink it. The bottle touched my lips and went back without the content kissing me.
"What is the story you told me about?" I said. He was looking away. I noticed the vase on the table missing. I repeated my question. He said, "Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. They can't live without each other. Breakup. Story finished."
"Brother, are you trying to make me bankrupt? It has been written about, read and hated by millions and one of those millions is sitting in front of you."
"I knew it. You are one in a million. I am proud of you," he said.
"I didn't say that, you idiot. Where is Rishika's photograph? It used to be there," I said, pointing to the nail on a bare wall.
"Threw it away. Haven't you seen Jab We Met? You should burn the girl's photo," he said. His bottle was half empty.
"Okay. Tell me the story again but this time with details. You can use your name and Rishika's name if you want to," I said.
"That's why I called you. I knew none of my friends will understand but you got it. I know only you can understand because you are an expert in these matters. You had a breakup so you can understand me," he said.
Maybe he did it unknowingly but it hurt nevertheless. He brought back the memories. I took the bottle and took a real sip. It went in my oesophagus burning all the way. My cellphone rang and he began ranting, " Cut the stupid phone. I hate this damn device."
"I'll talk to you later," I said and put the phone down but didn't hang up. Maybe I might need the person to save this friend of mine with a pot belly and pig-like nose. "Fine. Begin your story from the beginning," I told him.
"It was the month of July. I was born in Kurji Holy Family..."
"Not from that beginning asshole. When you met her," I corrected him.
"Don't interrupt. Listen silently..." I noticed his empty bottle and quickly switched it with mine. He didn't notice the change and began gulping down the beer from the second bottle. I waited him to begin. He said," I saw her in the 8th standard, even before I saw you. But see you are here and she is gone."
"Let's stick to your story," I said. I was in no mood of getting involved in the story.
"Fine brother. Don't interrupt my story. I saw her in my classroom and was awestruck. I had heard about her from Aryan. I thought he was overreacting but when I saw her, I felt strange. It was not a love at first sight but I felt a serious attraction for her. Finally, I gathered courage to talk to her."
His phone rang but he didn't pick it up. I reached for it. It was Shekhar. I picked it up and was shocked by the voice," You jerk. Why are you trying to act smart? You asshole, just because she loves you doesn't mean you'll act smart. You are a true swine. She isn't talking to her sissy and her sissy is pissing me off. Now talk to her or I'll kill you."
"Dude, it's me."
"Abhi? Sorry bro. Where is that swine?"
"What if his Dad picked up the call the next time you abuse him?"
"Even his Dad knows about it. Where are you all?"
"I'm coming right now," he said and hung up. I turned to Sid and said, "Mate. Shekhar is coming to speak for his future sister-in-law. Anyways, continue."
"Yes. So I talked to her. I don't remember what we talked about but it didn't matter. I was looking for reasons to talk to her. My friends used to rate girls on hotness quotient. Though she was rated 8 because of the ease with which she made friends with boys, I feel she was too high to be rated by these boys who themselves looked like peasants in front of her."
“We were growing closer day by day. Soon numbers were exchanged and friendship prospered. I had a talent which no one could doubt. I could act like an idiot. I stared at girls with the 'I-KNOW-NOTHING' look. Any other boy doing so would have been tagged as a despo but I was called funny. Once I was staring awkwardly at Apeksha and she caught me staring at her. Moreover, Aisha was laughing. She was Rishika's friend so I thought I will earn a bad name but she didn't complain."
"I used to avoid her because every time I saw her, it was like a first look. I used to feel awkward when she called me when I was with my friends. I decided to propose her before anyone else does. So I took a Dairy Milk Silk for two reasons. If she accepted, I'll give it to her and hope that she shares it with me. If she rejects, I will have it all by myself."
"You are a foodie. Can't you stop thinking about food?" I said. I remembered his rampage where he would go on a eating spree.
"Shut up. I love food and I enjoy eating. When I proposed her, it was not like those shown in movies. I didn't go on to my knees. I just said, 'I LOVE YOU' and waited for her answer. My heart was throbbing. When she said YES, it was a cocktail for me. Now I had a girlfriend but I would have to share the Dairy Milk Silk. Love is the only disease where you spend lavishly and don't want the treatment to work."
There was a knock on the door. I opened it because Sid was too busy with his beer bottle. Shekhar came in and scanned the room for Sid. Once his target was locked, he said, "PIGGU, why are you behaving like this? I won't hesitate to slap you..."
"Daaru piyega?" Sid said, offering him alcohol.
"Okay," he said. Alcohol was what these two sponge never have enough of. I had dreamt of these two drunkards turning their mother-in-law's house into a bar. Maybe they would have Vodka bottles stashed under their bed.
"Go and fetch the ice box from the kitchen," Sid said. Shekhar stood up and brought the whole ice box with many beer bootles in it. The golden liquid gleamed in their eyes and then common sense prevailed. "Where is the bottle opener?" asked Shekhar.
"Don't you have a key ring?" suggested Sid.
"Relish it later. We are here for some serious business. Sid, continue your story." I said.
"I told you not to interrupt. Now that I was in a relationship, I had to clean up. I cleaned up my stubble. I began to bathe every morning before going to school and I switched to deodorants from talcum powders. Even though we don't know it, half the teachers of our school know about our relationship status. I was the student council member of my class. One day, Sheel Ma'am told me that it is okay to make friends but if your studies suffer, I'll be the first one to inform your parents."
"I didn't remember my birthday was due next week. She called me near Saurav's house to meet in the evening. We walked ahead his house and found a house with white walls and creepers loitering all over. I couldn't resist my urge for a photograph. It was a beautiful one. When it was time for us to seperate, she gave me a peck on the cheek. It was her cute pout which was my cue that she wants my cheeks. The act kept me smiling for no reason and my Dad doubted my mental health."
" In the boys community, if anyone makes a GF, he is expected to tell everyone about her. I preferred to keep mum over such questions. One day, Aditya came to me and asked, 'Dude, Rishika doesn't look like she is from Patna.' I said that her mom was from Bhagalpur. Then he asked me about our future (Rishika and I, just in case you turned evil), I said, " It's too soon to think of that"."
"Rishika had a habbit of tagging me in silliest love quotes which a boyfriend is expected to like on FB even if he hates it in reality. She was losing her value. There was a dialogue in Merchant of Venice that PURSUIT IS MORE ENJOYABLE THAN ATTAINMENT. It was happening with me when it happened."
"I checked my FB wall one evening and was shocked to see this:
Rishika Singh > Sidharth Kashyap
I hate you. I am breaking up with you. You are a grinch!
"I found it hard to convey my emotions. What had I done to be the butt of such a cruel joke. I know I didn't deserved her but how could she just breakup without any reason. And what does grinch mean? I was so confused that I didn't Google the word and went to sleep without dinner. Can you imagine that?"
I looked at Shekhar. He was busy clicking selfie with a pout and a beer bottle. Let me make it clear he had the face cut of a superstar but the mentality of a devil. How can you click selfies at this moment?
Sid fumbled about his empty beer bottle and then began, "I went to school the next day. The news was out that we had a breakup. Just then, Manav came up to me and said, 'Is Rishika out of her mind? She tagged me as her son on FB and texted me how my Dad was. I think her account has been hacked.' His words instilled new confidence in me. It was possible. When I entered the classroom, she came up to me and said, 'It was not me. I didn't write that I swear. I can't do that.' She was close to tears. I didn't know why but I was enjoying it. I said that it was okay."
"After two days, Aditya came up to me and said that he was sorry for what had happened. It had become order of the day. I used to tell everyone that her account had been hacked and she still loves me. But as you know, every army has a traitor. Aditya had a fight with Rishikesh and he shouted loudly, "Aditya hacked Rishika's account." I was surprised. My anger had turned into respect. I went up to him and asked, "How did you do that brother?" He said it was not him as one man army. Utkarsh was the one who did the foul things. He just helped him login. You told me the answer to her security question, Sid. Rishika was very angry and vented out her anger at both of them."
"School for me was a course of 364 days a year where you get a one day picnic trip as a reward. And the best part about Nalanda picnic was that our exams had been over just a day ago so the boys were already at their beastly self. I planned to spend this one day with my queen. I chose a green checked shirt and wondered what she would wear. Maybe green as they show in movies. Bollywood taught me that lovers had an emotional connection and could talk to each other wirelessly. I could have decided with her over phone but decided to give this idea a try."
"She wore black. I was in green. We looked good together. I think if we both wore black or green, we would look stupid. But lovers are blind of the small mistakes of each other and often call it cute. God knows why. She looked stunning. I don't know many girls who are 'healthy', have a curvaceous body and yet look lovable. I saw her and then compared myself. I looked like a twisted balloon with fat stored in some of the funniest places in the human body. God knows when humans will have six pack abs by birth. You make me jealous, Abhi. I hate it when I see your slim body. Even this selfie clicking bastard has a decent figure."
"But think why she chose you over us? I know a few who had a crush on her which she deserved but she chose you. I think when you are in love, these things don't matter," I assured him. We had an undeclared resolution. You praise me, I praise you. You insult me and I give it back.
"Maybe that was because of the wishing fountain. We were exploring Nalanda together when the guide showed us a wishing fountain. He said, ' People stand here with their back towards the fountain and toss a coin with closed eyes and wish in mind.' She tossed a coin in and wished about something. When I asked her what her wish was, she told me but on the condition that I won't tell about it to anyone. And as it is said, promises are made to be kept. She then insisted me to make a wish. I kept on declining while we sat on the rim of the fountain. What she didn't know was I dropped a fistful of coins and wished for just one thing. Her."
Shekhar was done with his selfies and now he was all ears to Sid's story. Three empty beer bottles lay on the table. Sid stood up to use the washroom. I picked up my cellphone and said, "Are you there?"
"Yup. Thank you."
"Wait. There is more," I said and placed it back because Sid was back. Shekhar was busy texting Minakshee. He finally came up to me for some romantic lines. I couldn't make any so I said, "Love me for the sake of love." He texted.
After two minutes, the reply came, "BUGGER OFF!"
Sisters are too attached to each other. If one had a breakup, the other was emotionally bound too. The only remedy, make them love the same guy. Shekhar was on the verge of breakup so I suggested him to let it be for the moment.
Sid began, "So where was I? Yes. After the trip, I met you. Remember? Aditya introduced us. I tried to grab his puny body. Somehow he gave me a headbutt and my lips cut. The blood made my tooth red and I resembled a vampire who has just finished his feast. When Rishika noticed it, she again went up to Adi and shouted at him which I didn't like. It wasn't his mistake at all. But that is the benefit of having a girlfriend. We later went on a movie date to watch DABANGG 2. I don't remember what I saw but her company meant everything for me."
"Then came ninth standard and I met a group of boys whom I could call friends. Shekhar, Anubhav, Yumn, Abhijeet and you. I thought high of Anubhav but I didn't know that he would rise so high that we would be just stepping stones for him. He was like legs. When he went up, he became ass. Yumn is always at a call's distance. I didn't call him because he was insensitive in these matters. Abhijeet would have gifted your story an A certificate. Shekhar is my messenger and you are the one who can give me good counsel.: That is the sole reason I can give you for calling here. Sorry for referring to your breakup."
Somewhere within this sponge who absorbs liquor, there was an innocent boy who doesn't know what to do. I asked him where Rishika's photo was and he took out the broken frame. Rishika was in a pose that best suited her. Her pout. Maybe it was under the influence of alcohol that Sid tried to kiss the picture. The broken glass punctured his lips and blood oozed out. Shekhar began singing "HONTH RASEELEY TERE" danced like Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar. Sid threw a cushion which went in the opposite direction. I told him to sit and went to bring Dettol. When Sid saw it, he said, "No mate. It hurts. Had it been Savlon, it would have been easier but not this one. Get me some ice or leave it. I'll take it from the ice box."
His blood drops on the ground made me feel nauseated. I had haemophilia and I couldn't tolerate it so I turned my gaze to a corner of the room. With ice held in his hand and his swollen lips, Sid continued.
"Yumn always pestered me about being a toy for her. Maybe he said it in fun but I don't know why they made logic to me. I broke up every week and patched up next weekend. The teachers who knew about it made the matters worse. In DBA, you are recognised by your partner's name. Like do you know Akshay Kirti?"
"Who is this Akshay Kirti?" I asked.
"Apeksha's BF," Shekhar mummbled.
"That's my point. So I was known as Rishika's BF. I had no identity of my own. I thought being a council member would help so I requested you to back out. When you gave up in the interview, I was surprised. I didn't imagine anyone who could do so. Anyways I became the council member. She used to tug me away during recess which caused anger among you all. I enjoyed Yumn's envy. He was quick-witted but he has no chance among girls."
"It was somewhere here I felt that Aisha was trying to get closer to me. She was smarter than Rishika and healthier than me. She would send me flirty messages and would try to enter each and every conversation. What was worse was she was Rishika's bestie so Rishika didn't doubt her advances."
"Rishika was serious about our relationship. She used to worship me. She was the one with whom I could share my problems. I began to take her for granted and began enjoying Aisha's company. So when Aisha would call me, I would leave Rishika fuming, even when Rishika needed me just to lend a ear to her."
"You are an asshole," Shekhar scouled.
"I know I have been one. I took part in the cultural program and so did Rishika. It was done so that we could escape classes to see each other. Whenever she would come in our class to call that twisted faced Neha, the backbenchers shouted, "BHABHI" and I would be looking away awkwardly."
"She used to stay out of her classroom and it affected her marks. When I told her to study, she would say, 'You are going to earn bread not me. I'll just call Pizza Hut and I know how to call.' Her cute face absorbed my anger and she appeared very kissable to me. On the day of full dress rehearsal, I sneaked into her green room just to wish her luck. She danced gracefully. The Rajasthani lyrics didn't matter. Her moves were smooth as silk and I fell in love with her once again."
"When we hosted the farewell party for the outgoing batch, she deliberately chose to sing a song so that she could be with me. Sometimes I suffocated in her love. I needed some space. So I began avoiding her. "
"I wanted to do well in the tenth standard so I broke up on the first day of school. I thought it would help but my mind diverted every time I began studying. I noticed Shekhar going crazy about his chat with her sister. She had almond shaped eyes and was very polite. Her cute smile was like icing on one's favourite cake. No doubt, Minakshee was an expert in impressing people."
"Don't even think of her you pig!" said Shekhar. "She's mine."
"I know. I was just praising her. Anyways I bought a Xiaomi Mi3 and went to her house to show it. Her Dad praised it. He said that I was lucky that I could grab one. Can you think of a bigger jerk than me? I didn't talk to her that day. She was happy in my happiness."
"We started going for tuitions to the same teacher and she came up with an idea. 'We can be good friends, can't we?' she suggested. I liked it. I couldn't live with her and I couldn't live without her. This was somewhere in between. I thought of dropping her home on Vivek's scooty. And I dropped her. Not at home, but in a ditch. It was strange. I was driving safe and slow. When I halted, neither I tilted nor the scooter. She splashed in the ditch water which stunk. Instead of helping her, I began laughing. In her anger, she sat on the road. There was no one nearby so I pulled her up and wiped off whatever I could. Then I dropped her home and went back."
"I didn't think that I'll say this to you but I am proud of you. You helped a girl," I said.
"How does it matter when I am not proud of myself? When it was time for our picnic, I couldn't give her some time even though both of us wore black this time. I was busy competing with you in the CHICKEN CHAMPION contest. I will cherish the bus ride back forever. Do you remember my poem?"
"Yes. You set the stage on fire," I said. That trip would require another story so maybe next time. It was the time of life for all of us.
"I still remember our last children's day celebrations at school. When were being taken downstairs, our classroom was shouting MOHINI MOHINI to all the unfortunate girls who were sitting below our classroom. I used my position as a House Captain to stray away from my classmates. It was Rishika's song. She chose LOVE STORY by Taylor Swift and the whole group of students were mesmerised. They were like the group of colts who came to a mutual standstill when her voice soothed them from within. Everyone waited for my review as it was obviously dedicated to me. I kept it simple and said that it was good. My only mistake was I didn't meet her personally and congratulate her."
"In our last days of school, Aisha used to help me with my studies and it was necessary for me to pass the board exams with flying colours. She helped me revise my Science subjects. All this while I didn't even talk to Rishika."
Now, I could see guilt in his eyes. He felt he should have spent some more time with her. I asked him, "So why did you seperate?"
"What else can you do when a groom has been selected for her?" he said.
"You could have asked her father to choose you. Talk to her father. If you miss this opportunity, you will regret it later."
"What will I say? Uncle I want to marry your daughter. I work in a bank. I know her Dad has chosen an IITian software engineer for her who has a package of 5crores per year. I am a bloody nobody in front of him. He will keep her happy and she will live like a queen with him. He can give her all that she desires. I would have to beg, borrow, steal for every domestic flight that I make."
"She won't love him!" Rishika said. Sid stood up, startled. She was wearing a pink t-shirt similar to that of Sid with words ALWAYS written on it. They still shared the same connection. She had been listening to our conversation over her phone.
Minakshee stood behind her. Shekhar ran towards Minakshee but she told him to wait. There was a calm in the room. A calm before the storm.
"Who the hell are you to decide my happiness? I will be happy with you even in the slums. I don't want to see Paris without you holding my hands..." Rishika said.
Sid switched to his angry self and said, "These things look good in movies. Reality is different. You can't eat love, drink love, breathe love. That IITian will keep you happier than me. He can get you clothes. You will enjoy life with him. You can also call Pizza Hut. I won't be able to celebrate even your birthday."
"You are my life. Either I am marrying you or staying spinster all my life," she declared.
"Do what you want!" Sid said and turned his face to hide his tears.
"What if the IITian wants you two to get married?" I said. Sid was shocked. "Yes. It's me chosen by her Dad. I don't know where my parents met her and finalised the dates. We are yet to meet each other officially. I don't want to ruin two lives for one. Your love story has a passion. You have impressed her and she loves you. I will have to spend my whole life to remove that love and fill mine. Maybe even that is not enough. So you should get married to her."
"But what will I say to her Dad?" Sid asked the obvious.
"Tell him that you are in love with her and the you have a business idea with a turnover of crores and his selected IITian is ready to invest in it. Solved," I suggested.
"I thought you...." Sid was about to something secret before I cut him. "Yes. I know. I knew you are an idiot and need this beauty with brains for the rest of your life. She called me when she came to know that I was the one whom she had to get married to. You two are really lucky."
Sid hugged me tight and said, "First the council member post and now her, I don't know how I'll pay back." His flow of tears ruined my pre-crushed linen shirt but it didn't matter. "You don't need to pay me back. Just keep her happy. And Rishika, I know he will never hurt you because we have something in common." I shut before spilling out all beans.
Rishika turned to Sid. She noticed his bleeding lips and said, "it's bleeding. Why don't you do something?" Sid smiled and said, "You taught me saliva can stop blood flow. Try it as I can't."
Rishika moved closer. Even though he smelt like an old beer bottle, their seperation reduced from metres to centimetres to millimeters. Shekhar took Minakshee out for a walk quickly. I stood there smiling at their union. Her cute pout was my cue to shut my eyes or turn around and leave. I still can't handle PDA (public display of affection). I took a beer bottle, gulped it down to balance the happiness of their union and sadness at kicking an opportunity and walked all the way home. I plugged in my headphone, set the volume at its maximum and heard TEARDROPS ON MY GUITAR till sleep got hold of me...