Marriage functions are particularly irritating when you have just turned twenty and every relative in the family wants to discuss your marriage. The very concept of somebody arranging your wedding made me uncomfortable, and I was clear that this was not the route I wished to take in my life. Even though I understood very little of the concept of falling in love, I was sure that it was the only way I would find my life partner.
After clearing the formidable JEE, I joined IIT-Varanasi to become an electronics engineer. College life was a lot of fun and attraction to the fairer sex was spontaneous.
However, the love-gong never seemed to ring (even though I had no clue how it would sound). Life did have its share of attractions and flirtatious moments, but it was more of a ‘had to be done thing’ rather than anything resembling love.
Four years whizzed past, at the end of which I was a certified electronics engineer. I was lucky to get a job with TELCO while still in my final year. This was exhilarating as it meant financial independence. It also meant that now I was an adult and had to behave like one. My new job took me to Bihar.
My first day at office dawned - full of excitement. I reached the place all new graduates were supposed to report at and settled down happily with some other guys I had just befriended. As we waited for things to start, I thought the first day was turning out to be a big bore. Worse, all I could see was more and more guys; were there to be no girls? A couple of minutes later, in walked three girls. They bought an awkward silence into the room with some of the boys gawking at the girls, who sat uncomfortably in the middle of the room.
Among the three, one sat quietly in a brown sleeveless dress with white polka dots. She had straight, long hair pulled into a ponytail and twinkling black eyes. I think it was her eyes that first drew me to her. I broke the awkward silence in the room by introducing myself and the other boys in the room. Once acquainted, somehow these three girls and some of the boys in the room, including me became a group. This meant that as we were taken through a guided tour of the factory over the next couple of weeks, we hung out together. A large repertoire of my conversation was made up of jokes which came in handy during awkward silences with the girls.
She was the reading type and I was an outdoor type. When she shared her novels with the group, I picked up one to impress her, to show her that I also liked reading and understood literature. I did actually read it (lucky for me, it was only a few hundred pages long) and commented that I had really enjoyed it. Much later, I was told that I had come across like a show-off on that particular occasion.
Then we were selected to dance for the freshers’ welcome party. That was the first time I touched her. It was electric. At the freshers’ party she sang an old Bollywood song. She sang very well and again, took me by surprise because I never knew she could sing. Even today I can visualize her singing and the song playing in my head, “rahein na rahein hum, mehka karenge…” from the 1960s film Mamta. It was a magical evening - she wore a beautiful white dress with a pearl necklace and looked radiant. I was a little drunk and like a filmi hero in a Bollywood movie was totally attracted to her. Was this the ringing of the love gong?
Had I really fallen in love – was it for real? She was tall, good-looking, had a professional engineering degree, was modern and progressive, came from a good family and the best part was that she was cool and we got along well. In office, we were constantly running into each other – on the staircase, at tea-time, while going in and out of the library. As a result, after the office hours, I missed being with her.
We were still part of the group, yet the vibes became stronger. I don’t think either one of us considered the life-partner approach, yet there was an attraction. The hours spent with her passed by too quickly and I started looking for excuses to be with her. Her mother made excellent pakoras and that was a good enough reason for me to visit her house almost every other day. I now think her mom read the signals but played along graciously.
Finally, it was the last day of the training. The group went out for a picnic. Walking along aimlessly, the two of us got separated from the group. We were on the hill slopes of the Chota Nagpur plateau, amidst green surroundings. I picked up a sugarcane from a field (quite like a Hindi-film hero) and started singing a song as I peeled the sugarcane with my teeth. She found it amusing; I could tell that she liked my silly stunt. As I sang, I cannot now remember which song it was, I looked into those twinkling black eyes, missed a breath, and out of the blue said, “I think I love you and want to be with you.”
A silence followed my abrupt announcement – broken by an unexpected sensation. My front tooth had broken! You see, going through the filmy scene, trying to peel the sugarcane, sing a song and look charming - I had made a false move. The sugarcane proved a tough opponent for my Colgate-reared teeth, and the bottom part of my front incisor broke neatly and fell into my palm. But right at that instant, I couldn’t care less!
She looked at me, with those deep, black twinkling eyes. Her face betrayed two expressions – pity, for me having broken my tooth and a bemused look that spelt ‘funny guy what are you talking about!’ There was a long pause, and then she smiled a million-dollar smile. She said, “Yes, I too love you and want to be with you.”
I had found my life partner.