Continuation from Nivedha Part 4
I kept staring at her benumbed by her gazes that seemed to dart right through my senses. My mind was in a blur. But, still, I decided to take the risk and shifted my seat slowly near to her. She seemed to sense my movement or did she notice? She seemed unperturbed and sat still gazing at the food being served by the waiter. Now, how to make the first move? I seemed like a silly teenager who didn’t even know how to talk to his lady. No! You can do this! I whispered to myself and turned back my gaze to her. She was staring at me with her typical sinister smile that seemed to see through my every single movement and every single thought.
I extended my hand to her in the pretext of picking the tissue placed next to her. Her hand was on the tissue and I hoped I could hold her hand at least for a moment while taking the tissue. But, she immediately took away her hand with a smile and pushed the tissue towards me darting another look at me with a laughing face. Well, that plan didn’t work! This is going to be tough! I regained my composure and started making mental calculations on what to talk to her now. Is your skin dry? I blurted out. Well, not exactly the right question to ask your lady love isn’t it? Why are you so dumb? I kicked myself in my head a hundred times. But, she didn’t seem offended by the question. Thank God! She laughed at my nervous self and nodded her head, yes, my skin is dry. Do you wear a lot of makeup? Another huge blunder! Why do I keep asking the wrong questions? Why can’t I speak something romantic like those heroes in films do? Well, they have it so easy. They have a scriptwriter to write down lines for them. Here I’m struggling to find even a proper word. She again laughed out loud and replied, as if you don’t know! Are you seeing me for the first time to ask such questions? I don’t use makeup much. I just washed my face. That is all. Maybe the chilly weather changed my skin tone. Any other questions Mr? I sat nervously staring at her like a kindergarten kid about to be dictated his punishment for not completing his homework. Well, I seem to be making mistakes with my questions, I replied with a sheepish grin. She smiled, Yes, of course, you always do that!
I decided to stop asking any further questions. Even I was not sure what blunder I would blurt out next. I decided to concentrate on the pizza in front of me. That is better for you. At least eating you can do without mistakes! I rebuked myself. I finished one slice and looked back at her. She was slowly biting on her slice. Those deep red lips started to lure me again. Why are you not eating? Take another slice! She said, carelessly placing her half-eaten pizza slice back on the plate. I don’t want another full slice. I can take a bite from that slice, I pointed at her half-eaten pizza. She looked at me with a gaze that seemed to pierce me through! Then she broke into a small smile and extended her slice to me. I took a bite exactly at the end she had bit seconds before. I realized I was right now insanely jealous of that pizza slice. It was lucky enough to be kissed by those deep red lips! In my nervousness and confusion, I started to tear the pizza box cover into small pieces. Within minutes, I had a pile of small pieces in front of me! What exactly are you doing? She asked with a quizzical expression. That is when I also noticed what I had done. I really don’t know, I accidentally did it, I replied. She smiled knowingly nodding her head.
Do you remember the day we met? She was the one to ask the question now. How does she manage to ask the right question every time? I looked at her face which now looked prettier than the peaches and replied, how can I forget that day? Suddenly it started raining outside. As I stared out through the window panes with water droplets trickling down, my mind drifted back to the day we met. The day I met my Nivedha!
My mind rushed back to the busy streets of Bangalore! Bangalore, the dream destination of the 90’s kids and still continues to be one of the favorite spots for some of those innocent kids with starry dreams in their eyes! But, Bangalore never was my favorite place! I can hear you say, “Excuse me, but what is wrong with Bangalore?” Well, it is just the name that I despise! If you ask me ‘What’s in a name’, I will have to reply, everything is in it!
Even if you admit it or not, a name is the first impression you get about anything or anyone. Just take a moment to recollect your best friends. Hardly anyone will have a name that you didn’t like at the first instance. Even while naming your dog or your hamster, you will surely pick the name you like right? How can I then love a city with a name that I despise?
I still remember my HR pointing at me during the meeting and saying, you will report at Whitefield next week! Arghh! I never liked these Anglicised names! Try translating names like Whitefields, Cavalry Roads and Dickenson Streets in your regional language- you will laugh till your sides hurt! Also, the city of Bangalore always made me uncomfortable. Certain cities sound so romantic even when you just spell it out. For example, try spelling Mumbai or Hyderabad in a Hinglish tone and then try spelling Chennai or Bangalore, now Bengaluru- Definitely not romantic!
But fate put me in Bangalore itself, whether I liked it or not was out of syllabus! Earning a living was more important than my likes or dislikes. Soon, I was one among the thousands of those Bag wallas, trying to get into the big glass jails in White Field. 2 weeks passed by in a flash and everything was like clockwork. Everyone was busy- Busy buses, busy co-workers, busy cab drivers. Everyone was busy and everything was noisy. As I returned back to my apartment after a hectic day at work in the never-ending traffic jams at Marathahali, I used to close my ears and try to feel myself. It helped me to feel alive and pulled me out of the huge black hole named Bangalore.
I always felt ignored in Bangalore. Even the neighbor’s dog did not bother to look at me. It was always watching standing outside in the balcony. Yet, it never bothered to even notice that I was passing by. A dog barking at you is a sign that you are terrifying it. Even if it is nothing to be proud of, it was at least a sign that you exist and an animal acknowledges your existence. But, the dogs here never even bothered to look at me, let alone bark. It was very humiliating for me. When did I become this insignificant?
Surprisingly, there were few spots in the city that were calmer and quieter than the other noisy and busy parts. One of those spots which I loved the most was Lalbagh. The name Lalbagh means red garden. It was built by the father-son duo Hyder Ali and Tippu. Why did they choose a strange and strong color to represent such a pleasant environment? At least one among the two could have given it a thought and named it something else.
I still remember that day as fresh as it happened just seconds ago. After all, how can I ever forget the day I met my Nivedha? It was on August 15th. One of those rare occasions where companies are forced to give us leave and probably make us realize what independence feels like. A bumpy 30-minute bus ride from the Majestic bus terminal to Lalbagh with my friends was made worse when I handed out a 500 INR to my bus conductor. He was visibly not pleased and I couldn’t understand for sure what he said. But his fast and symmetric mouth expressions along with an angry glare helped me understand that it was something about me and my family. That’s okay. Someone finally recognizes me and my family in this busy city!
But, Lalbagh was not as peaceful as I had expected it to be. There was some flower show conducted as a part of the Independence day celebration. Hence, the whole place was swarmed with crowds and small kids were running all around the place. I was disappointed at the sight of the noisy crowd as this was my only stress-buster in the entire city! My friends got busy admiring the roses arranged in pretty designs for the flower show. But, the roses didn’t interest me. Bangalore is a place where you can hear every language in the country. Today, inside the Greenhouse, I could overhear almost every language being spoken out loud by a large mob. The noisy atmosphere and the multicolor roses seemed to suffocate me. I immediately left the Greenhouse and started to look for a less crowded area.
I came out and leaned on one of those pillars outside. I felt sick and nauseated. I pressed my hands on my head as I realized that one of the worst headaches was starting to take over. That is when I heard a noise, “Hi, it must be some pollen allergy. You will be alright” I turned my head and looked at my Nivedha for the first time ever! This was the scene I wished to remember for the rest of my life but it was one of the worst ways to look at your girl for the first time. I might have looked like a China man with a swollen face. She looked at me with a concerned expression and continued talking, ” I also have this pollen allergy. That is why I stayed outside” I nodded my head in agreement unable to utter even a single word. I decided to change the way I stood to a better stature so that I looked at least a bit good. That is when I realized that my headache had just disappeared.
Suddenly, I felt refreshed and all those nauseating feelings and headache was gone! The noisy Lalbagh seemed to change its form and suddenly there was no other person near us. How is that possible? The whole area was so crowded just minutes ago! Or, Am I starting to hallucinate? No, please let this be real. At least let this pretty girl be real! I just kept staring at her as she continued talking. I didn’t even hear what she was saying as I was totally entranced by her looks. Is this what they call, love at first sight? I tried hard to hear what she was saying and could manage to hear the last lines. It ended with, “are you okay now?” Should I tell that this headache is gone or should I continue the act so that she will talk to me more? I couldn’t decide what to do. It is a shame to meet your girl in such a place in the most unromantic way!