I bumped into Anuja, my college friend, the other day. (“Ages!” as we exclaimed, discreetly checking one another out). One look at her and all those repressed memories came flooding back to me.
Before I launch into that sorry tale, let me tell you more about her. She was quite a character, that Anuja. Hyper, outspoken, loud. An out and out tomboy. All those things boys supposedly don’t like in a girl. At least a certain boy didn’t. His name was Raghav. And he was quite the hottie. Tall, dark, conventionally good looking with biceps the size of Nagpur. He was everything girls like in a boy. (Anuja more than most girls.)
It didn’t help matters that Raghav had eyes only for another. Apologies for making the whole thing sound like a love triangle right out of a Hindi potboiler but that’s exactly how it was. Raghav loved Janani, Janani loved Pranav, (Pranav wouldn’t know love if it socked him in the face but that’s another not so short story) and Anusha loved Raghav. And that’s how things stood during the final year of our college life.
How did it all start? Well, we had all been friends and things were good the way they were. But legend has it that Raghav rescued Anusha from the clutches of a particularly nasty feathered villain one sultry afternoon. The gang was hanging out near the big tree in the parking lot, when the villain of the piece, a pigeon, flew out of the branches, without warning, and swooped low, scaring the living daylights out of Anusha. As Raghav, ever the chivalrous young man, shooed the offending foe away with loud grunts of “Get lost, get lost”), Anusha, the damsel in distress, had lost her heart to him.
Truth be told, the poor pigeon hadn’t harmed a hair on Anusha’s colour-blocked head. But you know how it is with girls, especially the ones who are freshly in love. For days following the incident, Anusha spoke of little else. It was always “That pigeon did this, dear Raghav did that’. Soon, the story attained such proportions you’d think Anusha was chased out of the building by a snarling thirty foot dinosaur before Raghav had gallantly stepped in and fobbed the beast off.
Raghav’s crush on Janani was nearly not as dramatic. One fine day, our canteen ran out of supplies earlier than usual. Raghav would have certainly died of starvation had Janani not arrived on the scene, a box of lip-smackingly delicious aloo paranthas in tow. Hard to say if he fell in love with Janani or her mother’s cooking skills but from that day forward, Raghav began looking at Goddess Annapoorna (Goddess of Food) as Godess Athena (Goddess of Love).
Of course, Janani felt no such emotion for Raghav. She had given her love organ (that did a million beats per minute whenever the object of her affection was around) to another. Pranav was the typical geek who dreamed of inventing “Something big, something extraordinary”, something that would be his ticket to fame. It wasn’t as if he was anti-girls. It’s just that he was pro-career.
And that’s how things stood that year. All of us were one gang. There were strong emotional undercurrents underneath the façade of friendship. Some indirect flirting, some coy glances but that was it.
It was the month of August that Anusha decided to take things into her own hands. Some people claim that on Independence Day, she was switching channels, when she came across Nehru’s famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech. And she was inspired. She would keep her trust with destiny indeed. She would act on her desires all right.
Problem was she couldn’t propose to Raghav. How could she? She was a girl, a passably good looking one, at that. And no self-respecting, decent looking girl would go out on a limb and profess her feelings for a guy, no matter how strongly she felt for him. Ego before heart, self before other and all that, you see.
So she did the next best thing. She picked up her biggest weapon, her mobile phone, inserted a brand new sim, changed her voice and called him up. A ‘Secret Admirer’, of course. Did Raghav actually chat with the random caller? How could he not? It was a girl’s voice. And it sounded good. A killer combo, if you ask any boy. He was in the Hot Seat and his feelings for Janani simply had to take a backseat.
Nights melted into days, days melted into weeks. Raghav wanted to meet the girl who stole away his dreams (he felt as if he hadn’t slept in days, hooked as he was to the mobile phone). He demanded a rendezvous. Anusha complied. It was face off time.
The venue was agreed upon. A park, where else. If there was one thing Nagpur wasn’t short of (other than oranges) it was parks. The time was agreed upon. Four in the evening. Not too many housewives, babies, strollers, fitness parks, in the park at that time.
Right on the dot of four, Raghav braked to a halt in front of the park, and hurried inside. Sure enough, there she was, his lady love on a rickety bench. It was when he took a step closer that he realized! It was Janani, his original crush Janani reading A Tale of Two Cities.
It all made sense to him now. Janani must have had feelings for him all along. But shy creature that she was, she had taken shelter behind a (mobile phone) screen to confess her feelings for him. Raghav needed no more proof. He had bounded up to her and enveloped a visibly uncomfortable Janani in a bear hug.
Let’s halt here for a second and rewind a bit. To tell you the truth, everything had gone according to plan. Then at the last minute, just as Anusha was stepping out, her phone rang. Turned out her little nephew was down with a ‘diaper related emergency’. She rushed over to her sister’s to make herself useful. But not before calling her friend Janani for a ‘little favour’. Janani, of course, knew how Anusha felt for Raghav. It’s why she agreed to go along with the plan, harebrained as it was. She would go to the park, tell him it was Anusha all along and that would be that. As a good friend of Anusha’s, it was the least she could do.
She had just about buried her nose in her book when along came Raghav, all burly arms and bear hugs. It was when he attempted to plant a big sloppy kiss smack on Janani’s cheek that she put her foot down. Her hand went flying up to his face and Raghav came face to face with the harsh realities of life. Needless to say, all romantic entanglements (with each other, at least) of the gang were put into the cold storage for the rest of our college days.
In fact, I haven’t thought about that incident in years. I mean, it’s not as if I enjoyed being hugged or almost kissed by Raghav. It’s just that meeting Anusha brought all those memories back. In any case, I am now happily married (no, not to Pranav, in case you were wondering) so it’s all good now. Love, I tell you, is such a funny thing.