Thursday, July 20, 2006

For Whom The Ringer Tolls

"I hate Ashish", she said, extracting another cringing expression from her mother. “All of 21 and no control over her tongue”, add her father with a cluck at the end for added measure. Mr. Prashant Dandekar had an amazing ability to comment on everything without contributing anything. He also managed to do that with the least amount of perturbation. His glasses perched low on his nose, his eyes fixed on the editorial of the Times of India, his universe seemingly perfect. His contribution to his life’s and wife’s troubles were wry comments, and if luck assisted, dry wit. Karuna Dandekar had no shortage of wit. Life’s hardships had set her up for failure and she responded to failure with alarmingly smart cynicism. She always likened her marriage to a blockbuster Hindi movie: it could be bad and still have a silver jubilee. In the middle of all this was their lone star (or black hole, as she called herself), their only child, Anoushka. Fire and water, wind and stillness, all rolled into one. Her smile could turn into a frown momentarily, a happy laughter followed by uncontrollable rage, Anoushka was a very volatile person emotionally. In the midst of the million emotions she felt, love came and overwhelmingly swept her off her feet one day. Actually, it was the torrential downpour that reigned on Bombay that forced Anoushka to be stranded on the road when all moving transport had come to a halt. With her cell phone batteries dead, her knight in shining armor came with his own shining blade, the new silver colored sleek Razr phone. She got through to her worried parents and spent the evening in the foyer of an apartment complex waiting for the waters to subside and chatting to no end with Ashish. Oh yes, the same Ashish she has declared she hates at the start of this story. Who is Ashish, you ask? He is our guy next door, if you had a two storeyed bungalow in JVPD Scheme with three cars, three servants and three dogs next door. Born, literally with a silver spoon, Ashish never had to struggle and was not apologetic about it. Like many rich kids who need a degree for degree’s sake and end up doing a B.A. or a B.Com, Ashish chose to do an engineering degree. Stuck in a storm with his Santro half submerged, Ashish noticed the a frowning yet beautiful face of a girl all but ready to break something in frustration soaking in the rain on that troubled day. The gizmo-freak walked up to her and offered her the new phone he had acquired, fresh of the market; grey market that is. As he watched her punch her home number into the phone and speak with her parents, he was filled with the overwhelming feeling that fills all hearts young and tender when spring goes away and rains bring forth droplets of hope and joy and promise: anger. A car went by and splashed a bucketful of water on all three of them, Ashish, Anoushka and the Razr phone. After muttering the requisite curses and finding their way to an apartment complex where they stepped in the foyer of an apartment wing, they exchanged introductions. Anoushka was too carried away in love to bother hiding it. Her eyes, her hands, her heart all betrayed her as she reached for the one that had taken over her entire self. They say love happens in an instance, and Anoushka barely needed a nanosecond to be convinced. Her life had changed in that moment forever. She looked at Ashish and spelt her heart’s wishes to him without hesitation, a trademark Anoushka moment where instinct led the way. Ashish smiled first, and in moments the smile had grown to a wide laughter that spilt over the narrow confines of their shelter. Undecipherable in the laughter were a nod and a muffled ‘Yes’ from the man who never thought life would surprise him thus.

"I hate Ashish", she said, as her mother took her cringing expression towards the door. The door bell had rung twice and Karuna Dandekar took towards it, a helpless mother on a rescue mission. Ashish was waiting on the other side, pacing two steps to his side, restless in anticipation. He had thought long and hard about it, and had decided that he would not pawn his life this way. He valued his independence above all else. A relationship would cost him dear. He would lose his friends, family, everyone he ever knew. Never again would he speak with them. Never again would he sit in an airport and play games and stare at the good looking women passing by. Never again would he be able to wake up on time. Never again would he be able to stand among his friends as equal. No, this had to be ended. This was it. Karuna Dandekar opened the door and asked Ashish in. It was a moment seeped in tension. Everyone knew why Ashish had come. Everyone knew what was going to happen, yet, the pretense of civility was maintained. It was maintained by all but Anoushka, who was too heart-broken to bother with niceties. Her world had come crashing down in one week flat. The classic rich versus poor gap had come in between. She thought this happened only in movies, yet there she was, sitting in Prashant Dandekar’s house, retired school teacher, wondering why such trivialities should affect the grand scheme of things. She walked up slowly to Ashish, tears and temper in check. She had determined that if she had to do it, she’d do it with dignity. She wouldn’t give anyone the opportunity of feeling pity for her. “Ashish, I know why you have come. I know the time is up. I know we agreed to try this for a week and then decide what the future looks like. I cannot complain about the happiness I have got. It has far exceeded anything I had expected. But I guess expecting this to last was unreasonable. I know I can’t keep what my heart wants forever and I can’t keep anything that doesn’t belong to me. You are free to go, and we shall never talk again”. Ashish looked in her eyes, steeled his heart and slid his hands in his pockets. In a brief moment when he reached for Anoushka’s hand, he remembered the moment she had put her heart’s wish to him. In that brief moment, his heart melted, his resolve wilted and he decided to relent. The passion in her eyes did the trick. He didn’t want to break Anoushka’s heart, didn’t want to separate her from the one thing she clearly valued above everything else. A few words later, he turned around and walked out of the apartment, staring at Anoushka’s decrepit T610 mobile phone. Behind the doors, Anoushka was crying tears of joy. She held the one true love of her life in her hand, never to be parted again. Hers to keep, forever: her Razr phone.


P.S.> I keep hearing a lot about kids in India getting new phones every year or so. This story was inspired by that need. I have had two cell phones in my six year stay in this country. I must be unfashionable.
P.P.S> As you might have guessed, I own a decrepit T610 phone. If Razr isn’t exactly state of the art anymore, my apologies. My knowledge about cell phones is minimal. If it dials a number and lets me speak, it is generally good enough for me

9 comments:

sd said...

:) My opinion likewise. In fact I somehow detest "cool" cell phones and/ or those which come with built in cameras...And ...5 years with only one cell phone for moi!

Nocturne said...

mumblemumblewirelessvirginmumble...

Nocturne said...

and, oh, heyy, the title gave it away this time! in these here parts it might have been For Whom Ma Bell Tolls.

Parth said...

SD: Excellent. 5 years with one phone. I'd be there if I didn't have to change providers

Nocturne: Ya, I realised I was giving away the plot in the title, but then, I couldn't think of another puny title for the story. This got stuck in my mind

Nocturne said...

puny title! *chuckle*

Parth said...

Thanks for getting that :-)

Anonymous said...

I did not get it till the end! thank my wits for that:P!

I did not know u write so well, until now(oh that was a cmplment:D)

Anonymous said...

-Sparsh

Parth said...

@Sparsh: Better late than never :-) Thanks.