Friday, June 26, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 5

Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar
pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/

The name displayed on my phone was enough to wipe away the slightest hint of sleep in my eyes. I grabbed the phone, sat up in a hurry but answered the phone with a pretense of coolness, “Yes Shraddha!”

“Are you in love with me?”

Now, that was something I hadn’t expected from her. I didn’t know what to say. Before I could realise, I had blurted out a ‘yes’. Woah! That was quite fast. There wasn’t any response. I kept calling out, there was complete silence. I knew she hadn’t hung up. I then heard a crackly voice, “Let’s meet tomorrow evening at Nungambakkam... Coffee  Day,” she said before hanging up.

I was thrilled to bits. My heart was in my mouth. Tomorrow evening...that was a good fifteen-plus hours away. What would I do until then? I couldn’t go back to sleep after the phone call.

I did go to work but couldn’t really get much done. Her name was booming in my head with complete stereophonic effects. Her lovely curls, her over-sized earrings made dreamy appearances in my mind. I couldn’t wait till the evening. I landed there way before the fixed time.

Found a nice corner table and looked around. The place was packed with young people—large groups and couples. Cuss words flowed around the boys as easily as coffee. Did I hear someone say “Oh fuck”, really loud?  The girls laughed louder, yet there was a finesse in the way these people ate and drank. Some of them went out for a smoke. There was an uninhibited, public display of camaraderie and affection between the boys and the girls—warm hugs and back-slaps. That was the first time I’d been to that place and I was transported into a whole new world. I browsed through the menu. Man! 50 bucks for a cup of coffee? I discreetly checked my wallet. I had 300 bucks with me.

My cellphone beeped with a text.”Are you in CD?”. I replied in the affirmative. Within minutes she appeared there, looking gorgeous as ever, in figure-hugging jeans and a loose fitting tee. The giant loops had given way to tiny ear-studs this time. In a seeming victory against the wild curls, she had managed to bunch them all up. (Wonder how she really does that.) With a snarky sounding ‘Hi!’ she came towards me and filled my space mercilessly with her mint fragrance, as she sat down in front of me.

She pored over the menu as if it were a research paper on coffee, while at it, I caught her snatching a glance of me now and then. I didn’t know what to say. I have never been so tongue-tied. I asked “What shall we have?”

“Cappuccino?” she replied. “I think you should get one for yourself too. It’s really good here.” She didn’t wait for my response and placed an order for two cups of cappuccino. Aha! She was bossy! But I didn’t seem to mind much. I rather seemed to like the conveyed a sense of belonging, perhaps? She started drinking the coffee as soon as it arrived. “Have you ever had cappuccino before?” she asked. I kept looking into the cup. The froth on the mug had a lovely heart-shaped pattern. I didn’t want to stir the coffee up and upset the pattern. She peeped into my cup and sniggered, “Getting all mushy-feely is it?”

She continued, “I know these things. Only those who claim to be in love feel sentimental about these silly things. Are you in love with me? Oh yes, you already said you did. But tell me, how did you manage to do that so soon? Especially after our first meeting ended the way it did? If we were characters in a movie, yes, we’d both be madly in love by now. But you know what...Indian men only want to get physical with girls.  And especially if a decent-looking girl like me is a little friendly, all that the men think of is taking it to the next level. They think love is all about getting intimate. As if just one night together would solve the great mystery of love once and forever,” she said with a sarcastic giggle.
“Umm..look, I really like you. But I don’t think it’s romantic at all. I don’t want to avoid you just because you are in love with me. The moment I have the same feelings of love towards you, we will be a couple. But until then, let’s just be friends. Okay?”
I looked at her in disbelief. What the hell was she saying? One night stands, is that what men thought of? “Look Shraddha. Your beliefs might hold good for the people in your USA. But such things don’t happen here. There are men who wait for their woman all their lives. They will do anything for that woman. You might not understand these feelings now. You can’t even imagine the power of true love. I don’t need a lifetime. Even a day is sufficient to prove how much I love you. I don’t know about you but I’m very sure about my feelings for you. Fine, for now, let’s be friends like you suggested. But then I will continue to be in love with you. You can’t stop me.”
“Great! Sounds like a deal! Yes, if I end up feeling even the slightest tinge of romance, you will be the first to know about it. Until then, friends,” she said and quickly asked, “Will you please drop me in Annanagar?”

So, we went. She casually held on to my shoulders. It felt good but I ensured a decent amount of distance between us. She started talking about herself during the ride. She said she’d lost her mother at a young age, that she grew up with her father and her older brother, that they own a pharmaceutical firm in the US and that she lived alone in Chennai. She also spoke at great length about her love for cinema, Kamal Hassan, Manirathnam and went on with a long list of her likes! It felt nice to see her that excited about so many things. And a couple of times, In her excitement, I found her coming really close to me and speaking into my ear! It felt magical to feel her that close to me, her lovely curls brushing against my cheek. I don’t remember me being so quiet ever.

As we reached the round-about, she asked me to stop and pointed towards an apartment. “F-4, that’s where I live,” she said, hopping off the bike. “Fine, let’s catch up tomorrow.” Without warning, she pulled me close and planted a quick, tight kiss on my cheek and rushed into the apartment building. She turned back, flashed a huge smile and waved me goodbye. That little imp!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 4

Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar
pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/

Why was I falling in love with her? Was it the beauty? If it was just looks, I should have been in love with Meera instead. Was it her mesmerizing curls? Or was it her boyish gait? Until today, I don’t know what it was about her that drove me crazy. Try as I might, I couldn’t take my mind off her. Her thoughts didn't leave me in my sleep too. Funnily, I'd been dreaming of her prancing around like a gaudily dressed Telugu film actress!

No one had ever bothered me so much until that time. "Dude, she isn't the regular type. Theirs is not just a loaded but a reputed family. You'd better watch out," warned Meera the next day. I didn't make a big deal out of these new feelings even at that point. But then, I couldn't get even one item off my ‘To Do List’ for that day. I was distracted out of my wits. All I wanted to do was to just meet her. I chided myself out of such thoughts and decided not to meet her for the next two days at least and try to get busy with my own work. Well, I found myself at her office in the next half an hour. So much for my self-control!

I found them both in the cafeteria. She looked way more attractive than she did yesterday. Meera cast a knowing look and chuckled softly. “Hi! Want to eat something? You look hungry.” said Shraddha as she placed a box of sandwiches in front of me. “Here, have some.” I looked at her sharply.

She is made just for me. These words kept ringing in my ears. I kept looking at the sandwiches that she had placed in front of me. “Are you still mad at me? Look, I’ve already accepted my mistake and have even apologized. Why are you still harping on it? Now we’re friends. Right? So please eat,” she said, venturing into a zone of familiarity.

I was floored. All I wanted to do was to watch her talk. “Hey! Come on now, eat. Stop ogling at her. Will you?” whispered Meera. I collected myself and starting nibbling at the sandwich. “Now, that’s my boy!” said Shraddha, tousling my hair. It sent happy shivers down my spine. And that urged me to caress her cheek affectionately. Just as I extended my arm to reach out to her cheek, she lunged back. My finger got stuck in her gold loops. The earring perhaps had a sharp edge somewhere that scratched my finger. I pulled my finger back in reflex and realised it had started bleeding. While Meera went looking for something to stop the bleeding, on an impulse, Shraddha grabbed my finger and put it to her mouth to arrest the blood flow. While she was doing this, I kept gazing at her in awe. As the warmth from her mouth slowly comforted me... I tried to call out her name but I wasn’t sure if even I could hear it.
Or perhaps she heard me. She looked into my eyes and gestured a “What?” my finger still firmly clutched in her mouth. I cleared my throat again and muttered, “That will do Shraddha.” Meera had been observing all this with a snigger. Shraddha realised this and quickly removed my finger from her mouth. She gave me a sheepish grin. I didn’t say anything. I gobbled my sandwich and got up to leave. All I could say was, “Shraddha, I really like you.” She smiled. “Thanks....friend,” she said and waved me goodbye. Just as we were about to leave, I mustered the courage to suggest going out for dinner the next day. Meera was the first to respond, “Dinner? No way. I can’t make it.” I ignored her and waited for Shraddha’s response. Shraddha hesitated to answer. “Umm…it’s...getting to go. Why don’t you give me your number?” I took her cell phone and dialled my number from it and gave it back to her. “Call me.” I ordered and walked away, not waiting for her response.

I felt completely thrilled. I was almost sure she’d call me back. Oh God! She has to call me. Yes, she will. I left the place whistling a favorite tune, as my heart brimmed with hope. I didn’t sleep all night. I kept staring at the phone, as if by doing that, I could hypnotize her into calling me! I don’t remember when exactly I had drifted off to sleep but my incessantly ringing phone jolted me awake. It was Shraddha.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 3

Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar
pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/


I walked over to my bike and started it, this time using the electric starter though. I parked the bike, headed straight to the elevator and reached the seventh floor. I told the lady at the reception desk, “I’d like to meet Shraddha Reddy please.”

The receptionist looked at me and punched a few numbers on the intercom. I was restless and impatient. I flipped out my phone and called Meera.

“Hey, wassup?” she asked, sounding a little irritated.

“Can you please step out with Shraddha for a while?”

“Hey! Now what? Listen. Don’t mess up things further, okay?”

“Don’t worry. There won’t be any trouble. I just need to tell her something and I will leave once I’m done. I swear.”

As we were talking, the lady at the reception informed me that Shraddha’s extension was busy and asked me to wait. I nodded at her and continued talking to Meera.
“Just give me a minute,” said Meera and hung up.

I took a deep breath and waited. There was still a slight stinging sensation on the finger that I’d just then burnt. My eyes were glued to the door. I mentally rehearsed what I would say. I told myself, “Just like that! No hesitation. Just look into her eyes and say it. Just like that!” My thoughts were cut short by the duo.

Shraddha’s face looked deadpan. Meera suggested that we go to the cafeteria. I followed them. Stuck to one corner each in the elevator, only glances were exchanged but not a word was spoken till we got to the basement. As soon as we reached the cafeteria Shraddha walked up straight to the machine and got us a coffee each.  She placed it on the table and plonked herself on a chair next to me. Awkward silence ensued.

Just when I decided to break the ice, she broke in, “I’m sorry. I guess it’s my mistake. I shouldn’t have spoken to you that way, especially in our first meeting. No one’s ever raised their voice at me before. I’ve always had my way in everything. I was quite shaken when you yelled at me. I later realised that throwing the sandwich at you was worse than what you did. Hey…I’m sorry. I’m not just saying it because you are here. I would have apologized anyway. I would’ve gone crazy if I didn’t…Phew! I feel a lot better now.”

I kept looking at Shraddha’s face the entire time she was talking. Such a sweet thing she was! I kicked myself for having behaved so badly with her.

“Seriously, I came here to apologize too. There’s no point in pondering over the same thing. Why don’t we talk of something else?” I paused for a few seconds and continued. “Umm…Well, I want to say something. But you must promise me that you will not get annoyed.” Shraddha and Meera glanced at each other. Meera looked away, rolling her eyes, half-expecting fresh trouble.

“You know what, I think you are really pretty... and the way your earrings dance when you speak, I find that super cute,” I said. Shraddha looked surprised. She quickly looked away, almost blushing. “C’mon!” she said.

Meera looked relieved.

Shraddha got up to leave. “Thank God! It’s sorted out. I was in fact upset about the way things turned out. Anyway, I’m glad now. Listen, we really must get going.”

I extended my hand to Shraddha. “Friends?” I asked. She looked at me sharply and shook my hand. Her long hand-shake sent across a wonderful feeling of warmth to me. She said a quick ‘Bye’ and left. I just didn’t have the heart to let go of her hand. I’ve had my share of girl friends too. I’ve even had some cozy moments too. But then, this was a feeling that I never had before. I could hear the loud thumping of my heart. Just as Meera started following Shraddha, I tugged at her hand. “Meera...I think I’m in love with her,” I said, looking at Shraddha who was walking away. Meera kept looking at me.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 2

pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/

Déjà vu
Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar


I enjoyed the look on Shraddha’s face for a few moments before bursting into a hearty Ha Ha Ha. They saw my laughter and joined in, nervously. “Come on, what’s a man to do?” I said, mildly.  

That was it.

She threw the half-eaten sandwich on my face and erupted like a volcano, “Idiot! Can’t you take a joke? Is this the way you scream at people? Don’t you know how to behave with women? I wonder who hired you for a Marketing job! Bloody looser!” With a quick “sorry” muttered at Meera, she left in a huff.

I watched her storm out. Man, such spite! This was the first time a woman had spoken to me so harshly, the first time my own “yelling” tactic had backfired so badly. Whenever I knew someone was pulling my leg, I loved to flare up dramatically like this without warning, only to burst into laughter at the shocked expressions a moment later. This was one quirk of mine that even Meera hadn’t seen. No wonder she seemed annoyed as well. Before leaving, she merely said, “Sorry. Couldn’t say anything in your favour… Bye.” Out of nowhere, this strange new feeling of guilt started creeping into me.

I didn’t know what to do with this new feeling. I stomped out of the office, kick-started and revved up my bike with all my might. I stopped at a nearby shop and bought myself a fag. My mind was racing with thoughts with every puff. Shraddha’s outrage and the things she said kept ringing in my ears, as if on a loop. Who was she after all? How could she be so nasty to me? She poked fun at me and I gave it back in the same coin. Fair and square. What the heck does she care what I do with my life? Bloody hell! Lady, you just wait and watch if I screw up or not! I dragged a long, angry puff at my cigarette and burnt my finger. I threw the cigarette down in reflex and winced.

Shraddha’s anger, Meera’s indifference, now this stupid cigarette burn...all of this together made me really furious. I hopped on my bike, kicked it into life with just one stroke and zipped away.
As my mind and the bike wandered aimlessly, I found myself stuck in the horrible Anna Salai traffic. This enraged me further, making me pick up a totally uncalled for squabble with someone at the signal. As soon as the signal turned green, I flew past the traffic only to stop at the Marina. As I got there, I watched the slowly gathering evening crowds. I sat down near the Gandhi statue. My eyes were clouded by hazy visions of Shraddha, Meera, the cigarette, my burnt fingers...Soon, the haze gave way to a clearer vision, the only images that were repeatedly playing were Shraddha’s face and the cigarette burn. As I sat there grappling with my thoughts, I felt a cool, soft touch against my cheek. Nudged out of my reverie, I turned around to find a cute baby smiling innocently at me. Just a few paces behind this baby was, an older child - the baby’s mother, who came running towards us shouting out half-smilingly, “Deepu, hey, come on here,” and to me, in a softer tone, “I am sorry!”. She scooped the baby in her arms and walked away. As I sat there suddenly feeling a little lighthearted, the baby kept turning back to smile at me.

I walked over to my bike and started it, this time using the electric starter though. I parked the bike, headed straight to the elevator and reached the seventh floor. I told the lady at the reception desk, “I’d like to meet Shraddha Reddy please.”