On an aromatic evening in 2018, in some café, we sat facing each other, usually as men and women do. I, a Gentleman, sat with my one palm placed above the other on the table and my chin mounted on them. She, the Lady, browsed through the laminated menu card.
When she finally looked beyond that laminated menu card after a few crucial decisive minutes, she found me gazing at her. She smacks my head with that laminated thing.
“Stop looking at me like that,” she said, a bit blushed and self-conscious.
“Stop looking so darn pretty like that,” I simply retort.
Yours truly has always been a simple man with simple needs.
The next day when she caught me lost in the movement of her nose, cheeks, and lips as she spoke passionately about topics dear to her with the professors in the staff room, I prepared myself for an earful.
She began, but only after hitting my arm with the notes folder,
“At least stop staring at me in front of our professors! Did you see how they were looking at us? Do you want us to get in trouble?”
“‘Us’ and all ha?” is all I could blurt, air quoting.
Yours truly, albeit rarely, does have an optimistic side.
“Listen, Mister,” she said, gathering herself, “I have told you this before. ‘Us,’” she continued, air quoting, “is never happening,” waving both her index fingers back and forth simultaneously at us.
“I can think of ten reasons why we will never work. First, age. I am almost 3.5 years elder to you,” she continued, “Give me one reason why we should even consider taking things further.”
I wanted to say Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar. But then I let it be. It’s high time this country let Master Blaster enjoy his retirement without burdening him with more responsibilities.
“Because,” I began sternly, but let go myself quickly, and ended up saying –
“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
When I see you,
Butterflies in my stomach go zoo-zoo.”
Red-faced, all she could muster between her roaring laughter was, “Cheeeeee Yaaaar.”
Not boasting, but a Gentleman and the Lady walked back from college hand-in-hand that day, well-gripped. The Lady held as if she no longer cared about those nine other reasons, and a Gentleman’s grip was as if he was dead serious about butterflies going zoo-zoo. And then began the goodnight selfies every day at 11.30 pm, without fail.
Ours was an evening college, accommodating working professionals and students alike. She, the Lady, was a voracious reader, an ideal, passionate literature student. Yours truly was just a regular person more inclined to get an education, with a more or less decent disposition to reading. And she was determined to change that.
“Aye, Romeo,” she began one day, all sassy. “What all can you do for me?”
“Anything,” I replied modestly.
“Good,” she said approvingly, “read this for me then.”
I scanned the hardcover novel in my hand.
‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai.
Now, yours truly have done quite a lot of crazy things for and in love. But finishing that 336-paged grim, intricately written novel between 1 pm on a Thursday and 5 am the next day, will always be among the top five things I have done for and in love.
Visibly impressed, she bought me a coffee on Friday to help me defeat sleep and the resultant drowsiness. But that Friday had much more in store for me. While she sat behind me, she drew some shapes on my back with her fingers, all teasing and sensual. Enormous efforts were put in to not lose self’s composure. Yours truly is very sensitive like that. I received an SMS from her. It read ‘Guess the shapes/designs.’
The next lecture, I sat behind her and began my humble, sensual craft on her back with my nimble fingers. She received an SMS. It read ‘Guess the letters and combine them to form a word.’ My English teacher from school would have been proud.
Later that evening, as we discussed our ‘answers,’ she told me what she intended was geometrical shapes/designs.
“Any other shapes, designs, words, are fine but not geometrical, please,” I said, a bit bothered.
She, who loved Mathematics and English in equal measure during her studious days, was surprised and demanded legit reasons for my irritation.
“Geometry gave me anxiety as a student,” I began my passionate defense, “I could never finish the paper on time and had to let go 10 marks every time. After every geometry exam, I used to return home in tears out of anger and frustration. The measurements bought out the maniac in me. I re-checked and re-checked and re-checked the measurements, obsessively, meticulously. And don’t even get me started on parallel lines.”
“Now, what did parallel lines do to you?” she asked me rolling her eyes.
“It’s just inexplicable hatred. You won’t understand,” I answered back slowly.
She sighed, giving in, “Okay then, no more geometrical shapes/designs.”
Not boasting, but a Gentleman and the Lady had many more art & trace sessions on each other’s back the following weeks. And when that did not suffice, their feet found their way to each other, brushing, teasing, and caressing. At times, when the senses reached their peak, they clamped each other’s heels down with their big and index toes.
On a windy October evening, we reached college two hours before time. I was ordered by Her Majesty, the Lady, to have a light lunch. She had taken half day from work to prepare something special for me. And as she took out the lunch box when we sat down on the bench with legs on either side, facing each other, as you do, the aroma of biryani engulfed the classroom.
I thought the day couldn’t get any better before she handed me a bottle of Coke, smiling slyly, having known my thing for aerated drinks. Overwhelmed and overfed, I thanked her from the bottom of my heart amid minute burps. Of course, only after singing praises of her cooking skills.
All the while, she sat with her right elbow on the desk, and her chin mounted on her right palm. She stared at me, smiling victoriously. As if she found something about me and wanted me to know that she found something about me, but she won’t tell it yet.
“What?” I ask innocently.
“Only if you were as innocent as you look,” she said without breaking eye contact.
I smiled sheepishly. The previous evening, I wrote a poem on sexual tension based on the previous weeks’ art & trace sessions and sent it to her.
A minute or two of silence.
She went on, “What are you so smitten about, man? Nobody in college looks at me twice. My office colleagues make fun of my age and give me hell, forwarding prospective groom profiles every day. And here you are, sending me poems about how my eyes crinkle when I smile. And how those crinkles resemble waves of tranquility and turbulence! Here you are, listening intently to everything I say. And how the hell can you keep looking at me like that? What’s there to look at so much? How? Why?”
Now it was my turn to sit with my right elbow on the desk with my chin mounted on my right palm, and say triumphantly, “Someone’s memory is too good, remembering details and all!”
“And how the…” she began again before I cut her off to say what I must have said to quite a few superwomen who have existed and exited my life –
“If only people around you had my eyes. If only you had my eyes.”
The Lady, a strong-willed woman, wipes off her blush in the blink of an eye and continues, “And how the hell does my age not bother you?”
“What can I say? I have an exquisite, refined, and royal taste in beverages. And I will never ever mind a fine wine for myself,” I answer with a calm and confidence, astounding myself.
For the next few minutes, she sat with her face covered in her palms, sighing.
Oh no, she was not blushing. She was almost done with me that day.
Not boasting, but on that windy October evening, as they returned from college, the Lady tightly clung on to a Gentleman’s left arm. As if the wind would take the Lady away if she dared to loosen the grip. And a Gentleman, an agnostic, looked away, praying to make things stay the same forever.
On our farewell day, three days after the final day of our final exams of our final year of our Master’s, we found ourselves sitting in a cab, dropping her to her place. All decked up, we sat in silence. No nostalgia. No sharing of dreams or ambitions. No discussion of career or job plans. No cheeky questions or answers. No compliments. Nothing.
The cab reeked of despair and gloom. Or maybe it was us. Only, her head rested on my left shoulder soothed things for a while.
I softly bobbed my left shoulder and asked her, “Will I ever find someone like you?”
A few minutes later, she drew two lines on my upper quad. Straight. One below the other. Two long depressions appeared on my neatly ironed pants. Without moving or looking up, she said, “I think I know why you so inexplicably hate parallel lines.”
A four-second pause. I was immobile.
She mumbled, “Because they don’t meet.”
Not boasting, but when the Lady and a Gentleman were done wiping each other’s tears, the Lady planted something firm on a Gentleman’s left cheek. A Gentleman returned the favor, even firmer, on her forehead. And when the Lady got out of the cab, leaving the cab door ajar, she refused to look back even once.
Upon reaching their homes, a Gentleman’s mobile buzzed. The text read –
‘Roses are red
Violets are blue
Be it Arranged, Love, or Fate
I hope I find someone like you.’
With that, the Lady complimented a Gentleman for the first and last time since they met. And thus ended the Goodnight selfies.
Cut to 2020. A Gentleman views the Lady’s profile picture on WhatsApp. There she was, with crinkling eyes, clinging on to the left arm of another Gentleman, a fine wine himself. The lady held on as if the wind would take the Lady away if she dared to loosen the grip. A Gentleman has never been so very happy for the Lady.
Cut to 2021. Yours truly is almost done with having explained for the umpteenth time to this new Lady on Instagram about how her smile brightens up three things in total: her face, my face, and my day.
What can I say? Yours truly has always been a simple man with simple needs.
This Lady, not used to compliments as such, refuses to believe, brushing it off at regular intervals.
And yet again, I find myself saying what I must have said to quite a few superwomen who have existed and exited my life –
“If only people around you had my eyes. If only you had my eyes.”
“You silly silly silly boy!” is all I get in reply.
Not boasting, but a Gentleman has managed to progress from this Lady’s Instagram DM to her WhatsApp.