Thursday, June 16, 2005

The first story I wrote...


It was around 6:30PM that warm Thursday, Ramya and Sandhya were still waiting for Kishore at Lipton, a fast-food joint at AirPort Road, Bangalore. Kishore had promised to treat them since India beat arch rivals Pakistan in the Pepsi series One-Day cricket match. Having arrived at sharp 6, after a kilometer and half walk, Ramya and Sandhya in their best efforts to kill time exhausted every topic they could possibly talk over. It was a long wait and the hour’s needle was now pointing 7, while the patience needle was gradually edging towards the red area. Just then a waiter neared their table, handed over a chit to them and left the scene.
On the face it was
Are you still waiting for me?

On the first unfold,

You know what day its today?

And the final unfold,
Signed - Kishore

It was the 1st of April 2004.

Extremely annoyed by this, they lashed the shores of Kishore’s house like a colossal tsunami triggered due to a massive tremor on the ocean bed. After an hour of continuous upbeat, the sea finally began to recede as Sandhya let it pass by, but Ramya was no chicken, the thought of being hoodwinked still lurked in her cerebrum.
“Beginner’s luck, Try to out-smart me next year” she yelled.
“I am in” countered Kishore, “but wouldn’t waste my time fooling you for nothing, wanna bet?”
On mutual consensus they arrived at the looser treating the winner at a 5 star hotel.
“Deal” assured Ramya, “But no monkey tricks that play with health and life” “I will definitely budge even if I strongly believe you are prancing at me”.
The bet was on, with Sundar as the witness. The plans for the next fooling kicked off without a break, but for most of its tenure lodged in one tiny corner of Kishore’s mind.

Kishore, Ramya, Sandhya and Sundar were all batch-mates in a Post Graduate Diploma course specializing in Information Technology at Bangalore. They went on to pursue their IT career in Bangalore itself. Kishore and Sundar shared the same apartment.

Five months had passed in no hurry, every day like the one before, and Kishore enjoyed his workplace almost being paid for doing nothing. Fortunes changed, and he was now part of an assignment called CVM, rated one of the technically advanced, most challenging projects. CVM, is a product owned by an American Multi-National, and as a part of outsourcing, it was off-shored to India. At offshore Balaji led the team and his only team member - Kishore.

CVM had a lot of learning to do and the team had to travel onshore to get some hands on experience. The trip was finalized and they were scheduled to fly on the first of October 2004 to Malvern, a small town in West Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The business trip was for three months and Kishore had a lot of packing to do to sustain through the haunting fall and the ruthless winter. Ramya was closely involved, from groceries to garments, and from stuffing them to sendoff, she made sure his trip had everything in place.

On October 2nd, they reached Malvern, after a thirty three mile drive from Philadelphia. Here is where Kishore first acquainted with Kamal, one of Balaji’s long time colleagues, who went on to share Kishore’s apartment on his return to Bangalore. Kamal was already in Malvern for a different assignment and similarly returned prior to the rest.

Balaji was to return to India on the first day of the New Year 2005, while Kishore’s term stretched longer, as his I94 stamping permitted and his project demanded him to stay longer.

The occasional yet periodic bubble bloated again; What if I am here till April 1st, how can I win this bet. May be, an idea stuck, what if I inform her I am returning on the 1stof April! She will definitely come to receive me, only to find hundreds of other passengers but for me. Let me see, it's still too early to think off.

Kishore’s anxiety bubble cracked, and he returned to India on the 12th of Jan’05, and as expected, Ramya was there to receive him.

Latitudes changed but their attitudes didn’t. The CVM team was ever sincere in implementing all they had learnt to meet their stringent Feb14th deadline, sidelining this `bet` to the farthest corner of Kishore’s mind. Still, Due to technical problems the deadline was postponed to a later date in March.

Ramya, working for a different organization probably knew more about CVM than anyone but the core team, merely being a good listener to Kishore’s daily narrations, technical and otherwise. Though she felt sad that her good friend had barely anytime to breathe in this throat choking schedule, there was this wicked happiness deep inside that Kishore had totally forgotten about the bet.

It was early March and Kishore still sandwiched in his tasks hardly did any home work on the bet. Time was running short as he was desperately gasping for an idea.

March 12, Kishore was on his routine weekend trip home to Hosur, an hour’s drive from Bangalore. Ramya called him on a usual casual note. Just to drag this conversation a little longer, she impromptu inquired
“So, when are you going to US again?”
Kishore took a brief moment, thought of an answer, and faked unhurriedly “mmm…month-end… mostly”
“What? Why didn’t you tell this to me earlier?”
With a subtle smile Kishore said “It’s still not confirmed, I didn’t want to tell even my conscious before it was certain”.

Wow, this sounds like a great work, I can tell her I am going to US, and since she raised it, its all the more natural. End of March will begin with the 1st of April, the day I’ll be leaving to the US. There was a sly smile, as he set the foundation for this bet.

The following week again passed with no pause, work was blinding the whole world behind. And finally it was a well anticipated weekend. Kishore, Ramya and few of their friends were traveling to Chennai to attend a wedding. In the train he caught up with Swarna, a colleague who was soon taking a trip to Malvern and was having a long chat on the Visa, travel, accommodation and about his chances of going back, subtly impressing the clue of his travel to Ramya. To his luck she started to believe him more than ever, or at least pretended to.

It was back to Monday blues, hot pursuits and burning mid night oil. Despite all his interest, Kishore’s thoughts barely deviated from his tasks. And it was not till that following Saturday that he thought about the bet. Having lunch at home in Hosur, he was discussing about the bet and the idea he had. His parents were more than ready to help. His mom went a step further, and suggested that she would give a “Missing my son” stunt to Ramya to earn her vote.
“That won’t be needed mom, just be sure, if she ever calls up enquiring, you’ll are sure to affirm on the same”.

The week started in a relaxed note. Kishore had some time to breathe fresh air since his deadline was now postponed to a future date.

March 29th, around evening, Ramya calls him up
“Hey what’s up with your trip? How far is it up to?”
“Still tentative” said Kishore.
“How long will it be?”
“A month”
“You are going alone?”
“No, Balaji too is coming”
“Ok, Well, I need a Zoom lens for my Canon SLR camera, buy one for me.”
“I don’t have time to investigate, give me exact information of what you want”
“Ok, I’ll check the Internet and get back to you.”

March 30th, 8 PM, they met at Lipton,
“Are you done with your purchases?” questioned Ramya
“No time for that”, I’ve been busy all week with my work.”
“Deadline and departure are discrete” he punned.
“Stop this nonsense”, “You have just one day left, and you are joking”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care. It’s just for a month, nothing much to buy”
“Are your tickets ready?” “No, Not yet”
“You still haven’t got them? Why?”
“This was a sudden plan; the travel desk is fighting hard to get us in. It will take time”
“When did you apply for the Visa?”
“The Visa that was stamped earlier is valid for one year”
“Fine, why are you guys flying on Friday?”

Because that is April fool’s day “So that we can have a comfortable journey reaching Malvern by Saturday night, and take a day’s rest before beginning work”

“Let’s not talk about my trip” said Kishore in a slow unexciting voice, giving her sight clues that he wasn’t too keen in going.
“As you wish, ok, here is the list of the lens available for my camera” she gave him a 20 pages document containing specifications and pictures of all possible zoom lens the world manufactures for her camera downloaded from the internet.
What a criminal waste of effort, time and resource Guilt rocked Kishore. “Hey, I don’t have any clue about them, you choose one of them, and I’ll buy that”
They went on to have a long chat, with Kishore mostly on the receiving end. Ramya repeated her advises that he knew since childhood.

March 31st, 9 AM.
I can’t drag this any longer. I have to tell Ramya about my travel. And Bingo! An idea stuck, Swarna was leaving to Malvern that Sunday, I could take her travel itinerary and modify the dates to make my very own. He got into action; since Swarna was leaving from Chennai, he changed the source and even the flight number.
AI 137 03 APR MAA BOM 0330 now read
9W 442 01 APR BLR BOM 2055,

He put his name and sent it for a proof reading to Sandhya and Gokul. Gokul was one more of Kishore’s batch mates. “Proof Reading done, its good to go” replied Sandhya, who too had her part in helping Kishore win this bet.

Ramya received a mail that looked like a forward of an itinerary mail from the Travel-desk to Kishore. Kishore added Gokul and Sandhya in the TO list to make it look natural.
It was less than 120 seconds when he got a reply from Ramya.
“Hey you are leaving from Bangalore, but why are you returning to Chennai?”
He realized he forgot to change the return details of his fabricated itinerary; but what perplexed him was the intent of Ramya’s care for his travel and the way he was exploiting it.
“I noticed it and I spoke to the travel desk. They will make the necessary changes in the booking and intimate me. Anyway it’s for my return, a long way from now” he lied relentlessly.

March 31st 8 PM, they while having a walk on Airport Road,
“Tomorrow evening you are leaving, aren’t you?” She asked this for the sake of asking a question. He was one of her closest friends and she had already begun to miss him.
“Kishore, I am held in an important assignment and cannot help you like the last time. I may not come to the airport even” Ramya made reason to warp her unwillingness to send him off tomorrow.
“That’s ok!” Opps! Where the hell will the climax be then! He thought. His dreams of giving her an April-Fool wish over the Public addressing system flopped.
“When are you going to pack?”
“Tomorrow I’ll finish my travel formalities and leave office by 10-10:30 AM, and start packing there after”. Kishore couldn’t believe his mind bring out these answers in a whisker.
“Okay, Good luck; I’ll call you before you leave”.
Kishore came back home, and had a long chat with his room-mates. “Ramya seems to be close to believing me in full, but I am still apprehensive” he said, “What if she was playing her part to counter-fool me?” He alight his huge suitcase from the loft.
This might come in handy. Incase she comes home, I’ll fill this with some junk, take it till the airport before I shock her.

April 1st, as usual he and Kamal reached office at 8 AM,
8:15 AM – first call, “Hey you are in office? What happened?”
“I am clearing my desk”.
9:15 AM – second call, “You are still there?”
“Yes, will get through soon”
“What about Balaji?”
“He too is with me…”
He suddenly thought What if she calls Balaji? He turned his head towards Balaji in the next seat
“Balaji, incase you get a call from Ramya, you know what to do!”
“You’ve already left office, we have our flight at 8 PM” Balaji recited his written dialog that Kishore gave him.
He left to Kamal’s seat, “Kamal, most likely Ramya will call you, please...” Kamal interrupted “Don’t worry, I can handle that”
He had called up everyone he knew to keep them alerted except Johnsy, one of his other room-mate who couldn’t be contacted.
9:45 AM – third call – Kishore cut it.
9:46 AM – 4th call, cut again.
9:47 AM – 5th call, this time he picked, “Hey why didn’t you pickup the previous calls?”
“I was having a chat with my manager, he was giving some last minute details” he said in extempore,
“Oh; you are done with your work?”
“Almost, Should be leaving office anytime”.
He decided not to pick her calls anymore.

6th, 7th, 8th…12th call, Kishore still wouldn’t pickup.
She called up Gokul, “You know where Kishore is?” “No, he left office but” “Oh, thanks”
6 PM: She called up Sundar, “You are sure where Kishore is?” Sundar didn’t know what to say “I don’t know, may be he’s gone home to Hosur to pickup some important documents”
“May be, Thanks!”
13th, 14th, 15th call and still it was negative response.

It was 6:15 in the evening when Kishore left office with Gokul and was on his way back home.

6:30 PM, she called up Kamal,
“Hey you know where Kishore is? I’ve been trying to reach him all day!”
“No idea, he left office early”
“Ok! You are not going to send him off?” she asked
“He’s not a kid” riposted Kamal “Besides I have a lot of work to do”
“Same here, I had an important assignment and thought I wouldn’t make it” and suddenly she yelled “Johnsy……”
“Who’s that” asked Kamal,
“It’s Johnsy, he’s on the other side of the road”
“Ok, I’ll talk to you later, bye”

If Ramya saw Johnsy, she must be on Airport Road and probably heading towards Kishore’s house. Oh my God!
Immediately Kamal made a call to Kishore, “Where are you?”
“M.G Road”
“Listen, I was just talking to Ramya when she screamed ‘Johnsy’, she just saw him, meaning she’s somewhere on Airport Road and close to home. Be really careful”.
“Kamal, thanks for this info, I was actually heading home” “Sundar must be there, can you call him, and enquire about the situation and update me?”
“Sure, hang up, I’ll call back”

Kamal spoke to Sundar, and found that neither Johnsy nor Ramya were there, he alerted Sundar about the situation. He advised Sundar to switch of all the lights if he still planned to stay home and then updated Kishore.

6:40 PM, Sundar called up Kishore
What if it was Ramya calling from my home? On the safer side Kishore cut the call.
Sundar called up again, and it was cut. Sundar realized the apprehension on Kishore’s mind and messaged him “This is Sundar”, and called him again,
“What’s the update?” asked Kishore,
“Ramya and Johnsy are home” “The lights were off, and Johnsy opened the door, I am talking from the back side room, they don’t know I am here, I’ll update you soon”
“Great, Bye”

Ramya and Johnsy were here in the foyer and Sundar arrived at the scene, she spotted the empty suitcase lying in a corner “Why is it still empty?” she demanded,
“I too was wondering why…” Sundar bought sometime to think of an answer.
“May be he took Kamal’s suitcase since this one was really big” he fumbled, but managed to complete the sentence. Johnsy who has very little idea about the plan felt more like a kid lost in a trade fair.
“Fine, Why didn’t he pickup the phone?”
“I don’t know why…” “Ok, are you not going to the Airport for sendoff?” Sundar changed the topic.

“I want to go, can you tell me how do I reach and what should I do to get in? Will I make it before he gets in?” Sundar asked to both Ramya and Johnsy deliberately trying to sound natural.
Johnsy still blinked while Ramya though irritated gave her bit of brains to Sundar.

6:50 PM, Kishore, now near Airport Road called up Sundar in Gokul’s mobile to avoid any coincidence with Ramya, Sundar picked the call in the backyard,
“Where is she?” Kishore enquired,
“Still here,”
Sundar went on to update him about all the happenings,
“Ok, Listen plans changed, Gokul will come there soon, and he’ll take care of the rest”.
Ramya is home, Plan A of fooling her at the airport is written off, and its time of Plan B
“Gokul, here is a plan, go home and meet Ramya, tell here you are coming there straight after dropping me at the airport, force her to come to the airport, instead bring her to Lipton, and we’ll complete her climax there”
“Ok, but I must be ready to face her when she bombards me with questions” worried Gokul,
“hm… Ok, If she asks about the suitcase, tell I took Kamal’s suitcase, she’ll ask about the phone not being picked up…” after a moment “ah! Tell her that I had requested the service provider to discontinue the connection, since I won’t be here for a month”
“And what if she asks why I didn’t call her?” questioned Gokul,
“Hm… tell here your mobile had only one rupee balance and that you couldn’t make any calls” Kishore felt proud of his reasoning ability.
“She won’t ask more, continue the conversation to pull her to the Airport, I mean to Lipton” he winked.

7:10 PM, as planned, Kishore stood at Lipton, and Gokul met Ramya at Kishore’s house, alongside Johnsy and Sundar. “I’m just coming form the Airport, Kishore is waiting there”, he began the conversation, and as expected Ramya asked him the same three questions,
“What about the suitcase?”
“He’ took Kamal’s”
“Why didn’t he pickup the phone?”
“He called up the service providers to temporarily discontinue the connection since he won’t be here for a month”
“Ok, why didn’t you call me?”
“My mobile had just one rupee balance”
Ramya was taken aback by Gokul’s ready answers.
“Ok, come lets go and meet Kishore” Gokul called,
“No, I am not planning to come, please wish him safe journey from my side”
“Why should I? Am I your mouth piece?” Gokul was at the peak of his performance.
“If you want, come along, or else…” he delivered this statement like an annoyed husband tired after a quarrel with his wife.
“Hey don’t get angry Gokul, I too wish I come, but I have my own reasons, Ok, I am going home, if you can, Please wish him.” And she left.
Gokul updated Kishore that Ramya has left, and that she’s not coming to the airport, “Plan B too flopped”.

7:25 PM, Kishore came home, and was hearing to all the updates till 7:45 PM

7:45 PM He the went to a local phone booth and called Ramya on her mobile,
“Hello” “Hello, it’s me, Kishore”
“Hey, where are you, I’ve been trying to reach you all day”
“I am…” “Hello I, Hello….HELLO” and there was an engage tone. Kishore had cut the call emulating a signal problem.
He took a brief moment and called her home and this time Ramya’s mother picked the call
“Aunty, this is Kishore, is Ramya around?”
“Oh yes” and she yelled “RAMYA, Kishore is on the line”
By then something stuck his mind, and he hung up.

8:00 PM He decided to go to her home and shock her himself
8:05 PM, Knock Knock, Ramya opened the door and saw Kishore standing, his face reveling too many details, but she didn’t care for any,
“Hey you still didn’t go?” she asked, without any exclamation
Why is she not even reacting? “No, I had to tell you something”
“What is that?”
“Ah! I knew about it all the time, I knew you were trying to fool me” Ramya said with no surprise, no hurry and as if she was waiting for this moment for a long time now.
Kishore’s heart sank like a bearish stock exchange; he sat down without balance, his shoulders drooping, his throat dried up, and all his efforts meant meaningless to him.
“Can I have a glass of water” he whispered

As he took the glass and drank some water, Ramya’s mom showed up.
“Hello Kishore how are you”, “You just now called up right? Ramya came running to pickup and when she found it disconnected she was terribly upset and told me you were calling from the Airport” Kishore‘s shoulders now stood straight, he could feel a sudden sprint in the blood flow,
As her Father continued, “I knew something was wrong and that’s why I enquired her well in advance.” “I asked here about your Visa, and she told me it was multiple entry one, I asked her why the tickets weren’t issued, she blamed your company for the last minute hustles, and when I asked her why you were leaving on the 1st of April, she told me that it was a Friday and you’ll be getting a day’s rest before work” he added, “she was damn sure you were going”
Kishore now felt as though the market recovered to a bullish tone.
Her mother continued, “Even when we were walking this morning, I warned her that today was the 1st of April and to be very careful”

“Oh, so you did get fooled” “You were just trying to get away from me” asked Kishore
“No, I had a slight doubt...”
“Then why didn’t you investigate”
“I thought…”
“So, I win, now do you accept?”
“No, I actually…”
“Accept it, come on, be a sport”
“I won?”
“Ok, ok you win”
“Good, you accepted at last”
“Why didn’t you pick up your phone, I was really worried!”
“Sorry about that, Business is Business”

“Ok, Fine you win; I hope no one knows about it!”
Kishore stood there smiling,
“Does Sundar know about it?”
“How dare, they were acting as if they were having no clue, I’ll deal with them”
“How about Gokul?”
“He dropped me at the airport, don’t you remember”
‘Grrr... and Kamal?”
“It was Kamal who informed me that you were coming home, or else my plans would have been in soup”
“That’s atrocious; he was acting as if he was really busy”
“Ok, how about Sandhya?”
“She only proof read my itinerary”
“Wait till I get my hands on them!”
“It took all of their effort to fool you, it only goes to say you are one cleaver woman”, Kishore did the putty work to patch things up.

“Well Kishore, you did it this time, try to fool me the next time!”

Will Kishore make it three in a row or will Ramya break the jinx, I'm going to wait and watch.
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Disclaimer: All characters in this are fictitious; any connection to reality would be simply co-incidental.