bhOndOO has forgotten about dinner. He has been left alone by BenJi and Gullu in the computing lab.
Shall I? he thinks.
Without knowing what he is going to speak, he takes out his mobile and calls Shami. Every ring doubles his pulse rate. He closes his eyes, and then…
bhOndOO opens eyes and keeps looking at the unanswered call message.
Has she gone to the mess? Or… has she gone out for celebrating thesis submission? But she should have taken her mobile. Then, where must she be?
bhOndOO comes out of the lab. He forgets to greet the security person as he usually does.
“Good night, Sir.”
“Oh! Good night, Vaidyaji.”.
He leaves the CSA department and his feet show him the way. He walks past Instrumentation, MCBL and BioChemistry. The vehicles disappear and the tarred road is left behind. The sky spreads its wings, glistening with golden pearls. The just arisen full moon winks at bhOndOO. A chilly breeze runs around announcing, “He has arrived.”.
The miss of a pulse makes him aware that she is there, standing right at the feet of J N Tata statue. He tries hard to control his expressions while walking towards the statue, and fails miserably. The waves within him want to reach the moon.
She sees him and doesn’t get surprised. A smile does make an entry though.
And here they are, standing in front of J N Tata, almost in a church, awaiting, “I do.”.
She is looking straight into his eyes and, despite his tries, is able to see the expanse of all the waves within him.
The silence between them starts killing. He doesn’t know whether to kill the silence with “Hello.”, “Congrats.” or “Have you bought railway tickets?”, and he hasn’t even rehearsed anything this time. Her gaze keeps him occupied.
He doesn’t, but she knows that he never utters her name. The softness in his voice reveals everything. She can’t help close her eyes.
She opens her eyes to see her friend, lover, future. She knows he cares for her. She knows he exists for her. She knows he would die for her. But she wants him to say it. She wants to hear those three magic words. She wants him to embrace.
She is madly in love with him. Despite Gullu’s warnings, despite bhOndOO’s failures, despite he being the topic of laughter, within the last few years, he has encompassed her mind completely. Not seeing him troubles her. Seeing him troubles her more. She searches for him everywhere in campus, despite knowing he is nowhere nearby. Her day starts with his thought, goes watching him and ends dreaming of him. She has not remained her own; she has completely become his mistress.
Her expectant look and the echo of the most beautiful word in his own voice startles him. He gasps for breath. He gasps for words. He gasps for an “I do.”.
He knows he has to do it. It is his chance, it is his time and it is his life. It is now or never.
“Shami… I… I…”.
Her words surprise and encourage him at the same time. He continues.
“I thought about it umpteen number of times. I am not the smartest person you know. I am not the richest person around. Nor am I the most eligible bachelor.”.
She is listening.
“I may not be as warm as your parents, but I care for you. I may not be your best friend, but I respect your feelings. I may not be the most revered person around, but I am true to you. I am not omnipresent, but I am always there for you. I may not know what to say when you are sad, but I will be able to offer you a listening ear. I may not know how to make you smile, but I will smile with you. I may not be the best person around, but I will be good to you. And until recently, I used to believe that I will be able to convince you by showing how much I… how much… I love you.”.
Two storms in two hearts, and yet the duo is stand-still. Those who have experienced it know that it is difficult to say it the first time, and equally difficult when you hear it. A few moments pass in silence.
“However, I realized that I am not the only person who loves you so much. All your friends do. Your relatives do. Your parents do. Perhaps much more than what I can.”.
She is looking at him, with her big eyes, now watery.
“They all can support you emotionally, financially, psychologically. They can give you anything you want. They can make you smile. They can keep you happy. They can create the best world for you.”.
His voice saddens, “So I have nothing special or more or better to offer than anyone else. Neither more intelligence, nor more wealth, nor more love. Nothing.”.
A tiny drop settles on the lower eyelid of her left eye. It glistens in the moon-light, innocently, unaware of the reason of its existence. It saddens him further; he is not yet strong enough to be responsible for her tears. How can he bring her back? How can he make her smile? What should he say? Didn’t he want to propose her? And what has he done? He can’t leave her like this. This can’t be the end of the story?
Despite all his limitations, bhOndOO is b-O-n-d, and he cannot stop being one at this critical juncture of his life. He has to do it! He must.
And he does, with a faint mischievous smile on his face, “There is only one way I can become special.”.
She is trying to gather the meaning of the sudden change of his facial expressions, simultaneously trying to predict his future words. bhOndOO pauses a little allowing her to try. She fails.
“And I would be special only if… you love me.”.
bhOndOO smiles, relaxing himself. Shami smiles, understanding the googly and clearly appreciating the argumentative Indian’s argument.
bhOndOO asks, “There is no one else who has that special ability and I can attain it, only if you tell me. So now, do you love me?”.
bhOndOO’s googly turns the scene by 180 degrees. It was him who had to say it, but he is making her say it! Shami is too shy to say it in words. She looks down.
bhOndOO leans forward and asks in a whisperous voice, “Shami… do you love me?”.
Shami smiles and nods.
The waves have silenced, the moon is brighter, the wind is smiling, the two souls are happy.
bhOndOO steps closer to Shami. For the first time, her blood pressure is higher than that of bhOndOO. But she makes no attempt to step back. bhOndOO is standing very close to her; she doesn’t know what he is going to do. bhOndOO leans forward and holds her hand. She gasps for breathe.
But before bhOndOO could experience Rajendra Kumar’s “Meri rag rag mein koi bark si lahrayi thi, jab tere marmari hathon ko chchua tha maine”, J N Tata starts blowing a whistle. Shami quickly takes away her hand. When bhOndOO comes to senses, he realizes that the security guard at the main building, who has so far been watching them suspiciously, has taken offense. bhOndOO looks at him angrily — because the guard cannot see bhOndOO’s facial expressions in the dark. But he sees that the guard is actually standing quietly. Then who is blowing the whistle?
It is Gullu, and along with him come running BenJi, Lili, Chunna, Munna, Tingi, Mungi. Shami steps back smiling. bhOndOO steps back thinking, And I call them friends!
Everyone gathers around and joyously congratulates bhOndOO and Shami.
“You guys heard everything?”, bhOndOO’s question in disappointment.
“Not everything.”, Gullu replies and his smile troubles bhOndOO more.
BenJi, “Now, can we all go for dinner? I am very hungry.”.
“Sure, where should we go?”, Tingi.
“Let’s go to some exotic place.”, Chunna suggests looking at Shami.
“No, no. I don’t have much money.”, Munna.
“You don’t have to pay today.”, Mungi suggests looking at bhOndOO.
bhOndOO checks his wallet and gets disappointed to see the credit card there.
“Okay, let’s go. Let’s take the bus to Malleshwaram.”.
bhOndOO curses his friends, but is now relaxed. Shami is not able to speak, nor is she able to stop smiling.
At the bus stop, as they see the bus coming, Gullu turns towards bhOndOO and Shami, “Well, some of you can take an auto.”.
And I must thank everyone who thought about bhOndOO while iisc life was not getting updated. Specifically, thanks to Satish, Abhijit, Suneel and Eshwaran.
BenJi entered the computing lab to witness the gloomy environment: bhOndOO seated at a corner chair looking down, his computer screen at Shami’s facebook page and his face competing with Dilip Kumar’s tragedy king roles.
“Hmm… what’s the plan?”.
“I am not coming for dinner.”, bhOndOO without looking up and without any efforts of hiding his mental state from his best friend.
“I am not asking about dinner.”.
bhOndOO looked up.
BenJi looked at him without uttering a word, as if it was the most obvious thing in the universe, which required no explanation.
bhOndOO understood, shrugged and again looked down, “I don’t know.”.
“bhOndOO!”, BenJi was serious, “You can’t sit like this! This is the time to act. She submitted her thesis today and is leaving for home in a week.”.
BenJi struck the right chord. bhOndOO got up furiously and shouted, “I know, but what can I do! It’s all over!”.
“But why don’t you talk to her?”.
“She doesn’t like me. She… she likes Gullu.”.
“Have you talked to her?”.
“There is nothing to talk.”.
BenJi didn’t know what to say. bhOndOO was not in a state of listening. At this eventful juncture, someone entered the lab — no, not Shami.
“Hello Gullu.”, who else, of course, BenJi greeted.
“Looks like a tensed environment.”.
Nobody spoke a word.
“So, bhOndOO!”, Gullu attacked, “Shami will be leaving next week.”.
Several phrases came to bhOndOO’s mind at once: “Go to hell!”, “I don’t care!”, “Mind your own business!” and he kept mum.
“I have asked her to talk to her parents about marriage.”.
bhOndOO got furious, but he knew he was a loser, he could only utter, “Congratulations.”.
“Hmm… Well, you see, you need not congratulate me. I am not getting married to Shami.”.
In mind, “What?”, bhOndOO felt he misheard, then felt of dreaming. Without his knowledge, a faint smile appeared on his face, “Sorry?”.
“You heard it right. I am not getting married to Shami. In fact, I cannot get married to her.”.
bhOndOO thought of options, “Gullu loves someone else, Gullu is impotent, Gullu is gay, …”.
“We belong to the same gotra. And we don’t marry within a gotra.”.
bhOndOO in mind, “Gotra? In 21st century?”, but he felt happy that there are people in the world who believe in gotras.
“Oh! When did you come to know of this gotra business?”
“It was clear long ago, within the first month of meeting Shami.”.
“And she knows it too?”, bhOndOO was curious.
“Yes, all along.”.
“Oh!”, and bhOndOO started thinking about all the previous encounters with Shami in the new light. His profound thinking was disturbed by Gullu’s gotra-mantra.
“Since we belong to the same gotra”, Gullu continued, “I treat her like a sister…”.
bhOndOO could not stop smiling.
“… And I considered it to be my moral responsibility that she doesn’t fall for a bhOndOO like you.”.
bhOndOO’s smile stopped.
“I always wanted her to look for a person of intellect, maturity and status, and I told this to her umpteen number of times. But she doesn’t listen.”.
“And she likes you.”, BenJi stepped in.
bhOndOO, puzzled, “Likes whom?”.
“She like you.”.
“How do you know? She said it?”, then suddenly bhOndOO sensed the bigger picture, “Wait! BenJi, did you also know about this gotra episode all along?”.
“Yes, I did.”, BenJi smiled, wickedly.
“And I thought you were my best friend!”.
“Who else has been a part of this plan?”.
“Gullu, myself, Lili, Tingi, Mungi, actually, everyone knew of this, except you.”.
In Munna Bhai style, “Tum sab ne milke mujhe mamu banaya.” (you all played tricks with me).
Gullu was not interested in bhOndOO-BenJi friendship. He started preaching, “This is not the time to settle scores. This is the time to rise to the situation. Uttishthata, Jagrata, and stop not till the goal is reached.”.
“What do you mean?”, bhOndOO is a bhOndOO.
Gullu was serious, “It is time.”.