Second attempt at a short story. Maybe I shouldn’t call this a short story. Only thing I can promise is that it is shorter than Guindyil Oru Kaadhal Kadhai. Hope you like it!
This was not the plan. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When we were building dream castles about the future, we dreamt of a job that payed well enough to let you party like a mini Siddharth Mallya. A job that was exciting enough to drag you out of bed in the morning. A sweetheart whom you’ll marry in a few years. Every weekend out partying with friends. Where did it all go?
After graduating from CEG’s CS department, I joined a software company in Chennai, just like many others. The pay was decent. At first it seemed like the perfect fit – I didn’t have to relocate, and could continue going to all my favorite spots in Chennai. Then my friends left – some for work to other cities, some for education in amreeka. And I discovered that “working” did not have the glamour that it did when we discussed it sitting under the familiar tree near the CS department.
When I started work, I did not expect to be given anything revolutionary to do, and hence was quite satisfied with the lame trainee jobs that were handed out. But as time passed on, and I completed one year at the company, I yearned for a challenge. At the end of two years, I felt like a robot assembling digital parts. Was this why I completed a bachelors degree in one of the best colleges in Tamil Nadu?
Being in your twenties was supposed to be like a dream, when you had the most fun in your life. Instead it has become this phase where I go around with marriage hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles. Every other relative I meet asks me when I am going to get married. My mom slyly brings relative girls into whatever conversation we have. Even my male relatives don’t spare me. Marry before all your hair falls out! is their stock advice.
Facebook does it’s best to make me miserable. Everyone seems to be having fun except me. That guy just landed a great job. This girl’s boyfriend proposed. That friend just returned from a trip to Maldives. Dudes who couldn’t even talk to guys, let alone girls, are now in a relationship. My childhood crush just had her baby. And in the middle of all this, will you be my neighbor on Farmville?
It really is horrible to be the last guy in your gang stuck in the city where you had all your fun. The shadow of yesteryear glory hangs over your favorite spots. Whether it is chicken lollipop at Ascendas, mocha at Cafe Coffee Day, snacks at Gurunath, you miss having your friends grab your food and finish it before you know what hit you. Movies at Sathyam are not the same without your group to make fun of every frame of the movie, and to fight over who gets the popcorn in the break. If I had known this was how life would be after college, I would have gladly stayed in college forever!
The only spot of color in the black-and-white movie of my life was Vanathi. One year my junior in college, and working at the same company. We have such a wavelength match – books, music, everything. Back in college, we used to attend all the technical events together, and I got to know her relatively well. Wherever we were, we could always find each other’s eyes. And I can see things in her eyes that her lips would never confess. But was it love? Even I couldn’t tell what my feelings for her were. After college we had not spent that much time together, and whenever we met in office, we did not speak much. Was it a crush? Will this go away in time? Did I want to go down the love path and risk whatever it was that we had? I couldn’t say.
It was while I was driving along Saidapet Main Road, thinking about Vanathi, that the turning point in my life arrived. A guy suddenly tried to cross the road near the signal, and I swerved to avoid him. My bike skidded and I was heading straight for the tyres of a water lorry. In that one moment, my life flashed before my eyes – My first cricket match victory. My first award at the Annual Day school function. The first time my words made a girl blush. The first ride on my bike on New Year’s Eve on ECR. Regret over my lame job. Vanathi’s eyes. And in that instant, when my heart felt without being held back by my brain, it all become so clear. They say fear of death brings clarity. Life became simple. I knew what I had to do. And then I realized I was still heading for the tyres.
Luckily for me, contrary to popular belief, the driver of the lorry actually knew what he was doing. He slammed the brakes and my bike hit the front tyre and then hit the curb with a thud. I was thrown clear onto the road. Traffic had stopped all around me. I stood up and examined myself. Miraculously, I had no broken bones, only scratches all over. Though my head was bleeding, I felt like jumping and shouting.
The next day I resigned. My manager heard me out with the look of a man who has been expecting this for a long time. He wished me luck for my next venture. Suddenly, life seemed full of opportunities. Masters, startups, who knows what will happen? But before all that, I had an important call to make.
“Hey hi. It’s Arul. Could I meet you today?..