Mom told me they have found a match for me; the guy has his own business in America. His parents belong to Mom’s native place and through her connections she had talked to them. He is coming soon to India, and the way Mom was talking excitedly about him, it sounded as if the Pelli Choopulu would be followed by engagement. She was even talking about some auspicious dates for the marriage.
As for me, my name is Jayanthi, and I anchor a songs program on a TV channel. The name of the programme is Vennela. Viewers call with their requests and dedications. Many times we have a topic on which we ask questions and viewers tell their answers.
A lot of people from different cities and towns, backgrounds and professions call during the program. There was one person who was different from them all. And I wanted to know who this person is.
The first time he called me….
I was speaking in the usual fast-paced anchor voice, “I think you know the phone numbers to call to. I will be waiting for your calls, until then here is a lovely song for you.” I snapped my fingers and pointed to the screen. A song broadcast started.
The song was over. I put my palms in each other and asked with a smile, “Hello, who is this?”
It was a man’s voice. “Who I am shouldn’t bother you.”
“Can you tell your name?” I asked.
“That is also not important. If I don’t tell my name, would you cut me off?”
“No. Anyways, you know the topic I hope. It’s love marriages versus arranged marriages. What is your opinion?” I said.
“I rarely opine. So I won’t answer the question.”
“Then why did you call?” I was a bit irritated but tried not to show it out.
“One thing I can tell you is that I saw an episode of Comedy nights with Kapil recently and I liked one of the jokes.”
“What is it, can you tell?” I prodded.
“He told the difference between love marriages and arranged marriages. In a love marriage, the boy marries his girl friend. In an arranged marriage, the boy marries some one else’s girl friend.”
I broke into laughter.
“Hello, hello,” I called but the line was cut.
I briefly wondered who the guy was and what he does. I didn’t like the fact that he hung up on me. But telling jokes and having a good sense of humor in a man are qualities that women like.
The next time he called me….
“My program manager told me, that last time you called was from a private number. That means your number does not come in the caller id. You didn’t tell your name on the call yesterday. No name, number, so are you some kind of a secret warrior?” I gave a slight mischievous tone to my usual anchor voice.
“Those matters are of no consequence. Shall I say something that is useful?”
“Yes, please tell,” I said wondering what was he up to.
“Do you know which song will be played next on your program?”
“I myself don’t know. The next song will be as per the list prepared by the creative department,” I said with a matter-of-fact tone.
“After I hang up my call, the song that will be played is ‘Malli malli idi raani roju’ from the film Rakshasudu”
“How do you know, are you joking?” I asked disbelievingly.
“From the very first day that your programs started, I have the data on which song was played on which date. Based on different parameters I constructed a mathematical model and with the help of Big Data tools, I can predict. You can see for yourself which song will come.”
“Okay, whatever you say. Thanks for calling. For all our viewers, here is a nice song selected by our creative department,” I announced.
The song that came was actually Malli malli idi raani roju from the film Rakshasudu. I was shocked.
Even after that day’s episode ended and I went back home, I couldn’t forget this call. He mentioned Big Data. So I think he may be a computer programmer. Witty, intelligent, have I started liking him? Liking him, I haven’t seen him or even know his name. But, what if I actually meet him, fall in love with him and marry him? How will life be with a software professional? Damn, what am I thinking? Mom is bringing this U.S. guy for engagement.
The next time he called me, he projected a totally different picture of himself. I had announced that episode’s question as: ‘Do you butter somebody and if yes, in what circumstances?’
When he called, I asked, “Good to hear your voice, you anonymous caller. As you would have heard, today’s question is – do you butter somebody and if yes, in what circumstances?.”
“No I don’t butter at all. Sycophancy is a disease that affects our society.”
“Then why did you call? To butter me?” I asked with a half smile.
“Why, do callers have to call only if the answer is yes? And I don’t call to flatter you.”
“There should be some reason, that you call this program frequently,” I said.
“I have my own reasons. But there is no need or time to explain. I just want to tell one Urdu sher. Shall I?”
“Irshad, by all means,” I said having goosebumps about my Urdu vocabulary or lack of it.
He went into a rhythmic tone. “Shola hoon, bhadakne kee guzaarish naheen karta, Sach muh se nikal jaata hai koshish naheen karta. Girtee huee deewaar ka humdard hoon lekin, Chadhte huye sooraj kee parastish naheen karta.”
I could feel a warm glow creep up my cheeks. “Could you care to tell the meaning?” I asked.
“I am a flame, I don’t ask permission to flare-up, Truth comes out from the mouth by itself, I don’t try. I am a sympathizer of the crumbling wall but, I don’t worship the rising Sun.”
He hung up.
I went through my standard words. “Thanks caller for your call and the beautiful sher. Here is one more beautiful song for all you viewers.”
His words ricocheted in my head through out the day and even in my sleep. Is he a poet? Such nice lines he reeled out. Where there is poetry, wouldn’t there be music? And if he is a poet from the old city, there wouldn’t be dearth of music, biriyani, and pearls. Not to speak of haleem during Ramzan. What is this again, I am thinking as if I am going to marry him. Mom has shown me the photos of the U.S. guy, doesn’t look and ultra metro-sexual like John Abraham or Chetan Bhagat. Not bad either. Only thing is I am yet to hear about him.
“Do you know what I think of you?” I asked.
“No, I don’t know.”
“You seem to know so many things, how come you don’t know this?” I asked.
There seemed to be some impatience in his voice. He said, “As I told you, I don’t know what you think of me, but with Freud as a guide, I can make some guesses.”
“Freud, who is he?” I asked.
“Don’t you know about Sigmund Freud or his work?”
I shook my head.
“Okay he is the father of psychoanalysis and lived from 1856 to 1939.”
“19th century guy, he must be an outdated scholar now,” I said and immediately regretted it, for saying something that I don’t know anything about.
“Please don’t talk about subjects you are not aware of”, he said as if he read my mind. It was the first time in all his calls that he sound irritated. Then he went on a rattle: “Though the modern automatic processes demonstrates how people could think under certain controlled conditions, not necessarily how they actually do think in everyday interactions. In everyday life, thinking is more often hot than cold; emotions and motivations need to be fundamental to thought, not set aside.
Some of Freud’s ideas, such as ‘ego’ and ‘displaced aggression,’ are influential among both the lay public and professional psychologists.
In summation, there are five broad areas in which the work of Sigmund Freud remains relevant to psychology: the existence of unconscious mental processes, the importance of conflict and ambivalence in behavior, the childhood origins of adult personality, mental representations as a mediator of social behavior, and stages of psychological development.”
His voice was methodical, confident and like that of a teacher.
I said softly, “I did not understand anything of what you said, but you haven’t told me what I think of you.”
“I think I said enough.” He hung off.
Words have a calming and comforting effect on people. Particularly if they person sounds like your mother or teacher. He patiently told about Sigmund Freud’s relevance, a kind of patience that you would have if you were a teacher. Is this guy a lecturer in some college? Maybe yes, that’s why he has a lot of interests in different fields and has a lot of time. Meanwhile, I had discussed a few more details of the U.S. guy. Looks nothing spectacular in academic achievements. Had gone to the U.S. to do his MBA, and started his own business. But I foresee myself as a lecturer’s wife rather than a businessman’s.
This anonymous caller matter has to be brought to a conclusion, and I should know him. Mom is everyday talking to me about the U.S. business guy and is assuming that I will see him and agree for marrying him. I knew the caller would call again. But if I ask him to meet me, would he agree. I was not sure. So I narrated all the episodes and his calls to a colleague of mine, David Vijay. David is a clever guy. He suggested that if does not agree to meet me, I should tell the place through a clue, and ask him to decipher it. He would get interested and agree to come.
And sure, the caller called.
“Hello, secret warrior,” I said.
“Oh please, do not call me that.”
“Okay, if I have to stop me calling you, you should meet me and tell me about yourself,” I said.
“No, I don’t want to meet you.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“No particular reason to meet. If there is no topic for today to discuss, I will cut my call.”
“Wait, wait, listen. I want to meet you, but I won’t tell directly where you have to meet me. Here’s the clue: come to the hotel of the girl in my program book’s hero,” I said.
He didn’t say anything for a few seconds.
“Okay, you gave a very easy clue. I will be reading Business Standard. Please come and meet me.”
“I will be there at 6 p.m.,” I said before announcing another ‘beautiful’ song was coming up for the viewers.
I went to Hotel Revanth. David had explained to me that ‘girl in my program’ is a crude way of saying ‘Vennello Adapilla’ a famous novel of yesteryears by Yandamoori Veerendranath. The hero of that novel is Revanth. The time was six when I entered. He was there, sitting at a corner table, and holding up Business Standard newspaper. I could not see his face. I went and sat on the chair across the table.
“Hi, this is Jayanthi,” I said.
“I thought I should not come, but you were game for meeting me, and asked in an interesting way, hence I came.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Do you want to see me now? And why did you want to meet me?”
“Look, initially I was so impressed with your sense of humour, your range of knowledge, your patience. I liked all those qualities; maybe I fell in love with the concept off falling in love with an anonymous person whom I only can hear. I wanted to meet you and know you. But you were not even agreeing to meet me. In order for me to convince you to meet me, I have to take the help of a colleague’s idea, give you a clue that he suggested. Basically, I have to operate at your wavelength. To relate to you I need to be something else, not my own self. I came here to meet you, know about you, and see if our acquaintance leads to love and marriage. I don’t know how your real-life personality will be. I had so many thoughts about you and made so many guesses. Now I changed my opinion. I want you to live in my thoughts as just a voice. No, please don’t lower the paper. I will go away without seeing you,” I said.
I got up, opened the restaurant door and walked out.
This is I the author, not Jayanthi the narrator. Here is a good quote to end the story:
Half the story of love is the discovery of it as you put it behind you. And with that discovery comes the knowledge that your own journey is still incomplete. The maps have changed, the continents have shifted, and the horizons are not the ones you remember. However, the road is still open and there is much to see, but only if you have the courage to see that the first step is always a departure.
Shola hoon .… parastish naheen karta and I am a flame …. the rising Sun
Couplet by Muzaffar Waarsi and its translation from Gaagar Mein Saagar : A Collection of Most Quotable Urdu Couplets, Compiled & Translated by Commander (Retd) Rajesh Sharma. Published by Akshay Agencies, New Delhi 2004.
Though the modern automatic processes …. lay public and professional psychologists.
Great Ideas in Pscyhology : A Cultural and Historical Introduction by Fathali M. Moghaddam, First South Asian edition, Oneworld Publications, 2007.
In summation ….. stages of development:
Why Freud Still Matters, When He Was Wrong About Almost Everything by George Dvorsky. Available at the URL http://io9.com/why-freud-still-matters-when-he-was-wrong-about-almost-1055800815
Half the story of love …. always a departure:
The Story Teller’s Tale by Omair Ahmad. Penguin Books India, 2008.