“Hi Gud Mrng!” Raghav viewed the message on his cell phone and realizing that it was from an unknown number, he closed the inbox, put his cell phone in silent mode and headed towards the lecture hall, on the one hand cursing the unknown sender of the message under his breath and trying to focus his attention on the diminishing margin of utility that he was going to teach in the class, on the other. This was his sixth month in the college as a lecturer, the job that he had obtained after paying a hefty amount euphemistically called as donation, but which in fact was an unaccounted income for the management of the institution. Of course, his father had paid the money after selling a couple of acres of land, not without suppressed grief in his eyes and flood of tears in the eyes of his wife, Raghav’s mother.
Raghav had just been an average student but he was the only one in his family to have obtained degree, not to speak of a post-graduate degree. His father was very proud of Raghav but when Raghav couldn’t get any job, he was worried to death. Education had left Raghav unfit for the hard toil on the family land, not because Raghav didn’t like to toil, but Raghav’s father wouldn’t let his son, after getting such higher education, about which he had been bragging before all and sundry in the village, to undertake agriculture, for then everyone in the village would have an opportunity to make fun of him. “What is the use of spending so much on education if his son wouldn’t get any job based on his qualification? He has been a fool squandering away his hard earned money on a useless enterprise,” so even coolies working in his fields would say. He, therefore, had been left with no other option but to sell his land.
Immediately after obtaining his MA, Raghav had started working as a part time lecturer in one of the degree colleges in Hubli, but the remuneration was just enough to maintain him in the city. He had no future in that job as the college had been recently started and would not be considered for grants-in-aid from the government for at least a decade to come. However, he had a wonderful acquisition while working there, in the form of his student Bhavana, a cute, smart, young girl with husky laughter, which never failed to arouse him. She was now in the final year and both had decided to wait till she completed her degree. To wait to get married, that is, although he never specifically asked her to marry him.
Now that he was more than four hundred kilometers away from her, working in Bangalore, he had not been able to meet her for the last four months. Everyday he spent about three hours in public transport from his to his college and back. The remaining time was spent in the college preparing for and delivering lectures. During the day, at any time she might be pleased to send messages, and he could ignore them only at his own peril. And everyday at 9 P.M., it was mandatory for him to call her and talk to her at least for an hour.
What had been amusing initially had turned out to be a pain in his ass. Not that he was no longer in love with her, not even that he had found someone more attractive, but the pace of life in Bangalore, the demands of his job, left him totally exhausted at the end of the day. Moreover, he had to keep in touch with his parents, friends, apart from taking care of the unavoidable task of cooking for himself, in order to save money as well as eat something healthy.
That Bhavana is child-like even childish at times, came as a revelation to him only when it was too late. He was already deep into the vortex of his relationship with her. It all happened so fast that in hindsight it looked like the buildings and trees running past his window in the bus, in the opposite direction. Within a couple of months of her joining the class to which he taught, she had started coming to his chamber with problems and questions, seeking his help. When he looked into her eyes, he knew he was in love with her and soon he gave her a red rose, held her silky hands and told her what he felt for her. She started weeping, he doesn’t know why even today and allowed him to kiss her.
When he came back to the staff common room to have a cup of coffee, he remembered that sms. The number did seem familiar. In the last week, at leas a dozen messages had come from that number. Sipping the bitter coffee, he viewed the number once again. He wanted to call that number and ascertain who it was, but another message was delivered that instant, and from the same number. “Sorry, I sent dat msg by mistk” it read. But still he decided to save that number as ‘who’, which he was going to repent soon.
Late in the evening, when he had finished an hour of ordeal on the phone with Bhavana, he received another msg from ‘who’. It was a cheap mobile-shayri.
“Jindgi me kabi pyar mat karna
Pyar ho jaye to ikrar mat karna
Ikrar kareto us rah par chalna
Warna kisiki jindgi barbad mat karna”
Now Raghav was intrigued. If the earlier message was sent to me by mistake, why again the same mistake has occurred? Thought he. It might be some friend or acquaintance of mine, just trying to have a little fun at my cost. Or it might be some student… but he’d not given his cell number to anyone in the college, except to one colleague and the principal of the college. Both were in their fifties and hardly knew how to send an sms. They sending any sms, that too a cheap shayri, was totally ruled out. Now that he had registered his number for DO NOT DISTURB, promos, calls offering loans and credit cards, even membership of clubs etc had completely ceased.
He suppressed the urge to place a call to that number; at least he would know whether it is a man or woman, a boy or a girl. If it were someone he knows, he’d be able to recognize by listening to the voice. But he soon dismissed all this as trivial and went to his bed.
The next morning, when he took the handset to view time, he found two messages waiting to be viewed. Both were from the same ‘who’. One read ‘gud mrng hav nice day’ and another read ‘want 2 b my friend?’ Now Raghav was slightly irritated. He was sure it was someone who wants to flirt and even more sure that that someone was a guy looking for a girl. He keyed in a reply immediately, ‘I don’t want any friend. Already hav enough’ and set out to get ready for the day’s routine.
When he finished the first lecture, he received another sms, ‘wat do u want if not a friend?’ to which he replied with some anger, ‘if u r a girl under 23 yrs u can chat wit me.’ ‘y girl only, r u a boy?’ bang came the reply. Now he decided to play along. He replied, ‘I m a strt guy intrsted only n girls, but not 4 frndship’
‘den wat r u intrstd in?’
‘u can undrstnd, cn’t u?
‘u hav GF?’
‘don’t hav lover?’
‘no. u can be if u r slim, hav gud figure & under 23’
‘I m all dat & more’
‘R u a student?’
‘Y do u ask? U want only students?’
‘No, any1 fitting my criteria wil do. Rite now I m busy. Bye’ he wanted to end the chat and prepare for the next lecture. ‘By 4 now’ came the reply.
Till late in the evening he was not disturbed. At 9 p.m., as mandated, he called Bhavana. She was a chatterbox. When speaking she would not care whether something is relevant or irrelevant. Once she started, he went on saying ‘hmm’, ‘yes’, ‘ok’, whenever she paused for breath. She would ask what he had for breakfast, lunch and evening tea, what clothes he wore for the college, could he catch his bus, how is the weather, and all such silly things. Then the conversation would end with ‘I miss you, I love you’ and a couple of kisses, rather the sound of kisses. It required immense patience for all this, thought Raghav.
He hadn’t had his dinner yet and he was in no mood to cook. He decided to go to a nearby hotel. When he reached the hotel, without thinking twice he decided to have a couple of drinks. Just when he finished his first glass of vodka, his cell phone beeped conveying the arrival of an sms. When the screen came alive for viewing the message, ‘had your dinner?’ he knew it was from the same anonymous person he had named ‘who’. He brooded for a while and finished another drink and replied, ‘ how does it concern u?’
Then immediately he sent another message saying, ‘I’d made it clear dat I m not intrsted in making friends. How do I know u r a girl?’
‘U can test me’
‘K wat’s it dat u wear under ur dress? Wat’s d size of ur bra? What brand of panties u use?’
It took a full fifteen minutes for the reply to arrive. When it did, it was, ‘I wear a slip under my dress. I don’t use branded panties’ and there was nothing about the brassieres. God, why am I getting an arousal? Raghav cursed himself. ‘k tel me ur name?’ he asked.
‘Not so soon. U tel urs 1st’
‘It’s u who’s strted chatting wit me.’
‘Real or imagined?’
‘Vikram, Vicky 4 all’
‘Ok tho sounds phoney!’
‘Just like yours’
‘Wat r u looking 4 in me?’
‘Don’t know. U may be horny, just like me’
‘No, I m looking 4 a friend’
‘I told u I m not. U stil r persisting’
‘wat do u do wen u r ….like tht?’
‘I get lucky by meeting some1 like u!’
This chat went on and on till the waiter came up to him and reminded him a third time that the hotel is closing. Raghav had forgotten to order for his dinner and had a drink or more than his usual, and now it was too late to order. He left the hotel after paying the bill, thinking of the bananas he kept in his room.
Next morning he awoke with a heavy head and red eyes. It was the worst hangover he had experienced in years. He gulped a Crocin after a light breakfast and started towards the bus stop. ‘Hi, gud mrng!’ the sms from ‘who’ again!
‘Gud Mrng! How r u?’ he replied.
‘Cool. Wat abt u?’
‘Last night I had a couple of drinks more than usual. Now I have hangover, severe headache and loss of appetite’ He took time to type the whole sentence.
‘U drink too?’
‘Wat’s new abt dat?’
‘Nothing. I didn’t know it’
‘How could u know?’
‘U know who I m?’
Raghav was perplexed. Is it someone he knows?
‘No idea,’ after considering for some time, he thought it must be one of his classmates in the college and the first name that struck him was that of a close friend Veena with whom he had lost touch and added, ‘my guess is dat u r Veena’
Suddenly his phone rang and it was from ‘who’. As he pressed the answer button and tucked it to his ear, he hear the voice of Bhavana!
“You could not guess it was me? I couldn’t sleep the whole last night. I never understood you. How shameless you have been asking an unknown girl what she wears and all. You had told me all lies. You told me you do not drink! Now I understand you perfectly. You made use of me; you have never been in love with me…” she hurled one accusation after another. What an ass I have been chatting and flirting with some unknown number. He cursed himself for not calling the unknown number immediately to ascertain who it was. He had done an irreparable damage to the life-long relationship he had determined to keep intact. How fragile are human relations. All these thoughts crossed his mind while he was preparing himself for the explanations that might appease her.