This is Part 2 of the story 'Gaga Chronicles'. To read Part 1, click here.
Disclaimer: This is a work of pure fiction. All the characters and the sequences are a figment of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to any person dead or alive is purely coincidental.
August 10th 2010:
Ever since that incident, she stopped talking to Nithin and she increasingly hung out with me at the office. I felt really happy at this increased attention that I was getting. As fate would have it, by some strange coincidence, Nithin was transferred to the Kakinada plant along with Vishal and Priya. Nithin was unhappy while the other two were elated. Gayu refused to come to their farewell and I had to convince her and bring her along. All three had left a couple of days back.
I was sitting in the office in the evening with Gayu. I was feeling uncomfortable with her these days. She started trusting me as a close friend. But I started developing something for her. I had to keep telling myself that she trusted me as a friend and I should be that. A war was being waged within me. Every day it used to kill me. I used to wake up early and used to check my Facebook chat the first thing in the morning, hoping for a message or a reply from her. I was becoming addicted to these chats. She dominated my thoughts throughout the day. I kept denying myself at first. Then later, I had to acknowledge that I had something for her. Still I kept telling myself that it was just a crush and that it would wear away pretty soon.
That particular day, I was talking to her and suddenly I began sharing stories about my past with her. Out of nowhere, before I realized, I spoke to her about Shwetha. Shwetha – my junior and crush from school. As time progressed, I realized that it was just a crush that I had on Shwetha, but that crush dominated my thoughts for a good period of 3 to 4 months while at Kakinada. Gayu listened to this story intently. I was surprised. Did she show a hint of jealousy in her face? I felt so and I felt happy.
A week later:
She kinda became interested in my past and I narrated all the major happenings in my life to her. She seemed impressed. I was under a trance. At those rare moments that I came out of the trance, I felt angry at myself for sharing everything with her. But my mind would immediately convince me that it was ok.
By now, my feelings for her had increased ten-fold, especially since I shared my story with her. The CAT exam was also drawing nearer. With great effort, I managed to divert my thoughts and concentrate on the exam. I convinced myself saying that everything depended on how I performed in that exam. By now, my mock test scores were also good and I was scoring more than her. I felt happy. She noticed this change in me and asked me a couple of times as to why I looked dull and withdrawn. I said that the impending CAT exam was the reason. That was not completely false. As the exam date drew nearer, I began to feel increasingly restless. My mock test scores were very good and I felt that I should keep up the momentum to replicate those scores in the real exam. My thoughts then were equally divided between the exam and her. But with great effort, I managed to suppress her thoughts and focus on the exam. Her mock scores were also good and perhaps, she took the cue from me and she too started focusing more on the exam. Our conversations in the office also became limited and we decided to stop studying together in the evenings in order to focus solely on the areas that each of us required improvement. Despite the reduced conversations, the chemistry with her was intact and one smile was all it required to ascertain that. There was a tacit understanding between us then to prioritize the exam before everything else. This way, we carried on for the next month and a half.
October 14th 2010:
The day of the CAT exam. Since the exam was made online the previous year, people booked slots and took the exam as per their convenience during the testing window. Gayu had taken the exam the previous day. I called and wished her in the morning and she called me after the exam. She sounded very happy and I could sense that she had done really well. I felt happy for her, but at the same time, I felt pressurized for I had to do well.
She called me early in the morning to wish me luck. I thanked her and felt happy. I went and wrote the exam. It kinda went well, but I was not sure if my performance would get me a high 99 percentile score in order to get an interview call from IIM Ahmedabad. Still, I was relieved that the exam got over and went home a happy man. She called me before I could call her and I told her that it went well. She felt happy. Her happiness made me happier for I had never experienced something like that before.
A week later:
The week after the exam was real fun. Normal conversation ensued between us and I could sense my feelings for her come back to their full glory. With those feelings, the pain started. The pain that resulted from my thinking that I was betraying our friendship. It was a precarious situation for me as our normal conversations began to make me feel uneasy. I was not sure if I had to go ahead and tell her about my feelings. How would she take it? Would she get mad at me? Would she shun me completely like she did with Nithin? Suddenly, I felt sorry for Nithin. I could now realize what he might have gone through.
It was 10 days after the CAT exam. I felt that I needed some time for myself to think about certain things. So I took a couple of days off and decided to go on a bike trip to Ooty. She came to know of this and she wished me goodbye saying that she was jealous of me for I could go on such trips. I had half a mind to ask her if she could join me on that trip, but then refrained from doing so, knowing her. She would not even come to the local hill temple when we went with office colleagues. Forget a road trip for 2 days with me.
Those 2 days provided me with a much-needed break to think about things. At first, I was trying to convince myself that it was only an extended crush that would soon wear off. But all the signs pointed to the contrary. So I made peace with myself and reconciled to the fact that I was in love for the first time in my life. This is what those great poets, artists, writers and musicians meant by love. A feeling unparalleled. I have heard my friends say that it causes pain. Now I realized what they meant by that. I had been experiencing that pain for the past few days. So once I convinced myself, I tried one last time to save myself from this feeling. I thought about all her positives and negatives and tried to balance them. But when you are so deeply in love, you tend to convince yourself that all the negatives aren’t negatives after all and that you can manage them. Perhaps, this is why they say that love is blind. All your rationality goes for a toss. At the end of this exercise, I was convinced of her and my love for her and decided that I should let her know of it, come what may. I also thought about what would happen if a situation similar to Nithin’s arises. There again I convinced myself that I could handle it. It’s better to tell her about my feelings and face the consequence than not say at all. So I made up mind to talk to her about it.
October 28th 2010:
It was a half a day at the office due to some function and we were free to leave after 1 PM. I decided that this was the day. I decided to ask her to come to lunch with me and then maybe, I’ll tell her about my feelings. I met her at 12 PM at the Boiler room.
“Akshay, listen. I want to ask you something”
I was surprised.
“Yes, tell me”
“Are you free today evening? Can you come to People’s Garden restaurant at 7 PM? I need to tell you something. I need you to meet a person.”
I was totally confused.
“Sure Gayu. I’ll come”
“Good. Come to the AC hall in the first floor at 7. See you then. Bye”
“Sure. Bye Gayu”
My head started spinning. What is this girl up to? I was about to call her for lunch and she calls me for dinner and she wants me to meet someone. It all seemed so cinematic. Like in the movies. Perhaps, she’ll introduce some unknown boyfriend of hers to me. Oh God! I was totally confused and didn’t know what was happening. Quietly, I skipped lunch and went home. I tried to sleep but could not.
Hurriedly, I got ready and went to the restaurant at 6.30 PM. She wasn’t there yet, but she had apparently reserved a table. I went and sat at the table which had 3 chairs. I feared the worst. I was preparing myself for the worst. I expected her to walk in with a guy and introduce him to me as her boyfriend. My mind was killing me. I had to take it normally, wish them and move out. All these thoughts kept playing in my mind and I kept staring at the entrance.
At 7:05 PM, she walked in. ALONE. I looked behind her to see if there was someone. No. There was no one. She looked elegantly dressed and looked like a damsel. She was a good looking girl, but over the past few months, to me, she looked like she was the most beautiful girl in the world. That’s what love does to you. She walked up to me smilingly.
“Hi Akshay! Been waiting for long?”
“No. Not really” I lied.
“Thanks for coming. You look great in this white shirt and blue jeans Akshay”
“Thanks a lot Gayu. You look beautiful in this kurti too.”
“So…? What’s special? Why this dinner plan all of a sudden?”
“Well, there is news… but, I don’t know how to start….”
“What’s the hesitation Gayu? It’s me. You can tell me anything. And by the way, you told me that you were bringing someone along to meet me. Where’s that person?”
“Well... I am coming to that. Promise me that you will listen to me carefully without interrupting me.”
By now, I was prepared for the worst.
“Go ahead Gayu”
“Well, it’s like this. You know what happened between Nithin and me right?”
“I have been a conservative girl. I studied in a girls’ school and only in college, I made friends with boys. I never had any serious crush in my life. There were a couple of proposals to me in college, but even then I did not feel anything. Nithin was the first close male friend that I had. I did not like what Nithin did and hated guys for what he did. But a few days after Nithin left, I met this guy. I knew this guy for some time. We began talking to each other normally and we became good friends. I used to chat with him in Facebook like I did with others. Over the course, I became close to him and I began to like him. I felt something inside me that I had not felt before. I realized that I was developing some feelings for him. I was convinced that it was just a crush and it would wear off. But there was no sign of the feelings going away and I had to convince myself that it was love. A magical feeling. I was feeling shy as to how I would express it to him, but then made up my mind and told him. He was elated for he too had experienced the same feelings. I was happy beyond measure. We have been in love for over 10 days now and I wanted you to know first before the rest of the world comes to know of it.”
Her words felt like a knife piercing right through my heart. With great difficulty, I maintained a straight face and smiled at her.
“Well, he has also come here. I wanted to tell you all this before I let you meet him and introduce you to him.”
“Oh really? Where is he then?” I asked.
“He’s waiting downstairs for me to call him.”
“Oh, call him then. I’d love to meet him” I lied.
“Let’s surprise him. Or better, you surprise him. You go to him and surprise him. He knows you. I have shown him your pic. He’s waiting downstairs in the reading room. Go down, turn left and go to the third door on the right. That’s the way to the Reading Room. He’ll recognize you. Go surprise him”
“Ok. I’ll do that”
I left reluctantly. I had half a mind to run away from that place. Tears were welling up in my eyes. Only after coming down, I realized that I had even forgotten to ask his name. Heck! Who requires that idiot’s name? I did not even want to meet him. Disappointment seemed a way of life for me. Events from my past flashed before my eyes. Tears flowed out. I wiped my eyes. Guess, this was the first time I was shedding tears in a long time. With a heavy heart, I walked past the doors one by one till I came to the third door on the right. I was contemplating whether to open it or not. With heavy reluctance, I opened that door. There was no room. Instead a huge mirror was facing me. I stared at my own teary face.
What does it mean? Is there a mistake? I double-checked if I had opened the correct door. Yes, I have.
WAIT A MINUTE!! A MIRROR!! I was staring at myself. WOW!!!
All thoughts raced through my mind!! I was standing there in disbelief. Tears of joy flowed down my face. I stared at myself one long time in the mirror and turned around.
There she was!
Gayu was slowly walking towards me in the deserted corridor. There was tension and excitement writ large in her face. She saw that I was excited too and slowly opened up.
“Akshay…well… you are the one! I could not sleep properly for the past 2 months and my mind was flooded with thoughts about you. There’s one thing though. I said that I began to like this guy after Nithin left. I lied. I liked you long before that. Ever since the day I saw you at the quiz, I began to like you. That was the reason why I was so mad at Nithin and that was the reason why I was mad at you too when you told me about Nithin. You were always sweet to me. After Nithin left, my feelings for you increased. I was afraid that I would give it away and that could affect both our CAT performances. That’s why I waited till CAT got over. I wanted to tell you about it last week, but you were getting ready for your road trip. So I decided to tell you once you returned. When you told me about the road trip, I had half a mind to ask you if I could come along. Today, I made up my mind to tell you. I was too shy to tell you straight in the face. So I decided to play this little game and surprise you. So … so… I am sorry about this... but... do you... do you... do you like me too Akshay?” She completed that last part of the sentence with hesitation.
I looked her straight in the eye. All I wanted to do then was to hug her tight and plant a kiss on her cheek. But considering the place we were in, I controlled myself. I took her hand in mine and held it tight close to my chest. She looked at me. She got her answer. Tears of joy flowed down her face. I wished the world would remain frozen at that moment. That was perhaps the happiest moment of my life. That was the best day of my life.
Next 2 months:
The next 2 months were probably the best time of my life. Every day, I used to go to office early and wait for her. We spent as much time as we could with each other. I felt very happy around her. We decided to limit our time together only to office as it’d become apparent to everyone otherwise. However, we chatted for atleast an hour in Facebook every night. I grew fond of her. She was not so expressive of her feelings, even though she liked me.
She never said ‘I love you’ to me even in chat, while I told her that atleast 3 times every day. She just acknowledged it with a smile. This irked me a bit and I complained to her about it. She told me that it’d take time for her and that it’d happen in due course of time and asked me not to rush it. I realized that it’d happen and decided not to press it any further.
I should have realized then that things were not as rosy as they seemed. But my love for her blinded all that. I was extremely happy and I wanted that to continue.
Jan 16th 2011:
The day of the CAT results. I was very afraid. I feared what would happen if this time too I ended up with a score in the 80s , even though I knew well that I had worked much harder this time. Sitting alone in a corner of my room, I typed out my Registration No and pressed ‘ENTER’. The next few minutes were like a dream for me. The score read “99.89 percentile”. I had to double check it. It was a moment of pure exhilaration. With abundant joy, I conveyed the news to my parents and called her. She picked up the phone with a scream. It was a scream of joy.
“I got 99.12 percentile Akshay! What about you?”
I felt overjoyed hearing that.
“WOW!! Wheeeeee! Hurrayyyy!” Her scream only got louder.
As expected, we got our IIM calls within a week. The week was spent soaking myself in the congratulatory messages and praises that were pouring in from all quarters.
I got calls from all IIMs, whereas she got calls from everything but Ahmedabad & Calcutta. She did not mind for it was Bangalore that she wanted. I was somewhat disappointed when I saw that she did not get a call from Ahmedabad. The future stared briefly in my face, but I let it pass.
The next 2 months were spent preparing for Group discussions and interviews and we travelled around from one place to another giving interviews.
It was March 15th, 2011. We were spent by then, giving so many interviews. The office came to know of our CAT results and since the Manager was also an MBA, he was very supportive of our efforts to do MBA. He appreciated our CAT results and gave us leave to go and attend interviews. So by the time it was March, our work load significantly reduced as we were given less work knowing that we would be leaving soon.
For the first time then, I expressed my fears to her.
“Gaga, did you realize one thing?”
“What if I get Ahmedabad and Bangalore and you get Bangalore?”
“So what? You should go with Ahmedabad. That’s the best”
“No. I’ll take Bangalore. I want to be with you.”
“Are you crazy? Give up A to take B? Only an idiot would do that.”
“But that would mean staying away from you.”
“So what? It’s just 2 years. It would fly away in a jiffy. We could be in touch all the time. Don’t worry. You should opt for the best, if you get it.”
“Ok!” I said with a long face.
Separation from her is something that I had never thought about, but that could happen now. I feared as to what would happen to us if we stayed apart for 2 years. Would we be able to sustain the same love? Even now, she did not give a resounding commitment to me and she hasn’t said ‘I love you’ yet. What if she begins to drift away from me if she stays away? I have read numerous stories about how boys come to IIMs hoping to find their dream girl there. How many proposals would she get? How many would she keep turning down? What if some handsome guy with all the qualities she likes comes along and proposes to her? Would she say no even then? Or would she forget me slowly and eventually accept a proposal that comes along? MBA course load in an IIM would be very hectic. She would be loaded with assignments, tests, cases and presentations all the time. I’d also be loaded with the same. Would we find time to talk to each other amidst all this? Would she pick up if I called? She would be working with many guys on these projects and assignments. She would be with them almost at all times. She would be observing them from close quarters. Would she begin to like one of them then? What if she forgets me and chooses one of them over me? She is not bound to pick my calls and stay in touch with me. Whereas, she is bound to stay with them for the length of 2 years in close proximity. One of the guys or many of them would like her, ask her out or propose to her. She is bound to fall for one of them. I’d be a distant memory for her then. Oh God! This can’t happen!
All these thoughts troubled my mind to the core and I lost my peace over the next 10 days. I did not want to express my fears to her and upset her. So I stayed calm.
By April 10th, all IIM results came. Like expected, I made it to Ahmedabad and Bangalore along with a host of other IIMs, while she made it to Bangalore and a few others. I was not happy. She was elated.
I was beginning to think about Bangalore, but my family, friends and relatives had by then branded me as an IIM-A product. She even told me that she felt proud that I am in a better college than her.
I had to reluctantly come to terms with the fact that I was going to Ahmedabad, while she was going to Bangalore. My fears did not allow me to enjoy the moment of glory. But I decided to do one thing.
I decided to tell my parents about her and introduce her to them. I told her about it. She hesitantly agreed.
I told my parents. Initially they were a little skeptic, but once they saw her, they were happy. They never denied me anything as I was their only son and my happiness was paramount for them. Having made it to IIM-A, they were overjoyed with me and they wouldn’t deny me anything then.
She came home one evening, dressed elegantly as ever. She stayed home for a couple of hours and had dinner. She spoke to my parents and by the time she left, my parents were overjoyed with my selection. I could not ask for more.
I wished she would do the same and introduce me to her parents, but she was not ready yet. She however introduced me to them at a public function, as a colleague. Not even a friend, but a colleague. I spoke to them for some time and they seemed to like me. Infact, her mother invited me to her home.
But what irked me was Gayu's indifference. It wouldn’t have hurt her to introduce me as a friend, atleast. But no.
I should have sensed it and realized it then. But love blinded me again.
I asked her about it and she gave her customary reply that she was not ready yet and asked me not to press it. I did not want to fight with her in the last few days and so I dropped it.
We quit the office together and gave a party to our team and Manager. They were all aware by now that we were a couple and they joked that this was like a pre-wedding party and that they would expect our wedding party soon. I smiled at the joke while she did not like it.
After the party, when everyone left, I gifted her a rare pen stand that I found in an antique shop. I had seen her look at it in awe once when we were crossing by and I remembered that. She was floored when she saw the gift. Without a moment’s hesitation, she hugged me. I hugged her back. This was the most physical contact that we ever had. I asked her if she would say ‘I love you’ then. She gave a mischievous smile and replied “Not yet.”
The last 10 days were spent in packing and getting ready to leave. I was to leave earlier as my college started a week earlier than hers. With every passing day, the thought of leaving her wore me down. Yet I convinced myself that we would constantly stay in touch with each other. I spoke to her about it and she assured me that she would stay in touch with me. I believed her. Another mistake as I was to realize later.
June 4th 2011:
The day of my departure. I was kinda depressed, but I did not show it for the sake of my parents, friends and relatives who had come to see me off. I was there at the station, waiting for the train. My entourage was there and everyone was wishing me in their own way. But I was looking for only one person. And then she came.
I excused myself and went to the adjacent platform with her, away from everyone’s eyesight. My eyes welled up with tears for only the second time in the last 2 years. I wanted to say so many things, but words never came out.
She sensed my situation and closed my mouth with her hand.
“Akshay, I love you!”
I kissed her hand and hugged her, but immediately withdrew. I held her hand tight.
“Thanks Gayu! I love you too, my dear Gaga!”
“Akshay, I wanted to tell you that these last few months with you were magical. Thanks for that wonderful time. Thanks for everything! Wish you all the very best for your career! Do well!”
What was that supposed to mean? Aren’t we going to be together for a long time to come? I had no time to ask her all that. I simply thanked her and moved to my entourage as the train slowly arrived. I bade goodbye to Coimbatore and left for IIM-A.
She left a week later for IIM-B.
As I sat in the train, my phone beeped. This newly launched messaging app called ‘Whatsapp’ was wonderful. I had two messages. One was a goodbye from Gayu, the other was a message in the newly formed group in Whatsapp comprising of students from the state who were going to IIM-A. It had 4 members – my school friend Ashwin Ram, who was also my quiz partner at school and two girls named Ananya and Sahana. We all met through a Facebook group for those who had converted their IIM-A calls. I discovered that Ashwin had also made it to IIM-A through that group and later we discovered the 2 girls who were also from Tamilnadu. We formed a group in Whatsapp for us. Well, they welcomed me to IIM-A in that message for they had already reached.
I was not going to be alone in Ahmedabad. I had friends. But my mind longed for only one person I’d have wanted to be with, in Ahmedabad.
Gaga...my dear Gaga…
But what was to become in the next 2 years in MBA and how it would turn my world upside down was something that I had not imagined even in my wildest dreams.
For now, it was Mission IIM: ACCOMPLISHED!!
(To be continued in Part 3 ...)