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24/05/2016 by Siddiqui Fayesal

Once upon a time, there was a relatively short, relatively fat and bespectacled boy of 17 whose definition of a good day was when a girl looked at him. But, unlike every (mostly) 17-year-old boy fresh out of school looking forward to the relative freedom of college life, he was paranoid of not being accepted. After all, he was low on confidence and the only courageous thing he ever did was choose to be away from those who harassed him almost on a daily basis by choosing to go to a college where he wouldn’t find a single school friend. Perhaps, that was when the seed of his love for solitude was sown!

When the time came to choose colleges that would actually end up defining what character traits the person will evolve over a period of 5 years, he decided to keep away from those colleges that would be overflowing with people who he charitably called ‘friends’. For they were the same people who laughed not with him, but at him for their own personal pleasure and glory.

It was this ridiculous conundrum of everyday that was the possible reason that later in life he developed a most potent form of self-deprecating humour. Perhaps, he had decided that he was already habituated to be laughed at and that he could ease the situation very well if he was the one who made them laugh at him. It was a small price to pay for the illusion of control. He excelled in it. Friends missed him for his straight-faced humour and self-deprecating wit. Funnily, he never mastered the art of making someone else the butt of his joke.

He still tried, though. After all, how many jokes could he crack on himself?

Anyway, this nervous, bumbling and sort-of-nerdy guy stepped into college and looked around. Like any 17-year old, he was drinking in the latest fashion and whatnots. Gelled hair was the in thing those days and he, not having found his footing yet as a person, bought himself a large tub of the fanciest hair gel in the market at his affordable range. But, he didn’t apply it on the second day. He wanted to build an arsenal of friends first amongst whom he could hide. Who would notice a nerdy, nervous and awkward guy in a crowd of loud, brazen and mainstream fellows?

No one.

That’s what!

Anyway, the first day of his college life, (he not only remembers what he wore, he still has the brown tee and beige coloured pants folded neatly in some corner of his cupboard) he happens to be sitting behind a girl wearing a baby pink faded tee, a dark blue denim and a light blue satchel. Although belonging to a coed school, he was always a shy guy and was normal for him to never meet the eye of girls when he spoke. We’re not certain if he has now, more than a decade later, gotten over his shyness of girls. He has a lot of girlfriends, but we’re still not sure if he can maintain eye contact with them. 

The professor, to break the ice, organised an impromptu quiz of some sort and our bumbling character thrived in such situations. No, it doesn’t mean that he became outspoken and courageous. Nothing of that sort. Just that he became aware of his strength. He was a reader so he knew things that his peers usually didn’t know. He wasn’t going to answer the questions, though. 

The girl in pink turned around and asked everyone in general, “Does anyone know what is the meaning of Ornithology?”

He waited until she turned away.

“It’s a subset of zoology. Study of Birds.”

A smile and a minute later a round of applause for him.

She turn around again and smiles again.

He was taken.

He would find a place to sit behind her for as many lectures as he could. He boldly said a hi one fine day and she responded with that same smile and a wave. As days went by, he gathered enough courage to sit next to her and talk a little. He found out where she lived and how she travelled. She came by train from the other side of the city. He came from half an hour away by bus. Little by little he started opening up and chatting with her almost daily. He was the only guy she spoke to and little by little he took pride in it. 

One day, she was flipping past his notebook and a single sheet of paper fell out. It was a poem on human greed and it was pretty much a decent one. She asked him if he had written it. Our guy went red and nodded a yes.

“It was beautiful.”

“Thanks. I don’t usually let it lie around in my book.”

“You have more?”, she asked incredulously.

“Yeah. But, not better than this. The others are just plain rhymes.”

He was bursting to say that she was the first, literally the first person EVER, to have read his poetry. He wanted to tell he that he had begun writing very recently, not even a year ago, but he had around 20 pieces already.

Of course, he didn’t tell her any of this. Before the year ended they also found out that both of them loved reading. She suggested a couple of books, and so did he. She lent him a book for the vacation, telling him that she hates lending books but that she was sure that he’d take good care.

The vacations ended and they met again. She had a great vacation, met friends and went on a holiday and what not. He, on the other hand, spent it reading. In a month, he had read almost the entire collection of his favourite author and, of course, the book she had given him. 

They met on the first day of college.

What saddened him the most was how nonchalant she was. Wasn’t she happy that they met after a whole month? Didn’t she miss him?

If only she knew!

He had another friend living around where she lived. He made half a dozen trips during the vacation there and roamed around on his bike with him hoping against all odds that he would run into her. Little did he know that that she was almost a 1000 km away when he was riding around in the hot sun trying to have a cute meet.

Little did she know that he had changed his route of coming to college so that he’d be able to meet her at the train station and get the opportunity to walk with her. He used to come by bus, which dropped him half a minute away. He started taking the train and began waiting at the bus stop for her to come. There were times when he reached in time for the first lecture hoping she’d be there. If she wasn’t around he used to wait. For hours at times. There were times when he waited for 2 to 3 hours and then completely broken and disappointed, returned home without even going to college.

She was unaware of it all. 

An annual Rose Day celebration was conducted at the college where guys dedicated a rose of a colour to a girl they liked and the roses would be delivered to the girl on the chosen day. The colour had designated themes. Yellow was friendship and Red was love. He paid for three Yellow Roses and wrote a small note.

Of course, he chose yellow and not red. He wasn’t even sure he was worthy of being loved. He wore dorky glasses and was fat and unattractive. She? She was god’s gift to mankind. She was the angel that smiles in the dreams of children. She was fair, with beautiful eyes. Her smile reached her black eyes and they crinkled in mirth.

Of course, it would be yellow.

He wrote a nice poem for her and paid the money. He was on his way to deposit it at the desk and suddenly developed cold feet. He promptly turned around and retraced his steps back to his classroom and found that she was absent that day. His heart was beating against his ribs and he couldn’t breath properly. He hated himself for the lack of courage and the complete absence of macho manliness!

He cursed his shyness and hated himself. 

He folded that piece of paper and kept it between his books and forever tried to forget about it.

Another year had ended and the only thing he had achieved was a more comfortable friendship. Still not the kinds that would give him the courage to look into her eyes and crack a joke. Still shy. But, now he had the courage to be seen with her and keep his head high. He had finally gotten her to be so comfortable that there were times when she waited for him at the bus stop.

A genuine friendship? 

Now, a decade later, she is happily married to another guy. Our guy doesn’t grieve over it, though. He is over her. He even went through a thriving loving relationship with another girl when he was sure that the girl with the light blue satchel would only ever be a friend. It thrived for 7 years until they broke up. He had loved this other girl too. He knew he was capable of giving everything to a relation. Never in the 7 years that he was together in the relationship did he even think of the girl with the blue satchel. They had to break up for various reasons and they did. They’re still friends.

He’s a collector of memories. He has bus tickets and train tickets and movie stubs for all the time he went for a movie with his girlfriend. He has restaurant receipts and parking tickets for the years he dated her. But along with that, he still has that yellow card, neatly folded in his drawer. The only reminder if that girl with the blue satchel.

Siddiqui F.

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