‘Why would a fresher grow up to such a height?’ I thought, as I kept looking out through my college bus window at a fair, tall, good-looking and well-built guy. He was chit-chatting while walking with a group of freshers. A professor stopped him and discussed something rather important. Still, I kept wondering at his height. Just then, the driver boarded the bus and started to put on the gear. I zoomed back to reality and turned to my friends to discuss the upcoming model exams. My eyes fell upon the well-built guy once again. He got into the bus and headed straight to the boys row. He comfortably settled in a seat. He appeared like a film star and he had the looks that would make girls go weak in their knees. He effused masculinity with his broad shoulders, cream complexion, deep-set eyes, and pouted lips.
The bus started and the driver played some boring old songs. I preferred to watch outside. After sometime, one of my friends called me, “Hey, Poorna, look at that guy who is gonna alight at this stop. Wow! He is so handsome and tall. I have never seen such a guy in our college.” It was the same guy she was referring to.
Soon, it became my habit to look at him on a daily basis. Soon after, it became my daily routine to look at him, culminating in a sweet crush. But, I used to think always, ‘why would a fresher grow up to such a height?’ It was his height, which bothered me a lot. I didn’t mind having a crush on a guy who was junior to me. I was overwhelmed by his handsome look and amazingly maintained physique. Slowly, I was getting desperate to know his name.
Some people say that unexpected things happen at an unexpected time. Well, it happened for me too. It was during one of my exams. I was waiting outside the exam hall along with other girls. Suddenly, one of my friends poked me with a pen. It hurt. “Aaaa! What do you want? Why did you poke at me?”
“Sssshhhhhh! Just slowly turn back and look at the professor who is coming towards our hall.”
I casually turned back, hoping to find a sloppy professor. My eyes popped out in an instant. I could feel my heart thumping in my mouth. The professor was none other than the guy on whom I had a crush!
“What?!” My jaw dropped. “Is he a professor? Oh, my god! Have I been assuming him to be a fresher?” I was horrified. I felt like kicking myself for having fallen prey to something called ‘crush’, that too, on a professor.
Anyway, I thought, ‘what’s wrong in having a crush on a young, good-looking professor? It’s not going to cause me any harm.’ I closed my book and kept it inside my bag.
“Final year Maths students, please enter the hall. It’s almost 10 o’clock.” It was he. He had a manly voice. I felt happy to have him as my invigilator on that day. Thanking my stars, I entered the exam hall. To my surprise, I was placed on the first bench. ‘Wow! Now I can watch him comfortably,’ I thought. I almost forgot that I was about to take an exam. I frantically tried to remember the answers as it was an allied paper – Environmental Chemistry. He distributed the question papers and answer sheets to all. I started filling up my register number and other details.
Just then, I heard a soft tap on my desk. I looked up. He was standing in front of me and asking me to sign on my answer sheet. I felt shy to look at him directly. Making a weird expression, I handed over my answer sheet. I decided to figure out his name from his signature. But there was no need for it. He signed his full name on the answer sheet, clearly. “Rishikesh Sandhilya”.
Then, he moved on to the next bench. ‘Rishikesh Sandhilya? What a peculiar name!’ I thought.
I concentrated on writing the exam. After sometime, I heard him discussing, something with my close friend, Banu on another bench. ‘What would he possibly be discussing’? I thought to myself and continued writing. Soon, the three hours passed by. I came outside and joined my friend Banu. I asked her, “How did you do?”
“Yeah, it was quiet easy. I answered all the questions. You?”
“Yup, I did well, too. By the way, did you notice his name?”
“No, I couldn’t figure out from his signature.”
“Why couldn’t you? He signed his entire name on my answer sheet. Didn’t he do the same on yours too?”
“No, he didn’t. What’s his name?”
“Rishikesh Sandhilya.” I wondered why he had written his full name only on my answer sheet. ‘Maybe, he felt too bored to write on all answer sheets,’ I thought and continued asking Banu, “What was he discussing with you in the middle of the exam?”
“I was writing a chemical reaction. He questioned me whether it was correct. I nodded yes. He asked me to check properly as I had made a mistake. I bet he is from the Chemistry department.”
I went back home in a happy mood, gaining useful information about my crush. I made a mental note of all the general information about him – Rishikesh Sandhilya, Chemistry department, alights in Surya Nagar.
Then, I logged in to Facebook and searched for him. “Rishikesh Sandhilya” I typed, but the search showed “No results”. I was deeply saddened.
The next day, I met Banu and told her everything about my crush. “I knew it while you were asking me about Rishikesh,” she said.
“I couldn’t find him on Facebook. He has a unique name. So, I thought I could easily find him. I think he doesn’t have an account.”
“Is it? Then, why don’t you try Twitter?”
“I don’t have a Twitter account. I don’t even know how to use it.”
Then, Banu explained to me the A-Z of Twitter.
“Okay done! I will create an account today and search for him,” I said with a beaming expression.
That evening, I was sitting inside my bus, eagerly waiting for Rishikesh’s arrival. As usual, he boarded the bus hurriedly and, alas due to his height, hit his head against the rod on the ceiling.
“Tch…Tch….” I made a sound as he was hit. Rubbing his head, he managed to throw a look at me. It was a piercing look. I felt embarrassed and turned to look outside, but his look held a different meaning. He was surprised on seeing me.
After reaching home, I registered myself in Twitter as “Poorna Rajkumar”. Then, eagerly I typed “Rishikesh Sandhilya” in the search box. Lo and behold! There he was. There was only a single account in that name and it was he. I was overjoyed and clicked on the ‘Follow’ button immediately. I browsed through his tweets to see when he had tweeted last. It was two days before. Then, I posted my first tweet, “Hi, this is Poorna Rajkumar, a final year B.Sc. Maths student.” Soon, I logged out, hoping Rishikesh would follow me back.
Three days later, Rishikesh occupied a seat just behind me in the bus. I felt elated and pretended to listen to songs played on the bus. Just then, he got a call. The ringtone was ‘Aankhon mein teri ajab si ajab si adayein hai…’ I smiled. He attended the call and started blabbering something in Marathi which I could not understand. Then, he switched to English. “Hey, what do you say? I am just 25. I have just completed my MBA and joined as a lecturer. Why do you want me to get married?” He spoke so loudly that even the girl in the front row could have heard him, but I held back a mischievous smile. I was happy that he was unmarried.
Months flew away. With each passing day, I grew fonder of Rishikesh. I began to loiter around the campus just to catch a glimpse of him. Occasionally, I received a look or two from him. Once, I even wished him, “Good morning, Sir!” He politely returned my wish. But, life has its own share of ups and downs. You cannot be happy always. God will surely make you taste troubles too. That was what happened with me.
I came to know that Rishikesh’s staff room had been shifted to the Maths block. I jumped out of excitement. Then, I started to stand near the staff room during intervals and lunch breaks. It was on one such day that I heard something, which upset me. I was standing near the entrance of the staff room. Rishikesh was discussing with his fellow professor and I was overhearing them.
“So, are you in love Rishikesh?” asked the other professor.
“Yeah, I am. I like her a lot, but I am not going to disturb her. Let her finish college studies. Then, I would surely propose to her.”
“Good! Which department is she?”
My heart began thumping. I made a scratching sound with my legs, as I had turned impatient. There was a pause.
“I think she is from the Biology department.”
My heart sank. My eyes welled up with tears. I couldn’t control myself. At that moment, I realized that my crush had already turned into love. I thought I was going to collapse. In a fit of anger, I tore a bundle of clipped sheets that were lying on the table outside the staff room. Just then, Rishikesh came out. He searched for something and then noticed me.
“Hey, you!” He called out to me. He snatched the torn sheets from me. “My lecture notes! Oh, my god! What have you done? Stupid girl. Don’t you know how to behave? I am going to complain about this to your HOD…” He yelled at the top of his lungs.
“I am so..sor..sorry…sir…” My voice turned shaky and I trembled with fear. Just when I realized I was in love with him, he was there in front of me, yelling at me.
“Are you mad? What made you to behave like this? I won’t spare you. Come on, tell me, what’s your name?”
“Who is your HOD?”
“Mrs.Rajalakshmi. Sir, please I beg your pardon. I didn’t do it intentionally. I am extremely sorry. I thought they were just rough sheets. Please sir….” I literally begged him to spare me.
“What were you doing near the staff room?”
My heart jumped out to say, “To see you, Sir.” But all I could say was, “I had a fight with my friend. So, I just came out to free myself from stress. It was at that time I saw those sheets and tore them in anger. I am sorry, Sir.” He could see the pain written all over my face.
“Okay! But I will punish you. Come inside the staff room.”
I meekly followed him.
He pulled out a book from his briefcase, along with some white sheets. He handed them to me and said, “Turn to page no.132. Start copying the lines, which I have marked, onto the sheets. Complete it within 15 minutes.”
“Sir, please, I have a class.”
“That’s okay. I will inform your teacher. You start writing.”
I was completely embarrassed. The guy on whom I had a crush was punishing me! I started writing and finished it within the allotted time.
He looked at the copy and said, “You may go now! And make sure that you don’t come in front of me anymore. You should not be in my sight till the end of the year.”
Those words killed me. It was a painful moment. I could not digest the fact that my own crush punished me and warned me. ‘Nevertheless, he is in love with some other girl. Why could it not have been me? Why am I unlucky?’ I cursed myself for being brown skinned and a plain Jane. I reached my classroom and burst into tears. I could not answer the worried questions of my classmates.
As days passed by, I forgot the incident. Also, I completely forgot about him and vowed myself not to see him again in my life. I even deleted my Twitter account. I didn’t want anything to remind me about him. I completed my graduation successfully.
3 years later…
I was pursuing my M.Sc. in Bangalore.
“You are 23 now and you say you are not in love with anybody. Then, why don’t you get married to the person whom we choose? Come down to Chennai soon.” My mom was pestering me to get married.
She was calling me up every day and speaking about my marriage. Though I was not interested, I reluctantly flew down to Chennai to meet the bridegroom and his family.
The D-Day arrived. I was dressed up in a heavy silk saree. I gave final touches to the makeup and waited for the bridegroom’s family to arrive.
After a few minutes, my mom called out, “Poorna…”
I came out with the tea tray in my hand. I served tea to my future in-laws and to my would-be. I did not look up to see the bridegroom’s face. ‘Whoever it might be, I will get married just for the sake of getting married.’ I was angry with my parents for arranging my marriage at a young age. I just moved away and stood in a corner.
My future mother-in-law spoke, “My son told me that he had liked her in college.”
My thoughts swirled, what?! Am I going to marry one of my classmates? Who could it be? God, please help me. I don’t want someone whom I had not liked during my college days. I was also flabbergasted that the guy might be only 23 and his parents were in a rush to get him married.
“He also told that he had messed up with her once, but he regretted it later when he realized that he loved her.”
Oh! My memory is too weak. Who messed up with me? I scratched my head to remember.
Then, my dad asked my future in-laws, “What’s your son’s full name and age?”
“Rishikesh Sandhilya. He is 29 years old.”
And then, I looked up. There he was. The ever smiling Rishikesh Sandhilya.
2 weeks later…
“I love you soooo much. It was actually love at first sight, from the very first day when I saw you inside the bus. I signed my entire name only to let you know my name. I went out of control when you followed me in Twitter. Soon, I started noticing the change in your behaviour. I didn’t want to disturb your studies by proposing to you. That was why I acted indifferently. I knew that you were there when I was speaking about my love to the other professor in the staff room. So, I lied to him being in love with a girl from Biology department. The rest you know. But I asked you to be out of my sight only till the end of that year. What made you to be out of my sight for three long years?!” Rishikesh Sandhilya, the talkative human being, spoke all those in a single breath, over the phone.
“Ha ha ha ha…” I laughed as a drop of tear rolled down from my cheek and fell on my engagement ring.