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This shall pass too
Over a thousand souls followed her on the paths that she trod. She arrested every man’s heart at my office that it beat only her name. Things were different before she stormed into my life. I desired a normal life with happiness and mirth. I should admit that at times I’ve prioritized money more than happiness. The urge to earn money had consumed me over the period of time. This story happened over a course of 7 days. 7 days of anticipation, hope, love and a disaster. She came, she mesmerized and left me broken. This is not just another love-hate story but a story of hope that was stolen from a guy who truly and madly loved a girl from his office. In these 7 days, he befriended her, loved her and lost her forever. Pinky, his 12-year-old niece was his advice maven who played a significant role in fixing and destroying his love life. She played a role of a dating website in his affection craved life. The little demon under the guise of an angel cajoled him to do things that eventually shortened his love life. 1 day is enough to impress a girl, 2 days are enough to get her along, 3 days are enough to win her heart and just one day is enough to shatter everything.
It was a balmy Wednesday morning when the Cupid, an uninvited charlatan decided to trick me.
Day1 – Wednesday – 6th June 2006.
Project deployments are no less than a wedding ceremony for Engineers like me. It is an important day of our life. After an ambitious 6 months of designing, coding, and testing, we were all set to release our baby into the production. Yes, projects are referred to as babies in the corporate life. No new issues were reported in the first of kind production sites which brought a big smile to my Engineering manager’s face. For days, he would not let his depression seep through the Engineers under him. I was his trusted go-to man who gave me the complete freedom to manage the team and the product development. Two important events happened in my life that day. My Engineering manager promoted me to a Project Manager role after my impressive performance in the last fiscal year. Well, the second event had somewhat impacted the next upcoming week of my life. Yes, the day 1 of the 7 days had begun.
Raghavendran, my Engineering manager had summoned me to his cabin. As I peeped through the transparent glass of his cabin,I saw a charming woman of around 27 amicably conversing with him.
“Who is she?” my mind aimlessly drifted apart.
Could she be the new HR manager, I thought to myself.
Raghavendran caught me shamelessly ogling at the girl.
“Ashwin, what are you doing there? come in,” he said and I obediently hearkened.
“Meet Ashwini Singhal, the automation engineer who would be joining our team,” he said. She smiled at me and greeted me, “Hello sir!”
“Call me Ashwin!” I retorted.
“Introduce her to our team and explain her the different modules that she would be automating,” Raghavendran explained.
“Is the workflow manager going to be under the scope of automation,” I curiously asked him to impress the newcomer.
“I think so, why don’t you discuss,” he replied and we left his cabin.
She was walking ahead of me. I witnessed her long hair neatly braided to her hip. It was swinging like the pendulum of a clock. I then introduced Ashwini with the other testers and developers in my team. At a closer glance, I witnessed her brown eyes and her arched eyebrows. Her eyes possessed a charm and it looked attractive due to the heavy application of kohl and the mascara. I admired her as she spoke to each of my team members. Her smiles certainly killed me and I could feel the Cupid’s bow piercing through my heart. She had a sharp chiseled nose and any man would fall for her long lips that were painted red. A complete bunch of joy she was! And my soon-to-be package of happiness. I stared into her eyes as my ears bypassed her voice. “Ashwin! Ashwin!” she called.
“Hey, tell me.” I recovered quickly trying not to distract myself because of her beauty.
“Where is my seat?” she asked.
There was a vacant cubicle next to mine and I asked her to use that. That act of mine could have surely broken many hearts in my team, of course, the guys!
I sent her some documents to read and asked her to get back to me in case if she had any questions. Although she was an integral part of my team, we both were reporting to our Engineering manager while the rest of my team reported to me. That gave her special privileges. Maybe!
I was shamelessly smiling like crazy as she was going through the documents. I was discretely leering at her.
It was the first time I was meeting her but my heart had sensed my cravings the moment I looked at her for the first time. Apart from clearly her doubts, we spoke for hours about ourselves. She was slowly getting comfortable with me. That was some skill that I possessed. Born to impress, I would brag about myself. Of course, secretly!
My older sister from Washington was in India for her vacations. I hugged her the moment I saw her. Di was my favorite and my best friend from my childhood days.
“Now stop hugging your old grumpy fat sis and focus your attention to your cute sexy niece,” I heard a soft voice from behind. The little girl stood there with her arms crossed and she grimaced.
“I’m not impressed, mamu!” she announced.
“You have to be,” I said and hugged her. I loved my niece Pinky the most.
“I love you, mamu!” Pinks planted a kiss on my chin. Everyone called her Pinku while I called her Pinks.
“My sweet little angel, even your mamu loves you,” I said and continued, “I was desperately waiting to meet you.”
It was a perfect Wednesday for me. Lots of unexpected events unfolded that day.
Day 2 – Thursday – 7th June 2006
That day I left for office quite early. Never in my life, I was so excited to go to work! Maybe this is why they say that life veers upside down after a woman steps into your life. And Ashwini was the woman in this case.
“Ash bro, good morning, ” a colleague of mine greeted me.
“Look I am telling you for the nth time not to address me, Ash,” I brusquely told him.
“Do I look like a kid who catches weird stupid pokemon or do I seem to you like a burned charcoal?” I asked.
“Chill Ashwin!” he said and left for his cubicle.
“Hey, Ram,” I called him and continued, “Good Morning to you.” I smiled at him to which he glared at me. I had clearly ruined his morning. My team members looked at me while I was exposing my cruel side at him.
I was eagerly waiting to see Ashwini and she didn’t make me wait long. She arrived thirty minutes hence.
“Hey Ashwini, Good Morning!” I greeted her.
“Hey Ash!” she smiled and said, “Good Morning to you too.”
“Ash?!” had clearly annoyed me but my heart had helplessly forced me to curve my lips into an animated smile.
“My friends call me Ash!” she said and continued, “It is such a sweet name.” She said with a smile on her face. She always looked beautiful with a smile. My heart had already accepted the way she was. My next task was to find out if she had a boyfriend. In this social media frenzy world, all girls had a guy to chill out with. Somewhere my heart wanted me to believe that she was single.
“You know what?” I asked her.
“Even my friends called me Ash!” I said, smiling at her. My team members laughed sheepishly. I remember my colleague from the other team, Ram listening to this when I uttered those words.
“Nice shirt, Ash!” Ram said and left for the cafeteria. I couldn’t complain much.
Two hours later, I asked her out for tea. I had to make the most of it and had the most difficult challenging task of finding her if she was single.
“I love chai’s and the tapri chai outside offices are too good,” she said and asked curiously, “Do we have a Tapri here too?”
“Of course we do,” I said and continued, “Shankar is famous for his tea.”
I and few of my team members were regular customers of Shankar. While the others would drink tea and I would smoke Marlboro light.
Shankar raised a cigarette stick as soon as his eyes grabbed my attention. He failed to notice the lass with me.
“Shankar, God knows why do you do this to me every damn day,” I said and asked, “Do I really look like a smoker to you?”
“Sorry, bhaiyya! confused ho Gaya mei,” he apologized.
Ashwini was watching all this as she stood next to me and sipped the chai.
“Ash! that’s okay if you want to smoke then I am completely cool with it,” she said and continued, “I can wait near the gate until you are done smoking.”
“See, his stupid act even convinced you that I’m a smoker,” I said to her.
“Oh no no, I didn’t mean that way!” she said, “And I am sorry!” She smiled at me.
“By the way, what’s your last name?” I asked her.
“It’s Singhal!” she replied.
“Paradoxical!” I said and continued, “Your boyfriend must be cursing himself.”
“Well, my last name actually justifies my current relationship status,” she said and continued, “No guy had the guts to ask me out for a date.”
My heart skipped a beat as she uttered those words. A billion butterflies started fluttering inside my stomach as I confirmed that she was single.
We sauntered outside the campus for a brief period.
I reached home at around 9 that evening. I had my dinner with my Di and my niece. After that, I headed to my room. That time was dedicated to the stalker in me. I quickly logged into facebook and searched for Ashwini Singhal. She looked gorgeous in all her photos. I couldn’t believe when she told she was single.
My little munchkin Pinks was fidgeting with her iPad next to me.
“Mamu, do you have any girlfriend?” she asked me.
“Why do you ask me that?” I asked her.
“Tell me first,” she said.
“NO,” I answered.
“Then why are you stalking this girl on facebook?” she caught me red handed.
I didn’t see that coming. “She works with me at my office,” I told her.
“Well that doesn’t give you the rights to stalk her,” she replied. The last thing I didn’t want was to get embarrassed in front of a kid.
“Well, I like her!” I admitted.
“Let me see her properly.” She pushed me and grabbed my laptop.
“Well she is just okay looking,” she said and continued, “Not as pretty as me.” She winked.
“I concur with your statement,” I said to which she said,” My future aunty is actually very beautiful.”
“And her name is Ashwini?” she confirmed.
She laughed and said, “Ashwin and Ashwini matches.” She burst into a sudden laughter and my sister downstairs asked me if she was alright.
“Relax Pinks!” I told her to chill.
“Ask her out, mamu,” she said for once.
“Is this really going to work, Pinks?” I asked her.
“Well if you don’t tell her up front that you like her then how will you know if she is interested in you,” she said.
“Well, my boyfriends tell me directly that they like me,” she said.
“What?” I asked, perplexed, “You have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah!” she confirmed.
“You are just 12,” I said.
“So what?” she riposted.
“United States of America I see,” I said and continued, ” Good going Pinks.”
I should have been ashamed of myself that at 12 my niece has a boyfriend while at 29 I didn’t have any girlfriend.
“But how can I know if she likes me or not?” I curiously asked her.
“Let me talk to her,” she said.
“That’s never happening, “I said.
“Mamu, please… I am bored sitting at home,” she pleaded.
“So, you’ll ask me to introduce you to my friends?” I confirmed.
“I mean your prospective girlfriend, my future Aunt,” she said and winked.
“Not happening!” I said to which she blackmailed me. “Well let you momma and my momma meet her then!”
“Fine, I will plan something and maybe we could meet tomorrow,” I said to her.
This tiny brat had a pivotal role in my life at least for the next 5 days. Helping others was her passion. “With great powers, comes great responsibilities, love helping others but I am not Spiderman,” was her Orkut and Facebook bio. At that tender, I used to play with my friends in the nearby garden and kids of this generation have iPads, Playstations and don’t know what not they have!
Pinks wanted to be the architect of my love life but handing over my love life in the hands of a 12-year-old was not a good idea according to me but I was a daredevil too!
Day 3- Friday – 8th June 2006
That day Ashwini looked beautiful in the Indian attire. She was dressed in a blue Kurta.
“Hey good morning Ash!” she greeted me and said, ” You are looking good today.”
“You are gorgeous too,” I smiled.
Usually, in IT companies Friday is supposed to be the fun day. Seldom people feel like working. And in a young team like mine, my team members would leave early on Fridays.
While talking to her, I expressed my nieces’ desire to meet her.
“But why would your niece want to meet me?” she asked curiously.
She happened to ask me about the most beautiful woman I’d met till date and I took your name and that caught her attention.
“Well, thanks Ash but I don’t think I am pretty looking,” she said and blushed.
“I would love to meet her too,” she said and asked, “What’s her name?”
“Pinky Sethi but Pinks to me!” I smiled.
“Are you free tomorrow?” I asked her.
“Let’s go for Mission Impossible III,” I said and added,” I will bring Pinks too!”
She packed her bags and said, “I would love to meet Pinks and how do you know I love Tom Cruise?”
“Well, I guessed so and should I change my name to Tom Cruise,” I said and winked at her to which she smiled.
That day I left my office early. Ashwini lived in a PG in Kalina.
“Mamu, is she meeting the great Pinks?” Pinks asked me as I entered my home.
“Yes,” I said to which she giggled.
“So you are taking two girls for a date tomorrow,” she said,” You’re one lucky dude, mamu!”
“Dream on, kid!” I said.
“If not then I would inform this to your Didi and your mommy,” she glared at me.
“Whatever!” I said.
Pinks instilled huge hopes in me. I never thought I could impress a girl and maybe express my love for her but now with Pinks support, I soon envisioned Ashwini as my girlfriend. Saturday was going to be the game changer.
Day 4 – Saturday – 9th June 2006
They say, to fall in love, luck is essential. But not everyone is lucky enough to find the love of their life. Cupid strikes his arrow when you least expect it. Ashwini was the chosen one for me, at least I began to think so.
“See you guys in 10 min.” Ashwini texted me. We were waiting outside the Cinemax with the tickets.
(To be continued…)
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