They glared at each other over their steaming cups of tea and coffee. He lowered his paper to stare and she looked away from her morning show to shoot him a angry frown.
As he got immersed himself in the large sheets again, she glanced at the date on paper only to realize, it had been twenty years since they met.
It was 1988 and it was the first day of college. As the world was moving towards computers and cell phones, she had walked in carrying her old back pack and favorite book. First days were annoying anyway, she thought. Introductions, ragging sessions and worst of all girls behaving like bimbos and guys like macho asses. She couldn’t believe she had joined an Indian college. If only her dad had sponsored her, she would be in Oxford right now, drinking English tea and eating creamy cones.
“If only, dad had not insisted, I would have been part of the latest movie to hit the theatres, instead of being in college” he thought. Still, girls in chiffon salwars, were something to be appreciated. As he sounded his usual wolf whistle, at the new ladies parading past him, he caught a angry look. Tall, gangly and an absolute geekish new girl was glaring at him.
“You really don’t think that was for you ,right?” he asked
All he heard back for a sharp, quick “Jackasses, all men are jackasses” before she stalked away.
“God help the guy who catches that one”, he thought before he rode his bike fast before a girl in red chiffon dress. “Definitely potential this year” he thought
As the year rolled, he took part in all the usual culturals - “Madras Model”, “Model of the century”, “Men as Models”. “Men – The new models” and nearly won all of them. But that’s when he saw her, the love of his life – Akila.
A nymph is sea green chiffon, with her hair floating in waves around her, she made his every dream come to life. One little problem, was her infuriating friend “Gayathri”. She was the tall nerd, whom had interrupted his perfect first day and was constantly interrupting his love life. Analyzing his speech and his English, he called her Webster when she wasn’t around. She hounded the English professor, enough to give them free classes, as he was home with a headache.
Gaya, as she was called by her pals, observed Abhi as he danced around Akila.
“What an Idiot, God put a couple of extra muscles in his abdomen, instead of his brain” she thought.
As Gaya looked at him, she was reminded of King Kong, a huge ape beating his chest.
Abhi was nauseatingly good looking, if you went for structured good looks. But that wasn’t the worst part, he thought he was god’s gift to women, and that’s what she hated.
“Well poor Akila” she thought, “at least her children would be good looking, but they definitely won’t be the brightest ones in their class”
As she pushed herself off the bench, to get to class, she glanced over to see Abhi, on his knees, presenting Akila a blade of glass. “Cheap Idiot can’t even get a rose for her birthday” thought Gaya, before she caught sight of her English professor hurrying into class.
As the college year grew, so did the dislike that Gaya and Abhi felt for each other. Akila ensured they were in separate rooms otherwise, all you could hear was “Nerd and Geek” versus “Ape and Snob”, in all their sentences. But Akila loved both of them dearly, one as a good friend and the other her true love. They were equally stubborn, undoubtedly loyal to her but unfortunately just as sure that the other was bad for her.
Their tension came to a head the final year at college. Gaya had just got Akila coffee, when Abhi rushed in with his prepared cold ice tea.
“Drink your coffee Aki, its becomes cold quickly” Gaya urged Akila
“Babe, common in this Madras heat who drinks coffee anymore, try the chilled tea, it’s the coolest thing to do” Abhi pushed
“Coolest? that’s not even a term , muscle boy” Gaya said
“How would you know, did you ask your friend Shakespeare and Shelley, whom I’m sure like the English professor ,are hiding from you in their graves ” shot back Abhi
As the scene got heated, so did the college interest in their little spitting session. Akila had moved back in horror of the scene unfolding in front of her.
“At least I know where I would find their graves. Other than the mirror, college, home and of course the local bus stands and beach, do you even know any other places?” Gaya asked
“Oh, just because I don’t my nose stuck in the books doesn’t mean I don’t know the world. Your only friends are those books, because they are the only ones that can stand you” Abhi retorted
The last remark, hit really close to home for Gaya. She didn’t have many friends and she was always insecure about the ones she had. Instead of the hurt turning to sorrow, it turned to mind numbing anger. She didn’t realize what she was saying in anger, and in doing so she broke Akila’s trust.
“At least I didn’t get thrown off a movie set , because I fooled around with the directors fifty year old wife” she yelled.
As silence settled around her, she actually saw the tears in Akila’s eyes and humiliation in Abhi’s. As the mutterings and giggles started, Abhi stood his ground and just stared at her. The dislike has turned into hard cold hatred. As Gaya turned to Akila, she saw remorse there and hurt at being betrayed.
The next morning and Gaya decided to apologize to Akila and Abhi. But they both never turned up. She found out that Abhi had transferred out that morning and Akila was at home sick. Even though she found Aki and apologized, their relationship was torn forever. Abhi had left, promising to return but Akila was heartbroken at the separation.
The years passed by and Gaya one day got a note from Aki saying she was getting married but she couldn’t give her an invite , because she was scared Gaya would mess everything again. Gaya though had graduated to become a copywriter at Oxford University Press. Her dreams were finally coming true. In another year she would transfer to the London branch. But till then she had to get out of all the grooms her parents were arranging for her to meet. It was easy till now, none of them liked her attitude and she was fine with that.
“Gaya, get dressed quickly, they will be here any minute” her mother yelled up the stairs. As Gaya wore her green chiffon sari and pinned on Jasmine strings on her hair, she prayed for another unsuccessful meeting session with a prospective groom. Her mother entered the room, gave a quick inspection and pushed a tray of coffee on her.
“This time young lady, you don’t get a choice to say no. These are people from very good family. The boy is an engineer in Chicago and has his own company. If he says yes, you will say “Yes”; understood?” came the threatening tone, from Gaya’s five foot mother.
“Your father and I are too old to see you remain single for another year, if you say no, then your dad will surely have another relapse”
On that note, Gaya’s mother left her in her room alone.
Gaya walked into the living room , with her head lowered and praying that the groom would want to talk to her alone . She didn’t even see any of their faces, it didn’t matter to her, she just wanted him to hate her and then leave.
As she moved into the kitchen where the discussion with the groom was to take place, she was thinking of all the things to say to turn this “US guy” out of her house
“I like tea, what about you?” came a male voice
As she gasped and turned around, she looked into the brown eyes of Abhi. For the first time in her life, she was speechless. Well at least she got one of her wishes, the groom hated her. As her breathing came back to normal she asked
“She married a doctor. Said she couldn’t trust the film types” he replied
“What are you doing here??” Gaya breathed out
“I have waited 6 years for an apology, just wanted to get it at the most humiliating opportunity for you” he said
If it wasn’t for the tone, Gaya would have apologized without him asking for it. But this just spiked her anger.
“Well it all turned out for the best. Aki got a good person, so I won’t apologize” she said
“Think about it, I give you till tomorrow afternoon” he said
“If not?” she shot back
“We get married, I know about your Oxford deal, you dad praised the way you got that assignment so quickly. But with this marriage, you would be Chicago not Oxford, so think about it” Abhi replied .”I waited all these years for an apology and I am not going to stop now, don’t underestimate revenge my dear”
Gaya couldn’t apologize and her parents refused to hear her opinion on the groom.
Each of them stubborn, waited for the other to back down.
They got married 3 months later on a hot summer afternoon.
As Akila walked down the reception aisle to congratulate them, juggling her 2 year and 5 year old, she murmured to her husband, “They are so stubborn; they probably kill each other in a year”. Their first year, they nearly did
Gaya came back to the present when Abhi set his tea down, she called their eight year old down for breakfast.
“You shouldn’t have called my client’s wife a blond bimbo to her face” Abhi growled
“Well, she was and if I am always such a problem, why don’t you just divorce me?”She shot back
“Not till you apologize for that day in college” he replied
“That will NEVER happen” Gaya said
Abhi neatly folded the paper , put it down and kissed her across her cheek and with a smile he said “I know, and I thank God for that everyday ”
“King Kong” she growled, reaching for her coffee
“Nerd” he replied, sipping his tea