Disclaimer: This is a fictional account based on true events from my life from about 2 to 3 years ago. Any resemblance to real persons or events is purely a figment of imagination, mostly mine. The names of the actual people involved have also been changed because well, I can.
The ageing emperor of tennis was fighting one of his toughest battles on a tennis court. On his favourite grass court at Wimbledon, the Swiss Maestro was being challenged by this previously unknown and unheard of diminutive character, Ryan. This scrawny ‘kid’ had already taken the match to the distance. While he didn’t appear to have any major weapons, he did seem to have an extra ordinary sense of anticipation and could almost always sense where the certified legend of the game was gonna hit his shot next. Deep in the fifth set, he was about to serve when everyone was interrupted by a loud ring. The players stopped to look towards the source of the sound as did the rest of the crowd. The chair umpire could be heard reminding everyone to silence their mobile phones. It is still ringing and the ring gradually gave way to a song. The song was Mission Impossible tune. Was that a not so subtle hint?? The song just kept getting louder and louder as we see the culprit of this noise. It is… it is that same scrawny kid, the one who is playing the match!
Suddenly Ryan wakes up, barely realising that his phone was ringing. He looks at the number and could see some name on the screen. He was hoping that there wouldn’t be any name on the screen, he could have ignored the call otherwise as he rarely picks up random numbers. His eyes took some time to focus on the name and saw it was Raj. ‘The fuck does he want? And why he is calling at this ungodly hour?? Ohh, its 2 PM!!’
“What?” Ryan answers as he attends the call.
“Yo Ryan, did you hear about Ben?”
“Ben! He is out drinking!!”
“Yeah, yeah. David called me just now, Ansal told him.”
“Ha, that’s a lie, that Ansal will never ever call anyone!”
“You of all people shouldn’t be saying that. Anyway David called Ansal who told him all this.”
“Well, he is Pune right, its college, it’s expected.” Ryan rationalized. “Now get lost, I want to sleep.”
“Dude, its 2 PM on a Sunday. And this is serious. He is out drinking! And that too with girls!”
“Well… must be a group thing in his class or college.”
“No man! He is the only guy. And there were 2 girls. And they were drinking in his room.”
“Wait, this keeps getting weirder. One of the girls is from his hometown itself!!“
“Man, this is just too much information to take in on a Sunday morning.”
“It’s almost evening, you idiot!”
“Hey, do you think anything would have happened between those three. I mean, you hear all these stories about those colleges.”
“Naah, it is our Ben. He is a gentleman. Mr Nice guy.”
“Well, we didn’t expect he would be drinking with girls in his room, did we?”
“Huh, good point! Don’t worry bro. I will get to the bottom of this mystery.”
And thus began a journey that would lead Ryan to make a startling discovery about his friend, something that would require him to take a giant leap of faith that could change the rest of his life.
Elsewhere near London, the ‘Don’ Kramer is sleeping. In the tranquillity of night, he dreams on. FYI, he considers himself the Tamil actor Vijay’s doppelganger and inevitably, most of his dreams are influenced by the same actor. Yeah, weird, I know. Anyway, he was strolling down to Milton Keynes junction when he saw a beautiful girl staring at him. ‘Ohh, another fan’, he thought to himself. You see, this guy is famous in his hometown. There are places and buildings named after him, like Kramer Street, Kramer Lane, Kramer Bakeries, Hotel Kramer, Kramer Apartments etc. His aunt is a councillor and his uncle is the Superintendent of Police. Needless to say, he is a big shot, the Don, The Kramer.
The girl was definitely Indian, he concluded confidently. She came up to him flashing an enticing smile. Gorgeously attired in a red top and blue jeans, she blended in perfectly with the modern crowd in that quiet city. She took out a pen and a notepad and held it in front of her. It was obvious she wanted an autograph and our Don was only happy to oblige. Smiling, he reached out and she asked “Sir, aren’t you the famous actor??” Yep, she is a fan, he said to himself. “The actor whose last 5 movies were…utter flops?!!”
“Shit!!” he woke up with a start and realized it was all a dream.
“What is it honey? Another Vijay fan dream??” his wife knew him so well and was sympathetic about his frequent nightmares.
Yeah. He was not going back to sleep any time soon. The early to bed routine he had been on wasn’t really working out for Kramer. Since he was up anyway, he decided to call his buddies back home in India. ‘Whom to call though?’ he wondered as he picked up his iPhone, gifted by his wife a couple of years back. And immediately, a smile lightened up his face. He remembered the infamous iPhone story that allegedly happened to Ansal.
Now it’s not an earth shattering event that one drinks in today’s world but there were a few friends among our circle in college who always steadfastly refused a drink. The reasons varied though, ranging from the religious sin to the fact that his mom said not to. Ben was one of those guys. He was well known as a teetotaller.
He was also the gentleman of our gang, just like Kramer. But Kramer had more connections and he also had a girlfriend in college. David & Ansal were no gentlemen though; sure, they loved the girls, but the girls didn’t love them back. However, throughout history, good girls fall for the bad guys and that’s what happened to David. Ansal though, could never be a bad guy, but he still kept trying…. 26 times in 4 years for those of us who kept count in college.
And as for Ryan, ‘that guy is an enigma!’ was a popular sentiment among his friends. There were various rumours about him and his relationships, ranging from an ex high school sweet heart to a lady from the Women’s College in his hometown. Nobody knew the truth though, as Ryan was notorious for playing his cards pretty close to his chest.
The famous Nokia ringtone woke him up. It was just after 9 AM on a Sunday. He took his ringing mobile in his hands and looked into the screen. Instinctively, the first thing he looked at was the battery percentage. Then he realized who was calling. “Kramer!”
“Ansal! Whats up??”
Again on instinct, Ansal looked up from his bed before realizing his folly.
“Nothing much dude, just woke up. Wait no! Did you hear about Ben?!” The next 10 minutes were spent on discussing the drunken escapades of Ben and its ramifications. Ansal said he was travelling to Pune next day for a two months project in the city.
“Dude, you have to catch Ben red handed.“
“Yeah. But how?”
“You go to Pune and surprise him. Do you know where he lives?“
“Nope but it is okay, I will call him and ask.“
“Dude! Then it is no more a surprise!!“
“We are just friends, bro.” Ben tells Ryan over the phone. Ryan had heard this dialogue many times before and even uttered the same words himself. Therefore, he wasn’t exactly convinced. “You can go through my FB friend list to see her if you want.”
“Haha, already on it bro!” Scrolling through his friends FB profile, he suddenly paused. The smile on his face disappeared as he stared at the screen in disbelief.
“Hello, you there?” Ben asked after hearing nothing from the other end of the line.
“Hey man, I have to go now. Emergency. Talk to you later.” Ryan managed to mutter as he still stared at the screen.
He didn’t see Ben’s girl. But he saw someone else. Someone he had last seen almost a decade back. Back then, there was no Facebook. Kids barely used email or mobile phones. And when they finished high school, they parted ways with a heavy heart as they had different paths to tread. Even though they never remained in contact, she was always in his mind. He tried finding her in Facebook many times but was never successful. He thought he only had the wonderful memories of their times together left to remember her by. Until today.
Ansal looks around the restaurant to see if there is anyone he knows. He remembered Ben talking about this place as being the favourite hangout spot of the students from his college. And he could see there were only students in there. He felt out of place sitting alone at a table with a chicken biriyani and a lime juice in front of him. All other tables were full except for two of them. One guy with a cap on was sitting alone two tables in front of him. And then there was one diagonally opposite to his. There was a girl sitting there and she was looking towards him. She looked to be from the northeast part of the country, he deduced.
Suddenly he realized she was smiling at him. He turned around to confirm it was him. She was smiling at him only. Her smile grew bigger as did his confusion. Should he go to her table? What about his biriyani? But all of a sudden, another girl joined her at the table and he was left to rue his apparent lost chance.
“Ansal!” He heard Ben’s voice from behind him. “What are you doing here?” The slightly less classic case of the thief catching the police. “Why don’t you join me and my friends?” Ben continued as he pointed to the table where the two girls were seated. Ansal’s smile grew wider as he looked back his friend and Ben immediately recognized the reason.
The four had a great time at the table. The cute girl seemed to like Ansal, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed on the other three. Ansal tried to be his charming best and Ben played the role of the wingman to the hilt. The other girl was looking on at all this in bemusement.
After sometime, the four decide it is time to leave. As they are stepping out the door, they hear a mobile ringing. The ringtone is Mission Impossible. Ben remembers it as his college buddy Ryan’s ringtone as he walks out.
Panning back to the restaurant, we see the guy sitting alone on the table. It is his mobile that is ringing. “Hey Sophie.” he answers.
“Ryan, how are you feeling now?” Ryan! It is Ryan at the table. But why is he in Pune?
“I am going to be okay soon. Hopefully I can be back by tomorrow.” He replied to his colleague and his friend. Evidently, he had skipped office on that Monday but wasn’t exactly honest about the reason.
The reflective coating of the glass window gave him a perfect view of whatever was happening behind him in that restaurant. He had seen his college buddies have a gala time so close to him. But he didn’t join them because he was there for a different purpose. He didn’t come here to catch Ben as Ansal said he was gonna. He chuckled when he realized Ansal’s plan almost worked. Nope. As much as he would have loved to join them, he was there for something else, someone else actually.
“Hey, I have to go now.” He said as he saw someone enter and hung up. He removed his cap and ridiculously huge sunglasses. He turns around and waves to that someone. A girl. She comes in and takes the chair in front of Ryan. They smile at each other as she says “When you pinged me yesterday, I got the shock of my life. A happy one though.” The smile on her face grew a bit more radiant. “And then when you said you would fly out here today, I never believed you until I actually saw you sitting here!”
Ryan, who had been quietly listening to her with an amused satisfaction, takes a moment & says, “Hello J”