The sun was unusually harsh that day. I wiped a few pearls of water from my forehead and cursed my decision to venture out in this weather. It wouldn’t have been better at my room either, which stood at the top floor valiantly fighting the sun and the wind throughout the year, in the absence of an AC. I had almost completed my work. I consulted my watch to find the time to be quarter past two. I called Gulati – ‘Have you taken your lunch?’ I asked.
‘Nope. I was going to have it.’
‘Good. I am coming to your place in next 15 minutes. We will eat at the Dhaba next to your house.’
I thought of hiring a rickshaw and then decided against it – ‘I would rather walk’, I thought. Walking is my way of fooling my body that I am doing enough for it to regain its original ‘slim and trim’ form. The heat was becoming unbearable and I was regretting my decision to opt for a walk. Suddenly my mobile phone buzzed with a message – ‘Please call urgently. If you don’t, it will be bad. Love.’ It was from an unidentified number. The message was obviously strange and hence I ignored it. The next minute, I received another message from the same number – ‘If you don’t reply or call, I will have to call your parents at Kanpur.’ Certainly my parents do not live at Kanpur and I was not the intended recipient of this call. I wanted to inform the sender about the same but something held me back.
‘Why are you smiling in such a wicked manner?’ asked Gulati. He was dressed in a pajama and a t-shirt and was carrying a disheveled hair.
‘You could have at least combed your hair.’ I said.
‘Why should I? This is my neighborhood. I am free to present myself in any way I want.’ He retorted. ‘Wait a minute. You are not smiling at my hairdo. Why are you smiling in this way?’
‘Read these.’ I handed him my phone.
‘Who is she?’
‘Your guess is as good as mine. I never said that the sender is a ‘she’ though.’
‘She is a ‘SHE’. You know it very well. So, you caught between a warring couple. He he!!’
‘I think that I should inform her that her messages are not reaching the right person. Hand over the phone. I would text.’
‘Why text boss? Let us call her. At least listen to the voice of the damsel in distress.’ He dialed the number. ‘It’s busy.’
We had our lunch; chatted on a few things and then parted. I was feeling lazy and hence decided to take a nap as soon as I reached my place. The sun was showing no signs of mercy and I took the protection of both air cooler and fan to save myself from its wrath. Sleep was kind though – she embraced me in her arms almost instantly. I do not know for how long I was in her world when suddenly the cruel ring of my phone pulled me out to reality. It was an unknown number – I took the call with irritation. ‘Hello!!’ I said in sleepy voice.
‘Hello!! Karan?’ A girl asked anxiously. Despite some nervousness, her voice had a magical quality.
‘No!! I am afraid I am not. Wrong number.’
‘Oh Sorry!!’ and the phone was disconnected. By now I was fully awake. It was apparent that the distressed damsel was making attempts to connect with her (if I can make that assumption) lover. I smiled and wished that she got hold of him. My trail of thoughts was broken by another call – this time it was a landline number from Delhi. ‘Not one of those from the insurance companies’ I thought as I picked it. ‘Hello!! Karan?’ Same voice; same nervous energy; same magical quality – this time there was a bit of familiarity too but I failed to connect it with anyone.
‘Sorry to disappoint you again Mam – it seems that you are trying the wrong number. There is no one named Karan here.’
‘Extremely sorry!! I just do not know how it’s happening. You will not be bothered again.’ And the call went dead. I sighed and called Mithilesh – ‘What’s the play?’ I asked.
‘Let’s go to Bowling.’ We met at the Bowling alley – Gulati, William and Nitin joined us. Bowling has become a weekly ritual for us. Though I am not a good player, I still enjoy the game and the company of my friends. The outing helps me unwind and revitalize. While having dinner after the game I narrated the incident with the girl to the group. As usual, it became an interesting topic for all of them.
‘I don’t believe it’s a cross connection angle’ said Nitin.
‘I agree. Someone is having a crush on you. She is just trying to draw your attention’ laughed William.
Mithilesh chuckled, ‘Finally, I will not have to try anymore to hook you up with someone.’ We all had a hearty laugh and moved on to other topics.
The next couple of days were quite hectic. I was working on the rollout of a pan India research and had to devote full energies in that. It was Wednesday evening; I had just switched off my system when my phone buzzed – ‘I am sorry’. The number was not known. Human mind is devilish – mine started to wish that the message was from that distressed girl. I took a chance and texted back – ‘???’. No answer. My lips curled in half smile as I left for my place. I was in the auto when I received another message ‘I miss you. I hope you miss me too.’ This was from some other number. While I was more or less convinced that the message was from the same girl, I was perplexed by the change in number every time – ‘How the hell can a girl have so many numbers?’ I thought. ‘May be people in love do keep many numbers’ my mind, unwilling to be in discomfort zone, self-explained. And then it sprang up a new theory – ‘What if a group is playing a prank on me?’ It was an angle I could not ignore.
Thursday was clear as I did not receive any strange message or call but it was Friday when the floodgates opened. I was wrapping up my work when I received the first call (needless to mention from an unidentified number) – ‘Hello!! Karan?’ the voice was intoxicating and yet I felt irritated. ‘No Mam. How many times do I need to tell you that I am no Karan?’
‘Oh Sorry!!’ and the call was disconnected. I probably had spoken with raised decibels as a few colleagues, still at work, rose from their seats to look in my direction. I made a gesture to assuage their concern and made a move out of the office. While on the way I received three calls from unknown numbers which I did not pick. And then it buzzed again – ‘Angry baby?’ The act had started to get on my nerves and yet a part in me which was enjoying the show.
I had taken my dinner and had just sat with ‘India After Gandhi’ when my phone rang showing another unidentified number. I reluctantly picked up the call – ‘Hello!!’ there was no response. As I disconnected the phone, it received another message – ‘I like your voice - would request you to keep picking the phone when I call.’ The tone of the message was discomforting – this was taking dangerous shape. A few minutes would have gone when the phone rang again – ‘Hey!!’ said she. ‘What do you want from me?’ I asked.
‘Didn’t you get my message?’ she said with a soft laughter.
I disconnected. The phone rang again – ‘Why did you disconnect?’
‘I want you to stop calling or texting me. Stop harassing me or I would be forced to take actions.’
She laughed. ‘I am harassing you? And it is you who always pick the phone. What’s in your head, Karan?’
‘I am no Karan.’
Click Here for Part 2
Click Here for Part 2