Sunday, May 30, 2010

Code Red (Part 1)

(Hi guys. I am back with my stories again. I would like to thank my friend, Deepak Bhuvarahan for helping me edit this part. I hope you like this story as much as you liked the previous ones. Your comments are quite valuable and keep motivating me to write stories. So please post your comments once you have finished reading. Thank you :) )

“Code Red”. I immediately left all my busy work and rushed to our favorite hang-out place, a small coffee joint near Sathyam cinemas.

As I took my place near a small window overlooking the road, I stared at the beautiful rains lashing outside. Code Red from Anu meant something really serious. As my hot cup of tea arrived a few minutes later, I started to relax a little and started enjoying the cool breeze. There are always some special people who become our friends and more special people who change our lives. This is my tale of friendship and love…

I stood in the middle of a vast green land, completely mesmerized in its beauty. Then suddenly from nowhere, a horse carriage without a carriage driver rode up to me. Notwithstanding my amazement, I slowly stretched out my hand to open the door of the carriage. I could immediately see a beautiful angel sitting in quite an erect posture. She wore a beautiful white sleeveless gown with a pearl necklace lacing her beautiful neck. I extended my right hand and she held it gently and jumped out from the carriage. A thick wedding veil covered her beautiful face. My eyes peered into her veil and I could see beautiful doe shaped eyes.

She motioned me to walk to a huge apple tree nearby. As she led the way with her long gown gently grazing over the ravishing meadow grass, the last rays of the evening sun shone brightly on the huge tree making it look golden. As we neared our destination, I tried to speak but words would just not come out. I tried to gently remove the thick veil and to my surprise she didn’t try to stop me this time contrary to what usually happened every time. At last I will get set my eyes on this ravishingly beautiful angel. My hand shivered with a new found excitement. I nearly moved her veil up when…

“Santooooooooosh”. Damn, I have heard that voice many times before. “Get up, you lazy boy” my mom shouted from the hall.

“Amma, just a few minutes of my dream and I will just get to see my princess” I protested desperately trying to get back to my dreams.

“You can see her tomorrow” joked amma. “She comes daily in your dreams. No big deal if you don’t see her today”

“Amma, why do you do this every day to me?” I demanded, nearly about half awake now.
Mom came and sat near me. She gently ruffled my hair and winked at me. “I just have you with me. Your princess has two horses and a big castle”. Mom is back again doing what she does best. Pulling my leg.

I gently hugged her and got up shaking my whole body to shake off from my sleep. I could see that my mom had already gotten ready for her Sunday morning temple visit.

As I squeezed a few ounces of paste onto my brush, I just could not help but admire my mom’s courage. She had single handedly brought me up after my father took a one-way ticket to heaven when I was very young. I hardly remember seeing his face. It is been my mom all the way – my guide, my teacher, my best friend – my life!!

As I started brushing, I spoke through the thick toothpaste foam “So what temple today?”

“Why is it that you ask the question when you start brushing?” she responded.

“Because I know you don’t like me speaking to you without brushing my teeth” I tried to joke in a muffled voice.

Amma smiled at me “Today’s temple is a beautiful one”.

“You say that coz I have to drop you at these old temples on a chilly Sunday morning” I protested.

Mom looked concerned as she peeped outside the window. “Now stop asking questions and get ready. It’s already so dark and cloudy outside. I guess it will start raining soon”.

“Don’t worry ma... I am there” I assured her.

“That’s also one of my major worries” she mischievously smiled at me. Mom really knew when to pull my leg. I liked it as much I liked her…

“Take a U- turn there” mom ordered.

“I know this place amma” I told her.

We had arrived at the beautiful old Mylapore temple. As we circled around the big pond to reach the back entrance of the temple, it started drizzling heavily.

As I stopped my bike in the parking lot, mom got down, crossed the road and rushed to the temple entrance. I loved to get drenched in the rains and slowly crossed the road to park my huge black Pulsar. Suddenly a black scooty shot into the parking lot next to me. A girl in her early twenties wearing a beautiful green sari with a golden brown border got down from her bike. I just could see her beautiful eyes through her helmet visor; I was shocked to see how closely they matched with my dream princess. I stood there paralyzed.

As I stood there transfixed by her beautiful eyes, I failed to notice that she was struggling to park her scooty wearing her sari. I quickly took hold of her scooty as it was about to fall on her. I could see her cheeks turn pink as her beautiful bangles clinked with one another.

“Park it and give me the keys at the entrance of the temple” spoke a honey laden voice as she rushed to her nearest shelter. As she skipped over the little puddles of water, I could see her gorgeous hand-crafted golden anklets. It was as if time stood still and I could see my angel crossing the road and joining my mom near the temple entrance.

I did not take my eyes of the angel, as I parked her scooty. From the corner of my eyes I could see her remove her helmet and out came her hair flowing down like an unbridled stream of fountain water and also quite closely matching to those of pretty actresses in the shampoo advertisements. I could see her speaking with my mom and I too wanted to join them as quickly as possible.

As I started to cross the road, a water tanker streaked past me. I pulled myself back in the nick of time but that incident temporarily blinded me from her. As I crossed the road to reach the temple entrance, my angel had disappeared. My eyes desperately searched for her. Damn, why does all this have to happen to me again?

I cursed myself bitterly for letting this happen. “Where is she?” I demanded.

“Where is who?” replied my mom pretty confused.

I took a deep breath “The girl who just spoke to you now”.

“Oh, that sweet girl. She has gone inside the temple”

I started to walk inside the temple when my mom stopped me in amazement “I have heard some people don’t believe in god”. I didn’t believe much in god and usually would sit outside or reluctantly accompany my mother inside the temple sometimes.

I could see a mischievous smile crossing my mother’s face and it always meant something. I had always wanted to see her happy but today I was in no mood to let go of my princess. I was about to enter the temple when my mom caught me and temporarily stopped me.

“The girl will be back soon. Give me the keys to her bike and get a archanai plate” she ordered. I thought about her order for a second. Reluctantly I followed her orders as I also didn’t want to go inside the temple. Perhaps it was a win-win situation for me.

I quickly tried to grab an archanai plate from a vendor right across the road. I kept glancing at the temple entrance every two seconds to make sure that I don’t miss her this time around. Then suddenly in a momentary flash, I saw her speaking with my mom. In a moment of extreme adrenaline rush, I ran back to my mom crossing the road. Damn, the water tanker lorries..

As I panted for breath on reaching my mom, I could see my angel taking off on her black scooty. My legs were no match for her tires. I gave up the chase mentally.
“Are you crazy?” spoke my mom amazed at my effort to see my angel. Damn, How can I ever miss her two times in a span of five minutes.

“Amma..” I bent down to catch my breath “I just wanted to see her”

“Stupid fellow. What would have happened had you been hit?”. She was definitely angry at me. “I have already lost many things in my life”. A sudden grief descended there.

I felt like kicking myself. I had missed my angel and also started a misfortunate day making my normally cheerful mother really angry. We both lost our interest in our early morning expedition and headed silently for home. I was bitterly disappointed with what had happened and silently prayed that I would get to see her soon.

I just started at this hugely imposing building standing right in front of me. The Karapakkam Center of operation was highly reputed and was Tata Consultancy Services’ single biggest center for all retail operations in South India. I was extremely ecstatic to start my career from there. I had just completed my month long training in Hyderabad and had made some really good friends while trying to learn a little bit of Telugu in my month long stay.

“Machi.. building ella undi?” spoke my Andhra friend, Venkatesh Bippimolli. Though I could never spell his last name, Venki had been a really cool friend of mine. I had learnt a lot of Telugu from him and he would often test me by posing Telugu questions like this one.

“Mui bien” I spoke in the little Spanish I knew. As he scrahed his head, I avoided his quizzed look and walked in the main lobby of the huge building along with my other batch mates. As we wrote down our names in the big register book, I saw a gorgeous girl in one the brightest pink chudidhars. I could not see her properly as her open loose hair covered most of her face. As she walked into a nearby lift, something struck me. Like the usual heroes in the movies, I ran up to the lift skidding right in front of it. Damn.. All I could see was the lift doors closing at the last moment. I punched at the down arrow lift button repeatedly in frustration.

“The lift will take 15 minutes to come down son” spoke a person clad in a dark blue suit. He looked like a big shot given his mannerisms and his dress. I gently shook my head and headed back to the lobby avoiding the millions of stares at me.. Perhaps in my rush I didn’t realize that this was not my college to run behind girls. Damn, this is a professional place… I reminded myself.

As I gobbled up the last morsels of the veg pulav of my lunch, Venki just stared coldly at me. “You know what. Just 300 people were staring at you when you ran across the floor. What do you think you were doing?”

“Machi..” I spoke in a low voice pretty ashamed of what had happened. “I saw my angel..” and I repeated my Sunday morning encounter at the temple.

“So how do you know that it was this girl in the lift?” Venki posed a challenging question.

“The hair clip. She was wearing the same golden clip today” I answered.

Venki just mock-laughed at me. “Are you kidding dude? Any person in here can wear the same piece of jewellary”

“But that was a chance that I had to take to see her” I protested.

“A costly chance..” he muttered. “Did you get to see her atleast?”

“No machi” I replied sadly.

“Don’t worry. You have many other things to worry” he replied. I looked at him quite surprised.

“Save this surprise for afternoon interview with the account manager” came a stern reply.

“Why do we need this …” my voice slowly melted down.

“Simple. Just to get into his project. If we don’t get into this project, we are stuck for the next one month on the bench”

His warning seemed so kiddish. Who doesn’t want to be happily sitting on the bench. Stupid fella..

“Santosh” called one of the project team leads, Shankar, in the Walmart account. He seemed a very pleasant guy and I desperately wanted to be in a good project with a good team lead. But for that I first had to clear this stupid interview.

I walked into his room and I could see him pour out a cup of coffee from a flask with his back to my face. I could see that he was wearing a dark blue suit. As he turned, I nearly stopped dead. I knew I would be thrown out of this project, if not, from TCS!!

“Sit down Santosh”, he spoke gently. Somehow all the gentle words seemed to be a like huge roar of waves crashing onto my ears. I wish he had not been one of the three hundred staring at me for my foolishness today morning. He smiled at me softly. I just wished he shouted at me for my mistake.

“You are assigned at the Walmart- Retail UPCs project”. Boy, nobody can understand how much joy those precious words brought to me. I was completely relieved and turned back to leave the room.

“I didn’t ask you to leave the room” commanded a strict voice as I stood there frozen by a cold wave. “You should have made a better effort to reach the lift” he continued to my surprise. “Life is all about running fast. Anyways, who was that girl?”

I was amazed by the complete u-turn. I stammered to get out some sensible words.
“I.. I didn’t get to see her”

“Don’t worry. You will get to see her soon”. I needed all the words of encouragement I could get in an otherwise pretty grim situation.

Apart from the beautiful people we get to meet in life, we also meet people who slowly become our best friends, who change our lives forever. The first time I met this friend or I should say ‘my life changer’ was on a crowded public bus. I have always wondered why the government supported pick- pockets by not running services on crowded bus routes.

“One Karapakkam please” I gently tapped on the girl’s shoulder. She took the five rupee coin without turning her head and passed it on. I patiently waited for my ticket which never seemed to come. I gently reminded the girl that my ticket had to come before the next bus stop where the ticket checkers hoped in to the bus and made a meal of the ticketless passengers.

“I too have not got my ticket. Please wait” spoke the girl getting a little frustrated with my attitude. I could see that she was a fat girl with a beautiful tanned face. I hated fat girls!!

As the bus halted in the next bus stop, the ticket checkers as usual got into the bus and started doing their job. I became really scared and as one of the head hunters approached I tried to deflect the blame onto the girl in front of me.

The ticket checker quietly verified the story with fat girl and also spoke with the conductor who flatly rejected any such incident. In the heat of moment, I confronted the conductor of the bus. I felt like kicking myself for giving the money to her.

But luckily the ticket checker confirmed the story with many other passengers, we understood that some person had been standing close to the conductor and collected all the money and had vanished. All of us cursed the crook and dished out another five rupees to reach our destination. I could see the fat girl was pretty annoyed with me. I cursed myself for not trusting the girl and wished that was the last time I saw her.

“Meet your new team member”, introduced Shankar. As I turned around from my chair, I was completely dumbstruck. It was the same fat girl I had seen in the bus. Pretty bad start.

“Hi.. I am Santosh” I extended my hand wishing that she never shook my hand.

“Vaishnavi” she spoke coldly extending her hand to complete the handshake.

“We will have our team meeting in five minutes” Shankar announced to our team of ten people, many of whom were freshers.

All through the meeting I could feel Vaishnavi’s staring at me. I wished I had never met her in the first place. But all through my life, I have had worse first meetings but which eventually gets me the best of friends and this story was no different.

As I returned back to my cubicle I saw a Yahoo messenger chat message with two buzzes on it. “I like you – sweetie pie. Better luck next time”.

As I read the message, I sat back stunned. I saw the yahoo ID – Who the hell could be my secret admirer? I closed the chat window and got my brain in active mode thinking the permutations and combinations of finding that one person among the 300 people.

As I walked out of cubicle I saw Venki in a cheerful mood. “What matter buddy?”.

Venki was burst out with a piece of good news “The account manager has agreed to shift me to a new project in Hyderabad”. My heart just sank. I always knew how he desperately he wanted to get to his hometown for he had all his loved ones there. I suddenly felt really lonely even though I was surrounded by a sea of people working all around me.

As I stepped into the office the next day with a bad mood of losing my best friend Venki, I could see that everybody were doing their work and seemed pretty happy. As I swiped my ID card to gain access into the project room, I saw a ray of core brightness.. a damsel, more beautiful than anything I had ever seen in my life. I saw my angel!!!

As I stood there mesmerized in her beautiful world, she breezed past me hardly making any eye contact. The air around me was completely refreshed by her scintillating perfume. I stood completely grounded and my eyes followed her to the farthest distance I could see her. Her merroon chudi, her white bindi, her red bangles, her loose hair, her pink cheeks.. Oh my god!! What’s happening to me…

As I prepared to run after my angel I heard a robotic voice “Do you want to join us for a meeting?”. I turned around to see Vaishnavi staring coldly at me. On one hand was my angel and on the other was a near demon. I cared not to reply and looked away from her.

As Shankar explained the new requirement for our team, my thoughts were still sailing towards my angel’s world.

“Santosh, please explain the last part of our requirement?” demanded Shankar brining me rudely back into this harsh world.

“Sir.. That was..” I mock coughed twice. “Could you please explain that once again” I requested, pretty ashamed at myself. The whole room burst out laughing. That was the first time I saw Vaishnavi laugh. Though she had stared at me always, I must say she looked beautiful in her smile and soon I too joined the fun. The highest note of self- depreciation, I should say!!

As I finished collecting all the edible items of our lunch buffet, I searched for a seat to park myself. I really missed my eating partner. The only piece of available furniture was close to Vaishnavi and her friend. After thinking about it a zillion times, I went near them and politely enquired whether I could have lunch with them.

Vaishnavi’s eyes gave me a silent permission to accompany them for lunch. I turned towards Vaishnavi’s friend to say my salutations. She was an extremely thin girl with greenish silver braces on her teeth. It was quite interesting to watch a physically contrasting pair of people. However, she was least cared about me and continued her conversation with Vaishnavi nonchalantly. Little did I know how much my world will change with these two people around.

I turned my sight away from these two people and silently fished into my hearty lunch. The lunches in TCS Karapakkam branch were the best by a far distance from other centers. As I swallowed my last pieces of gulab jamuns, I could see my world light up as my angel entered the canteen with her friends. I nearly spit out the sweet choking for breath.

“That’s queen Elizebeth” spoke the thin girl.

“Is that the Merroon chudi, Anudha?” questioned Vaishnavi.

“She is a big head weight”. I could see how much the thin girl, Anudha, liked my angel.

“What is her name?” I put a silent question to both them.

Both of them stared at me as if I had interrupted Indira Gandhi in her big rally speech. Perhaps a wrong question at the wrong time!!

“Apeksha..” Anudha spoke after a long silence which seemed like 10 light years for me.

“Apeksha?? Strange name..” I muttered.

“Strange girl, strange names” quipped Anudha.

The girls then started exchanging some gossip information about who is dating who in the office.

“You know Shankar..” spoke Anudha excitedly to a vigorously nodding Vaishnavi “He has just come back from US. He has a big onsite love story”.

Oh God… These girls and their crazy gosspips. Suddenly a idea struck me. Perhaps I could use them.

“Does Apeksha have a boy friend?” I questioned trying to give a look like their answer didn’t matter to me.

But I believe girls are the most brilliant creatures after D-Rex dinosaurs and both of them read my mind like the back of their hand and laughed mockingly at me.

“Where are you from?” questioned Anudha avoiding my question.

“I am Santosh, from Chennai. I joined last week” planning not to get myself embarrassed againby extending my hand.

“We are also freshers. I am Anudha” she spoke warmly extending her hands for a handshake.

“And in reply to your question, the answer is right in front of your eyes” Anudha’s eyes danced mischievously.

I saw a fair tall guy joining Apeksha at her table. I stared long and hard at him. Damn.. why do all girls fall for tall fair guys.

“Is he really her boyfriend?” I repeated my question. Both of them smiled mischievously at each other. I knew that they were really trying to put me off in my heavenly pursuit.

“From the most confirmed sources, we both have heard that he is…”. All I could here for the next seconds was the loud ring of the fire alarm.

But I did lip read the last few words from Anudha’s lips and my heart sank.