In the treasure chest of my innumerable pointless talents, lies buried one that I never mention. My grandmother frequently admonished me over it saying that it stirred up snakes from their hiding places. I had successfully exorcised this talent after my college years when recently like a blast from the past, I heard a familiar song. It got stuck in my head, like a bee buzzing inside my ear until I finally succumbed. I whistled it, recorded it on whatsapp and sent it to my buddy from college. She laughed uncontrollably on hearing it as it brought back memories of an embarrassing incident from twenty years back that we both felt best forgotten.
“Do you mind if I write about it” , I asked.
“Oh, do that”, she said, “nobody will believe you anyway.”
So here’s the incident. A tall tale from 20 years back when we were in college.
The lift came to a sudden halt after a long drawn out creak and shudder. She helplessly turned to the person stuck with her inside it who looked equally startled. He ruffled his hair and cursed under his breath. They were on their way to labour room from the gynaec casuality. The lift was an ancient rusted contraption whose time had finally come. She tried screaming, but she knew it was useless. He kept fiddling with the buttons and pounding on the collapsible steel door but to no avail. It was 2 am in the morning. There was nothing they could do, until and unless someone noticed their absence and came hunting for them.
He was not one cut out for great chatter. Everyone knew he was crazy about her best friend as he literally stalked her across the campus. She sat crosslegged, on the floor of the lift , resigned to her fate. Of all the people in the world she had to be stuck in a lift, it had to be this guy! Somebody else’s stalker. Sigh! He stretched out on the floor, his arms folded under his head, legs resting on the door. Her weak attempt at polite conversation, “It’s so quiet in here, no?”, was met with a grunt. The writing on the wall was clear. He didn’t give a damn for small talk.
An hour later, while she was thanking her stars that she had gone to the loo just before entering the lift, he was whistling softly to himself. The tune seemed familiar, but he was whistling it so badly that it was difficult to pick it up at first. Then suddenly with a start , she recognised the song. It was the one she dreaded. ‘Jaadu teri Nazar.’ The song was a runaway hit from the movie Darr which starred Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla. It was all about a crazed stalker with an intractable stammer and his muse. So HE was the guy who was leaving those strange love notes with lines from this very song in her books and satchel . He had probably given up on her best friend and transferred his craziness to her. She shuddered inwardly and glanced around. It was a confined space little bigger than a box with a small gap for air circulation. Was it possible that he had fixed the lift? If he decided to act smart, there was nothing much she could do about it. But on the other hand, he was only a batchmate, he wouldn’t have the guts to do anything , she consoled herself.
He gave a loud yawn and stood up and stretched himself. He looked genuinely bored out of his wits. She scrambled to her feet , wondering what he was going to do. He mumbled something about getting pins and needles sitting so still and started exercising in front of her. She flattened herself against the lift wall and watched him bend and jump and do push-ups and planks . Every time he jumped, the lift creaked noisily. She thought the lift would go hurtling down to the bottom in a killer drop, but was too terrified to protest. And he was too utterly indifferent to her presence to bother about niceties. Then suddenly he stared in her direction and moved towards her, with his thumb outstretched. She stifled a scream and stepped backwards. He reached out and jabbed at the lift buttons next to her ear one last time. She got so petrified that she jump-started into action and whacked blindly with all her might. She hit his solar plexus and he collapsed before her like a limp sack of sand. He was out cold. Unconscious but not dead, she decided after feeling his pulse. She realized that she must have accidentally hit him in one of the correct vital spots or the marmam that they mention in Kalaripayattu ( a traditional martial arts form) .
She then sat down next to him and waited for morning. They were discovered soon by an attender who raised the alarm and called for the repairman. When they finally opened the door, she daintily jumped out after stepping over the guy who was still sprawled out on the floor. He revived after a glass of cold water was splashed on his face. When he came to , she was busy giving some detailed explanation about how the poor air circulation had got to him. He didn’t say a word , of course. He just looked at her in a stunned manner.
Finally, when he got a chance, he whispered hoarsely , “Why did you try to kill me? I was only going to press the lift button.”
“Oho”, she said , arching her eyebrows. “I thought you were going to attack me.”
He looked aghast. “ Attack !?”
She said, “Why don’t you admit it, you are the guy who has been sending me those stupid love notes.”
“ What notes?”He sounded genuinely puzzled now. What an actor he is, she thought.
“Those littles notes scribbled in red sketchpen. With the lines Tu hai meri Kiran ….written on it. They were hidden in my notebooks and purse.”
His eyes almost popped out.
“I swear by all the deities in this world that I never did such a thing.”
“You whistled the exact same tune in the lift”, she said accusingly.
“Darr was playing on TV last weekend. I happened to watch a bit of it. The tune was stuck in my head.”
She just shrugged her shoulders and wearily walked back to the hostel , mulling over his words. Either he was a world class actor or he was genuinely innocent .
At the hostel entrance, she spotted me, her best friend. I was sitting in the lobby, reading the newspaper, with a steaming mug of tea next to me.
So I asked her, “How was last night’s duty? You look very tired.”
She collapsed on the steel foldable chair and told me what happened. I listened to the story wide-eyed and couldn’t help feeling a little agitated at the end of it.
“You knocked him out unconscious?”
“Yea, it was a flight or fight response. No scope for flight so I had to fight.”
“How is he now?”, I asked .
“Looks a bit stunned. Didn’t expect this from me, I bet. But of course he won’t tell anyone. It’s a disgrace for a beefy guy like him to have been thumped by a chit of girl like me. I have no regrets anyway. Such cheek, to send me those silly notes and then whistle the very same tune. What does he take me for? You know , he can’t even whistle as well as you. Yours rings so loud and clear. His goes Phweeet…at the end of the line.”
I carefully folded away the newspaper, looked into her eye and said, “He is innocent.”
She frowned, “How can you say that with such conviction?”
I cleared my throat uneasily. This was going to be hard to explain. “Those notes….with the song lyrics written in red sketchpen. That was me and the gang. We played a prank on you, sweetie.”
She groaned and cradled her head in her hands. “I should have guessed. Now what am I going to tell him!!!”
I grinned cheekily. “Try saying this. Would you believe me if I told you that this was all an embarrassing mistake?”