Short Story: Tring Tring…and the bird flies free
By Sukanya Roy
After a relaxing vacation with my parents in Shimla, I was back to my routine in Mohali. As I sat working, suddenly the phone rang: “Tring, Tring.”
I could hear a soft-spoken lady from the other side, who introduced herself as Mrs. Dasgupta.
“Hello Nandini, I am Mrs. Dasgupta talking from Delhi, I got your contact details from Jeevansathi.com (Lifepartner.com). We are looking for a prospective bride for my younger brother, Naboneel.”
I was neutral. No excitement. This was quite normal for me. For the past twelve months, I had put my profile on Jeevansathi.com, hoping to find my second life partner.
Every other day I received an ‘alliance’ related call and it had become an integral part of my daily existence. I had jotted down a two-page document introducing myself and had memorised it. I had also gone over the answers to a series of questions which were generally ask by the prospective. I wanted to be overprepared after my disastrous first innings.
I walked back home and started my preparations for baking cookies. Cooking for me is like stress-relief therapy after class.
As my hands neared the microwave, and I opened its door.
“Beep. Beep.” No, it was not the microwave. It was my phone.
The message read: “Ami Naboneel, Apnar* contact details didi theke pelam (I am Naboneel. I got your contact details from my elder sister)” I was really surprised!! A man addressing me with so much of respect – Apnar*(your) — I was overwhelmed.
For a few moments, I went back to my previous phase of my life: Partha, my ex-husband, who never referred to me by the common pronoun of “tumi”*(you) but always used the less courteous and condescending pronoun of “tui”*(you); never gave respect to me or to my parents… and this was the first time I ever heard “Apni”*(you) from a prospective match. That touched my heart.
This time it was the microwave time alert. It read “Stop” and the aroma of cookies filled the kitchen.
After dinner, its ‘mother time’ — the only time where I talk heart to heart with my mother. I discussed my entire day with her. She is the only woman in my life who listens to me and supports me through every decision I make and have made in the past. I am blessed to have her in my life. After the call, I put down my head on my pillow and thought about the speech I would give on the International Women’s Day — my first achievement award speech: “I dedicate this award to my mother, because her inspiring words help me to achieve my dream and heal my pain and get back to my life; though she (maa) was a school dropout, her positive approach towards life is incredible. She made my life meaningful.”
I drifted to sleep. I woke around 10:30pm. The phone was ringing — tring, tring — Naboneel again. I picked up the call.
Me: “Hello Naboneel.”
Naboneel: “Hello Nandini, Hope I didn’t disturb you.”
Me: “No, not at all. Hope you are doing good.”
Naboneel: “Yes, I heard from sister that you are doing your software certification course from Global Software Academy (GSA). It still exists!”
Me (Laughing): “Ha ha! Yes, we are globally ranked.”
Naboneel: “I completed my ‘Data Analytics’ in the year 2008 from GSA, it was a recession batch. Old faculties still take classes?”
Me: “Yes, but many new faculties have also joined GSA. Many new courses have been added.”
Naboneel : “You speak Bangla so well, being probasi (expatriate), you speak fluently.”
Me: “I love my language, I can speak, read and write in my mother tongue.”
Naboneel: “Catch you later!! Good night and sleep well.”
Me: “Good night.”
After keeping the phone, I thought, it was an unconventional interaction. Unlike my earlier experiences, the entire discussion revolved around the GSA.
I fell asleep again.
Next morning, at the GSA, I had the same sessions, same faculties and same assignments. I was getting bored of the monotony in my routine. The phone rang again.
Me: “Hi, what’s up?”
Nabobeel: “Jhar khachi clients and boss theke (My boss and client are both reprimanding me…).”
Me: “Funny! Life is so simple. We make it complex. My life has become sandwiched between professors and assignments!”
Nabonee: “Yes, because we can’t define our own happiness and satisfaction.”
Me: “You had your lunch?”
Me: “Naboneel, catch you in the evening. I need to go.”
I went back to my classes. After classes, I called my friends. “Dharmick! Let’s go to pantry and have cup of coffee.” Dharmik and Sanya were my close buddies in the GSA. My day started and ended with them.
When I returned home, I texted Naboneel: “Are you free?”
After few minutes, he responded: “Yeah.”
I called him up.
Me: “How was your day?”
Naboneel: “Well, good… Nandini if you have any questions please free to ask me any time.”
Me: “Okay! But I don’t have any questions so far.”
Naboneel: “Why no questions?”
I was silent. After a pause, I changed the subject and asked him about his favorite subjects at the academy. And our endless conversation started. We both slept late.
Same routine but we did something different that day. We — the three musketeers — bunked classes and went to B-Town Mall to watch a Punjabi movie Mukhlawa— my first Punjabi movie. I did not know the dialect, but I enjoyed the movie.
We went back to college.
I shared the movie outing with Naboneel,
Naboneel: “Suddenly? Why a Punjabi movie?”
Me: “To get break from my monotonous schedule.”
Naboneel: “Hmm… Now show your friends the Bengali movie name Sukno Lanka (Dry Chilly).
Me: “Ha, ha, ha… Sure…”
Naboneel had started adding some flavor to my monotonous existence. Our converstaions brought joy back into my life. I bunked class and started giving more time to Naboneel. I prayed to almighty to retain this small happiness in my life. Naboneel, had a good sense of humor. He brought a smile to my face. He recited funny poems that he made at the spur of the moment. I became die -hard fan of his poems and laughed a lot.
Naboneel had one more special quality — he always ready to help, at any time, at any moment. Once, I remember, I was preparing a proposal for a grant. Though he was busy with his work, he managed his time to review my proposal four times. My respect for him went up — a man with his busy schedule finding time for my little tasks!
My mind drifted back to my early married life… I was with my husband in Pune. I got an interview call. As it was a new city for me, I requested my husband to drop me at the locale for the interview.
He reprimanded: “Nandini, it’s your interview, you have to manage your own thing, I didn’t ask you to apply for this job. It’s your call.”
After his retort, I removed the word “expectation” from the dictionary of my life.
Another name for life is to move on… However, this small incidence never fades.
Naboneel was a good listener and also eloquent and lucid with his conversations.
One night, I asked Naboneel if I could I take care of my parents even after we married. He responded: “Nandini, we both are exploring an option of second marriage. We don’t want a repeat the same thing that happened in the past. I am looking for a family-oriented girl who can understand the meaning of sansar (world), where each day will not be the same, every day there will be new situation but both of us to have manage and handle those situations. The relationship between a husband and wife is unique. It houses an ocean of emotions and feelings. For a happy marriage, both partners must be open. There should be no room for an ‘ego’ in the relationship. Communication is the only tool for a successful marriage. Silence kills the relationship. Regarding taking care of parents — it’s our duty and topmost priority… but both of us will have to handle that depending on the circumstances.”
What I had experience in my past married life was entirely different from what Naboneel was saying. Early in our marriage, my mother -in- law who stayed with us said, “Once a girl gets married, she must detach herself from her own family.” And she and my husband made sure I went by that.
I learnt to respect Naboneel more. My day started with his good morning message and night ended with his good night message — I was in love with my new Naboneel routine.
Our endless talk ended up in a meeting, I was based in Mohali and he resided in Delhi. He too was excited because it would be his first trip to Mohali, Punjab, as an alumnus of the GSA.
He took a train from Delhi. My heart beat fast at the prospect of meeting him. I felt like a sixteen year-old! I made full preparations — matching my dress with accessories, planning my day with him. Butterflies were doing rounds in my stomach.
Once he reached Chandigarh, he took a car to the campus. He had booked a studio in the student village.
I was waiting for his phone call. Finally, the mobile rang — tring, tring!
Naboneel: “Hi, feeling nostalgic in the campus as if I am back to college…”
Me: “Yes, true. Night view from here is splendid. If you are not tired, you can explore LRC (Learning Resource Center).”
Naboneel: “Yes. See you tomorrow morning.”
Me: “Yes, you take care too.”
It was a long night. I was eagerly waiting for the morning. As the first ray of the morning light entered my room, my heart started to sing and I welcomed the much anticiapated day with big smile.
I prepared a sweet dish for him. He had told me he loved to eat halwa with ghee but less sugar and plenty of dry fruits. I prepared the dish as per his taste. That morning, I select the best dress from my wardrobe and put on make-up. I booked an Ola cab and went straight to where he was staying. As I took the lift, my heart beat fast.
Once I reached, I pressed the calling bell of his room – tring, tring.
Naboneel, opened the door. With his charming smile, he welcomed me into his room.
As, I was bit shy by nature instead of looking at him, I start looking at the things in his room. Then, I gave him the halwa.
As it our first meeting, we went to Sarovar Food Court for breakfast. We both ordered paratha and dahi (yoghurt). After having our breakfast, I went for my class.
My mind kept revolving around Naboneel. I could not focus in the class. I watched the clock for the session to end.
I received a call from Naboneel: “Nandini, when you will come? I am waiting for you”.
I reached his room, sat comfortably on the sofa and we both started talking. Naboneel’s phone rang suddenly. His manager had called from Delhi.
Naboneel seemed to grow tense. His ears grew red and face, pale. He had to arrange a core team conference immediately. His meeting took a few hours.
Once he was done with his meeting, we went for lunch to a restaurant called Mainland China. Despite his obvious stress level, he could make me laugh with his funny poetry. We returned to campus after lunch.
We went back to the studio apartment he had booked. Without hesitation or seeking his permission, I went into his bedroom to rest. I dosed off. After few hours, when I woke up, and checked on him, he was busy with his work.
I told him, “Let’s go out. I will show you around and introduce you to my best friends.” It was a delightful outing. Both my friends enjoyed Naboneel’s company.
22ndJune – the day Naboneel visited was the golden day of my life. He had stolen my heart and, that day, I decided I would definitely spend my entire life with him. He was not pretentious but humble and his respectful demeanour towards women had won me over.
The beautiful day come to an end. He returned Delhi and joined work. His words always rang in my ear: “Being single you are managing everything beautifully. Be safe and take care.”
My phone ceased to ring.
Naboneel had changed my perceptions towards men. I realised that there were men who did respect women and treat them well.
I started missing him.
I felt depressed and low because the phone never rang. I confided in Dharmik and Sanya. They suggested I tell Naboneel. “You will feel relieved that way,” they said.
One night, I screwed up my courage and called him at 11:30pm.
Me: “Hope you are doing good, sorry to disturb you at late night.”
Naboneel: “Yeah I am good, no worries.”
Me: “I want to say something to you.”
Naboneel: “Yes please.”
Me: “I have received positive vibes from you from day one. You changed my perception of men. You treat woman with respect and understand the importance of family — all these make me feel I can connect with you easily. The day we met was the best one in my life. I love you Naboneel.”
Naboneel was silent and unresponsive for a few seconds.Then he merely said: “Good night and sleep well.”
Me: “You too… good night.”
We did not get married. I have a soulful connection with him. This episode of my life taught me a meaningful lesson — the difference between love and attachment. Love does not to tie the beloved down but allows the freedom to fly…like a bird the beloved can choose any flight path…
*Apni, tumi, tui — all of them are substitutes for you, apni being the most respectful and tun the least. Apnar is the possessive case of apni.
Sukanya Roy by profession is a qualitative researcher in the area of “Consumer Behavior”. She is a writer by day and an avid reader by night. She staunchly believes that writing should be easy to read so that a larger audience can resonate with her thoughts
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