Saturday 15 August 2020

Garima Batra, ShortStory 2020 Longlist

The missed Flight or The Missed Life?

‘Your profile is completed’, the pop-up appeared on her laptop screen. For the past half hour, she had been filling in the details just to create her matrimonial profile. After a few months of confusion, Ananya had finally set up her account on the matrimonial website.

Her mother had been nudging her for long to either introduce Ananya’s father and her to a guy of her choice or to create a profile on the matrimonial sites. She insisted on doing it as ‘it was the trend nowadays.’

‘The typical matrimonial ads in the newspapers don’t work now’ she used to say to Ananya so that she could persuade her to start the groom search. Ananya was not convinced with the idea though. She felt she would come across many fake profiles over there and she feared that one bad experience might take away her trust in the whole marriage thing.

Since she was unable to get her mother off her back and she hadn't dated a nice guy for long, she decided to give in to mother's demands. However, she prepared herself that she would not find the man of her dreams. That she was doing all this so that her mom would stop pestering her after a while when she would see that there were no suitable grooms.

Ananya always believed in fairy tales, the one shown in movies where while randomly walking on the street or while either of them is carrying a pile of stuff and loses balance, that they bump into each other. Or in some cases are even introduced by a common friend and hence, the love story starts. She truly believed there was a happily ever after.

This online scouting thing did not seem to be the right way. Even though she had a few cousins who had successfully found their partners virtually, but as per her choice of what a partner should be like, finding one on the matrimonial website seemed tough.

‘’It is impossible’’, she used to scream while scrolling through the profiles. ‘’I don’t know why people trust these websites? I can’t buy anything online without being able to see it or feel it and people use these matrimonial platforms to decide their future, their life partner. It’s so weird. How can I do this mummy? This is all your fault. It was your idea. ’’, she said one evening while walking out of her room taking out her frustration at her mom.

A few days passed by. She was just scrolling through the profiles once she had cooled down. Her mother’s convincing skills and emotional blackmail worked its magic too. None attracted her attention though.

Being in the advertising field, she had set her standards pretty high. Her mother would always argue that since she is beautiful, talented, and at a high point in her career, finding a guy would be a child's play. However, only she knew how tough it was to find one when you are at a position and have achieved a few things in life, your partner should be at the same level, if not above. It wasn't wrong expecting this much. People usually misinterpret the word level. For her, it was not about financial status but his intelligence level, his wittiness, and smartness.

‘Looks aren't everything when a person opens his mouth, he should create the impression that he is knowledgeable and smart and not just blabbering. Of course, when one finds a partner, we look for all the positives and negatives before agreeing upon going ahead with someone.’, she used to say.

She had her list too and was waiting for a guy who would cross out not all but at least 7 out of the 10 things. She knew that no one is perfect and no one gets everything.

It wasn’t that she never tried finding one herself. She tried dating a few guys; however, it did not work out. Some cheated on her; while with some she did not feel the connection and some were with her not for the real her but her power, position, and money.

A month passed. The groom hunting was feeling like a battleground to her. She was getting impatient. One day, while she was working on her laptop, her screen had a pop-up message.

When she opened it, there was a message, ‘Hi Ananya. Hope you are fine. I just saw your profile and I must say I am pretty impressed. It would be my pleasure to have conversations with an independent woman working in one of the finest advertising agencies. Additionally, we do have a few things in common and I would love to know you more. Ping me if you are interested. I can assure you won’t be disappointed. Take care. Not so boring Banker, Rohit!’

The message was short and sweet. She liked the mannerisms of the guy. Not spamming, not persuading her, a simple text which showed his interest in her. Even though it was too soon to judge, however, in the online world, all it takes is one text to see if we want to go further with this guy or not.

She clicked on his profile.

Name: Rohit Kapoor

Age: 31

Height: 5’10

City: New York

Qualifications: MBA from NYU

Match: 80% match, the screen flashed.

‘Wow, that’s a lot’, she thought to herself.

She then scrolled through his pictures. He was bit on the dusky side, had trimmed beard, good personality, and a charming smile.

‘Look at his perfect jawline’ she screamed while scanning his pictures with her eyes.

Post scouting his profile, she replied to him, ‘Hi Rohit. Thanks for your text. Your profile seems equally attractive. I would love it if both of us could know each other more. Take care. Advertiser Ananya’.

She hit the send button and just when she was about to resume her work, she heard the pop-up notification sound.

He had replied to her immediately, ‘Hi, I am glad you replied. I was sincerely hoping for ou to reply but I thought you wouldn’t. So how do you wish to start the conversation? With the basics?’, he enquired.

‘Yes, that would be great. But I have a small request. Can we just take things slow? I don’t want to ruin everything. I have had experiences where moving too fast just spoilt the relationship. ‘, Ananya replied.

‘Well, I am with you on this, I wanted to convey the same thing. But wasn't sure how to say it or when to say it, I was confused if I should say this or not. But it seems you read my mind already? Are you a mind reader?’, he sent chuckling emoticons with this text.

And then a wink emoticon!

And their conversation continued till late at night. They had installed the apps to ensure smooth communication. They hadn’t exchanged numbers yet as they wanted to take things slow.

Day and night they were texting each other on the app messenger.

They celebrated their one month anniversary, by sharing with each other their first recent picture. Since there was a time difference between New York and Mumbai, they tried to adjust their schedules to spend time with each other.

Three months later, they exchanged numbers. Everything was going perfectly. He was the guy she wanted. Simple, rooted, modern yet family-oriented with a flourishing career. Despite living in New York, he was attached to his family. He hadn't crossed his line ever, never asked for specific pictures or talks, and was already making plans of them to meet soon. He used to text her and call her during the day, especially in the morning and at night.

She was the one he wanted. Corporate women, binder of the family, managing home and work, the right mix of traditional yet modern, one who spends time with family but also parties with friends, one who visits temple but also hits the bar.

They had become fond of each other and their bond was strengthening with each passing day.

It was Ananya’s birthday in two months in May. He decided to visit India so that they could celebrate it together. She was refusing him as she knew it would cost him a lot of booking at such short notice. But he was adamant.

‘’Look, it’s your birthday and I don’t want to do any more virtual dates especially on your birthday at least. I am coming. This is final. Now you just tell me what you want to do, how you want to spend it. Plan the day with your family and friends and we can meet accordingly. It’s your day and you should spend it happily and you should be given special treatment, as this is what you deserve. And the tickets are done. Just booked them while talking to you. Now, you can’t refuse. ’’, he said one night when they were talking to each other via Skype.

Finally, 10th May arrived. The day was planned. She dressed in a blue jumpsuit and chose to let her hair open just like Rohit liked.

While she was on the way for a lunch date with her family, she received a message- ‘All set. I will be leaving for the airport in a few minutes. I will call you once I will land at the airport. Eagerly waiting to meet you. I love you! Happy birthday my love. Have fun with your peeps!’

Ananya was shocked. This was the first time he had said I love you to her. They had decided to save it for a special day or occasion. He chose her birthday for the expression. She smiled and replied ‘I love you too. Can’t wait to see you. Come soon!’

They both were eagerly waiting for the time to pass away soon. All they wanted was to hug each other, hold each other, and be with each other. They had even decided that Ananya would introduce him to her parents now that they were sure that they would wanted to be together for the rest of their lives.

She enjoyed her lunch with her family and then went off to catch up with her friends. They met at their usual spot, a kiosk near their post-graduation college.

Three hours flew by. She lost track of time when she was with her friends. She checked the status of his flight on her phone.

When she was done checking, she insisted on her gang to accompany her to the airport. Even though Rohit and she had been talking for months, she felt a bit weird meeting him alone for the first time. Her friends agreed and drove her to the airport.

''Usually, girls want their prince charming to come on a horse, hers is coming on an airplane. Quite sassy I must say.’’ Her best friend, Aryan joked while driving the car.

‘’Focus on the road’’, she said while punching him lightly. She checked her phone but was surprised when she did not find any text or calls from Rohit.

‘His flight must have landed by now. It was on time. He might have been caught up in finding his luggage.’, she thought to herself.

It took them two hours to reach the airport as they got stuck in the traffic. Finally, they reached and were standing near the exit gate waiting for him.

She was constantly calling him, texting him but his phone was switched off. There was no way for her to track him down. It had been 45 minutes that they had been waiting. Just when she was about to check with the guard outside the exit gate, her friend, Rita, called out to her.

‘’Ananya, come here. Just see this.’’ Rita said while fumbling, fear was visible on her face.

The rest of her friends had a concerned look on their faces.

‘’What happened?’’. she asked while holding Rita’s phone. She looked at the screen and couldn’t believe her eyes.

‘Aero India 277 flying from New York to India crashed due to technical default. There have been no further details of the exact location but as per our sources 70%of the passengers have died on the spot. The remaining are in critical condition. The flight was supposed to land at 10:30 PM at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. Stay tuned for further updates.’, the news app reported.

‘’Anaya doesn't lose hope, how are you so sure, this was his flight? Do you have the number?’’, Aryan questioned softly.

Ananya was in shock and didn’t reply. He took her phone from her hands and checked the messages for Rohit’s flight number.

A few seconds later, all he could mutter out was, ‘’it is the same flight.’’

Ananya’s gaze was just stuck at the airport gate. The visuals of him coming out and waving her, hugging her starting before her eyes. She was desperately wanting all of this to be a joke, a prank. All she wanted was him to wave while coming out of the airport, safe and happy.

She kept gazing continuously at the gate in the hope that if she would, he would magically appear. However, there was no sight of him!

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