Destiny, Destiny, Destiny
Destiny, Destiny, Destiny19 mins 623 19 mins 623
1. In a few words
Pooja was sipping water melon juice and the droplets of condensation rolled down the glass, it was a warm night in March 2004. I was feeling nervous and could feel my own sweat going down too. “I like the pieces of water melon in the water melon juice” said Pooja. “Have you ever tried that” She asked. I was in my own thoughts, finalizing how to say what I really wanted to say. I just blurted out “Next time I will try that”. What I really wanted to say was “Water melon pieces in water melon juice are great, but I like you more than anything else in the world. Would you agree to be with me for the rest of our lives?”
Thus, started our journey, where I proposed to her and Pooja and she said NO, and then me trying again and she finally said Yes. A journey which lasted over a year spread across Goa, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad. Right at the time when our professional careers had started in the years 2004 and 2005.
2. How, Where and Why it all began
First time I felt something special for Pooja way back in 2002. I was doing my MBA at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM). But then, I knew Pooja or at least had heard of her during my Engineering in NIE, Mysore. Being a typical Mechanical Engineer, living in the college hostel, connecting with real girls was never something which was on top of my list. Posters, videos, movies of girls surely, we would spend hours, but talking to a real one?
Not really. I had no time, how can I spend time with girls while I am bunking classes, breaking sleep records, playing cricket, watching movies and driving all around Mysore on bikes. But then in a way, I was aware of her, knew about her without actually meeting her. How is that so? you may wonder. Well, Pooja’s elder sister was in a relationship with my very close friend- Ankit in the hostel. So as is usual within a group of close friends, we all were very protective and caring of Ankit’s girl. So, it was this indirect linkage that I had with Pooja. As I look back now, I never had any inclination to have a relation with Pooja.
Sure, I knew all about her parents, family background, what vehicle she used to drive, but no time in my busy Engineering life to interact with her. While pursuing my MBA at GIM, I was having new experiences in relation to interactions with girls. On one extreme was NIE, very limited interactions with girls. GIM, on the other hand, was a different story, it was an on-campus, co – educational course. It was normal for groups to have girls and boys. The course structure and assignments were such that discussions would go late into the night. Perhaps it was this new atmosphere in GIM which kindled my feelings towards Pooja. The seed had been planted in NIE, but it was in GIM, that the seed turned into a plant.
Though we were in separate cities, we had frequent interactions, thanks mainly to Yahoo Chat. My feelings towards her started becoming stronger as time passed. During the trimester breaks, I would visit Bangalore and after finishing her Engineering in 2003, Pooja started working in Bangalore. This was indeed the first sign from Destiny, a sign that we were meant to be together. I would use every opportunity in the world to meet her and spend time with her. For me, it was a sign that the feeling was mutual, at least I felt that way. For Pooja, however, it was not the case.
Time passed and 2004 rolled in, 2004 the year amongst all years, a turning point. My MBA course was coming to end and I had an offer from Satyam Computers. I was to join in April 2004. After a few months in her job with Planet Asia, Pooja also got an offer from Satyam Computers. This had to be destiny at work, both of us would be joining the same company.
3. Is it a Yes or a No?
Sometime in early Mar 2004, during my last college break in Bangalore, Pooja and I had dinner and then drank the water melon juice. I was anxious, I was going to propose to her today. She had no clue what so ever. She finished her watermelon juice, ate all the water melon pieces. I started the scooter, yes, I was a proud owner of a Bajaj Legend. In true MBA style, I had it all planned out. If I propose on a moving scooter, she has to give me a response, she cannot walk away. My timing was just perfect, close to her paying guest home just enough time for her to give an answer but not long enough to make it awkward, and of course, I could slow down or speed up, as required.
With all this planning done. I popped the question and her response was - not giving a response. She neither said yes nor no. I played my last card, “Do you want to give me a response in some time?” Finally, she responded “My sister’s relationship is on my parent’s mind right now. I cannot really get into this now.” “That’s just great,” I thought to myself as she got down to enter her PG and started my scooter and drove back home.
4. Is it a Guy thing? This is a Guy thing.
Pooja’s birthday in mid-March. My convocation was in March- 2004 at Goa. My parents were also in Goa to participate in the convocation. It was a proud moment for all the parents. My Convocation was a well-planned and grand event. There were dress rehearsals, gowns, hats, and photography, in addition, there was a heavy feeling of leaving your friends forever. Having stayed together for 2 years and in such close quarters, goodbyes to your batch mates was tough. But I had more things to think about, I had more sorrow on my mind. The girl I liked had said NO to my proposal. Oh wait, she didn’t say no and she didn’t say yes either. So, what should a guy do in such cases? Move on with his life or make another attempt. The classic Flight or Fight response dilemma. In general, for any situation or problem in life, we have two responses Fight or Flight.
What should I be doing? should I fight and try to convince Pooja? But that would mean that I need to contact her again, talk to her, call her from Goa to Bangalore. I mean why should I? She had not responded to my proposal. It cannot be a “guy thing” to call up a girl who has said no to you. But if I don’t call her then it’s not fight, it’s really flight as I am not doing anything to address the situation. But I want to fight, but for that to happen I have to swallow my pride and contact her.
Those were the days when telephone booths were more prevalent all over India, Cellphones were still new in India. But I was yet to get one, “I will buy one when I start earning” is what I would tell myself. Amongst whirlpool of activities happening for Convocation, I decided to call Pooja on her cellphone. I reached to the Central Bus Stand in Panjim, mustered all my courage and placed the call to Pooja, wished her and closed the conversation. Surely the driest Birthday wish she would have received. As I look back to the phone call so many years ago, I can still visualize the phone booth in Panjim bus stand. Undoubtably, the most important phone call I have made in my life. Had I not called Pooja to wish her, perhaps our relationship would not have progressed and you would not be reading this book!
5. Destiny has its say again [SS1]
We both had offers from the same company- Satyam and we both wanted to join in Bangalore. But it was not to be, I was asked to report to Chennai and Pooja had to report to Hyderabad. It was kind of ok for me, as I was more interested in starting the job, I was ready to go to Afghanistan, if required. However, for Pooja it was a tough decision and understandably so. Leaving home, away from parents is never easy. Our careers started off, in different cities. Any hopes I had of rekindling my love were dashed. Trying to maintain a long-distance relationship is tough and, in my case, trying to build one after I was rejected by Pooja was next to impossible.
Destiny has its say, after a few weeks in Chennai. I was asked to relocate to another city and that city happened to be Hyderabad. Hyderabad is a beautiful city, in many ways it’s a crossover point in India. Above that is North India and below that is South India. In Hyderabad you can easily be one part of the city and feel I am in proper south India and another part will make you feel you are in North India. Hyderabad is also famous for Biriyani, it's home to the world-famous Paradise Hotel. Up till the Satyam debacle in 2009, a Satyam employee was well respected in Hyderabad and it surely helped in getting a rental house with a lesser security deposit. However, as the things panned out none of us needed that. I started staying in Satyams Dormitory accommodation which was close 20 Kms from Hyderabad and Pooja was staying in Paying Guest in central Hyderabad.
6. Trying to meet Pooja in STC
I started working out of STC and staying in Dorms and got to know of Poojas stay in Hyderabad, from her sister. Guessing that like all new joinees, she would also be attending training in STC, I went for a bold move. With zero knowledge of which batch or class she was in, I just went to the building where freshers were trained and started asking about Pooja to any random person. My move can be called as foolish or bold, based on your risk appetite, but for me, it worked out! I was able to connect with Pooja's colleague and shared my work phone (I was yet to buy a cell phone). Within a few days, Pooja made contact with me. In my mind this was the re-start to our relationship that I was looking for. It was like watering a drying plant on parched land, hoping that someday it would flower.
7. Birthday Miss Pooja
Days rolled over and May arrived. May happens to be when my Birthday is and I was hoping that Pooja would wish me, hoping that it would be a next step in our newly rekindled relationship. As a part of our first interaction, I had shared my work phone and my friend’s cellphone number. My Birthday arrived, some people wished via emails, some people wished in person but I was still waiting for the wish from the special person- Pooja. The day ended with a usual dinner party from my side. But still no wishes from Pooja. The next day rolled in, “one day belated is still ok” I thought to myself. Eventually 4 days after my birthday, Pooja contacted me via email. I was furious, I wanted to show I was not to be thought of so lightly.
I mean, I had swallowed so much pride and called her up on her Birthday, she knows all my contact points, why would she not wish me? After the initial anger subsided, she explained that she had lost my work phone and had come to my work station to wish me, but I was not around. “But there was still email, you could wish me on that,” I said and the fight went on for a few days. Eventually, we found our peace and moved forward in our relationship. Moving forward was very important, by now the previously drying plant was beginning to do well and few leaves were visible, no flowers yet though!
8. Doctors medicine cures Pooja and much more
One fine day almost towards the end of May, on a hot afternoon in Hyderabad, I called up Pooja and she would not talk to me. No fights, or arguments she just did not have the power to talk to me. I promptly called up her roommate - Vanitha, notorious for her oversleeping and asked her to help out, but she did not know any Doctor close by. Every problem is an opportunity waiting for someone to solve it. Pooja was living 40 Kms away from me, I was in office and things had to be arranged quickly. What to do? How can I help?
Then I got an idea, my friend had just recovered and had visited a Doctor close to where Pooja stays. I got the contact information from my friend Amit and called up the Doctor. The Doctor was about to close the shop and I requested him to hold for some time. Quickly I called up Vanitha and told her to take Pooja to the Doctor. Another call to the Doctor and I explained him the symptoms and demographics of Pooja. I had done all I could sitting remotely and waited to hear from Vanitha. After about an hour, Vanitha called and informed me that the Doctor had given few medicines and Pooja was resting, I thanked her and continued with my work.
After a few days, Pooja recovered and was very impressed with how I had helped her out. In two ways. Firstly, Vanitha the sleeping beauty was up and alert after my call and took Pooja to the Doctor. Vanitha missing her sleep for anything was unheard of. Secondly, and more importantly, when Pooja went to the Doctor, he welcomed her and told her all the symptoms she was suffering, without even her having to open her mouth. News of my help reached to Pooja’s parents as well.
Things were surely going in the right direction and the plant was healthy with a lot of leaves, few flower buds were showing up, no flowers yet though!
9. Getting the right CUG connection
Small decisions in life, sometimes have a huge impact. We all had days on which we decided to leave 5 minutes earlier to office and it turned out to be a great decision. You missed a traffic pile-up or boss was in office earlier. Enter June and I finally bought a cell phone. The type of connection I took had a deep impact on our love story. I went in for a corporate plan which is called as CUG- Closed Used Group. That allows all Satyam CUG users to talk to each other zero cost. Yes, this was 2004 and I could make unlimited calls to any cell having the same plan in Hyderabad.
All my friends in STC were on the same plan. In some time, Pooja also decided to change her plan. She called me asked “Which plan should I take?” I responded, “Same as mine so that we can talk.” As it turned out this was a critical decision as one of my competitors was on another similar plan but from a different company. Thank God Pooja went with the same CUG as mine. Small decisions in life, sometimes have a huge impact.
10. Both of us work in night shifts, long night calls
Both Pooja and I started getting busy with our professional lives, both of us were very keen to do well and this being our first jobs had to learn a lot of things. That translates to extra hours at work.
11. Sep 27-28, 2004
Sep 27, 2004, was an official holiday in Hyderabad on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. However, both I and Pooja had to work on 27 Sep. For me, it was the 3rd quarter ending and I had to help out the onsite folks resolve last-minute issues. After work I called Pooja on the walk back to the Dormitory, it was a very busy day and I had not called her during the day. Something was different on this night. The call was long, although it was very late and it was early morning around 1 AM, we just could not hang up the phone. For me Late night calls was usual, but I felt a vibe from Pooja that she also felt that this call was different. We only wanted to talk more and more, and then I said something, something I wanted to say all the while “Pooja, I am beginning to get feelings for you all over again.”
This time Pooja was at a loss for words. She was not sure what to say, she did not say yes. One part of me was afraid, what if history repeats, what if I get the same response as in Feb 2004. We had grown a lot closer to each other when compared to Feb 2004. But we were not next to each other like in Feb 2004. I had thought out and planned my proposal in Feb 2004. I knew the route to drive my scooter, she was sitting behind me, I could control the speed of the scooter, I was driving the proposal. This time it was totally impromptu, no thought-out lines, not sure of the timing. Oh man what did I do, a second attempt without any planning. What if history repeats?
Another part of me, like an eternal optimist, felt that there was a change in her feelings. All the time we spent together in Hyderabad would have its impact. Her sister's marriage was no longer a problem for her parents. But no one can truly understand a women’s heart. Everyone tries, but no one is ever sure. This second proposal was straight from my heart and no MBA style planning was involved. Pooja said that she was not able to speak any more and wanted to hang up. We ended our call without she saying yes, but then she did not say no either. After all, this is what the eternal optimist would think. Both of us were lying our beds tossing and turning. I wanted to go and meet her at that moment, but we were 40 kms apart, I had no to bike to travel, it was close to 2 AM and had a long day at work. Such a helpless man can only do 1 thing viz. unlock the phone and send a text message, in the hope that she will respond.
Early in the morning, flowers blossom in the plants. Pooja responded and then I responded and then she responded and this went on for 15-20 mins. This was the year 2004 and both of us had feature phones, the ones where typing text messages is painful and time-consuming, but we seemed unstoppable. I felt like calling instead of messaging, but Pooja was too emotional to speak. Finally, the night ended and we decided to sleep with a promise of me travelling to meet Pooja. The following day, as I was having lunch at the cafeteria, Pooja called me and we started speaking. I was having Aloo Paratha and Pooja said “I love you” three words I was waiting to hear from her. To this day whenever we have Aloo Paratha we remember the time when Pooja said Yes. I could not travel and meet Pooja on 28 Sep and went to visit on 29 Sep instead. Pooja had prepared payasa to celebrate the occasion.
12. The cherry on the top moment
Both of us are close with our parents and did not want to delay sharing this news with them NOR did we want some other person sharing this information with them. Pooja shared the information with her parents on call and I decided to tell it in person. I travelled by an overnight bus from Hyderabad to Bangalore. My parents had no clue why I was coming, but like any parent, they were happy to see their son. Mom sure did have some doubts because I had visited Bangalore just a few weeks back. I reached home and before I broke the news to mom, I had a cup of coffee and had my breakfast, just in case I get thrown out of the house at least I am not with an empty stomach. To my great pleasure, mom was very happy to hear the news, no surprises or shock were expressed from her side. In fact, she mentioned that she was expecting such news. We spent the next few hours discussing instances where I talked so much about Pooja, that as a parent she started believing that this day would come. Oh Parents! No matter how old they are, they always know you so well.
All the pieces of the puzzles were now in place. Happy acceptance of our relationship by our parents was like the cherry on top of a multi-layered cake. Years later, Pooja mentioned that I had not loved her from my heart but in reality, I had loved her from my mind. As I look back to those days, I am so happy it all worked out so well. I am one of the lucky ones to have loved and married the same woman, a relationship that my parents also blessed. The best compliment came from my dad “Perhaps if we would have searched for a girl to have a formal arranged marriage, we would not have got some one half as good as Pooja.”
13. Life after that, especially weekends
Weekends were like never before. I was learning golf and the classes were held on Saturday mornings. Project work would end at 2 AM on Saturdays or in some cases on 6 AM on Saturday. But I was excited that I was playing Golf and would never miss it on Saturday morning. More than the actual sport, it earns you bragging rights in any discussion. Post 27th Sep, all this changed. Weekends was a time when we could spend time with each other, I would take the early morning bus to Hyderabad to meet Pooja. Pooja was also working in shifts and would have barely slept.
But we were in love, meeting each other was the most important thing in our lives. Shanti Sagar is a restaurant for authentic Karnataka food in Hyderabad, at least close to authentic. It was our regular hang out for breakfast and our favorite item was “Onion Rava Masala Dosa”. Once we were done we wanted to start our mall hoping circus, but alas malls were not open so early in the morning. So, the next best thing we could think of was to see the early morning show of any movie that would be running that weekend. Some of the movies were so lame that Pooja would end up sleeping.
But we were in love, spending time with each other was most important thing in our lives. After movie watching, the great mall hoping would start. In those days in Hyderabad, some of the malls were located fairly close to each other on the same long road. We would take an auto-rickshaw and stop at the first mall and spend hours window shopping. Once done with mall number 1, we would take another rickshaw and repeat this until all the malls had been visited. Repetition or boredom was never our problem, we were in love, spending time with each other was most important thing in our lives.
14. Life afterward in a few words
Things were moving smoothly on the work front and I was asked to report to the USA for a long-term assignment. Though this would mean that Pooja and I would be geographically separated, we felt that technology would help. Help it did, we would spend countless hours talking to each other on ISD calls and video chatting on Yahoo chats. The year 2006 rolled in and I prepared for my return home. We got engaged in Mar 2006 and married in August 2006, thanks to our parents' blessing we have been living a happily married life ever since.