The Missed Call
The Missed Call
Indians are supposed to have a great mindset for innovation. Do you think I am partial because I am Indian? Think again! Before I go into the main story, think about this dialogue from around the year 2002.
Mom: Dear, give a missed call once you reach.
(Missed call never cost any money those days, but outgoing and often, incoming calls did! I guess most of you would have used this technique in those days. A smart way to save money and yet give the message.)
The story today is about that only, missed call. Some would say blank call or prank call those days. I like the term "missed call".
It was the year 2000. Raju Srivastava was in the first year of college and had this huge crush on a girl from his class. But he was shy. He could not gather the courage to talk to any girl, leave alone express his feelings. The girl who he had a crush on, was Sonia. He just could not get her out of his head. He tried to be friendly with her and all, but it did not help much. She would stay occupied with her studies and did not show much interest anyways. At the same time Raju had a decent reputation in college. He used to score well and was known for good manners. So Sonia liked him. Though it would not go anywhere.
Those days the internet was not as freely available as today. Letters were still in use very much for communication. And landline telephone had made an entry in many households. Raju's father worked in a telephone exchange, so when he got an opportunity, he did not think twice. The whole thing was kept a surprise, so one day, when Raju came back from college, he saw a bright red telephone handset staring his way.
And there was a telephone directory that came along. It had a list of telephone numbers sorted by owners' names in alphabetical order. So, Raju had an idea. Why not dial Sonia's number? But he did not have it! Even if he had, it would be in her father's or mother's name!
He had to get it somehow! But how! Sonia's surname was Malhotra, so he went straight to the directory of Malhotras. But there were a whopping 564 Malhotra entries in his city! There was even one with the exact same name as Sonia Malhotra. There was no way that could be her! Normally the telephone would belong to the earning member of the family or the oldest member. He still gave a try. He dialed the number.
Tring tring. Tring tring.
Receiver: (an old lady's voice) Hello!
Raju: Hello! Is Sonia Malhotra there?
Receiver: Yes speaking.
Beep beep. Raju disconnected.
Ah! He should have known!
The next few days he tried everything to get her number, until one fine day he overheard Sonia telling a friend...
"Yeah take it down, call me!"
"6 2 2 2 6 2 4"
Bingo! He quickly memorized the number.
And later that day, after returning from college, he dialed the number! But every time he dialed, he could never muster the courage to talk. Damn, he felt so unsmart. Besides what could he say? He could not make up excuses for someone he did not even dare to talk to. So he picked up the receiver and as soon as it rang, he disconnected. He did the same thing twice more. Although there was no one at the other end talking to him, he felt a certain thrill about the whole thing.
Meanwhile in college, the next day he mastered the courage to speak to Sonia.
"Hey, do you have a bit of time today?"
"Just wanted to understand the part where professor Dixit taught about Schrodinger Wave Equation. You gave a great answer today, congratulations!"
"Hey thanks", Sonia smiled. "Sure!"
And they discussed at length about the equation while Raju kept noticing the way she smiled and looked and gestured. Wow, he thought. He understood the part the professor taught very well, even before Sonia had started explaining. But this beauty, this made him addicted, it was intoxicating, this he found difficult to understand, impossible to resist.
"I hope it's clear?"
"Yeah.. yes yes sure! Thanks a lot!"
That day Raju kept thinking about her and at night ended up giving two more missed calls!
But the next day, it did not go as planned. Sonia was discussing with her friends, very animated and vocal. When he tried to overhear, he understood she was pretty much disgusted with the missed calls.
"What kind of morons and hypocrites call up like that! Damn have some guts!"
While this did make Raju feel bad, he could not think of any other way to express what he felt. So, the next day, he did the same.
Only this time, one thing was different. If he gave one missed call, it was immediately reciprocated by another missed call to his phone in a matter of 2 minutes. If he gave one ring, the reciprocal call would ring once as well. If he rang thrice, the reciprocal call would ring thrice. Now, this confused Raju. Those days he did not have an option for caller ID on his phone. He was pretty sure Sonia did not have one too. But now he was doubting. Is it just a coincidence? Coincidence can happen once, twice, but this had happened much more than that. He mastered courage and called the number again, this time determined to talk.
Tring Tring Tring. Someone picked up.
"Hello", Raju said.
"Yes, Raipur police station! How can we help?"
Raju immediately disconnected.
Now there were several questions.
1. Did he take the number wrong?
2. Did Sonia give someone the police station's number?
3. Who would be calling her then, that she was so animated about?
4. How could he receive the reciprocal calls?
Oh how he wished he had a called ID panel!
The next day, he went to college, visibly disheartened and confused. Everything he had thought seemed to be different from reality! In the break, suddenly Sonia came to his desk. She had a smile on her face.
"Were you afraid of the lady police inspector yesterday?"
Raju stood up immediately, shell shocked!
"Oh! You? Oh my God!", covering his face with his hands and sat down!
She sat down beside him, for the first time ever.