In my first month of college, I developed a mega crush on one of my classmates. I’d been to an all-girls’ school. So while crushes were aplenty (inter-school competitions and tuitions FTW), I’d never really had the chance to strike up a daily flirtationship with the boys. And now I did. As it happened, though, he wasn’t really interested. Friendly, yes; flirty, no. But smitten that I was, I followed him around everywhere. Including into the common room, where he played table tennis every day.
I had abysmal motor skills, so I was never going to win his heart with my TT-playing skills. What I did instead was play cards with a bunch of people while I watched him wield the bat from the corner of my eye. A month or so passed, and I realized suddenly that I was more interested in the cards now than in the crush-boy. While his attractions faded, Bridge had me in its grip. And conversation with my partners-in-cards was way more interesting than watching a boy whack at a tiny plastic ball for hours on end.
Soon I was friends with all these people I was playing with. They weren’t from my department, so I didn’t meet them much except those hours from 6 to 9 every evening. But it was fun anyway. One of them, Ranvijay, started paying me a fair bit of attention. I was flattered, and I thought...oooh, I have a PROPER guy friend now - someone who’d met me as an adult and not one of my mohalla-wallah, grew-up-with friends!
One Sunday, I was sitting at home and watching TV when my grandmother came and told me I had a phone call from a guy who wasn’t telling her his name. Now, this was fairly unusual. I ran to the landline - yeah, this was a time before cell phones - followed by just-as-curious grandmom.
It was Ranvijay. We chatted for a bit, talking about Bridge techniques, and then he asked me: “Do you want… [KRRR]?”
Yes, those days we only had BSNL connections, and conversation really depended on the gods of the phone lines being kind to us.
“Huh?” I said.
“Do you want to.... [KRRR]?”
In addition to static in my ear was my mom shouting to me that dinner was served.
“I can’t hear you!” I whispered.
“Do you want to.... [KRRR]... out…[KRRR]?” he yelled.
“Yes, yes, of course!” I said. “Bye, see you tomorrow!”
I just wanted to end the call and go eat my food. Not being able to hear anything and repeating myself like a moron was NOT an exciting way to spend my evening.
Monday morning, I walked into college. I was going to ask Ranvijay what the hell he’d been trying to ask me when I met him for Bridge in the evening.
Strangely enough, I bumped into him right outside my classroom. His classroom (he was a couple of years my senior and from another department) was in another wing of the building, so it was a bit of a surprise. And then, as my classmates began filing in, and my professor walked in too, Ranvijay grabbed my hand and said, “I’m so happy!”
“Eh?” said I.
“I never thought you’d agree to be my girlfriend!”
With my ENTIRE class watching, AND my prof, it did not seem like a good idea to tell him that I had done no such thing. I just smiled nervously, retrieved my hand and scurried into the room and to my seat.
As soon as class ended, of course, EVERYONE ganged up on me, demanding to know when they were getting “a treat” to celebrate my newly acquired “couplehood”. I didn’t want to tell anyone else that it was all a misunderstanding before I’d told him, so I smiled nervously as before - which I think everyone assumed was me being coy - and escaped.
By the time I actually managed to get Ranvijay alone, it seemed like the whole college had heard about our allegedly raging romance. And not just the students but all the professors too.
“Listen…” I said to him...
“I love you so much!” he said.
“Um.” WHAT THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?!
“It’s okay,” he said, “you don’t have to say anything now, I know you’re shy…”
I just ran away. I didn’t know how to tell him that it was not that I didn’t like him or anything, but I barely knew him, and being his girlfriend was really not something I was ready for!
Back home, I called up my best friend from school and told her that I’d been asked out by someone. And explained the telephone issue. Once she’d stopped laughing hysterically at me, she told me to give it a shot.
“But I don’t really know him - I don’t even know if I want to be his girlfriend!”
“Well, you should get to know him, no? And then decide what to do?”
She had a point.
Our days took on a pattern. Classes and Bridge, and then Ranvijay and I would go out for coffee. Never a movie, because his parents were super-conservative and wanted him back home by 9 p.m. at the latest. I’d never hung out with him by himself before - it had all been group hangout sessions in the common room. I discovered that he didn’t really know what he wanted to do after college, while I was fairly certain that I wanted a career in academia. I loved reading, he hated anything that was printed. I was a classical dancer, he was a metal-head.
A week after the “proposal” I told him that I hadn’t really heard him on phone when he asked me out - he laughed, not believing me. I’d waited that long because naive little girl that I was, I felt stupid about admitting that I’d said yes to something I hadn’t actually heard properly.
“No, seriously,” I said. In response, he pulled me into a hug, told me not to be silly, and told me I was lucky to be loved by someone like him, someone so tolerant of my whims.
I tried a couple of times to talk to him about it again, but he’d always shush me. And every time I tried to pull away a bit, he began to hold on to me a little tighter. Within two weeks of that fateful phone call, he would be outside my classroom at the end of every period, just to say hi. I wasn’t sure how to react to all this...affection. And I did something stupid - I went along with it. I, of zero relationship experience, thought that maybe this was how it was outside of the books and movies. No bells ringing, no running through fields of mustard - just this kind of habituation with another person. An acceptance of what they wanted, and adapting my expectations to it.
Another couple of weeks down the line, though, I began to have MAJOR second thoughts. His hugs were getting tighter, and he had more than once cupped my boobs and butt “accidentally”. I was naive, but not THAT naive. And even though he told me he loved me (ALL the bloody time), and didn’t seem to mind that I couldn’t bring myself to say the words back to him, and the whole world thought I was his girlfriend - I COULDN'T bring myself to feel the same way.
It was time to tell him the truth: that the loving-ful words and over-tight embraces were not making me feel happy - that they were, instead, overwhelming me. And the next time he pulled me into his arms, I opened my mouth to tell him that I really wasn’t into him - that this was not happening for me - and he took the opportunity to just thrust his tongue inside before I could get out a single word.
That, I have to say, was the WORST possible situation in which I could have gotten that much-awaited first-kiss-ever.
And that was it. The LAST straw. He was a nice enough person, I suppose, and maybe he did love me in his way, but this was veering into total creep territory.
"Stop, please stop!" I cried.
"What happened, baby?" he said.
For once, he actually wanted me to speak! The wonder! I told him that I was NOT ready to be a girlfriend.
But when he asked me why, I couldn't bring myself to be brutal about it. It just seemed...insensitive. I chickened out, cited studies and parental disapproval and started crying so that he wouldn't ask me too many searching questions. Though, to be fair, I was actually crying out of frustration, not faking it.
He was very "understanding" about it all. It helped that his parents disapproved of his having a girlfriend at all, and he bought my explanation completely.
"We can still be friends..." he said.
"Of course!" I replied.
I went home. And didn't go back to the common room - the only place where we could possibly bump into each other - for a few months. He'd occasionally see me on campus and wave soulfully at me. I'd wave back and walk on.
I think he finally figured it out. That it was him that was the problem, not my imaginary "issues". And he had his revenge a year later: he told the guy I had just started seeing that I was a lesbian. Since the whole world had known about Ranvijay and my "relationship", the new boy took him at his word and dumped me.
I was young, and I got over it. But I will forever hold the gods of the phone lines responsible for that whole debacle.