Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Numbers Game

I walk into the little lane that leads up to my office to see that the local newspaper and magazine vendor has erected a poster of the latest filmfare with Kareena saying: "Who gets love bites on your back?"
Somebody can use a little imagination in the bedroom, what says?
The power-couple of Bollywood, or so they would like to believe, should be banned from appearing on the Cover of ANYTHING, even a can of sardines. If Khalid Mohammad places Kareena on the cover of HT Cafe one more time, I might be provoked enough to swallow my pride and go back to ToI. As for Saif Ali Khan, well, he will now be immortalized as the first cover boy of Rolling Stone India. What, are we completely out of photogenic men able to pose with musical instruments? Of course, all good Indian rock musicians are actually Pakistanis. But surely, something better than Saif is manageable?
Then again, its better than Shah Rukh Khan, airbrushed 6 pack and all, holding a violin.
Bombay, I'm back. As you can see, Bombay has made me suitably crabby and I sulked the entire commute to work. It's this city, I tell you.
Yesterday, as I was waiting to clamber into the train, I got a call. Excitedly thinking it was my boyfriend, I whipped the phone out, only to find that it was "Ajay" calling.
"Who's that?" asked Dad, noting my obvious irritation.
"Some random guy", I said.
"Then why does he have your phone number?"
Good question. This goes back to one day in the Metropolitan Magistrate's Court at Bandra, when I was supposed to appear in a Colleague's matter. A fair, young guy was standing next to me, and I was in need of making my stupid sarcastic quips to someone, and he seemed to grasp basic English, so there we had it. He also helped me on a few tactical tips while appearing before this Judge. Everything was fine. He told me about how he was practicing with some guy who was a Professor at his College (talk about Campus placements) and was based out of this Court. After my matter was over, he then asked me for my phone number.
You know what? It's easy to say "Well you should have told him that you don't give your numbers to strangers... that you don't have a phone... that you would rather eat yourself whole, starting from your toes, than exchange contact numbers with him...". But when someone a guy asks a woman for her phone number, especially in a professional set up, denying it is not so easy. If you're a lawyer, exchanging phone numbers can ensure that Clients are referred to you, that you have some trusty soul to keep your matter on hold while you are stuck in traffic, that you have someone to consult for a quick tip on advised course of action before a particular Judge. Socializing was a necessity, created by rules made by the male bastion. In those days, there were only two female criminal lawyers. One was a majestic Parsi Lady whom no one would mess with, because in Bombay you never messed with a Parsi. They'd probably wind up being your landlord. The other woman was about 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide and with teeth which jutted out from her mouth like a coconut scraper, if you know what that is. Anyway the standing joke about her was created when a new whisky in the market was rated by the Bar Association (not pun intended):
"After two pegs, you can see Mona Lisa smiling. After four pegs, even *** smiling looks like Mona Lisa"
Sad, sad. But that's the Bombay Bar for you.
What I'm trying to say that the rules created by the male bastion never figured the possibility of young, unattached women in practice, desperate men, and the SMS phenomenon.
That evening, after exchanging numbers with the seemingly harmless Ajay, the barrage begins.
Good night messages, good morning messages, good afternoon messages, "look at the bright side of life" messages, "forward to 25 people or else you will drop dead of diseases you never even thought existed" messages - the works.
A few days later, he even called. And even more surprisingly, I picked up.
"Hi Ajay", I said.
I don't know why people do the whole "hello? who is this?" on cell phones to people whose numbers are saved on their phone. Thanks to my moving with the mobile times, however, I robbed him of 2 lines of conversation.
"Hi. How are you?"
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"Fine." silence.
Why on earth do people call for no reason when there's absolutely nothing to say to each other? It's different when of course you have an existing relationship and you call to say "Hi." In the course of conversation there's every chance that something new will trump up, like "Guess what? I'm getting married!", which is the reason why I have stopped calling up people "just to say Hi".
Idiot that I am, I actually try and make conversation.
"Well, I got your message..." he had sent me a message, about 10 minutes before the call, with lots of asterisks and dollar signs which are supposed to look like some tangible object, to the trained eye. If the Rorschach Inkblot Test Blot test was replaced with SMS artwork, I'd probably be strait jacketed and sent to the loony bin.
"Yeah..." he said.
"So, what's been up?"
"Nothing. Practice. You tell?"
This was obviously not going anywhere.
"Okay. I am out with friends. I have to go."
Perhaps it was my distinct and subtle disinterest, but the chronic messaging stopped thereafter. Except, of course, the Christmas message (I'm still wondering if it was a Christmas tree or a Santa Cap), the "wishing you a happy new year before the phones lines get jammed" message on the 31st, and the "Happy New Year" message on the 1st.
I was reclining on my diwan, having been sent home early on account of rumours that Bal Thackeray was dead. Sipping a gin and tonic, I was curled up with laptop on belly warmer mode and halfway into Season 4 of Sex and the City when my mobile beeped.
It was a message from Ajay.
"I have been trying to call you for the last half an hour. I am waiting outside your house. Please Come outside."
I sat up. He knows where I live? How does he know where I live? Who told him? Nobody knows where I live. Is this something you can find out from 28888888?
Now that he's standing outside, will he come ring the doorbell? Damn all those boyfriends and home deliveries, now the watchmen let bloody everyone in.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Disturbed as I was, I somehow had the presence of mind to scroll down.
And down, and down, and down.
I jus wanted to say gud nite!"
So I'm still wondering what to do about this serial SMSer. Surely there must be some Bharti Mittal Clinic for people who just can't get enough of their cell phones? The problem is that I cannot scream at him or accuse him of sexual harassment or get the CBI on his arse (perks of the job) or anything because there's a thin red line between frandship and harassment and he hasn't quite crossed it yet.
But I'm waiting. And when he does, he's definitely not going to get an SMS warning.

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