One can not really remember the complete chain of thoughts that leads to a particular thought. Even immediately after you have had that aha-oho-hmmm moment the preceding thoughts are not that clear. One tries to make do with whatever one can make do. It was during the-job-is-done and no-more-coverall-now shower at Havilla Harmony, the shower during which one spends long time under hot water that one started wondering about the third person of the same, actually nearly same, name. One Shyamala is here, in the present and getting happyly engaged today. Best wishes to her. The second was Shyamali. Chronologically first though. During the few days spent on Yahoo chat in college one chatted with a girl named Shyamali. There were few emails exchanged, maybe two or three, over the course of next few years. She is in the US one guesses, somewhere, married and all. But it was the third person one was trying to remember. There was a third Shyamala somewhere down the memory lane. Why one was trying to remember one cannot really say. One just could not place the time and figure out the place. And one again guesses it was the hot water on head after two weeks that brought it home. Kakinada. KKD. First few days spent in that quite town on the east coast of India.
I had happyly (each time MS Word changes it back to happily (auto spell check or something; by the way correct spell options provided by Word for Shyamala are Shalala and Shamble) but since ‘In the pursuit of happyness’ I try to use ‘y’) landed in KKD. There was a need to get a new phone number. After first day in the base, our offices are mostly known as bases not that we are military, during which I got the letter from the company guy for address proof I headed out to get a new phone number. I had used Airtel at Pune, Hutch (now Vodafone) at Delhi and to be fair to the three major service providers in India at the time I had a plan of getting Idea number at KKD.
I was staying at Cozy Hotel which by the way is anything but cozy. I did not need to go far that day as Idea shop was nearby. After the usual enquiries I had a new phone number. “It will be activated by tomorrow afternoon” said the lady at the counter. KKD is in Andhra Pradesh and is a small coastal town. I had not seen many girls out of homes, in the market and who all were out were not very good looking, in the way a north Indian perceives good looking to be. This was the first girl who came close to those scales of perception and she stayed the only one for a long time. True, KKD is not a good place for checking out girls.
After another day at work and after trying my phone for nth time I was back at the Idea shop. “It is not working”. She called up someone who in turn called up someone and with a promise of another ‘Sir, tomorrow afternoon’ I was back in my very non-cozy room surfing all possible kind of Telugu channels in the world in an attempt to find one which I could understand. I guess that was the first day I watched f-TV for a long time. You do not need to understand the language for watching certain channels.
By next evening I had lost my cool and was ready to throw the idea of using Idea. She gave me that apologetic, non-welcoming smile as I showed my face in the shop for the third consecutive evening. But this time I was not going to leave the shop with tomorrow afternoon’s promise. Hence, she was made to work. After about an hour of calls she had my phone working. “Thank you”, I said and somehow miraculously managed, “what’s your good name, please?” “Shyamala”, she replied. That one chat with Shyamali Shah came handy, I guess too handy. “That means beautiful”. I have never known how to talk with a lady; even now I can make any situation awkward by being very obvious. She smiled and we said bye to each other. I thanked her and was out of the office in a world where I was connected with an ‘Idea’. An ‘Idea’ that can change a life. It rarely does.
After few days in Cozy I moved to the new staff house. There was a park close by with a small water pool, we preferred to call a lake, in the center and a tiled walking track and gravel running track around. I decided to walk away few pounds from the body. Every evening I would go for a walk, some time a run at the park. Some days I would have of company of either Tony or Gordon (before Xanadu came to KKD and became a permanent partner in the weight loosing mission which actually ended prematurely and unsuccessfully). One day while walking around the lake I saw a familiar face. It was nearly 3 months since I have seen the Idea lady, the day my phone finally started working. Like guys do, I pointed out the lady to Gordon, who was walking with me that day, and told her where I had seen her. We were walking in opposite direction of her. He is Scottish and probably did not realized that he was in quite a remote part of India when he suggested, “Go talk to her”. I conveyed my feelings with a shake of head. Probably the message was not conveyed or probably he choose to ignore is not clear to me. We continued our walk. Another round around the lake and we were about to cross her again when suddenly Gordon stopped right in front of her. And believe me he is quite a heavy guy and can block anyone’s way easily. I had no option. “Hi Shyamala” I blurted and it is the only part of what I said that evening that I remember. She said few things but the only part I remember clearly is “I am here with my parents. They are walking a little behind me”. By this time her parents must have covered the distance as she suddenly walked away.
I went to the lake garden many times after that over next year or so I was in KKD. She stopped coming or changed her time. Either way I did not see her again at the lake garden again.
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