The Culture Shift – Stylori Special


Finding someone date-able on a dating site is like picking ladies fingers in the market. You have to nip the ends to see if its ripe or not. It took months, no wait it took a year. He was twenty seven. Too old for me. I remember childishly saying, ‘Too old for flings. Too young for Love’ whenever friends asked me my position in college. My parents were of the career-oriented fashion who didn’t worry too much about my marriage or relationships. They wanted me settled academically and stable. And that was a boon to me. But when the world is spinning around you and your friends are getting engaged while you’re selecting colleges after clearing GATE, you just slump on the pillow and try to wash away the tiny pinch of loneliness you feel when you look at the blank screen on the phone. The only notifications I got were from class-groups and friends’ circles. I didn’t really care too much except on those nights when the parents went o holidays leaving me behind to love my neighbor’s dog. I had friends all over the country so I was never really bored for too long. 

On one such night, when the mundane YouTube had run out of playlists to share with me and my eye had burned out from reading college brochures. Everyone had the same old achievements and students settled in Germany posting happy pictures on their profiles. I wanted to sleep off as I browsed one last page when someone pinged me on Facebook. It was my aunt. She was a senior-associate of an International Law Firm in Singapore and I was the niece she doted upon. I’d usually have open chats with her about achievements and the occasional lows.

‘Join tinder, you.’ she said.

And I was about to send her a sloppy smiley and ask her to go away. But she sent me a link and a plethora of Tinder hacks and I couldn’t understand what was on my mind. ‘You’re going to go away anyway. Just enjoy while you’re still there in Bengaluru. You’re probably headed to some town to get that Masters,’

I pretended to ignore her. She knew.

‘It’s no big deal. Live a little. You can handle this- you need to. You should know things before you blindly fall for some nerd who’ll earn a lakh but fart after tea,’ she sent.

And I had to reply to that. She abhorred the guys I went out with. I was a shameless brain-digger. After my initial failures – hot men, I decided to go for the ones who’ll actually appreciate my intelligence. But within a month, I’d already be ignoring his calls like a mean person and consoling myself that it was better to let them know before they fell in love with me or something worse. I never learned. Rough. If I called that experimenting, the heavens would send a shoe to kick my head.

So I decided to play. To actually get out of that silly comfort zone of being a safe-playing girl who smiled at friends and ended conversations before the clock hit ten. I created that profile… the one a hundred different kind of guys would judge by the day. I revealed too less about me. But I was embarrassed to death when I made it public. Apprehension came in but left as soon as I realized half my friends were also running the same race. I began checking profiles, swiped left-right depending on how they expressed themselves. Some appalled me while some made me roll my eyes at the screen. A few clicked and the matches were instant. The 1:100 ratio made things worse. I had twenty matches and confusing conversations by the end of the day. One was a doctor who sung in choirs. Who spoke about classic rock the way I liked to play it on rainy evenings. And he matched instantly. He wouldn’t message me all night. I felt a tiny tinge. I swiped through his messages. He had a bright face with curly hair that softly framed his head. He sang, he saved lives, he attended indie-gigs and his profile had a lot of good music in it. Perhaps I should make the first move but isn’t that a bad , desperate move? Was I actually into Tinder? Was this the guy who my Aunt could make fun of me with when she finds out? 

By the time my head fell on my pillow, I’d typed in a H, had a instant blood-rush; switched off my phone and passed out of mortification. Somehow messaging someone you admired was tricky. The next morning I remember checking my inbox the first thing. Few messages below, I found his face. ‘Hello, I’m Aaron. You listen to Pearl Jam, too? Very few who quote them in their bio.’

I replied instantly without realizing he had sent it minutes ago. Desperate girl on a binge. 

‘Ah, yeah, thanks. You sing?’

‘Yeah, I have a band back here. I’m surprised I found someone, though,’

‘Why is that? Where do you live?’

‘Well I’ve been doing some research in a small town but I live in Pondicherry. Doctor at JIPMER,’ he replied.

Is he boasting?

‘What do you do?’ he replied when he saw I had gone mute.

‘Just finished Architecture. Passed GATE. College-hunting,’

‘Busy time to be love-hunting?’

Who said I want love or anything for that matter? Haha’

‘Oh. Sorry, my bad. What re you looking for?’

‘I really don’t know. Nothing indecent though,’

‘Depends on your perspective. So, GATE huh? Smart much?’

‘Haha’

And that conversation went on until he had to drive to work. I waited the entire day for a ping that never came. Alas, the Queen of Desperate messaged him by dusk. Apparently he was caught up with work. We continued our virtual rendezvous on music, art, medical-work and architecture until we fell asleep. This went on until every message of his made me jump like a cliched heroine of the 90’s. Soon we were talking on Whatsapp. Calls were out of the question as  I get too nervous and blabber stuff that I regret immediately. And I replace English words with sound-effects like ‘Gahhhh’; ‘Zwing!’. ‘Baaaah!’ Un-date-able.

He didn’t mind it. I didn’t mind his schedules. Soon it was time for form-submissions. And the stress sessions began and it was such a relief to talk to him every evening after multiple exam counselling sessions. He became a part of my day. And me his. We needed to meet. Not because I doubted he was a maniac but because I needed to run my hands over those soft curls and see him smile as those dimples turned up. I wanted to sit and watch him sing at parties; read his papers; check out his records-collection and cycle along the beach. I had to go there. He was going back home for his vacation and he hinted at me being there. Six months. That’s the time we spent virtually allowing our strings to intricately tie themselves to each other’s. We were entwined but the ends were loose. I was smitten as a bee. And earning a Master’s degree was getting to me. I was not too far away from him but neither too close. We didn’t even share the same coast. Mumbai had it lights, Pondi had its canals. I needed to get on the train to that city where the French lounged for decades together. And I took my chance. He said his Mother would pick me up. She was a senior surgeon, too but the warmest one I knew. We’d spoken on his birthday, then mine and recently, for Christmas. Judy had the same curls, longer but a bigger smile and eyes that had grown wrinkles around them with wisdom. We broke into a warm hug that smelled of subtle roses as soon as we met. I was already happy. The chilly morning didn’t matter, nor did the bag that was weighing my shoulders down. 

‘Sasha, how are you? God have I been waiting to see you!’

I had a delirious excitement in my heart like I knew I was going to explode any moment. 

‘I’m sorry, Aaron couldn’t come, love. He’s at the clinic,’

I nodded as we walked towards the car. I recognized their Estilo from the pictures. She opened the dickey to place my bag.

‘There, we’re set. I’ll see you later, then?’ she said, turning around. What?

And she blew a kiss on my forehead before getting into the car. I walked to her window. 

‘Aunty?’

‘Sweet, look across the road,’ and she started the engine. My heart stopped. And I thought I’d faint any moment. All this waiting.

I looked up across the hood and the road. He was there – a messy shirt, a tie falling off his neck and the perfect smile. The curls were all over his face, though.

‘Munchkin!’, he called out.

And I ran for him. I heard the car drive by and I couldn’t care less. He pulled me into the warmest hug I’d ever got and pressed his lips on my head. I had tears in my eyes and his collar was taking the brunt.

‘Aaron,’ I whimpered like a wet-kitten.

‘You, angel,’ he smiled down at me.

I laughed.

‘Welcome to my city,’ he winked before putting his arms around my waist and leading me into the two-wheeler parking. His bike stood there. We drove until the shops began closing down. A cold rush of breeze that broke on his body, trickled past him to brush past me. I smelled his many fragrances – perfume, after-shave, dettol and a floral talc. I couldn’t stop gazing at his frame. I couldn’t believe the warmth that I held in my embrace. It was his breathing self. The one that sent voice records to remind me to sleep and made ugly sketches cartoons. 

Days flew past. Roy, Judy Aaron and I had danced to every song his records; tasted wines from every bottle; made the craziest dinners; attended the nicest parties and spent every evening in the beaches like families do. All until after New Year’s eve. Aaron had just kissed me for the first time after I finally gave in (just playing hard to get and nothing else) when Judy brought in the cake. 

The party lasted until dawn when I began dozing off next to him in the couch. He woke me up. And nudged  my elbow with a paper.

I woke up. A letter? An appointment letter. The Title was in French. I read on. His application was accepted and he was to continue his research there for two entire semesters.I was happy. I was mad. I had knots in my tummy. My lips had planted a kiss on his. My eyes were teary and my heart hurt. I was holding him, but shaking myself. This was it. 

‘I know,’ he said as he placed his chin over my head that was resting in the hollow under his face. I could feel his Adam’s apple bound up and down as he swallowed back words…tears? Or just explanations?

‘I love you,’ he breathed, finally, when I looked up to see his eyes reflecting my tears, only they flowed for real. He was happy and he was sad. And he was mad. Circumstances.We pulled apart. We heard his parents enter. 

Judy sat next to me and her single gaze made me melt into her arms. I was upset. I never wanted to leave them. And I said it out loud.

‘You don’t have to. You are as much ours as you are his. And we are most definitely yours. You’ve changed our lives in a week, kid,’

Roy sat across me and took my hand in his. I hid my face by looking down. I could feel Aaron’s arm around my shoulder tighten.

I felt something cool slide over my wrist. I looked to see the most beautiful and slender handlet glitter. 

‘And this should remind you that we are now, family,’ she said.

Aaron kissed my cheek.

It was a symbol of love : distances don’t so families apart. Stylori’s intricately designed gold handlet. 

This was something special. This was not a fling, not winter-love. This was hearts joining through moments of happiness as people come close. France was miles away. But Pondi was not. I had a home to come back to, to feel closer to Aaron and those who loved us. This is how relationships happened in my home :it was always too mundane or it had too many links attached. Simplicity was never a door. And here, I belonged in a pattern. I had his smile, his warmth, his words, his music, his tensions, their love, their warm hugs, ridiculous expressions when we tasted my experiments.

I also had my family who supported my bold decision to just visit my boyfriend’s home. Their trust, their love that didn’t really paint walls but gave me the peace of having people who care about me. Their busy lives made me feel dull sometimes but knowing Aaron’s parents made me realize how hard mine tried to give me everything despite their preoccupations. A culture shift. From work-home-dinner to love-time-hugs-dettol. A shift I was ready to accept. A home away from home. A place where another family awaited me.

This post is written in association with CBC for stylori, do check them out and their brilliant designs. Unique to the U. And, the interface is very user-friendly. The best part is, the choices are amazing.

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3 thoughts on “The Culture Shift – Stylori Special”

  1. Ahh! Quite romantic. I just loved and enjoyed reading it. Your writing brought before me most of the scenes, excellently penned. This definitely is a lovely love story for stylory contest. My best wishes for the contest.

    Like

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