That was the experience that bonded me and Rajat. We soon became best friends, close friends, perhaps even closer than him and Karuna, because we never had anything to screw around with the “platonic-ness”. I knew Karuna was jealous to an extent, but Rajat still fawned all over her, so she still felt like a diva. He would abandon me in an instant if she snapped her fingers, and sometimes she got a little tired of his affection, so she avoided him for days, leaving him distraught.
Oh, I forgot to mention, he got himself a girlfriend. Another neighbourhood kid, she was really tall and wore tennis skirts and had legs at 13 that I would kill for, even now. The two of them would sneak off to Sidharth’s place and dance. (Again, I remind you, early teen in India, means, at most, kissing someone). She didn’t hang out with us much, preferring the company of Nitya’s (remember her from the Devyani post?) younger sister. Okay, we said, she’s uncool. So Rajat hung out with her separately and with us more often.
Of course, Diya, that was her name, was the love of his life and all. That’s what he said. And when he wrote to me, more often now, he’d pepper it with sentences like: I just spoke to Diya. God, I love her so much. Never has someone undertsood me so well. Eye-roll.
During this period, much happened. For one thing, I left for boarding school, so my friendship with Karuna, already a little strained, started to crack. For another, Rajat and I set up a regular correspondance, so regular that once every two weeks, I’d get a long missive from him, partly to me and partly to my new school friends all of whom thought he was really hot.
Just as an aside: everyone loved Rajat. He was that kind of guy. He could endear himself to anyone. My mother loved him, my friends adored him, my friends’ families adored him and even my father found it in him to soften up a little. And he was MY best friend, I used to think proudly. Doogie, my independent-minded, labrador-looking mongrel, adored him and did her whole running-around-in-circles-because-you-rock-my-world thing.
And, god, he was sweet. He once changed his entire flight schedule, landing up in Delhi two days early, just so he could make it for my sixteenth birthday. And he didn’t have time to shop, so he stopped off at the duty free and got me some Timotei shampoo and a deodarant, I think. (This was before foreign goods flooded the Delhi market). And he was the only boy at the party, so he flirted charmingly with everyone, posed for pictures and yes, danced attendance around Karuna.
I wonder why I never had a crush on him. He would have been the perfect target for my affections. I was sixteen, never had a ‘real’ boyfriend, actually never been kissed, and he was always so sweet to me. I think, for me, when a guy is my friend for such a long time I find it hard for me to look at him sexually. Eventually, all my male friends take an androgynous position. Even this guy I kissed a couple of years ago. We never followed it up and later, if anyone even suggested that he was a member of the opposite sex I’d look at them as if they were a little mad. So I never get this whole “she saw her childhood friend through new eyes”. If you’ve got sexual tension, best to get it over with in the beginning is what I think. Oh well, now that I’ve inserted my two cents for the day, back to the story.
The summer I turned sixteen was different in many ways. Most notably, because I left boarding school and joine done of the big “factory-like” public schools in Delhi. Secondly, because I was no longer the insecure, gawky person I was when I left. Now I was sure of myself, and my talents. Plus orthodontia and contact lenses made me feel pretty secure that I wasn’t too repulsive.
Rajat had by then, left his boarding school as well and now lived with his mother in Colombo. (Y’know, I should have at least made an attempt to disguise some of this information because if he comes across this in cyberspace, he’ll recognise himself immedeatly. Oh well, too late now). He went to an international school there, had (much to my amusement and chagrin) a slight American accent, friends with names like Tony and Claire and basically lived a whole different life.
So he IM’d me over ICQ one day and said he was coming and could he stay with me? His father, who he usually stayed with, had moved out of Delhi, so he had nowhere to stay.
“Sure, sweetie,” I said, “It’ll be great to have you here. We’ll be roomies!”
Getting permission for him to stay would not be a problem. Like I said, my mother loved him, my dad was out of town, so I casually informed her he was staying and she equally casually okayed it.
But I was a little worried. He sounded so different these days, his whole outlook had changed. And well, he was a little jaded not my sweet boy-brother that I loved. I brushed that aside though. This was Rajat, we were talking about after all, and we always got on like a house on fire. Karuna and I had long ago lost touch, but I was sure that that wouldn’t come in the way. It was a good thing Rajat was coming. Yes, it was a good thing.
So he came, and yes, the first few days were idyllic. We didn’t hang out all the time, but I had a life too, so I was okay with him meeting his other pals once in a while. Sometimes he went out at night, way beyond my curfew, so he got a key. Sometimes, I’d go and sit with him in his---my---room, and we’d just talk for ages. Or rather, if memory serves, I’d talk and he’d potter around, occassionaly saying, “Listen to this song” as he played something. Once, and this sticks out in my memory, I came back from somewhere or the other, exhausted. Rajat was sitting on the couch and he moved up to make room for me. I whined about how my feet hurt and how I was so damn tired and he pulled my legs across his and massaged my feet.
This, I thought, was a truly great friendship. I didn’t give a damn that a boy was touching my feet. I just gave in to the whole warm, fuzzy feeling.
I seem to remember a girlfriend in the background. Anjali Something-or-the-other, who I once found at home, curled up on his chest watching his all-time top favourite movie Braveheart (Beats me. I don’t know what he saw in it either). And I once saw a half-written love letter from him to her (Okay, so I’m a terrible human being. Yes, I read it. Wouldn’t you have?). And I remember having a conversation with her. But she is vague in my memory, as vague as whatever happened to Karuna that summer, because I barely saw her. I guess she was toppled from her pedestal, to be replaced by another goddess. Rajat did tend to worship his women. Not a bad thing, but terribly taxing by the end of it.
(For the women, ie. Men can worship all they want to).
Around this time the Internet was “in” in a huge gigantic if-you-haven’t-got-it-you-must-live-on-the-moon way. This was 1998 people, jog your memory a little. And despite my dinosaur of a modem (I existed on a 19.4 kbp) I was perhaps the most hooked of them all. Sure, my chatrooms took a while to load. Sure my ICQ chats started with ‘Hi’ and then half-an-hour later a responding ‘Hey, a/s/l?’ But I loved the idea that I could actually talk to someone in the States or in Australia or wherever all the while in my very own study. Wow. And I could create my own identity. Double wow.
It’s true confession time. And I swear, if I am ever reminded of this at any later time after this post, I’ll simply deny it. Ha. It never happened, so there :P ~takes a deep breath, clears her throat once or twice and nervously continues~ I had an Internet boyfriend. Okay, two Internet boyfriends. But, before you judge me… actually, screw it, judge me. I totally deserve it. I was quite the loser.
So I spent quite a lot of time online. The guy I was virtually dating was called Rick, he was 25, from Australia and had a dreamy Aussie accent. We exchanged long, copious emails, met online and flirted a lot and (since these were the days before I knew about online stalkers and paedophiles) I gave him my home phone number. He called quite a bit too. It was really rather flattering.
One day, when Rick was due to call and I was mooning around the telephone, Rajat came in accompanied by one of his female friends. I was a little annoyed with him, seeing as I hadn’t seen him in ages. We had all but stopped hanging out, though he lived in the same house, it was as if he was in a hotel or something. And this irked me.
So, when he strolled in and said casually that his friend wanted to use the computer, I lost it.
“You can’t use the Net, I’m waiting for a call.”
“Oh, come on, it’ll only take a minute.”
“I said NO.”
In the end, they did go online, but I soon told them to disconnect, because what part of “I’m waiting for a call” did they not get?
“Do you have to be so rude?” he hissed at me.
That was it. I had had it up to there with his attitude. I said a lot of really rude things, which I probably shouldn’t have including ‘You treat this house like a hotel’ and ‘I never even see you anymore’. Oh god, I think I transformed into my mother for a brief moment there.
He packed his bags that night and left in icy silence to go to aforementioned female friend’s house.
And that, my friends, was that.
An epilogue (because I know you’ll kill me if I leave this story hanging)
I tried to patch things up on several occasions, but I guess he felt like I really didn’t belong in his life anymore. I heard he came to Delhi a year or so ago, and I called him. He sounded less than enthusiastic to hear from me and when I left my number with him, he never called me.
Another friend of mine spotted him with Karuna. She said he looked terirble--- long, greasy hair, chubby the works. And when she asked him whether he had spoken to me, Karuna and he exchanged glances and laughed.
Too bloody bad.