It was January 2017 and she was sitting in her room with her friends, working on some assignment. She was pusruing her first year in B.Tech, CSE, at NIT, Jaipur. She excused herself and went to get them something to eat. Her friend Sunaina minimized the jupyter notebook window to fetch some document and was shocked seeing her wallpaper. She cupped her hands and whispered to Divya,
“Divya, did you see this?”
Divya peeped in and was shocked too.
“Varsha, what’s cooking up ha? We saw your guy on your wallpaper”, Sunaina teased her.
Varsha just came to them with some packets of biscuits and was opening them.
“Idiots, spying on my laptop” she murmured, knowing that it is too late to cover up.
“Tell us now, isn’t he CK?” Divya asked excitedly, as Varsha sat with Divya on her bed. Sunaina was sitting on Varsha’s chair.
“Yes”, Varsha blushed, “now that you know, I can stare at him peacefully, infront of you two idiots”.
“So this is why you are keen about datascience?” asked Divya.
“No re, I delved into datascience just to explore, but look at how CK explains each concept. There is a lot of difference between just delivering a lecture and delivering it with such passion that you want each of your students to imbibe it. It takes a lot of intellegence to be so detail oriented. Just look at his enthusiasm in his videos. Moreover, he is simply too handsome to ignore”, she laughed.
“He’s nothing compared to my Ranbir Kapoor in looks anyway, you must try Ranbir’s wallpaper”, Sunaina suggested.
“Sapiosexual, you are! So that’s why you watch every video on the channel DataScienceByCK? You are not an idiot either, you follow his tutorials well and explain us too. No wonder, if you score well in Kaggle competition”
“Anything is possible when I follow CK”, Varsha flipped her hair, with her nose high in the air, making a funny arrogant face.
“ooooo”, Divya and Sunaina wolf whistled behind her.
*** 4 months later ***
Divya burst a confetti balloon in Varsha’s room to celebrate Varsha’s success. She scored in the top 10 percentile in her first Kaggle competition.
“I’m more happy that CK won a silver medal in the same competition”, said Varsha excitedly and hid her face in her palms for a second.
“I thought it was mere crush and didn’t know you were so serious” Sunaina logged into her account on Facebook in Varsha’s laptop.
Sunaina was from Delhi. She had a thousand friends on Facebook and was determined to find CK for her.
“There are so many accounts with DPs of Bollywood actors and I don’t think he has an account at all”, she exclaimed.
“You must look for people like CK on LinkedIn, not Facebook”, said Divya.
Sunaina immediately opened her LinkedIn account.
“There he is!” Varsha couldn’t control herself on finding him and the other two teased her again.
Sunaina’s school friend, Deepak was CK’s classmate at BITS, and they got some decent info, as they traced him back on Facebook using his email id.
CK aka Chandra Kiran, was pursuing CSE, second year, at BITS Goa. He was only 6 months older than Varsha, but an academic year ahead. His startup with his two classmates Rohan and Adithya was just established and they were delivering Data Science solutions. Chandra Kiran loved teaching, so he uploaded a new YouTube video every Friday at 8 pm, however busy he was.
*** 3 months later ***
Varsha entered second year and CK, the third. Varsha was able to do individual projects in Data Science by August 2017 and even made some decent amount from freelancing. She was a chirpy girl, who did well in academics and participated in extra and co-curricular activities too. She was an all-rounder. Meanwhile CK’s startup was doing well and his popularity grew exponentially each day. He became a Kaggle Grandmaster. He could unanimously be voted the best student of the batch easily, by both the students and his faculty.
Deepak called Sunaina to invite them for the annual fest at BITS, in November 2017. Deepak knew about Varsha, moreover, Sunaina wanted someone very close to CK. On repeated requests from Sunaina, Deepak introduced her to Rohan, co-founder of CK’s startup. Sunaina spoke to Rohan on whatsApp and they became friends. There was no mention of Varsha or CK from either side. But Sunaina made it a point to bro-zone Rohan in the first week itself; their girl gang was very ethical, when it came to someone’s feelings.
It was a Friday evening, and Divya called out to Varsha for dinner 5 minutes before 8pm.
Varsha was eagerly waiting for CK to upload the video, she sat at her table, with her hand under the chin, staring at her wallpaper.
“She won’t come without watching CK’s video. Let us get something for her to eat”, said Sunaina.
They brought maggie into the room and had it after watching the video. Sunaina slowly broke the news.
“Finally, you have a chance to see your guy soon”
Varsha’s eyes lit up like a little girl who just saw a big bag of candy.
“There’s this fest in 3 months from now. we can plan to visit, we can call it a Goa tour”, she said.
“Yeyyy”, Varsha threw the pillow in her hands into the air. She was so excited.
Life had other plans. Varsha’s grandfather was not keeping well and she received a call 3 days before their travel to Goa. She asked the other two to go ahead on their Goa tour.
“But you waited so much for this”, exclaimed Divya.
“I know dear. But I was raised by my grandfather and I must go now. It is just about setting priorities. You say hi to CK from me”, she said, as she booked her flight ticket to Hyderabad.
Divya and Sunaina went ahead with their tour, but bunked visiting BITS campus, as they learned from Rohan that CK will not be attending the fest, either.
Varsha came back to the hostel after a week with the good news that her grandfather was recovering well. Divya and Sunaina told her about their tour.
“So studious that he won’t attend college fests? book worm?” Varsha made an ugly face.
They gave their semester exams in December 2017 and coincidentally, both Varsha and CK topped their batches, respectively.
“We know what you are more happy about”, giggled Sunaina and Divya as Varsha was busy dancing to the music in her room. CK’s startup was doing extremely well. CK became so widely popular that he was seen on the first page on Google search results. That was way too much to achieve for a student so young. He stood at 9th position in Kaggle rankings with several medals. He got several job offers. More than half of his batchmates asked him for a selfie already.
*** A few months later ***
Varsha was in third year and CK in the final. Rohan arranged passes for their visit to the annual feat at BITS in October 2018. They booked their tickets. 15 days before they started to Goa, Sunaina told Rohan about Varsha. Rohan was baffled.
“Why didn’t you mention this to me, if it was going on from 2.5 years?”, he exclaimed.
“Why? What’s wrong?”, asked a puzzled Sunaina.
Rohan told the cover story of how CK is barely surviving his breakup from August 2018.
Varsha’s heart broke.
But she was more worried that CK has not been eating and sleeping well since two months. Tears trickled down her eyes.
“We can skip the campus visit like the last year, if you want to”, said Divya, as she put her arms around Varsha.
“I must see him at any cost”, replied Varsha, wiping off her tears.
Varsha had a great upbringing. She was optimistic and knew how to look at the bright side of life.
*** 15 days later ***
They reached BITS campus on the first day of the 3 day annual fest and met Rohan at 5pm in the evening.
Music was playing loud at the DJ and they had to literally shout to hear each other.
“CK has not been coming out at all. With great difficulty, I brought him here”, he said and pointed to a guy standing in a group, facing opposite to them.
Varsha had butterflies in her stomach as soon as she saw him from behind. She was all nervous and excited.
“Thanks a lot, Rohan” said Sunaina.
“I told him that a fan girl is going to come to visit him. He scolded me first but finally agreed to meet. Please do not touch him or irk him. He is very sensitive now and may not behave properly either, please understand. And don’t talk anything about Shreya, his ex”, he said.
She clutched Divya tightly, as the three walked towards him.
“Hi CK”, called out Sunaina from behind.
He turned around and put his hand on his eyes, to avoid the light. He had puffy eyes and clearly visible dark circles.
He was wearing a grey t-shirt with a blue hoodie and a blue track pant. He paired them up with grey Puma flipflops.
He clearly became weak and his beard grew so long.
Varsha felt so sad seeing him like this. He wasn’t the CK she saw in the videos, who was ambitious and cheerful. She hid all her saddness under her smiling face. She wanted him to get some hope and be happy atleast for a while.
“This is Divya and this is Varsha”, said Sunaina, “Varsha is a fan of yours and we just came to say hi”.
“Congratulations on your success in Kaggle”, he said with a deep, sad voice.
“All thanks to you sir”, said Varsha, all grinning, like a little fan girl.
“You can call me CK”, he said.
“Ok, sir.. I mean CK”, she said and smiled.
He turned towards the group already.
The three gaped behind him.
Varsha signalled that they leave.
“We came so far for less than Two minutes?”, Sunaina questioned in anger as they walked away.
“I only wish I could be his solace in grief. But I’m more than happy that I just saw and spoke to him”, said Varsha as they walked towards the grass to sit.
“Let’s celebrate”, Varsha suddenly let Divya’s hand go and ran towards the DJ. Sunaina and Divya followed.
Varsha danced in joy at the DJ. They three stood on the relative outer boundary of the DJ and could be seen from far. CK finished being outside and was about to go to his room when he caught sight of Varsha dancing. She wore a deep pink casual georgette shirt under a white hoodie, paired with ankle length blue denims and white shoes. He paused for a while and watched her. Varsha’s joyful dance in perfect rhythm, caught him. He felt bad for talking to her for as less as two minutes. He put his hands in his pockets and watched for a little while longer. He moved ahead.
They finished dancing and started walking back to the grass to sit down, panting.
“You have fifteen minutes, Varsha?”, asked a voice.
All three of them were shocked to see CK as they turned back.
“She sure does”, said Sunaina, “Meanwhile, we will meet Deepak and come, bye”, she pulled Divya away.
“It’s too noisy here, can we go towards my hostel?”, said CK and started walking already.
“Hitler”, she said in her mind and made an ugly face behind him, as she scurried to follow his pace.
“By the way, you flew all the way from Jaipur just to say hi to me? कैसे आना हुआ? (why did you come?) मतलब (I mean) is it crush or infatuation or what?” he asked, and looked back, slowing his pace.
“I don’t know what it is, and hence decided not to name it”, she was honest. “I mean why should I take the stress of calling it something? why is it needed? and how does it matter?”
Being a teacher, he liked people who asked questions. She asked 3 relevant questions, to herself, which made sense.
“You have no questions for me?”, he asked after a pause.
“As if you gave me time”, she murmured and made faces again.
He heard it and looked at her. She gave an ugly smile, which still looked good on her, and said, “Oh yes! obviously”
“You can start asking, we are almost there”, he said and showed her some place to sit. It was a bench in front of their hostel building.
They sat down. “How to choose the best regression model?”, she asked.
He raised his eyebrows, “Really?! It depends on the variables you use. Can we forget that I’m into Data Science for a while and talk like simple humans about life, please?” he said.
“Thank god, this is what I wanted”, she thought to herself.
“How do you judge a person’s intelligence?”, she asked, putting her hand under her chin.
“Interesting question. But I can’t think of any factors as such. How do you judge?”, he asked.
He saw that she was scratching her hands as mosquitoes were all around.
“Can we sit inside my room, if you don’t mind?” he asked and got up.
“you don’t wait for the answer, do you? didn’t anyone call you Hitler?”, she asked, putting up an ugly face.
“You did, a little while ago”, he said with no expression on his face.
She widened her eyes and decided to ignore it.
“It is a mix of IQ, EQ and SQ, I feel”, she said as they walked into his room and he sat on his bed, cross legged. She sat on his chair.
“Elaborate”, he asked.
“Simple problem solving abilities will not make a person intelligent. One must know social behaviour and keep himself emotionally fit enough to face life, to be called intelligent”, she said.
He listened attentively and nodded.
“That is why people look for Sugunalu according to Chanakya Neethi, when they are looking for a daughter-in-law”, she said.
He looked at her with a frown on hearing the Telugu word in her sentence and asked, “where are you from?”
“My native is Guntur. But we live in Hyderabad, along with my paternal grandparents. All such non-acad knowledge that built my character and personality, I got from my grandparents”, she said proudly.
He smiled inside. He simply liked the fact that she said “daughter-in-law” and not “girlfriend” or “wife”.
His past was flashing in his mind, how Shreya used to yell at him, taking him for granted.
“And I missed looking at them”, he said in a lowly voice.
He folded his legs turned towards her. “If you have a little more time, I would like to tell you about my past, I find a good listener in you and I’m sure that you can keep it confidential”, he said.
She didn’t expect this moment to come so soon. She was sure that a good listener can be a good comforter. But she did not understand how he concluded on her so fast, though it was true.
“Intelligence? or is he a fool who trusts strangers?” she thought as she nodded.
“Shreya is my junior from bio-tech. She’s beautiful. We met in the library and she asked me out for coffee one day in September 2017. We began talking and meeting in the canteen. She was nice initially. She encouraged me for my startup. My career graph grew exponentially in rest of 2017 and early 2018. I thought she believed my talent. But what She wanted is more money. I did not realize. She never proposed, neither did I. Out of doubt or curiosity or whatever, I asked her if she was going to stay with me forever as my wife. She put forward the condition that I must move to Mumbai as घर दामाद (son-in-law who lives with the girl’s parents) and look after their businesses. My startup was working well and I knew that I could settle well in the Software field. My parents worked hard to raise me. It is my responsibility to look after them when they grow old.” he said.
“Was that the only problem?” she asked another intelligent question.
“I could have left my career for her if she was worth it and I would have managed moving my parents to Mumbai but she wanted me to cut all contacts with them and act like an orphan, as they were low class, in her words”, he said and looked away.
She cringed on hearing those words and could not talk.
She spoke after a few seconds.
“how did you forget that you were taking home a daughter-in-law for your parents, too, apart from taking a wife for yourself?”
“She was shrewd enough in thinking of catching a proper heir for her father’s property”, he finally got her logic.
“That was not all. When I was hurt, she expected me to forgive her as I loved her. When she was hurt, she behaved as if I was a slave. She used me make me do all things I hated. She thinks she can be demanding and expects preferential treatment. When I message her sorry, her reply used to be like, ‘oh, really?! let’s see how sorry you are when we meet’. She accused me saying I did not respect her which was what she did. I felt uncomfortably addicted to her and developed anxiety from April this year. April to August was a torture. I lost clients. I minimized meeting people. I lived in the dark. I knew I was losing myself. I wasn’t being me.” he explained and looked at her.
“You endured narcissistic abuse”, she said softly, tears filled in her eyes, that shined in floodlights from the window, though the room was lit dim. He lived in low light from more than 6 months and forgot to turn on the big light in his room.
“That’s exactly what Rohan and Adithya told me, and pulled me out of this. My startup would have closed down if it wasn’t for them”, he said.
She blinked and tears trickled down her left eye. She thought he couldn’t see and did not attempt to wipe it off, in case he notices her action. He saw her tears in silence.
He was amazed at how empathetic she could be. He cried a lot after his breakup but did not feel the pain going away. In her tears, he felt his pain leave him. He thought he wasn’t ready for another relationship but he realized that she is the one who is worth moving to Mumbai for, if the need be.
“And then?” she asked, trying to keep her voice normal.
“She was demanding more time when she already knew that I was sleeping for only 3 hours a day. She made me ride the guilt trip, where I expected her to be more supportive. She argued to manipulate me. I simply agreed unable to argue. It felt awful to ‘prove’ that I’m a good person, everyday. She twisted the truth and pretended like she didn’t say or mean anything bad. I started doubting my own memory. I try to clean up the mess and she finds new ways to be unhappy with me. She spoke passive aggressively. In the 10 minutes that we talk, 7 minutes goes into me pleading and begging her, 2 minutes into her shouting at me and another minute into awkward silence, where she makes me shut my mouth out of helplessness after I realize her zero empathy for me”, he said as all sad memories flashed.
“How did you finally breakup?”, she asked in a deep voice.
“She played victim when she saw me talking to my school friend, Keerthana. Keerthana already had a boyfriend and called me once a while as we were friends in school. She was sure that I was not going to move to Mumbai by then and used this as a reason to breakup. I was devastated with the breakup but Rohan and Adithya were the happiest. She was never worth, they say. But I know that I loved her, despite all her flaws. I may have had many flaws too, may be too many that she let me go”, he paused and continued, “I don’t even know if I am over her yet”.
“You endured manipulation and gaslighting too”, she said, her voice still very low from the cringe.
“ఈ terms అన్ని ఎలా తెలుసు నీకు? [How do you know all these terms?]” he blurted out.
She cupped her mouth with her hands and raised her hand to give a friendly hit on the arm, but soon retracted.
“తెలుగు వచ్చా? చెప్పవే మరి? [Why didn’t you tell me that you know Telugu?]”, she exclaimed. “Were you showing me your English speaking skills?”
He smiled inside, but his face was still expressionless. He decided to ignore.
“You didn’t answer me yet”, he said, with a plain and staid face.
“నీ లాగా bookworm కాదు నేను. [I’m not a bookworm like you.] There’s more to life than Data Science. I look into all of them, as much as I can. Lifestyle, Health, emotional fitness, mental wellness, beauty, dance, business, apart from technology. We must learn to live before anything else”, she said.
He nodded in agreement.
Now that he seemed willing to listen, she added,
“I joined college in 2016 and I came across your channel in January 2017 and that year, I booked tickets to Goa too, but I had to go home as my grandfather was ill. He is fine now. Sunaina and Divya were in Goa, but did not visit the campus as you were not going to attend the fest”, she told him as is.
“Yes, I was at the beach with Shreya last year, during the fest. I was to be felicitated but I skipped all of that for her”, he recollected.
“See! If I came here, last year, we would not have been talking like this. But around this time last year, I was very sad about whatever happened. Life keeps giving us new and better opportunities. We keep brooding so much over the past that we fail to embrace the new ones. Maybe life has something better in store for you”, she told him with all optimism.
“No wonder you are from NIT”, he said.
“Oh please! I am not a founder like – “, she had more to say but her phone ringed.
“You want to stay here only or what?”, Sunaina asked on the phone, as Divya giggled.
“I’m coming in a minute”, she said and stood up, as she cut the call.
He stood up too, guiding her out of the room. They walked silently till the place where she could see her friends waving at her from a long distance.
“మళ్ళీ ఎప్పుడు కలుస్తున్నాం? [When are we meeting again?]”, she asked.
“When life makes a plan again. You are not someone who must go looking for idiots like me. One must be blessed to be in your company”, he said, going far into the future.
“I’m in Goa for two more days, she looked shyly into his eyes.
“అవునా? [Really?]”, he exclaimed.
She loved the spark in his eyes.
“Then you know when we are meeting again”, he said, with a half smile, his face finally gaining some expression.
She grinned wide.
“You have my number?”, he asked.
“86…72?”, she asked.
“You remember, leave alone saving?”, he frowned, as she never contacted him.
“I’m blessed with a good memory”, she grinned, like a child does, when he accomplished something, with her hands behind her back, closing her eyes.
He resisted the urge to pull her cheeks.
“Call me as soon as you reach your room in Goa”, he said, trying to bear a flat face.
“Yes sir”, she said deliberately, naughtiness in her eyes.
She was about to hug but retracted, tried to shake hands but retracted and ended up in a namasthe, as she recollected no-touch instructions from Rohan.
“Bye”, she blurted out.
“ఇలా చెప్తారా bye? [Is this how you say bye?]” he finally let out a laugh as he found it quite funny and understood what she actually tried to do.
She was so happy seeing him laugh, but she acted angry with a frown and raised her hand to hit his arm again, which she retracted.
“చాల్లే నవ్వింది! [enough of laughing]”, she said, acting irritated.
Before she retracted, he caught her palm into a handshake.
He stared at the spark in her eyes at the unexpected action.
“Go now”, he said and left her hand.
She nodded, turned around and was walking slowly, looking back once a second. He was standing there, his hands in his pocket, now, smiling.
Her phone ringed again, she saw Divya holding her phone to her ear at a distance. She looked back one last time and waved. He simply nodded. She ran quickly to them and hugged them, as they almost dragged her behind the building, towards the campus gate.
He couldn’t help blushing.
[Supari26 (Pen Name) – Guest Author on my Blog who belongs to this rare species of humans who believe in writing stories strung straight out of her heart. A well-versed story writer, and an intelligent human with uncountable achievements in Professional Life & Academics. She barely puts her stories out for people to read. Enjoy her creation with a little bit of imagination on your plate. Perfectly presented, beautifully executed.]