The one that nearly got away

“A hero can be anyone, even a girl doing something as simple and reassuring as asking how are you to a young boy to let him know that there is a lot of positivity still left in this world.”

This one is the most difficult for me to write. All wise people are not afraid that they would be misunderstood but rather they would be understood. I, on the other hand, am not afraid of been misunderstood by anyone except one. I am a weird person. I don’t know why but I hope she gets to read it someday because I have never told her most of it and I hope when you do, we are still friends but more importantly, we remain friends even after you have read this.

When I was first told by my senior that a new girl will be joining our team, my first thought was “Why? I cannot tolerate another girl, at least for some time.” Then she came to my senior desk’s and started chatting with him. She was speaking in English. I could see the confidence in her posture and in her speech. Suddenly, I felt inferior as at that time I was devoid of any confidence in myself. Then she turned to me, said “hi” and left. “Someone like her wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like me”, I thought.

I wasn’t very keen on mentoring anyone let alone a girl (clearly, I had joined the dark side of the force). Being the good boy I always was, I decided to mentor her. Every day I used to sit with her and help her with work. While I tried my best but there were certain things I couldn’t change even though I wanted to. She felt it too. In the beginning, she used to think I was arrogant because I kept mostly to myself and the way my behaviour was at that time anyone would’ve thought the same.

One day, I can’t remember why there weren’t many people in the office. That day she came and sat next to me. She was wearing a green top (I don’t know what to call it, so I’ll call it a top). She looked beautiful. She started to talk about work. When we were done with work, she started asking about my life. I didn’t expect that but it was a pleasant surprise. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we talked about. All I remember is that she had this amazing smile on your face. After she left, I felt really good about the conversation. She was nice and sweet. Most importantly, she was my friend now (the only friend I had in Mumbai for the longest time, she didn’t know it at that time. Still not sure whether she knows or not.). Looking back, I couldn’t be more wrong about a person and I am glad I was wrong.

Till then I used to look forward to coming to the office because I was battling depression. I saw the office as a means of distraction. After that, I looked coming to the office so that I can sit and chat with her while we work. Every morning whenever I entered the office, the first thing I would do was to look at her desk and check whether she was there or not. Whenever I was free I used to see whether she is free or not. Sitting next to her and talking to her became the highlight of my day. We used to have so much fun. The way she used to say “what to do now?” in her sing-along voice or the way she used to say “Why? Why? Why?” in frustration is still engraved in my mind. I remember the first time I used the word ‘bagal’ with her, she laughed so hard. I was perplexed. “What’s there to laugh about?”, I thought. It didn’t matter though; her laugh was so pure and innocent it made me smile. She would discuss her problems with me, encourage me to date and go out with people. She would offer me fruits. Just by been in her presence empowered me and made me feel that I mattered. I was a different person with her and I liked that person.

When I met her my self-esteem was at its lowest. I had hit rock bottom but she brought me back. I never told her (I don’t know whether I told this to anyone but I should’ve told her a long time ago) that she was a major force that pulled me out of depression. Every morning she would come to say hi and ask me how I was. Whenever I entered the office and looked sad she would ask “Manu! What happened? Tell me?” And when I looked happy she would cheerfully say “Manu! You look so fresh. I am so happy” (Manu was her nickname for me. She got it from my mom when she heard my mom calling me by that name when I was on a working call with her while at home. She still calls me by that name). She always had nice things to say about me whether it would be my work or the way I talked to everyone or just the way I carried myself. On a few occasions, she would say, “Manu! I want to be like you.” Initially, I used to reply “trust me, no one would want to be like me” but later I used to accept with humility and a smile (I would never know why she wanted to be like me. Sometimes we should just take a compliment and shouldn’t ask why. I did that and till this day I don’t want to know). Once she messaged me to congratulate on my FIFA performance in office tournament. Coming from her meant more to me than world rank 251. It’s the little things in life that makes a huge difference (the butterfly effect). That’s what she for me. She brought me out of my shell and gave me my swagger back. Earlier I used to feel that I couldn’t succeed at anything I do, whether it be professional or personal, but now I feel I cannot fail. All I have to do is apply myself. Today, I am happy where I am and there is nothing for me to complain about except for the fact that I should’ve told her all this sooner.

You might recall when I met her I was pessimistic about girls (and scared). I had lost all faith in women kind and yet somehow, she brought it back. I would be the first to admit that she wasn’t the brightest but she would always be ready to have a go at things. Like me, she was struggling but she had the strength in character to stand up and say that ‘I want to be alone’. Not everyone can say it and those who do can’t do it but she did. She is still doing it (from what I know). She made me realise that all girls will use me for their benefit. There will be few that I would appreciate me for me, all I had to do was look. A hero can be anyone and she was certainly my superhero.

Sooner rather than later I was going to fall for her. You know what, that’s what happened. I developed a humongous crush on her. All I could think about was her. It was tough knowing she was there and I couldn’t have her. I wanted to hug her so bad that it literally hurt (still waiting for that hug). It never felt that she was interested in me. She used to talk to me about tinder or how she was still struggling with her ex or the fact she wanted to have a good time but didn’t want to date. Sometimes she would refrain from telling me things citing the reason that I am her boss. Even when I was in Ireland (my first foreign visit), all I wanted to do was go back, sit next to her and hear her laugh. The smile on her face when I gave her Irish lick pendant was precious. I remember been extremely sad one day. Anyone could’ve told just by looking at my face. She sat me down asked, “Manu! What happened? Are you missing your ex?” I wasn’t missing my ex, I was missing her. I know it doesn’t make much sense, she was sitting next to me but that’s how I felt. My crush was getting worse. I became a bit daring. I would message her so that we could hang out outside the office (which we never did till then). She would ask me who else is coming and I wouldn’t have the answer. I would then back off not wanting to make her uncomfortable. Yet somehow, the first time we hung out of office was at her house when she invited me for dinner. That night was one of the highlights of my life. I met her family. The way they treated me that day was very heart-warming. I developed a good rapport with her mother (The next time I visit Mumbai, I’ll definitely go see aunty). That night was the first and, perhaps, the last time I opened up to her. It felt great. Something changed inside me that day. I realized that if I ask her out or date her there is a possibility that she might not be part of my life a few years down the line. I couldn’t afford to lose my north star. Till this day when I feel myself losing, I would tell myself ‘Manuel! You owe it to her to do better’ and I would do just that. Just like that, my crush was gone replaced by the feeling of love for the person and the friend she was to me. No, I wasn’t in love with her but, yes, I loved her. I still do.

So, what happened between us? I left Mumbai in May 2018. She left for Canada the same year. We haven’t met since my farewell dinner at her place. We don’t communicate on daily basis but we do laugh and talk once or twice a month. We hardly chat; It’s either an audio call or a video call. We had plans to travel to Europe together but it got postponed because of COVID-19. On the bright side, my job is in Mumbai and so is her home. Eventually, we will meet because she will come home. I am also planning on a trip to Canada, hopefully soon.

DK, if you are reading this I want you to know that I love you and I miss you. I love your name even if you hate it. It’s a name that I associate with good things and good memories only. I hope for you to be happy always. I hope that you get everything that you ever wanted from life. I hope you fall in love again. Whoever you fall in love with will be the luckiest person in the world. I am afraid of been misunderstood, misunderstood by you and you alone. I hope I haven’t offended you because I’ll hate to lose you. I hope we remain friends for life and I hope we meet soon. Till then I’ll keep waiting for that hug. With lots of love, Manu.