The illustrious Somanna will provide a third party view of our story.
It was a bright sunny morning in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. A few people seemed to be in a terrible mix of joy, confusion and complete agony. Obviously these people were different but they were all linked by the same person, a little baby who was just opening his eyes to the world around them. He quickly took a glance at the room, the equipment and the personnel. He had a large smile pasted across his face and the world instantly knew that nothing was going to ever be the same again. The tectonic plates had shifted and the galaxy had taken a bit of a gulp.
Arun D’Souza, well, was in the house!
Driving home he peeked at the buildings and the vast stretches of desert. His eyes were keen and struggling to keep open. It felt to the others that he did not want his infant urge of sleep to take over his need to observe. Eventually he slept and everyone made merry. The family had their first boy and they spoke of his future, of his victories and most importantly for any parent, of him marrying a beautiful girl someday. Some say that Arun turned in his sleep at the mention of marriage, others say he just smiled blissfully in his sleep. The jury is out and within a couple of years so was Arun. From designs to chainsaw the house to rewire the television, he seemed to love curiosity. Curiosity and he walked hand in hand and never seemed to want to leave each other. It was his greatest friend and sweetest enemy. They still walk hand in hand. More on that later.
Arun quickly developed a keen sense of the plain, the insane and the mundane. He treasured this understanding and has jumped out of planes, burned down his backyard, made house music his religion and loved his family with equal gusto. While baby Arun chased rabbits in the hot sun and tried to reprogram remotes to control the mind he continued to wonder why he stirred in his sleep at the mention of love and marriage on his first night in this world. He decidedly moved past that dilemma but deep down he knew he was sitting on something mysterious, something that curious little Arun needed an answer to.
Four years into his search, unknown to his innocent mind, a beautiful baby girl came into this world with a little twinkle in her eyes. Unlike Arun she liked to sleep and liked her peace, but her mind worked like his and it was curious and searching. She instantly approved of the nurse’s dressing and looked away from the clothes served to her. As the heavy rains lashed across the hospital window, little Annika turned away from her sleeping mother and looked out towards the skies and funnilythought she felt a little tingle. Miles away Arun just seemed to have gotten the answer to some of his questions. He had finally figured how to rewire the microwave to go off every time anyone touched it.
Well as for the other questions that kept him awake, those could wait. Baby Annika was after all, fast asleep!
Chapter 2: Growing Up!
‘So what is your favourite subject Annika?’
I love English. And over the years it changed every year to become nearly every subject she studied.
‘Which is your favourite subject Arun?’
Uhhh..You don’t teach it yet Sir.
Arun and Annika were growing. They were growing up and they were growing close, well geographically for now because they were finally in the same city. Mangalore. The small city with a large heart and as we are already on to cheesy movie lines, let’s also pick out another oft used Bollywood ‘growing up’ concept.
Remember all those movies where the actor would be running as a kid and as he/she runs they focus the camera on the legs and lo and behold, they have grown up and well, still running. Let’s reimagine that a bit here. Let’s have Annika chasing her younger sister and well, Arun chasing his younger brother. As they ran, they grew. They changed and they began to create tiny footsteps in Mangalore.
Annika was the star of her school. She wasn’t just a hard working student; she was also an extremely popular one. Researchers have concluded that there really isn’t a single specific reason for this combination of intelligence and congeniality. It is a condition, a rare affliction, a gift of God. Annika made many friends and as the tallest girl in the class she would always cut a figure of assurance and support to everyone. Even back home she was the Gaya (watch Captain Planet) for her mother and younger sister. Ok well she paid me to say that, but all in all she was ticking all the right boxes and many an aunty at Sunday mass predicted long lines of men, love affairs and a beautiful marriage. Well win some, lose some eh. That’s to all you other guys there.
Arun had a different agenda. His was a journey of discovery. Even if that required his brother, (drum roll) Biron to be the guinea pig. From teaching him the ‘gravity’ of a situation, by dropping him from the table, to being the big responsible brother, Arun had to grow rather fast. Strangely, both Annika and Arun were playing the same roles to their younger siblings and all this barely ten minutes away from each other. While Annika’s sister, (guitar roll) Antonia and Biron grew up to become perfectly lovely kids * cough cough * the elder siblings continued to believe the kids needed to grow up and while that could be a separate story in itself, it shall be explored at various points in this story.
While researchers are still figuring out the moment Annika and Arun first met, I believe it was on a rainy Sunday when Arun was turning 13 and Annika, 9. They both had turned up to church in their Sunday best and as Annika listened intently, slightly tilting her face, Arun was fiddling with the air. The priest began to talk about marriage and unwittingly Arun’s ears pricked up. Might have been the curious mind of Baby Arun, who still hadn’t had that question answered (read Chapter 1). The priest spoke about the sanctity of marriage and all that was beautiful about it when he saw a young girl run out of church. No one was really paying attention to her or him so he followed her. She ran out straight into the rain and looked up at the skies. Arun just watched her and decided to run to her, he gathered himself and did exactly that. As he ran towards her she ran back and in another clichéd Bollywood moment they crossed each other, well without the mandatory dupatta on his face, just a lot of rain for now. Arun never understood why he followed her out but as she ran back into church, he just stood there and took in the moment and then ran back. If you were wondering, yes a few people did find all this behaviour a little odd but then again, it was just a boy and girl running in the rain.
All a part of growing up, right?
Chapter 3: Singing in the Rain
Monsoons are meant for romance and love and all those mushy things that sell Hallmark cards and stuffed dolls. It also meant first crushes and all the excitement and innocence that follows. Trusted sources tell us that both Annika and Arun had their first crushes at around the same age but well the age difference meant it happened at different times and in typical Bollywood style there were flowers and tilted glances and a lot of smiling and very few words. And yes all this happened to Arun too. Ironically at the same time that Arun first set eyes upon the most beautiful girl he had seen, well at least for the past couple of months, Annika was building a case for a world without guys. The poor little thing was young and naive. Arun will tell you she still is and Annika will smile and follow that up with a deadly frown for his benefit. Arun really believed he had found true love. ‘A house in Bendoor, kids will go to Aloysius and we shall spend many weekends holding hands on Malpe beach’. He was immediately discouraged by his friends who thought it very uncool that he even think like this in tenth grade, but then again it was the 90s and Hindi movies were teaching kids all the wrong kinds of lessons like dogs can be umpires in cricket matches and that Salman Khan never gets the girl. But wait, that lesson wasn’t to far from reality. Moving on, Arun wooed while his friends booed and she swooned. All in all Arun had his first escapade and then a quick escape from love. It was short lived and there are days he barely can recollect her face but he sure remembers how it made him feel.
Annika reached eighth grade four years later with a point to prove. She wasn’t going to be undone by Arun and so what if they hadn’t even met. So Annika went the extra mile and actually fell for the cute professor in school. She had found her match, both intellectually and in personality. She would stare at him and in what would have been cheesy even in the early 2000s, tilt her head and smile though researchers and biologists say that her need to tilt her head far surpasses the understanding of the greatest minds and shall remain an intriguing mystery forever. Either way, her love was unattainable and there was eventual heartbreak just like with Akshaye Khanna in Dil Chahta Hain.
Their first crush was surely memorable and filled with memories that they will always cherish, memories of little pieces of their hearts and minds that they had only recently discovered. But true love was still knocking around the corner. At every Sunday mass, at most weddings and even at Pop Tates while stuffing their faces with Shawarma as the rain poured down on Mangalore. There was always love in the air in that city, it was just a matter of the right souls meeting and both of them had just taken their first steps to getting there.
Chapter 4: Leaving on a jet plane/KSRTC bus
Researchers have recently concluded that Arun and Annika were destined to meet and be together which partially makes my story moot, but they also have allowed me the benefit of continuing the story so that you all know how improbable yet beautiful their union is.
Annika had by this time become extremely good friends with Biron. Unknowingly, Biron would speak of Annika to Arun and talk about how her brilliance saved the day at some event in a Commerce fest or just how witty she could be every once in a while. Arun had heard about many of Biron’s friends but none piqued his interest like Annika. This was indeed a sub conscious reaction back then but to Arun’s curious mind this was surprising. He decided to get to the bottom of it but realised he may be chasing down an empty alley. In hindsight, it was just a dark alley, not an empty one for sure.
Arun had completed his dream of becoming an engineer and discovering all he needed to know about computers, all that you find inside it – hard and soft and you know those binary number thingys and some languages called C and C++ and things like sounds systems with like bass and surround sound and mobile phones with programming stuff. You get the point. You know Java Oracle kinda genius. Yes, he had done it all. And now he was off to Chennai to join that big Tata Salt’s IT company. Yeah he was cool like that.
On the other coast, Annika was completing her graduation in Mangalore and had her sights set on an MBA. She got into a great B-School and was ready to leave Mangalore for the first time in her life. She was excited, she was ready and yes she was already carrying more textbooks than anyone else in her school. The Albuquerque family had many expectations and as always Annika wasn’t going to disappoint. Annika wasn’t sure how she would live without her mother and sister for two years but the adventurer in her knew that these two years would be special for her. They would define her and create in her a very strong sense of her ‘self’.
Arun too at this point was packing his bags and bidding farewell to his lovely family as the Salt company was sending him to the Amreeka. He was super kicked, he knew this was made for him and he too was very keen to discover himself. He had it all mapped out and he knew that he wouldn’t skip a single moment standing still. He would lap up every minute of his time there and create another extensive set of experiences. This truly was the essence of Arun and it was all going to begin with him stepping on to that jet plane.
So as Arun boarded his flight and Annika waved goodbye from her bus window, a part of them called out to each other, little known to them and their hearts. A bond had been created instantly. As the plane soared into the air and the bus disappeared into the ghats a rather long and strong thread had connected them and while they continued to travel further away from each other, from this moment on it was only going to slowly pull them back to each other.
To be continued …..