Chapter 1It was the month of April and just another Thursday in theoffice. Siddhartha opened his Inbox and found a message sentto him via Facebook: Hi… I was looking for Sid, one of my friends, when your picture came my way. Have you changed your name??? Anyway… it was nice to see you after a gap of maybe 18 or 19 years. You may not remember who I am as time dulls many memories but I recognized you in a second. Hope the very best for you and your family! Geetanjali… oops you might remember me as Geeti from Cuttack.It was just a casual message. But it made Siddhartha veryexcited. It was from someone whom he had completelyforgotten, whom he had never thought about after he had leftCuttack to study Architecture 19 years ago. It was like a bolt outof the blue that brought with it a gush of sweet images from along forgotten past.
2 Romance On Facebook Siddhartha was addressed as Sid by everyone who knew him; a result of his having lived in America for 14 years now. He had registered his Facebook account as Sid Verma instead of Siddhartha Verma. Geeti had recognized him at once but the change in his name was the only thing that she could talk about while sending him the message. She had never spoken to Sid in person, but had loved him silently in her teenage years. Sid’s fingers automatically went to the keyboard and he replied, God… what a blast from the past… I remember you. How can I forget Geeti, the girl next door. How have you been? Saw that you got married… are an artist and have beautiful kids… Amazing!!! 19 years huh!! Feels like it was only a few years ago that you all lived next door. Where are you and where is Pinku? (I believe that is your brother’s name.) How did you figure out that it was me? Geeti was 39. She lived in Mumbai and was happily married to Ravi, a workaholic who was a mechanical engineer by profession. She was an artist, who frequently held exhibitions of her paintings, and taught art for a living. She was also doing her PhD in medieval Egyptian art. She was on Facebook for the past year and a half but had only 12 friends on her list. Unlike Ravi, who was hooked on the website and played games in his free time. It was his growing addiction that had prompted her to check her account one day after a gap of several months. Ravi had 210 friends on Facebook. With the intention of adding friends to her list, Geeti began searching for her acquaintances. As she searched for Sid, one of her distant cousins, and was scrolling down the list of results, she came across a face that was known to her but was certainly not that of the Sid that she had been looking for. Her heart missed a
3 Chapter 1beat and she immediately scrolled up. The face looked familiar.She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Siddhartha, whom she hadsecretly loved several years ago.She clicked on his profile but found it protected, giving heronly limited information. She thought of sending him amessage immediately, but her heart fluttered. What would hethink, was her first concern. So she brushed aside the idea ofstriking an online conversation with him. However memoriesstored deep in her sub-conscious now ignited the feelings andemotions that she had hidden from everyone all these years.She wondered whether at this juncture of life it would beappropriate to contact him. Geeti had never thought twicebefore initiating contact with anyone. She had always been anupfront person but when it came to Siddhartha she was ashesitant as she had been 19 years ago. She strongly believed thatSiddhartha had loved her as much as she had loved him but hetoo had never been able to confess his feelings. Now that manyyears had passed and she was happily married she felt evenmore reluctant to contact him. Nevertheless she was burningwith curiosity to know about him and his family.She continued thinking about him for long. Many thoughts andfeelings that she had hidden over the past two decades nowsuddenly surfaced. She was nostalgic about those wonderfuldays when her father was transferred from Jamshedpur toCuttack and their family had shifted to a house next toSiddhartha’s. It was a time and place when girls spoke only togirls and boys had only boys for companions. Frequentlyexchanged glances and a few smiles here and there were usuallyenough to convey secret feelings amongst youngsters. However,the two teenagers did not realize when and how they developedstrong feelings for each other. Seeing each other for a fewseconds everyday was enough for both of them. For five years,they kept up with their studies, obeyed societal norms and
4 Romance On Facebook abstained from giving in to the uncontrollable and immense attraction brewing between them. There were many budding romances in the air all around them. Some of their friends were smart enough to meet each other escaping the prying eyes of the elders at home and in the entire neighbourhood but Geetanjali and Siddhartha were a shier lot. They were aware of their feelings for each other but did not know how to express them. Neither did they feel any need to do so. After five years in Cuttack, Geeti’s father was transferred to Varanasi. Three months prior to her father’s transfer, Siddhartha had left Cuttack for further studies. And in all this transition, love was crushed even before it could bloom. Geeti spent the next few days thinking about him, reminiscing about every forgotten detail of those wonderful days and debated whether to send him a message. She logged into her Facebook account more times in two days than she had done in the past two months, just to have another glimpse of him. She was perplexed by her own childish behaviour but could not stop herself from thinking about him all the time. It was becoming increasingly difficult not to write to him. Finally, unbearably curious about his recent past, and firmly resolving to stop all communication after learning about his present, she sent her first-ever message to him. Not a single word had ever passed between them in the past, yet Geeti felt the warmth of a long and good relationship as she wrote to him for the very first time.
Chapter 2Even after all these years, Geeti always associated Cuttack withSiddhartha, perhaps because he was the first, and only, love ofher life. She was now a beautiful wife, a responsible mother anda successful teacher and artist. But when it came to Siddhartha,she realized that she was still the same old timid teenager thatshe had been in Cuttack.That was why she found it impossible to resist the strong desireto reconnect with the one person whom she had never beenable to forget, with whom she had always felt a deep emotionalattachment. Geeti was thrilled when he replied within a coupleof hours. She was touched by the fact that he recognized herand remembered details about her family, just the way sheremembered all about him.And so she responded as soon as she read his message. “Your face has not changed much even though you must be nearly twice as old as you were when I last saw you. I have been in Mumbai for the past 14 years. This is where I’d always dreamt of living, right since childhood. It’s just the right place to bring out the best in one’s kids. My parents shifted to Cuttack after their retirement.
6 Romance On Facebook My brother Rinku is in Calcutta. He keeps postponing his plans to get married but now my parents and I are plotting to push him into wedlock by the end of this year, if only we find the right match. It is our biggest family goal now :-) What about you? I thought you would not recognize me at all. Where are you? You must be married too. How are your parents, your brother and your sister? It is strange that we have known each other for such a long time but are communicating for the first time only now. “ It was half past 12 in the night and Geeti was awake, typing out a message to Sid. She was painfully aware that if only she had initiated such communication 19 years ago, she could have easily changed the course of her entire life. Usually, she went to bed by 11 o’ clock. But she could not wait for the next day to reply to Sid’s message. To her surprise she received a reply from him within a couple of minutes this time. He wrote, “Reading your message just brought back so many childhood memories. Feels like I am talking to a long lost friend, which of course you are… (Kind of, you were just too young then.) Looks like you are a popular painter now, can I get your autograph?:)) I did my Masters in Architecture and then moved to the US 14 years ago and have been living here since then. I got married in 2003 and have two kids. Sumedha is six and Aditya has turned two this month. Parents and siblings are doing well. Both my brother and sister are married. My sister also lives in Mumbai.
7 Chapter 2 My brother and parents stay in the same house in Cuttack. Tell me more about yourself and your journey to becoming a famous painter.”The complete silence all around her in the middle of the nighthelped Geeti’s memories come alive. The warmth of their firstinteraction further ignited their thirst to know everything abouteach other’s present as well as about the past that lay wrappedup for 19 long years. Both were discovering a certain level ofease while communicating with each other. There were no signsof the kind of hesitation that accompanies first timeinteractions. Geeti could completely understand him when hesaid that he felt as if he was talking to his long lost friend. Shewanted to let him know that she felt exactly the same way butcould not do so. She wanted to hide from him the cacophonyof different emotions that she was going through. She wasashamed of the overwhelming thoughts about Sid that hadconstantly led her mind to wander in the past. She wanted toproject an image of a mature woman who was happy with herlife. She was perceived that way by all who knew her. It was heropinion of herself too. But now that she had re-discovered Sid,it was difficult for her not to think about him. She had missedhim many times in the past 19 years. Whenever she sawteenagers around her having a nice time, either in person orhappily engrossed in their virtual worlds, thoughts of Sid wouldfleetingly cross her mind, just like a butterfly that fluttersaround in the garden and then suddenly disappears. Though shewas happy in her world, she often felt that being born a coupleof decades later might have shaped her life in a different way.When Sid expressed his desire to know more about her, she feltgood that he was taking keen interest in her but at the sametime she did not want to reveal her inner feelings to him. She
8 Romance On Facebook was trying hard to hide her enthusiasm while chatting with him. But to be able to tell him something and to be able to see him respond within no time was like a dream to her. Ever since her teenage years, she had been yearning for such close interaction with him. Now that they were finally talking it filled her with the same excitement that she would have experienced as a teenager. However, maturity of age had taught her to successfully camouflage many emotions. So she replied in a tone that would project her no-nonsense attitude. “I have to sleep because it is afternoon for you but 2 a.m. for me.” However, she did not want to let go of her new-found connection on Facebook. She wanted to hold his interest and hence continued, “But yes, I feel as if I am speaking to a very dear friend. Our times were different. We were so naive and scared of everyone around. But today, teenagers are so advanced. They have so many communication tools – facebook, orkut, twitter, mobile phones. They are fully in charge of their lives and more open to expressing their feelings for each other. My children are just 11 and 9 years old but are so comfortable with SMS’s and have their own email ids. They keep sending messages to their favourite uncles and aunties as well as to those friends who have access to mobile phones and internet. We never had all this. It was a completely different era plus we were small- towners. Our counterparts in metros must have been smarter at that time, no doubt. I suppose our lives could have turned out differently,
9 Chapter 2 but it doesn’t matter, I am very happy that you are successful in life. By the way I am not a famous artist as you seem to think, but yes, I am definitely good at my craft. It feels good to see one’s paintings in art galleries alongside those of the well acclaimed artists of Mumbai. The response that I get from art lovers gives me the enthusiasm to work harder. How often do you come to India?? Are there any plans to return??”She phrased her reply with careful thought, hoping that Sidwould be able to make out what she was feeling yet not be ableto catch the intensity of the feelings that she was beautifullysandwiching between facts.Sid read each word carefully and understood what Geeti reallywanted to say. Ever since he saw her pictures on her Facebookprofile, he was bowled over by her simple beauty andfascinating personality. Just as Geeti was making a calculatedattempt to articulate her thoughts yet maintain a balancedapproach to the conversation, Siddhartha was trying to projecthimself as a good guy. He was trying to let her know how muchhe was enjoying interacting with her yet he did not want her toaccurately interpret his growing interest in her. He did notknow how to react to what she had written in her last message.He could sense that she was trying hard to convey somethingsubtly to him but was somehow beautifully garbing it in a veilof general observations, comparing their own adolescent yearswith the advanced and gadget-filled times of today’s children.After reading her message for the second time he wonderedwhether he was over-analyzing it. He found it hard to believethat such a beautiful and accomplished woman could actuallyhave all these feelings under the surface. Maybe he was reading
10 Romance On Facebook into her words a little too much. And so he replied, “Go to sleep… I am about to head home… will catch you later… Planning to visit India in November. Will talk more tomorrow.” It was the last message from Siddhartha that day. She could not sleep until late and he could not stop thinking of her while driving back home. Geeti’s words kept coming back to him even after he had reached home. When his wife and children were asleep, he could not help but read all the messages she had sent once again. It all seemed like a breath of fresh air for him. He felt like the Siddhartha of yesteryears, the one he had left behind in Cuttack. After a long time he felt as if he was back in those carefree days. He had been living a boring, routine life. Geeti’s messages were working like a balm, soothing his tired soul which had lost its identity, caught up in the varied responsibilities of his professional and personal life. Her messages had the power to swiftly brush away the cobwebs of his monotony. He was truly enjoying this unexpected online encounter, reliving memories and emotions he had relegated to his past. The entire situation seemed a little unreal to him. He was not actively into virtual networking and hence did not have many online friends. He always believed that Facebook had become popular only because of self-centered people who, instead of connecting to real people in a real world, found solace in connecting with virtual friends from whom they could completely hide their real selves. He would not log onto Facebook for weeks at a time. For the first time, he felt differently. The next day he was keen to write to Geeti once again. So the
11 Chapter 2first thing he did, as soon as he came to office, was to log in tohis Facebook account. There was no message from her but hecould hardly wait for her to initiate the conversation of the day.Impatiently he typed, “Last night I was thinking about you and it’s interesting how you found me. I was thinking about how the depth of your messages helped me feel so close and connected to you. What is more amazing is the fact that we have never talked till date, but reading your messages made me feel we are close friends and have known each other for ever. To think that a little girl whom I knew in Cuttack has grown up to become an accomplished artist and such a beautiful and intelligent woman… It’s really so unreal.”Geeti, meanwhile, spent that entire day, expecting Siddhartha tomake the first move. There was a spark in her, as she waitedeagerly, for the day to turn into evening and the evening to turninto night. She could not remember the last time she hadexperienced such impatience. She frequently looked at thewatch, calculating the corresponding time in the US. When sheknew it must be morning there, she grew more excited. Sheknew that soon he would be in his office and would definitelysend her a message. In this hope, she logged onto Facebookseveral times. When she finally received Sid’s message heranxiety was beyond control. Her heart was fluttering wildly, justas it used to all those years ago in Cuttack, when she wouldhave a glimpse of Sid flying kites on his terrace or roamingaround with his friends in the lane outside her house or sittingindulgently in front of his home tutor in the warm sunshinethat stretched to his veranda on cold winter afternoons. She didnot like the word ‘little’ that he used to describe her. Until now
12 Romance On Facebook she always believed that though young, both of them had been old enough to fall in love. She replied, “I don’t understand why you are saying ‘little’. I was a little girl when we moved there but I grew up by the time you left Cuttack. And it was for five years or a little more that I stayed in the house next to yours. We saw each other for such a long time. Both of us grew up together. We were not little when I last saw you.” She felt good when he called her beautiful and intelligent. She had scoured his friends’ list in curiosity to see how his wife looked. She came across a profile that seemed to be his wife’s as the ‘Current City’ and many other details matched his profile ‘Info’. She was beautiful. Without even being sure that she really was his wife, Geeti felt a stream of jealousy pooling down in her heart. It was the first time that she had felt so jealous of another woman’s beauty. But the warmth with which Sid wrote to her, right from the beginning, raised a flicker of hope that maybe his wife was not as nice a person as she was and perhaps that was why he was being so nice to her, Geeti. She was eager to resolve her doubts. So she continued, “Anyway, what’s your wife’s name.” “Anu” he replied. And Geeti’s hunch was confirmed. The emotions she felt piercing her heart were entirely new to her. Her mind and heart were running in two different directions. Her mind calmly accepted the fact that Anu was his wife but her heart was not able to accept the fact that his wife was so beautiful. Despite
13 Chapter 2her rational bent of mind, she could not help feeling jealousand sad.Sid had gone through her entire profile, seen all the picturesand posts on her ‘Wall’. Ever since he was in touch with Geeti,he would look at her pictures daily, before leaving the office inthe evening. He found her gorgeous and sexy. From her photoalbums, it was evident who her husband and kids were. Theylooked like a happy family. Though he felt good seeing herfamily, he didn’t know why he felt a tinge of melancholy,particularly when he saw all the pictures in which her husbandwas with her. He noted that her children were older than his. “Saw your kids’ pictures in your snaps. What are their names? Tell me more about your husband?”He was confused by the warmth and familiarity he sensed inher messages to him. He had never expected a married womanto be so open about her feelings. By writing “Tell me moreabout your husband,” his main motive was to gain as muchinformation as possible about her relationship with herhusband. He wondered whether her husband was not able tosatisfy her or whether he misbehaved with her or had some badtraits that were coaxing Geeti to chat so freely, with anotherman. “My son’s name is Gaurav and daughter’s name is Gauri. My husband is a very nice human being. He is down to earth and loves me a lot. In these 14 years of marriage we have grown habituated to each other.”Reading the last line of her reply was like waking up with asudden jolt while engrossed in a beautiful dream. Before he
14 Romance On Facebook could find a suitable answer, there was another message from Geeti. She asked, “Was it a love marriage? Am sure you love your wife very much. She is so beautiful and your children are also very cute.” Geeti was hardly interested in his children at the moment. All she wanted to know was whether he loved his wife or not. She added those other sentences as an afterthought because she didn’t want to let him know her inner turmoil regarding his relationship with his wife. She hoped that he would confess that he did not love his wife. She wanted him to tell her that he had missed her and that ever since they had re-connected on Facebook he had been constantly thinking of her and regretting the fact that he had never made any effort to pursue her after she had left Cuttack. He replied, “It was a partly love and partly arranged marriage. Your kids are adorable and sweet too.” Geeti was expecting Sid to tell her that it was a traditional arranged marriage. She had always thought of him as a shy person. She had thought that had he not been so shy, they would have taken their friendship to the next level in their younger days and may have lived together, happily ever after. It was hard for her to imagine that he could ever go in for a love marriage. Naturally, she grew more curious. She wanted to know the complete story and asked, “How did you meet your wife?”
15 Chapter 2There was no reply. Half an hour of sitting in front of thecomputer screen and waiting for a reply to pop up, seemed toolong. She tried to check her mailbox in the meantime but couldhardly concentrate. She was switching back to Facebook everythree minutes. She tried to read a couple of emails but couldnot grasp the contents clearly as her mind kept wanderingtowards the interesting story that she was yearning to read.An hour passed and still there was no reply from Sid. She typedthe message once again. “How did you meet your wife? Am I getting too personal?”Her curiosity to know what had happened to him since she hadlast seen him in Cuttack grew with every passing second.To her second message she got a reply instantly. “No u r not… but it’s illegal to text while driving. And it’s late for u as well. Will tell u tomm, goodnite.”Geeti calculated the time. It would be half past five in theevening in the US. She thought, Oh! He leaves for home ataround five. Now onwards I will be careful regarding the time.It’s too childish to disturb his routine. What will he think aboutme? She reprimanded herself for letting her curiosity about Sidand his personal life show in her messages, but at the same timethought, it was too rude of Sid to drive back home withouteven letting her know that he was winding up for the day. Hecould have at least said a ‘bye’ to her. What if she had waitedanother hour for his reply without re-typing the message? Howinconsiderate of him.