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A Tourist Guide

"Shrikant, yesterday when I challenged you, I wasn't serious at all. It was more to get rid of you. But truth be told, I couldn't sleep the whole night."
Jayshree made me feel both good and bad, in the same sentence. I smirked and kept quiet. I could feel she had more to say.
"All the best, I hope you succeed. I'll wait for you, Shrikant."
Warmth flooded my insides, as I took her hand in mine and commented,
"Call me only Shree, because that way I feel connected to you. Jayshree, sunset will never be the same without you. Thank you for giving me this chance. I'll prove myself, and very soon you'll find me at your doorstep."

With that she was gone.

I am Shrikant Nayar, a tourist guide, living in Trivandrum, Kerala. Jayshree Mahajan had come with her travel group for a ten days cultural program. In my career of eight years as a guide, it had never happened before. I fell in love with her...hard and fast. It killed me to know that soon she would be gone, never to come back. I couldn't bear the thought, and the best was to confess my love to her. She was flabbergasted. Obviously. We were poles apart and knew nothing about each other. After non-stop back and forth arguments, she was fed up.

I had no clue of her whereabouts, except that she was from Delhi. So she challenged me. If I could find out her home address and go there within a month, she'd consider my proposal. I couldn't miss this for the life of it. Because now she was my oxygen.

And the marathon began.

"Sorry, we don't give out that kind of information about our customers."
This was the response of the travel agent who had organised their tour. One door closed. What next?

"Shrikant, first upgrade yourself. Throw this outdated junk box and buy a smartphone. Open a facebook and insta account, I'm sure you'll get some help from there."
My best friend Alok suggested and that gave me some hope. Although I'm a graduate, I lead a simple life. Moreover, my work keeps me very busy and I'm not at all a social media person. The whole idea of fake friends irritates me. But now for Jayshree, I'd do anything.

After buying a new mobile and finishing all the basics, Alok and I surfed through the social media sites.
"Alok, this wasn't such a brilliant idea as we thought it would be. FB and insta don't have people's addresses."
"I know. Search for common friends. You'll get something there."
I slapped his back and retorted.
"Are you crazy! How can we have common friends? I met her for the first time. She's from Delhi and I live in Kerala."

Time was running out and I had to speed up. An idea clicked me and thank God for my habit of record keeping. I have a file maintained which has the names of all the tourists that I have guided, along with where they had come from. I had been doing it only to boost myself, to see how many tourists I have met so far. But it was going to come in handy now.

It took me two days to filter out all those who had come from Delhi. Later, Alok and I searched if there were any common friends from among those, between Jayshree and my list. I couldn't believe my luck when we found a Mr. Rajesh Kothari. We high fived, put our heads together and drafted a nice message, along with my phone number, and posted it on Mr. Rajesh Kothari's Facebook Messenger. Keeping my fingers crossed, with butterflies in my stomach, I desperately prayed for him to call me up, and prayed harder, that he knew where Jayshree lived.

Time was flying and I had only a week in hand. Rajesh called me up on the third day. Pouring my heart out, I told him everything, and pleaded for the help I needed from him. After he heard me out, his words that followed were music to my ears. My insides fluttered with joy and my heart was doing a merry dance of it's own, as I began fisting a yes in the air.
"Jayshree? Jayshree Mahajan? We work in the same company!"

Clean shave, in my best clothes, with a bouquet in hand, on the final day, Sunday morning, I was at her doorstep. From the time I rang the bell and fidgeted on my toes, I kept reminding myself to breathe. Anticipation and apprehension were running in my bloodstream in equal measure.

The door opened. She was there in front of me. I was smiling nervously, whilst she was dumbfounded. Her eyebrows touched her hairline, eyes popping out, and an incredulous gasp left her lips, when she squealed,
"Ahh.... Oh my god! Shree....!!!"

What happened next, took my breath away. She stepped forward and flung her arms around me.

Shamim Merchant, Mumbai.

Shades Of Simplicity

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