Part A - Ghost Lady Number 1
She told her name was Shalini. She did not tell her surname. What she did tell however was that she had a younger sister and that she was named Malini (interesting name ... hmmm?); and that they shared a common e-mail id email@example.com. After all, she lived in Bangalore, the global capital of Information Technology, she claimed.
However, the letter that she posted for Khastagir was not via internet, but through the age old Indian Post. This was 2001 and we were still in Vidyapith. Most of us still had not opened our first e-mail account and had no access whatsoever to the wonderful world of internet. As against Bangalore, we were in the small holy town of Lord Shiva – Deoghar – that not many Indians will be able to pin point on the vast map of India.
The letter she posted was in a simple white envelope with the stamps of required value duly pasted on it. Khasta's name was written on the top of the envelope in a beautiful English handwriting. The moment Khasta opened the envelope; the news broke out in the hostel faster than a forest fire.
He had got a love letter. All the way from Bangalore. Travelling through a major part of India.
As if in a fairy tale, Shalini had come across a photograph of Khasta in the house of one of the ex-students of Vidyapith in Bangalore. Even more interesting was the fact that it was a simple batch photograph in which Khasta was just one of the many standing in one of the queues. He must have had been damn smart and good looking even in those days. How dumb the whole batch had been not to have discovered the hidden star amongst it. After all, there must be something in you if you are attracting a girl all the way from Bangalore.
This was the first love letter that anyone from the whole batch had ever received. Khasta had become an instant hero. There were celebrations all around. And there were a few who had fallen into depression thinking - Yaar .. saala Khasta abhi se baaji mar raha hai. Mera kya hoga.
The letter was as good as one should expect it to be at that age. It was written neatly in Hindi by a girl residing in Bangalore to a Bengali guy based in Patna and studying in a boarding school in Jharkhand. Mr. Bhagat, if one of the purposes of your book Two States is to promote the national unity, then our Khasta had definitely beaten you in the game far before you had even arrived on the horizon.
But then, the fairy tale ended.
People were already investigating the letter, trying to find out whether it had genuinely arrived from Bangalore or was it a fake. Someone noticed that the stamp pasted on the envelope was lacking in the thappa of the Postal Department that any stamp really going through the Indian Postal System must carry on itself. A little more investigation, and someone suggested – Yaar ye handwriting kucch jaani pahchani si lag rahi hai.
Ultimately, it turned out to be a trick played by Aayush on Khastagir. Aayush had gone to the rooftop - The door to the roof top was still unlocked; Bob Cut had yet to arrive in the collective life of the collegeboys - and had meticulously written the letter there, far away from the prying eyes. Then he had tried his level best to make it look as original as possible. The trick had held its ground for at least 4-5 hours that day, which in itself was a big success.
The tables had been turned. Faces that had gone into depression were smiling again. Khasta, saale, there is still time for the competition to start. You just wait for us to reach out to the greater world outside. Khasta, on the other hand, was sad. He had just lost the hope of having his first girlfriend.
Shalini had turned out to be nothing more than a beautiful figment of imagination. She had turned out be a Ghost Lady who simply never existed.
Part B - Ghost Lady Number 2
I was in my first year of college when Priyanka came into my life for a highly brief duration of 20-25 minutes. I was surfing in the internet cafe in Hanuman Nagar, when she buzzed me on Yahoo Chat. This time the e-mail id used was firstname.lastname@example.org. I have not visited Yahoo Chat for more than past two years, but I am sure this e-mail id must still be there in my friend list.
I am an UP-ite from Kanpur and am pursuing M.B.B.S. in Ramaiah - She introduced herself.
I replied something, more than happy at heart.
I have seen your photograph at .... - Came the reply from the other end of the internet, in case there is one. The story of my discovery by her followed.
Hey! Am I going through a deja vu? No, surely I am not. I pinched myself. Something is fishy here. Priyanka's story can’t be so similar to Khasta's. This is not a girl! I need to go on offensive. I must save myself from falling into the trap. I said to myself.
So, where are you these days and what are you doing? - Next question popped up in my chat window.
This is the right moment. Go! Hit!!
I work with the directors of the Naughty America series. Just yesterday we have returned to Las Vegas, where we have our studio, after shooting some great short movies in the ice cold locales of Alaska. - I typed the first thing that came to my mind.
And what Naughty America exactly is? - She explored further.
My dear sweet lady. You pretend as if you don’t already know what it is. I explained NA to her.
Whosoever was at the other end pretended as if he/she was pissed off and went offline; never ever to bother me again. The whole conversation must have lasted not more than 30 minutes. I have never again received any mail whatsoever from that e-mail id. And I have never tried to contact this so-called Priyanka.
A few days after this incident, I was talking on the phone with Victor Mayengbam. He asked me something about some girl in Bangalore. Although I have not been able to make him confess it, I doubt to this day that Priyanka in Bangalore was actually none other than Mayengbam himself.
So, this is the story of Ghost Lady Number 2, the first and the only one that I had ever come across. Till, I guess, the very recent past.
Then, I too got a love letter. My first one ever. From Alka.
Yes! She has written me a love letter. Any reader of this blog interested in reading the same is most welcome to go to the comments section of (My Dear) Alka.
Part C - Welcome, ‘Alka’
(You must have noticed that three things have changed in my way of addressing you. Since you claimed my brackets make you conscious, I have removed them. Also, I am not using the word ‘My’ and am putting your name in hyphens. This, I hope, will be indication enough that I do not consider you to be the Alka whom my letter was originally addressed to.)
I hope you will not be taken aback by my discussing both you and your letter on this public platform. After all, what other means of communication do I have with you, if not this? Also, your being just a name in the vast virtual world of internet will surely provide you great respite.
The day I read your letter for the first time, I was not only taken aback, I was also confused for a moment. But then, thankfully, I remembered the above two Ghost Ladies, and I was more or less certain that this is again someone playing a prank.
It does not mean that I do not appreciate the effort you took in writing that beautiful letter. Contrary to it, I fell in instant love with the way you write.
You do seem to have a great flavour for written English, which I simply cannot see coming from a girl from Muzaffarpur. Sadly, my – or, as per your claim, our – home town lacks any good library whatsoever to speak of. Also, I have never come across even a single student there who takes enough pains to reach out to the beautiful world of English literature. The way you write must follow reading good literature over a good duration of time.
Also, you have claimed to have found me by CHANCE, while moving through this vast blogosphere. Now, you do not need to be a great student of Mathematics to know that although there is indeed a chance of such a finding, it is almost next to impossible. My name is a highly unique one, and a simple search on Google, I am sure, would have given you some lead at least to reach out to me. I am afraid I don’t understand what this ‘moving through this vast blogosphere’ means.
Having said this, I must thank you profusely for taking your time out in order to write such a beautiful letter to me. Thanks a bunch once again.
And, hey, don’t you worry dear, I don’t have any intention whatsoever of trying to find out either where my real Alka is or who you really are. So, take it easy, mate.
1. Khastagir has grown into a brave man. He is in the Indian Army and is currently posted in Manipur. He happens to be the only guy from our batch who has shot dead a homo-sapien. It was in Kashmir, and the guy killed from his bullets was a terrorist. He is surely running ahead than the rest of us in this field at least. When he was posted in Kashmir, he fell in love with a rustic Kashmiri beauty. I hope he is still in touch with her.
2. Aayush graduated from IIT Kharagpur and is currently pursuing his MBA from IIM Kolkata. He will definitely carve out a great life for himself. My best wishes are with him.
3. Mayengbam was in Bangalore when I had my brief conversation with Priyanka. He did his MBA from ICFAI Kolkata and is working currently in the City of Joy itself. A highly jovial guy that he is, I am sure he will also do great in his life. My best wishes to him as well.