Revelation



29th Nov 2018

7:00 AM

My dear human diary,

Hi, I know I have been irregular in writing to you what goes on in my life. I am sorry but after hearing what I am about to write to you, you will no longer be pissed at me. IT'S HUGE!!! Remember, a little while ago, I had told you about my online friend who I write more often these days than I write to you? (ok, I apologize)

Yeah, so I am FINALLY meeting him for coffee in the evening after 1 year of knowing each other. I think I am in love with someone (him) I haven't met yet, I know it's mad and that initially I had started on a journey to find just a life-long friend but he is really cool and has bought the best in me ever since I came out 3 years back. I think I will find more in common with him. However, I am a bit nervous since we never video-called or talked over phone (he had hesitated). It's strange and mysterious but I have tried my best to keep my over-thinking side aside this time. All I need now is to meet him in person (she agreed finally). You know how human touch and in real-life experience is so much craved for when you want to know more and more about something. I am sure you will know the value. Hope everything goes well. Wish me luck, Maxiee.

I PROMISE I will share with you what happens today, at night. See you!

 

*EVENING RENDEZVOUS*

My heart was palpitating with exhilaration. The storm raging outside seemed insistent upon dashing my hopes. We’d already anticipated heavy rainfall and hence, the rendezvous and time had also been scheduled accordingly – in the evening when it would substantially subside – in a cafeteria.

I dressed up as best as I could – trying to categorize the best possible garment to wear among the tattered robes and clothes that I possessed. A pair of denim jeans and a shirt that I deemed to be funky enough sufficed my needs. I gazed nervously at the mirror trying to make myself as dashing as possible, hoping that it would make a positive first impression.

As if God had hearkened to all my desires and wanted to lure me into the trap of impatience to verify whether I’m really worthy enough, it continued drizzling even in the evening. This, however, failed to dampen my enthusiasm. I didn’t care whether my clothes would be soiled in the downpour or not. What mattered to me at the moment was to reach the destination and get his attention!

The cafeteria was a new outlet in Boulevard Road. It was a hive teeming with adrenaline-driven youngsters who were either partying exuberantly or lovelorn kiddos watching the new snogging couples enviously. The place had been bedecked with festoons and streamers which was conducive to the lively atmosphere. I scanned around to find an empty corner table that had just been vacated and took my seat. A waitress came up to me coolly and enquired whether I wanted to order anything. I decided to wait lest it becomes impertinent for my date.

Time ticked by slowly. Half an hour went by… an hour passed – still, there was no sign of him. Did I appear avid to meet him? Has my overzealousness been my undoing? Has he found a better match? A gazillion thoughts raced across my mind momentously. I was getting restless after a while – feeling eccentric sitting all alone in a corner by myself – I being the only person who was without any friend in the cafeteria.

Fifteen minutes later, a girl walked in. I wouldn’t have paid any attention to her like anyone else around me in the vicinity, but she came right up to me and interrupted my cloud of thoughts.

“Excuse me, are you Pratik Arora?” she asked, briskly. I replied in the affirmative, puzzled.

She extended her hand and said, “Hi Pratik. Nice to meet you. My name is Priyanka Singh.” I don’t know how but the name sounded vaguely familiar to me.

 “Do I know you?” I asked.

“Er…no, I mean we’ve been talking to each other for quite a while but this is the first team we’re meeting in person,” she said, glancing at me nervously.

And then slowly, it dawned on me. The boy with whom I’d been chatting on Mate Finder – his name was Priyank Singhvi – which was somewhat homophonic to this girl’s name. Also, her visage beheld the same complexion, undertone, and smoothness as the one on the profile except for the fact that this was feminine and the one on Mate Finder was masculine.  All the benignity that I’d mustered up for this moment vanished. The initial impression of her gorgeousness was replaced with hideousness. Strange, how the human mind functions – one moment it can declare someone to be good, and on another, it can discard him/her to be a decrepit person.

I felt nauseated. For some time, both of us sat silently staring simply into the void but avoiding each other’s faces. She seemed to sense the evident layer of tension that had been conjured up by her presence. “Look, I can explain…,” she began, but I cut her short – “Why? Why did you do this to me?” I said, coldly. 

“I’m sorry if you’re hurt in any way...but we can sort it out…”

“Sorry? Sort it out? How can you even sort it out if all of it was just a show of pretense? How can you sort it out if you don’t understand my feelings? You knobheads take people like us for granted. Do you think you can toy with our emotions? You think that this is funny, pranking me, huh?”

“I assure you; this is not a prank…I was here to…” she began, but this time my furiousness got the better of me.

“ENOUGH OF YOUR JOKES! THERE’S A LIMIT TO EXPLOIT GULLIBLE PEOPLE FOR EARNING GUFFAWS! DO YOU THINK THAT IT MAKES YOU COOL? WELL, SORRY TO BLURT IT OUT: YOU’RE NOTHING BUT SICK!” I bellowed at her. The instantaneous impact that it had on the cafeteria was a sight to behold. The buzz of activities froze for a while – the couples stopped embracing, the uncouth boys ceased dancing, the birthday festivities were also suspended – as everyone was looking crossly at the unfolding drama in the corner of the room. Without further ado, I sprinted out of the cafeteria, enraged, and hailed a cab to go home, sobbing all the way.

 

9:00 PM

MAX!!! And as I write to you, I am also giving you a nice little salt-water bath. I am crying Max. I am devastated and shocked. I am tired of people not taking me seriously.  The person whom I could trust so much after years pranked me. Why? What have I done Max to deserve this? I was born this way!!! It’s her and not he. Her name is Priyanka Singhvi disguised as Priyank Singh, the guy I thought had the potential to be my best partner. But why, wh----------

 

7th Dec 2018

11:30 PM

Hi Max. It’s been over a week since I met Priyanka and I have been ignoring her calls and messages on all the social platforms that we’d hitherto used for communicating. It is like slinking into another phase of solitude and depression. I still feel cheated and betrayed. As days are passing by, the frequency of her calls and messages also are starting to decrement. I feel slightly relieved. After all, she deserved it. Don’t you think Max? Who did she think she was to deceive me like that?

But now I am starting to have a little doubt and thought, that is why I am writing to you to clear my head– what if she weren’t there to poke fun? Her face at that moment had not registered a smirk – that is so customary for the roadside pranksters. She had seemed earnest.  So, I think I should call her up tomorrow morning to listen to her side of the story.  If it transpires to be farcical, then it would be the last time that I would be talking to her. I promise YOU. Hope this time my belief does not betray me. See you Maxie!

 

*MORNING OF 8th DEC*

It was a resplendent morning. Dawn was just breaking over the horizon, tinting the skyline with a reddish-golden hue. Birds were chirping excitedly as if they had sensed a particularly piquant environment. I dialled the number and waited for her to pick it up. Just like the first day of our brief encounter, she was late in doing so. “Hello, who is this?” she chimed, sleepily giving off a big yawn. She had not realized that it was me as I was calling from another number. When I failed to respond, she snapped, “See, mister, either you tell me what you want or stop disturbing me. Do you even realize what time it is?”

“Priyanka, it’s me,” I said, in a low voice. There was pin-drop silence for a while. Then she mused, “Oh, you think you can make up to me by calling me early in the morning? You know what, it’s a bad idea…” she would have cut the call, but I interrupted her – “Hold on. I’m sorry. I realize that maybe I was too harsh and impertinent. I’m regretting the way I’d treated you. It’s annihilating me from the inside. I should’ve heard you out. Thought I would sort it out by having a word with you. Please forgive me.”

That softened her a bit, I conjecture.

“Hmm…I knew you would come around,” she said, mischievously, “after all, my charm is so irresistible.”

 “How can you be so sure about that?” I scoffed, and we both laughed.

“Just hold on…let me get my daily tabloid. Oh shit! MI lost again!” she said, exposing her disappointment.

“Are you a Mumbai Indians fan too?” I said, brightening up.

“Always. Duniya hila denge hum!”

We started chatting like school friends, discussing how some players were more consistent than the others, how the teams have always erred in picking up the out-of-form players for the highest bidding price, etc, continuously converging to the point of consensus that come what may, MI is the best franchise in the IPL. From sports, we progressed on to politics, education, and a plethora of other topics that came up as we talked. It turned out that we’d a lot in common in terms of opinion. So much so that both of us lost track of time. In retrospect, it was the longest that I’d ever talked to a girl – spanning over three hours. When I saw that the clock indicated 9’o clock I exclaimed, “Gosh! Gotta dash now. My boss will kill me.”

I was about to hang up, but stopped short, remembering how she’d morphed her pics to deceive me. “How did you manage to change your facial structure to resemble that of a boy? I mean, I fell for your impersonation,” I said, inquisitively. 

“Simple,” she said, glibly, “It can be rendered by neural networks. Or in layman’s terms by the AI tech incorporated by FaceApp.

“I hadn’t thought of that!” I said, surprised. “That’s an interesting way to make use of a deepfake. But you know how deepfakes can be morphed and misused…”

“Now, there, first of all, this isn’t a deepfake,” she began sternly, “And secondly, why would I go on circulating my deepfakes… Don’t think much, go now, Byeee”

“Hehe, ok, let’s catch up maybe sometimes soon? If you are fine with that.” I said

“Sure, I will tell you.”

“Cool, bye.”

“Bye.”

 

8th Dec 2018

3:00 PM

Max, I am finally relieved. Thank god I decided to call her up to listen to her part. Seems she isn’t that bad as I thought her to be. She did have her reasons for disguising as a guy on ‘Mate Finder’. We basically happened to be good people with good intentions but somehow things had gotten mixed up and taken a different turn. You know how the world has become a bad place for women. Online harassment is a new form of harassment. She had herself faced injustices being a girl and that’s why she wanted to find a safe space online but was not sure how strangers would react to her profile thus she had portrayed herself as a guy to make new friends online. She was deeply sorry for what she did as she had no idea about my sexuality apparently and that things would turn this complicated; she was only trying to be a good, close friend. Also, I never had given her a hint that I had started to like her disguised version so much, always thought to save the special moment for when we meet, you know...

So Max, we both are absolved of guilt now and we are happy that we got to know each other better and hope to remain friends for the longest time. I think I am going to meet her again this weekend. I will introduce you to her, what say? Ha-ha, ok see you soon Maxiee!!! Thank you for being there for me always.

~Co-authored by Trisha Bhattacharya & Priyanshu Mohanty~