Vani Wani Whatsapped
by Vinny Gandham
On the 10th of October 2014 at 10.30 Am ,a honey toned damsel walks into the office , in a black business suit, sexy red high heels and long brown hair. Everyone across the cabins she passes by come to pause to have a glimpse of her. On the right corner, at the end, as she opens her cabin door, she brushes her hand across her name plate which reads 'Vani Jacob , Creative Director'.
This January she, along with a few of her colleagues had been on an official trip to Srinagar ,the place famously called paradise on earth. The city was founded by Emperor Ashoka 2000 years and she always longed to be there. As her journey had begun in Chennai, she had made sure to pack all her woollens. This had been her first time in Srinagar. After two days of a fully packed schedule, she had discussed with her colleagues about the places to visit for the forthcoming days. The cable car tour at Gulmarg was an amazing experience that blew off her love for the Swiss alps that she had visited last June. She didn't know if this was because of her patriotism for India or anything else. There was a rooftop view and gourmet meals along with meetings to plan for the next calendar year. After the two day meeting and site seeing in Gulmarg, the next day , at 7 am, everyone was ready with their packed luggage. Before heading to the high security airport of Srinagar for departure, they went to Dhal lake. It was grim due to the winter and the temperature made them freeze in the early hours of the day . Only four of them made it to the shikara. They were relaxed and felt like 60’s bollywood heroines. Only Shami Kapoor was missing. Dhal lake was one of the most romantic places in the world. All of them were mesmerised with the delightful shikara ride.
As she got down the shikaara, Vani realised that she had left her jewellery in the safe locker of her hotel room. The manager of the hotel had accompanied them as the tour guide of the whole corporate group. He was well built and one could not relate his look to that of a pious looking Muslim of Kashmir. He looked lovely and untouched. The HR head introduced her to Mr.Wani the manager and asked her to collect her things and come back to the airport directly. As she got into his car he introduced himself to her again. His voice was strong and good to listen to.She was anxious about going alone to the hotel. He could sense her worry and put her at ease by making small talk about Srinagar and his friends studying Journalism in Pune.They exchanged phone numbers on their way back to the hotel. The conversations passed on , and in no time, they reached the hotel. As she heads to airport , she was ushered in by traditionally clad attendants and Wani waved goodbye. It was all momentary but an epic memory for her life.
The magical winter experience had ended there and Vani is now back in Chennai. A day later she gets a text message from Wani. Hi Vani, Hope you reached safely and all is fine. She does not reply. For the next few months, she is in Dublin. Meanwhile, many of her friends keep asking her whether she is on whatsapp, to which she replies that she isn't interested. Back in India ,summer gives way to south west monsoon. Vani is back in her cabin in Chennai working on a new branding project for her publication firm. Her long thick hair is tied up with her pencil knot. Her mobile rings as she sits sipping her evening masala tea. "Daddy I am busy.I will call you after 7." On the other side he tells her, "I bought a new smart phone. What is this Whatsapp? Do you have
it?" She hangs up the call promising to call him later.
In the evening, she reaches her apartment and after a quick shower and dinner picks up her mobile to call her dad. She talks about her day and then he asks her to install the app. She agrees, albeit hesitantly.She installs WhatsApp the next day. The exchange of pictures and voice notes makes her feel more connected to home. She thinks reverently of her dad and he reminds her of Stern Christopher Plummer from the Sound of Music.
Another new project makes her travel to Bangkok, the city known for various aspects , that also happens to be her favourite shopping destination. Travelling alone has always been about exploring and discovering herself.
During the last week of August, Vani returns to Chennai after a two week official trip . On Saturday noon, as she reads through her reports, at the Mint Lounge, with a steamy cup full of coffee beside her, a message pops up on her whatsapp screen. Hi Vani , This is Wani. How are you ? They exchange greetings and then they start to interact regularly on WhatsApp. He looks very lean in his profile picture. He launches into very engaging conversations and ends up asking her every time when her next visit to Srinagar would be. They share their birth dates, but she senses that he does not care about her birthday. He tells her that his birthday is on the 10th of September and asks her for a gift. She tells him that it will reach him on time. Their situation,she thinks,is that of two relative strangers, one trying to exploit, and the other, trying to find solace in this busy world.
On the 6th of September at 23.30, she gets a voice note from him saying that the city of Srinagar is flooding. At 23.46 she gets an another voice note which she deletes, trying to distance herself from him. She does not sleep the entire night thinking about.
On the 7th of September, after finishing her brunch with her college friends, her favourite being the crumble, her thoughts keep straying to Wani, but she keeps it to herself. At noon, back in her apartment, she pings him on whatsapp,to which there is no reply. His last seen notification still shows 23.46pm. On the 6th of September, she tries to call him on his mobile and only during the prime time NEWS does she realise that all the phone lines in his city are dead.
The flood news breaks around all the news channels. She ceaselessly tries to call him. She also sends him a text. "Dear Wani, hope everything is fine. I am praying for you and your family. Called many times. Even help lines are not working. Best love Vani."
Meanwhile she tries every other option of trying to get connected to him. Everytime, she ends up with no answers. She also calls his head office in Delhi. They give her his number in order to get any information from the Srinagar site. She searches his facebook profile and finds that he is not Virgo but a Taurian. He lied to her about his birthday. Even then she buys a gift and sends it to him just to make him realise that she trusts him. She sends many voice notes and pings and tries all the available numbers scrolling on the TV screen. She misses his deep voice and their chat in the evenings. Ten days of their acquaintance gives her sleepless nights, trying to find where he is and how he is.
At 10.20 Am on September 23rd, she gets a text message from an unknown number saying Wani is no more. Suddenly on a hot desert highway, she is left alone. It is an inconvenient truth that it took death for her to become normal. Srinagar, the land of beauty, a place she always dreamt of visiting, had played a dream like game on her. ***