She was six, when she first came to a sleepy neighborhood in a small town in Mysore. And it didn’t take her much time to liven up the town. It wasn’t particularly her wish to change anything- but it was due to the playfulness she seemed to awaken in the people around her. Nobody had taken more than five seconds to say, “So Cute!” to her and pinch her large white cheeks.
Though she had to perennially endure burning red cheeks throughout her childhood, the cuteness had its perks. People would bring her chocolates, cookies, cakes, pastries and all the exotic sweets- as if she was their own daughter. She always seemed to bring out the “Let’s Party!” emotion in the adults around her and almost always parties ensued. She would sing, she would dance, and she would clap, and jump, and fall- all, as requested by the many laughing care-free adults around her. She seemed to absorb this carefree attitude- or was it her own, to begin with? Whatever the case was, it didn’t really matter- at least not when she was six. Soon she’d do more than just sing and dance and laugh and clap and jump and fall- she’d start delivering love letters.
Her name was Sharmila and she was the town’s love messenger. A kid of the conservative 90s, she was part of a town where most boys found it tough to talk with the girls they liked. Asking out for a date was a concept straight out of a sci-fi movie for them.
But boys will be boys. They prayed, requested for knowledge transfer from their helpless seniors and tried imaginary love-potions; they did many brain-storming meetings in the last benches during the class- and found the answer to their prayers- Sharmila. After all, isn’t there a saying- Use poison to break poison? Only a girl could break a girl! Sharmila was cute- and if she ever delivered a love letter to you, even if you were a girl, the least you were supposed to do was to read the letter and give a reply, preferably in another letter. Of course, writing your reply using the scented pen and the pink paper was optional- naturally, both the scented pen and blank Pink paper come with the love letter being delivered to you. And giving a blank pink paper with a scented pen to a girl in those days can be compared to giving a mobile phone with unlimited talk-time to any such girl today. And thus, the combination of love letter, plus a blank pink paper, plus a scented pen, plus the charm of Sharmila always ensured a reply.
Sharmila enjoyed all the attention she got from the boys wanting her to deliver their love-letters. Her services were the best in town- and she guaranteed a reply from the girl. And she did all this, for free. Though the boys did give her sweets and ice creams and all other sorts of bribes they could afford, it was also true, that people gave her far better sweets just for clapping and singing. In that sense she was the richest kid in town- she could play with any toy and get any sweet- and she didn’t have to cry for them like most other kids. She was the darling of the town and she was never, what some boys notoriously call, high-maintenance.
By the time she retired from her first job of delivering love letters at the age of 11, she had delivered 399 love letters- and got 399 replies and started a new field in Modern fortune-telling called Papistry. In that town in Mysore, she’s called the Prophet of Papistry who brought 230 positive replies from the Almighty Girls. Her success was probably better than the town’s marriage bureau.
Though Sharmila cannot be credited with the opening up of this new stream in Fortune-telling- she was no doubt, the cause of this Papistry. The term Papistry was coined by her first customer- Sriram. He said, “Just like the random lines on your palm, written by Destiny, can tell your future- in the same way, the pink paper brought by Sharmila, is written by your Destiny. And this pink letter contains glimpses from your future- and I call the Science of reading such Pink Papers as Papistry!”
When Sharmila first heard this from Sriram she said, “It makes sense. But why does it sound so tasty?”
“Ah, it rhymes with Pastry!” said Sriram.
And thus began the legend of Papistry in a sleepy town in Mysore.
And thus, the greatest devotee of Papistry- who’s also the only saint and prophet of Papistry- Sharmila began, rather impatiently, to wait for her pink paper of Destiny- the pink Love Letter meant for her- and was not to be delivered to some other girl. And she prayed to the Gods of Papistry, that the scented pen used to write on her pink paper, should be the scent of Mango. She just loved mangoes- and mangos meant love for her. Her father always used to bring mangos, till he died, didn’t he?
Though she wasn’t particularly religious- by the time she was 15, she generously began to borrow concepts from many religions into her Papistry. One of the concepts she learnt from home was Karma- and it fit pretty well with Papistry. It was her Karma, that for 4 years she hadn’t received even a single holy Pink Paper- else, what could explain the absence of boys’ interests towards her? For 11 years she enjoyed the attention of society- the society pampered her for 11 years, with sweets and toys and parties- but what did she give back to society? True, she delivered 399 Love Letters. It was an accomplishment. Wasn’t it? But now at the age of 15 she felt that she did too little. She could have thought out of the box, and go all out- advertising herself and her services- in distant schools and colleges- for the sake of the poor boys! How many boys married their moms’ choice because of her? Just because she didn’t deliver letters for them? It was a frightening thought! Her carefree selfish attitude filled her pot of sins- and she was paying for those now.
It had been four years since she officially started her wait for a love letter meant for her- when she retired, she retired thinking that from then on- she’d only read love letters meant for her- and not somebody else’s. Alas, no boy seemed to be interested in her. At least no boy, who was brave enough to show her that he was interested in her. And the fact that her ultra-conservative mom had put her in a girls-only high school didn’t help her chances of running into hot boys.
However, she knew that the Gods of Papistry were benevolent and kind. After all, she had delivered love letters to girls far worse than her. She still remembered delivering a love letter to the girl who had lost half her teeth to biting school chalk-pieces. Yes, it was obvious, that the Gods of Papistry were kind. They were responsible for the common playground for two schools- the Girls’ High School and the Boys’ High School, weren’t they?
Sharmila’s Girls’ high School shared their playground with a neighboring Boys’ High School. The playground had an imaginary Line of Control, much like the political borders of any country. The Line of Control was formed by a crazy line of tall trees, right in the middle of the playground. The playground could have been an excellent cricket ground except for those trees. In fact, the whole playground was once a big cricket ground, and it is said that when the ground was divided among the two schools, the curator refused to plant new trees right in the middle of the pitch. His refusal was understandable-all his life he dreamed of making a pitch which would even rival Lord’s pitch in London. Dreams have a heartless way of breaking, don’t they?
It is also said that the curator wasn’t happy with the name of the tree which was planted on his meticulously prepared pitch- the Heart Tree. The Heart Tree was so called because, on the tree there were a lot of hearts. Sanjay Heart Sanjana. Ritu Heart Nikhil. So on and so forth. On his death-bed the curator requested that the tree be named as Stumps.
“Sanjay Stumps Sanjana” certainly sounded better than “Sanjay Heart Sanjana”. But still, the name Heart Tree continued. The Heart tree was the spot for the boys and the girls. It was like the WALL of the two schools, just like in facebook, where boys wrote “I Heart U” messages. Soon the Heart tree ran out of places where one could write. And soon the other trees on the imaginary Line of Control became the new Heart trees.
For Sharmila, the Heart trees were like an alien religion. They had their good points- but they had one flaw- they was not her religion. Her religion was Papistry. She would prefer a guy who followed Papistry than the Heart Trees- just like same caste love-marriage. But she was willing to experiment- and go for inter-caste-love, if somebody wrote on the Heart trees first.
One afternoon after her lunch, she was dangerously flirting with the imaginary Line of Control in the playground- trying to read the many “I Heart” messages.
One of her friends, Priya didn’t like being seen around the Line of Control. She didn’t fear the enemies across the border, but the guards on her side wouldn’t even blink before shooting her down, if they feel that she’s crossing the limits.
“Sharmila!” said Priya, “The teachers might find out we’re here! Let’s go back to Class!”
“Class?” said Sharmila, “What’s fun there? Look at all the prayers of the devotees of Love, here on these trees- just like Papistry!”
“But you said this wasn’t Papistry, and that’s why you don’t like it that much!”
“That was when I was ignorant. Now I have opened my eyes. Can’t you see? Where does Paper come from? Trees! Writing on these trees is also a form of Papistry!”
“You and your logic will kill me- Oh the embarrassment of being caught here! Please let’s go!”
“Ok Ok! You talk as if I was giving you drugs or something!” said Sharmila and turned towards her school. And as she turned, by the power of evolution that gave women a slight advantage in wider vision, than men, in the corner of her big eyes, she caught the Captain of Boys’ High School’s Cricket Team sitting under the Heart Tree, with a Pink Paper and a yellow pen which looked much like a scented pen- much like mango-scented pen. She captured all this info about the boy, as she turned- in less than a second. Truly, women are amazing, aren’t they?
“Papistry!” Sharmila exclaimed.
“I’m tired of that word already!” Priya grumbled.
“Atheist! I can see Papistry happening- there the Captain of Cricket team, Srikanth! He’s writing a love letter!” she said pointing her finger at Srikanth.
“You’re right!” said Priya, “He seems to be writing something on a pink paper with a weird looking pen!”
“That’s a scented pen- Mango-flavored!” said Sharmila, “and I think, I think, he’s looking at me and writing it!”
“What? How can you tell its mango flavored?”
“You always ask the wrong questions!” said Sharmila “Look, look at him! He seems to be stealing glances at me and writing a love letter! Finally the four year wait will be over- My sins are finally washed!”
“Have you gone crazy?” said Priya, “Don’t point your finger at him and smile at him and look so happy! He caught us catching him writing something!”
“Who cares if he caught us or we caught him! It’s Papistry! And it’s so good! I’m so happy!”
Priya dragged Sharmila away from the Heart Trees. Meanwhile, the rest of the Boys’ Cricket team seemed to join their captain, Srikanth, and they all seemed to laugh at him, while Srikanth seemed to get embarrassed.
“See! What did I tell you!” said Sharmila, “He was writing a love letter! Otherwise why would his team-mates make fun of him?”
“Who knows!” said Priya, “Maybe he was writing Poems or something!”
“Love Poems?” asked Sharmila.
“No! Poems about trees and flowers and butterflies and such crap!”
“You really are weird!”
“I don’t want to hear you calling me weird!” said Priya, “Look at you- Smiling and laughing for imagined reasons! You’re the weird one!”
“Look! The boys are leaving and Srikanth is keeping that Pink Love Letter under a rock near the Heart Tree!” said Sharmila, “It is for me! I’m going to take it!”
“Sharmila!” said Priya, “Act natural for once in your life! I can see those boys looking at us! They know that we know!”
“So? Doesn’t that mean that they’re telling me to go ahead and take the letter? They want me to take the letter!”
“You idiot! What if some guard, I mean, some teacher catches us taking a Pink Letter left by a boy? Imagine the embarrassment! And the trouble we’ll get into! I beg you, please, think and do the right thing!”
“Ok!” said Sharmila, and ran towards the Heart Tree, towards the first Pink Letter, meant only for her.
Instinctively Priya ran behind her, to stop her. But it was too late. Sharmila took the Pink Letter from its hiding position.
The Pink Letter was blank, on both sides. There was nothing else around.
Both girls heard the jeering laughter of boys hiding behind some trees, as tears came down like rain on the Pink Letter.
The Gods of Papistry had more bad news for Sharmila- the newest and strictest teacher of Girls’ school practically pulled both girls’ hair, and dragged them to the school office. The teacher, who caught the girls, was observing them from the beginning when they first started flirting with the Line of Control. She had just finished her B.Ed, and joined the staff of teachers a mere two months ago, and she had high regard for morality and as such, was very strict.
“My God!” said the teacher, “How low the girls have fallen these days! Falling for a silly prank of boys in broad day-light! To think that girls would run after a love letter losing all their self-respect! Such a shame!”
“Please forgive us, Madam!” said Priya.
“Who am I to forgive for your shamelessness? Can you forgive yourselves in your hearts? What am I thinking! You probably think that there is nothing wrong in what you did- it was just a paper, right? Left by a boy, right? And you it picked it up, right? To write another one!”
“We are sorry, Madam, We’ll never do this again!” said Priya.
“I know you girls! You’re the trouble-makers of class 9D! And you, Priya- are you Sharmila’s friend?”
“Yes, Madam!” said Priya.
“How can you call yourself her friend? Back in my days, if my friend had done, what she did, I would have slapped her, right in front of all those jeering boys! That is what a friend would’ve done!” said the teacher.
“Madam, Please don’t insult, Priya, it wasn’t her mistake,” said Sharmila, “You remember Papistry right? I just got carried away in fantasizing.”
“Papistry!” yelled the teacher.
“Yes, madam,” said Sharmila, “You remember right? I had given you a Love Letter from a boy, six years ago? And you gave a positive reply for the boy…”
“Because of that Papistry, I had to end up as a teacher!” said the teacher, “That boy cheated me and got married last year- leaving me all alone and miserable! I am going to mend your stupid ways- you have to call your parents, before you can attend any further classes!”
Like every Prophet of any radical new system, Sharmila had to endure the non-believers and their resistance. But unlike those Prophets, who never faltered in their belief- our Sharmila gave up. Not because she didn’t believe in it anymore- but for a cause much nobler. The teacher called Sharmila’s only surviving parent, her mother to office and humiliated her- in front of the entire school staff. If it was anybody’s mistake, it was Sharmila’s- and not her mom’s. It was a letter after all- but to humiliate her innocent mother for no fault of hers, did not go well with Sharmila.
Thus the prophet of Love Letters became an angry young woman- determined to prove to the teacher, and her mother and herself- that she’s not just some girl with no pride or morals.
Back when she was 11, when people asked what her dream was, Sharmila would reply, “I want to become a Marriage Broker!”
Yes, she probably would have made a great Marriage broker. And she probably would have loved doing it. But at 15, when she was asked what her dream was, she would say, “Being a good girl and earning a lot of Money for my Mother!” In short, the path she chose was, to become a Software Engineer and start earning good money for her mother.
How often do kids do this? Sacrifice their dream for a so called better dream? Isn’t a kid’s true happiness a parent’s dream?
At 19, when asked about her dream she would say, “Software Engineer, but a part time Marriage broker for my friends!”
With time, Sharmila cooled down as she approached her dream- almost becoming a Software Engineer. In her 5th semester, she was the top student of the best engineering college in Mysore. Probably many would argue that she experienced the best of both worlds- being a silly innocent girl and being a practical, hard working student. But she herself would never admit that she enjoyed her current situation.
She still longed for the Pink Love Letter, meant for her, and only her, from somebody special.
The blank Pink Letter doesn’t count of course. Even in her 5th semester of her Engineering, she remembered the Captain of the Cricket team, Srikanth, and how she would kick his ass if she ever saw him again. There was something unforgettable, and unforgivable about him that made her miserable and happy all at once, even after four years since he broke her heart. Unaware, her sins had been washed- and the lines on her palm welcomed an old enemy.
Wondering why her palm tickled, Sharmila stood looking at the entrance of college- as if expecting somebody. And as fate would have it. Srikant was walking towards her, with a red envelope!
Sharmila was dumbstruck. It was over three minutes since Srikanth stood near Sharmila- both speechless- looking at each other- looking for the right words.
“Sharmila?” asked Srikanth.
“Yes?” asked Sharmila.
“You re-, really look… I’m re-, really sor… It’s my brother’s wedding next month. Please do attend the marriage ceremony.” mumbled Srikanth.
‘What? The red envelope was a marriage invitation letter?’ Looking at him, and the envelope, a ray of hope had suddenly let her sad heart with happiness. But Sharmila was utterly disappointed. She realized that she was disappointed because Srikanth hadn’t brought a Pink Love Letter, and she was mad. ‘Why this boy, again? Why does he have to look the same, when he looked that day, at me, while he wrote nothing on that blank Pink paper under that Heart Tree? Why do I have expectations from him, as if he owes me a Pink Love Letter? Haven’t I grown up at all? Why am I so hurt?’ She had no answers.
“Excuse me!” asked Srikanth.
“Srikanth! Right? Why are you inviting me to your brother’s wedding? Do I know him?” she asked.
“Yes. His name is Sriram. He was your first customer who asked you to deliver his Love Letter to Rekha.”
“Oh, yes! I know him! I have been in touch with Rekha too. She said she’d send the invitation soon, through some special delivery service!”
“I,” smiled Srikanth, “am the special delivery Service!”
“Oh, she told the wedding would be in Delhi and it’s a two day journey through train…”
“Yes, the tickets are inside.” said Srikanth, “Please do come. My brother and Rekha Dee are very adamant that I convince you to come….”
“No need for convincing!” smiled Sharmila, “I will come. Besides we are having a fest in college during that week, so there won’t be any classes, and I have already informed mom, and since tickets are already here with me, thanks to you, all I have to do is pack!”
“That’s great!” said Srikanth.
And without realizing what she was really doing, she agreed to attend the wedding. When she opened the envelope and saw the pink tickets, she was shocked. The train tickets were for two passengers, one Male aged 21 & the other for Female aged 19.
She called Rekha to tell that she won’t come with the scum of a boy because of whom her mom got humiliated. However her call was futile. After all, she had called a person who had convinced her parents to agree for an inter-caste marriage. Sharmila really had no chance to argue with Rekha, especially on the grounds that Rekha’s brother-in-law was scum who made fun of girls by writing blank love letters to them. Come on, which boy wouldn’t like to make fun of cute girls to attract their attention towards his miserable existence?
One month later she found herself in a train bound towards Delhi for the next two days with a boy she might or might not be in love with or/and she might kill him to avenge her mom’s humiliation and for writing a blank love letter to her- a love letter for which she had waited 4 years, for which she had shamelessly ran.
She would decide on what t do with him based on how he’d behave with her in the first few seconds… He better leave her alone, or else….
He completely seemed engrossed in some novel.
Two hours went by, no response.
Three hours and still, not even a glance at her! Wasn’t he good at stealing glances!
‘He’s definitely ignoring me and leaving me alone on purpose! Who does he think he is!’ thought Sharmila, as she found herself going crazy sitting alone with him.
And Rekha’s words seemed to play in a loopback in Sharmila’s head- ‘Sriram & Srikanth- those brothers are something aren’t they? Sriram started the whole Papistry with his idea of Love Letter+Scented Pen+Blank Pink Paper and asked you to deliver it to me. That Letter changed my life. Look at me today- I am so happy! That Pink Letter affected your life too, right? You went on to help so many love birds, using that idea! And then, from what I hear from you, another pink letter changed your life- this time it was the brother Srikanth. Srikanth scandalously changed your life with just a blank letter, now isn’t that something! In a way, he gave you purpose and determination to do something in your life, though might not agree with the fact! Those brothers have changed our lives in ways they don’t even know. And again, Srikanth has come to you- the same Srikanth who’s so nice and shy, that he can’t even talk properly with his female colleagues in office- he came to you with another pink letter- the tickets. How do you think these pink letters- these tickets will change your life now? ’
Tickets don’t count as Papistry, do they? Tickets can’t change lives, right? Rekha must have strayed from Papistry! Trying to fix his brother-in-law with me! There must be a ton of things wrong with him!
Just then an IRCTC staff member came to take orders for lunch.
“Actually I won’t eat anything because in the left part of my mouth there’s an ulcer and on the right side, a tooth hurts, for some reason” shrugged Srikanth, “Would you like to order something, Sharmila?”
“No” said Sharmila, “I have brought enough food for two days for both of us. I don’t like outside food- even more so in trains….”
“I see,” said Srikanth, “So you have prepared the food yourself?”
“Yes. I am learning how to cook and my mom helped in preparing it…”
“Oh, I see, well,” said Srikanth, “ I just remembered that I lied about having a tooth-ache and an ulcer. I didn’t want to embarrass the IRCTC Staff Member by criticizing their food. I too don’t like food served in trains…”
“Good to hear that you don’t have a tooth-ache or ulcer! Shall we eat now?”
“Yes, uh” said Srikanth, “Do you have any medicated gel for Mouth Ulcers? I forgot to pack…”
Sharmila looked at him with a smile, and shook her head. This guy can’t even hide a lie!
“That’s Ok,” said Srikanth, “I have tooth paste. I, huh, I just have to brush one more time. Will be back in 5 minutes…”
Sharmila saw Srikanth awkwardly walk towards the bathroom without a toothbrush. ‘He definitely has an ulcer, and probably has a tooth ache too. He was lying about lying. And he’s terrible at lying! To eat food prepared by me, he went to apply tooth paste on his ulcer! Nice Guy? Or was he just hungry? Or is it another game?’
Sharmila was smiling for now. ‘Maybe, he’s a nice guy. Rekha said so.’
After they had lunch and some pleasantries exchanged, Srikanth seemed to get more comfortable.
“Looks like I was worrying too much!” said Srikanth.
“You were worried?” asked Sharmila.
“Yes, of course! I mean, I made you cry over a blank paper, didn’t I? I was worried that you might hate my guts…”
“Well I do! I haven’t forgiven you for that yet!”
“I see. But even if you hate me, you seem, I mean, you are so nice to me! You cooked food for me!”
“Oh, now I get why you ran off to put tooth paste on your ulcer! You didn’t want to hurt my chef feelings?” laughed Sharmila, “If I think about it, it was just a silly prank, and I fell for it, that’s it. No big deal. Are you good at pranks?”
“No, I’m not good at planning pranks. And about that day, it was not a prank, I mean, it wasn’t my prank…” said Srikanth.
“What do you mean?”
“I was writing under the Heart Tree and the boys caught me writing and they saw you with Priya pointing your finger at me and smiling- so they, so they made me put a blank paper under that tree…”
“I didn’t expect you to run towards the paper! Not even in my wildest dreams…” said Srikanth.
They were quiet for a while- staring outside the windows of the train. It was monsoon and the cool wind couldn’t keep the thoughts and emotions cool inside that tense atmosphere.
She had to know what he was writing that day. She deserved to know- considering the things she went through…
“What were you writing under the Heart Tree on a pink paper with a yellow mango-scented pen?” asked Sharmila finally.
“I was just scribbling something- nothing important…” said the stunned Srikanth.
“Why did you have to steal glances- to look at me, for scribbling?”
“It was nothing intentional- I was looking everywhere- I’m absent-minded like that- maybe I gave you the impression that I was looking at you…”
“A girl can tell when a boy is looking at her…”
“And that’s, that’s your argument and proof?”
“Yes, what were you scribbling…”
“Ok Ok! I was looking at you, Ok?”
“I already know that- what were you writing?”
“I can’t really tell in words what I wrote…”
“Give it a shot!”
“I can’t really tell! It’s a boy thing!” gulped Srikanth.
And suddenly Sharmila started feeling irritated and stupid. Being lied to by a bad liar is not a good feeling. This boy had been driving her crazy in more ways than one. But what was more irritating was the fact that she was the one who was acting crazy- not him. Could she really blame him, for everything- for what happened that day with the blank letter or the teacher or even now? Most of it was her fault.
She was the one who ran to pick up the pink letter. She was the one who had pissed off the teacher. She was the one who was unnecessarily grilling a shy boy about what he was writing under a tree looking at girls during his high school days.
She felt even more stupid and mad.
They were silent for a few minutes.
“It looks like you are mad at me…” said Srikanth.
“No, I’m Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you something inappropriate.” said Sharmila.
“But you still seem mad than sorry” smiled Srikanth.
“Do I?” laughed Sharmila, “I don’t know, the blank letter of yours brought me a lot of tough times, so I just can’t help but imagine, what if you left something that wasn’t blank! I mean, I know, I sound crazy…”
“I saw the teacher drag you while you were still crying…” said Srikanth, “I’m so sorry, because the guys made me pull a prank on Priya, you got stuck in it…”
“What? The blank paper was intended for Priya?”
“Yes. Didn’t Priya tell you? She used to be my neighbor and always used to drop by my home for some reason or the other & the boys thought that she liked me…”
“Priya never told me about that!”
“I thought you girls were close…”
“I thought so too! But she never mentioned being a neighbor to such a hottie, I mean… I mean, naughty boy- who… who writes blank love letters!”
Both Sharmila and Srikanth blushed for some time.
“By the way, were you writing that letter for Priya?” asked Sharmila.
Sharmila did not know the concept of uncomfortable questions! But then again, even if it was a bad prank, all these days she thought that the blank love letter was meant for her- as if there was some relief in the fact that somebody, and that too not just any somebody, the Captain of the Cricket Team, Srikanth, who she saw- the boy who won many matches, single handedly for his school, the boy who had a funny shyness around him, who sometimes walked ten steps behind her, to school, for almost ten years with a stupid smile- instead of a confident hello- that same Srikanth who was always dear to her, somehow, at least as a prank had written her a love letter, even a blank one- and that thought somehow sustained her angry studious years. But, now he comes along, not so shy, not so cute and lies often- but tells the truth about the one thing she’d rather live, again and again, all her life- as she knew how it was- but he decides to tell her that it was a lie. The prank was not meant for her- but for Priya. The letter was not for her- but for Priya. Anger won’t be enough for the angry young woman this time.
And, Srikanth looked like was in serious dilemma.
“You must have written that letter to Priya- you were looking at me because you wanted to give that letter to me, to ask me to deliver it to her! You thought we girls were close, so you thought that I might deliver it to her without any problems! After all I had done such things in the past!”
“No! no! You are getting it all wrong!” urged Srikanth.
“How many times can I get the same thing wrong- that one thing that changed my life!” said Sharmila, almost crying.
Srikanth was confused even more now. The event changed her life? What did she mean by that? And why did she look so hurt?
“I am feeling a bit tired, I’ll sleep for some time, OK?” said Sharmila.
Srikanth waited till Sharmila fell asleep. He took out his phone and looked at Priya’s Contact number for a few seconds. ‘No, not Priya. Rekha Dee! I should call Rekha Dee, she might know about what Sharmila was talking about!’
And Rekha told him the whole story. But she also told him to keep quiet, and said “Get to know her a little and see if you still want to tell her the truth!”
For the rest of the journey both of them just talked about other things. For some reason, Srikanth became more confident and comfortable around Sharmila. But for Sharmila it was really painful. She wanted to stop thinking about this pink paper mess. But she couldn’t. She felt that for Rekha, the Letter changed her life by bringing forth love for the person who wrote the letter- Sriram. For herself, she felt like, the Letter had brought out the anger, the craziness she had within her towards the person who wrote the Letter- Srikanth.
By the time the wedding was over, Srikanth and Sharmila grew closer. Once the wedding was over, Sharmila had to return back to Mysore- with Srikanth., in the same train for two days. And then part their ways…
Once again, just before lunch time the IRCTC staff member came to take orders for lunch.
“Sharmila, my mom has prepared food for both of us…” said Srikanth.
“That’s very nice of her! Even during the hectic time of his son’s wedding she prepared food for us…” said Sharmila.
“Oh she was worried about you when I told her that you don’t eat the food from train,” said Srikanth, “You really left an impression on them. Everybody loved you at the wedding- you were the centre of attraction during all the songs and dance!”
“Oh really?” smiled Sharmila, “But for all the girls, the centre of attraction was you Mr. Guitar Hero! You really were amazing- and you played so many of my favorite songs!”
“Ah I just joined in when you were singing!” said Srikanth.
“I really loved some of the songs you wrote yourself! You are really talented!”
“Some of them were mine and some of them were from my college rock band, but you’re the one who’s really talented”
“Really? And why is that?” asked Sharmila.
“Even though you were mad at me, you sang with me and danced and made the wedding so much fun. You really have a big heart”
“I think I should really apologize for my behavior, earlier. I asked you so many questions & got mad at you for such a petty reason”
“No, you were right to get mad. I talked to Rekha Dee and she made me realize my mistake. I am sorry- I never knew that the prank had caused you so many problems…” said Srikanth.
“Hey that’s all in the past,” smiled Sharmila, “Friends?”
“Yes, friends!” smiled Srikanth and shook hands.
“So now that we are friends,” said Sharmila, “Can I see that pink letter? I want to see what you wrote to Priya!”
Both Srikanth and Sharmila laughed, “Sure, now?” asked Srikanth.
“You have it with you now?”
“Yes!” he said as he took out a folder from his bag.
Sharmila took the Pink Letter from him. It smelled of mangoes. But it was blank!
“Srikanth!!!” said an irritated Sharmila.
“Turn it over!” laughed Srikanth.
And when she turned over the Pink Paper, she could see a really beautiful sketch of a 15 year old Sharmila- signed by Srikanth. He had drawn a portrait of her with a mango-scented pen.
“I never wrote it for Priya- that day under the Heart Tree, I was writing the letter, for you… But I never had the courage to give it you… Now that I know you, I can’t help but give it to you and show you my feelings, how I felt that day, and how I feel today…”
Sharmila couldn’t believe her eyes. He was stealing glances that day-to sketch her- and so beautifully too! This was the letter that fate had denied her four years ago. But she was really happy- four years was worth the wait. She had seen 399 Pink Love Letters, and this was the best one- and not just because it was meant for her. She couldn’t hold back her tears. Sharmila looked with teary eyes at Srikanth, and he was blushing and smiling and turned his gaze away from her.
“It’s not fair! I suffered so much! And you look so… So uncharacteristically confident! You’re not scared of my rejection?” asked Sharmila wiping her tears.
Srikanth looked at her and said, “Actually, I knew that you won’t reject me from the day of journey from Mysore to Delhi…”
“What! How?” she asked.
“You talk in sleep! And you were…”
“What did I say!” she yelled in horror.
“Of course, you were dreaming…”
“I know that already! But which dream! Which dream!!! I get very embarrassing dreams! Oh my God! Oh my God!!!”
“Oh! This is breaking news! But before we talk about your naughty dream,” laughed Srikanth, “I always wanted to give this letter to you- but it’s still incomplete. I have to make a small change- wait” and he took the Pink Letter from her.
On the blank side of the paper with a mango-scented pen, he wrote down something and gave it back to her. It was his phone number with a grinning self-sketch!
“Give me that mango scented pen” she said after a while and took the pen from him. And from her bag she took out the original blank pink paper that she had taken from the Heart Tree when she was 15 and wrote down something and said, “In my hand are all the stuff a girl receives as part of Papistry- the scented pen is yours and the blank paper is the one you left under the Heart Tree, I am assuming that the sketch is the most beautiful Love Letter, ever, which you have given me, finally, after four long years! And there’s me- so with this the Papistry is complete! This is the 400th reply in Papistry Histroy, you blushing idiot!”
“And the 231st positive reply!” added Srikanth looking at her reply. She had written her phone number too.
“Congratulations! And hey! I can already see the glimpses of my future in this Pink Paper!” he said.
“What do you see!” she asked getting excited.
“Oh I am awake late in the night- listening to what dreams you are having!!!”
“Srikanth! What did I tell you in my dream? What!!!”
He took out his mobile and sent her a SMS.
It read- “Wanna SMSistry?”
She replied, “Gladly- coz it’s still Papistry!!!”
This story is dedicated to Srikanth, for being one of my coolest friends, and Sriram, who will be going away for a while, on a new adventure :)
Though the story is entirely a work of fiction- my sister, Swaroopa and Pavan did give me the seeds, from which this tree of a story has born.