Her name was Misha, meaning ‘smile’. Yet, much as she tried, she could not bring herself to smile anymore. It almost felt as if Life had passed her by lately. She deliberately chose a new city to move to when she returned to India, her home country – a place she had not regarded as ‘home’ for several years now. She was homesick for the life she had left behind. She missed everything about it though she had been there for less than five years – five years of total bliss, peace and quiet, with no one to trouble her. Her last home had been in the English countryside and her last winter had brought in a White Christmas! Her life was her own to live as she pleased…
All that changed within two months of her moving to India. She had desperately searched online for groups that would put her in touch with others who had left foreign shores to reclaim their land of birth as their own once again. She heard from some young man called Nihal, a charming person who soon called her regularly. Yet, every time they were to meet, something or the other occurred to prevent it…Suddenly, one day, Misha realised Nihal had been lying to her all along – he had accidently let slip something about his profession, using which she found out (thanks, Google!) that his real name was Rajiv and not Nihal. She found this disturbing and decided to investigate deeper.
She had an inexplicable feeling in the pit of her stomach that there was more to this than met the eye. She deliberately started mailing him at the id he had given her (with the fake name, of course). Eventually, he turned up outside her workplace and she knew who he was the minute she laid her eyes on him! However, Nihal made no attempt to speak to her or confront her. What transpired subsequently was rather strange – no, downright weird, if you ask anyone…Nihal got into the habit of following her every day from her home to her workplace, every single day, without fail, be it rain or shine.
It was scary at first, but as she got to observe him from close quarters, Misha decided it was all some harmless following by a guy who was plain curious about her life, which was so different from that of most people around. However, as the days went by, it got even more surreal in that he soon got others (Friends? Colleagues? Workers? Who knows?) to follow her too. Some days, it was like a mini convoy of bikes or cars that followed her! All very funny, very ‘Indian filmi shtyle’, she thought and figured she had been out of the country for so long that she no longer could understand her fellow countrymen and their mindset!
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and soon, it was festive time all over the country. Every time she questioned him in an email about his real life, she would be met with silence, but the silent ‘stalking’ continued unabated…Once in a while, she would get a nasty text message from Nihal, saying she was so desperate so as to communicate with a total stranger despite no replies. Other times, he would send her a text message, asking her to meet someplace or the other…Soon, these invitations stopped. Yet, the stalking continued. Since Misha was new to the city and knew no one, she let it be as it was all harmless. She continued with her struggles in readjusting to life in her own country again. She had a new career to forge, new dress codes at work, new weather patterns all over again…she soon started feeling safe in the presence of the stalker. From ‘Nihal’, he became her ‘friendly stalker’, as she now liked to think of him. ‘Friendly’ because he did not seem like a threat, just a silent admirer, who often seemed to pave the way to a smoother life for her – or so it seemed.
Soon, Misha, who once felt so lonely in the new city, felt like she had a ‘real’ friend around. For the stalker seemed to always be in the background, be it night or day. He and his friends often rented a nearby apartment to make sure she was all right. He often stayed around till about 11 at night and then would zoom off on his bike or drive away in his car. Did Misha know this was going on? Of course, she did! She was very observant and often did not let it on that she was aware of what was going on around her. Others to whom she confided in about this stranger in her life thought she herself was a bit crazy! So, she soon learnt to just ignore what was going on. Misha figured it was all right, just ‘All right’ to let someone be, just ‘Be’. What was the point in confronting this person, who has patiently tolerated everything from mosquito bites to pouring rain to heavy traffic – all to just make sure she reached her workplace or home safe? Who was she to tell him to mind his own business? She soon started treating him as a friend, mailing him about her day, her plans for the weekend and so on. Was this madness? Misha surely did not think so. She knew of several people who had successful and happy online friendships going on, and she took this to be another such similar experience. She found nothing wrong in this at all!
Yet, the one thing that kept troubling her was the stalker’s reluctance to meet her face-to-face or speak to her again, now that she knew his real identity. She kept tabs on him by occasionally Googling him and was satisfied he was no Boston Strangler or Jack the Ripper. He was the son of a prominent businessman in the city, a textile merchant, and therefore did not have anyone to report to at work. His time was his own for him to do what he felt like. She did not think he was married and was under the impression he was just a footloose and fancy-free rich kid who had lost his way in Life…The one thing unwavering was his interest in her life and his determination to make sure he knew everything about her current life. Misha often found him funny – she had once seen him nearly falling off a neighbour’s terrace when he realised she had spotted him! Another time, she had taken over some freshly baked goodies to her neighbour’s home and handed them to him. He seemed so young and immature at close quarters and she found it flattering indeed that he was still around – after nearly two entire years!
Yes, the stalker had now been a part of her life for nearly two years. He and his friends were familiar faces not just to Misha, but to her entire neighbourhood as well, she was convinced. And then, one day, just like that, when she Googled him again, she came across a fresh photo of him online – a group photo taken officially, where he was clearly wearing a wedding band? Misha was shocked to her core as this was not something she had ever expected! She took the sensible route and immediately contacted her former neighbour, at whose house she had often seen Nihal and his gang of friends. The neighbour insisted the person she had met was not the stalker and had, in fact, left the city due to recurring complications from an appendicitis procedure. He said the person with the big Labrador was not a stalker, but a co-tenant who was very much single? Misha was still unconvinced and sent a clear email to the stalker, telling him to stop the stalking as he was ‘married’. Yet, this had no effect on the stalking activities and Misha had no choice but to just Let Things Be…For isn’t that what happens in India? Sab Kuch Chalta Hai…
However, after one particular festival, Misha decided to get on with some persistent Googling…She checked out dozens of pages and came across his company’s details, which were (Surprise! Surprise!) in the name of a lady who could only be his wife, for she carried his surname! Misha researched more online and found out this wife’s social media page and sent her a detailed message…
Why did Misha do this? She felt she owed it to the wife to know what was going on. Misha also felt a bit sorry for the wife and any possible children of the union. Misha wanted the wife to put a stop to the stalking as she had gotten fed up of being followed everywhere. She craved her former independence. It was now nearly three years since she had moved to this new city and it was now her ‘Home’. Misha’s own friends were divided about her actions. Some felt she was wrong in taking off the wife’s rose-tinted glasses; others felt she had done the right thing and her conscience was clear. It was Misha’s attempt to Right a Wrong – she had not done anything wrong herself; she had not encouraged the stalking; she merely needed a new friend in a new city.
However, there were no replies to Misha’s message. She sent another one…and a third after a few days. And then, she thought someone else in the family needed to be informed. Misha was now getting desperate as she did not want to be in the midst of a marital issue. Jeez – she had better things to do than counsel couples whose marriages were falling apart! Yet, she felt she owed it to the stalker (who was probably a bit disturbed in some way emotionally) to make sure he had help to overcome this compulsion to follow some strange person when he should ideally be spending time with his own family. She felt sorry about the stalker’s emotional disturbances…but felt even more sorry for herself as she had practically lost all independence! In her initial years in a strange city, it felt good to be looked out for by someone she had come to know, but at some point, it gets to be too much…Misha was followed everywhere – to the supermarket, to her gym, to coffee shops, to her library…and even to a nearby city along the motorway?
Misha, in her desperation, messaged the stalker’s brother and gave him a gist of the story, imploring him to help her stop the stalking…She truly believed this was someone who would be able to help her. But, imagine her surprise when she received a nasty reply, calling her a ‘f****** b****’, threatening her with dire consequences if she so much as sent him another message? Misha was truly gobsmacked – is this how people behave in the New India? All she had been trying to do was save a marriage, nothing else…Yet, in a way, this ploy worked as the wife was made aware of the situation soon by the stalker’s brother!
Did this stop the stalking? NO…everything continued as before…Misha soon gave up on her attempts to stop the stalking and got busy with her own life. Nihal was a good person at heart, just terribly misguided – of that she was sure! Some day, one day, she wishes she no longer has to look over her shoulders and see a familiar face or a familiar shirt following her…Some day, she will be on her own again…Some day, Misha will be free again…free to live her own life and be with the one she was meant to be with…Some day, the stalker will realise marriages are worth fighting for…Some day, the stalker’s wife will thank her…Some day, the stalker’s brother will send her an apology…Will he? Ha…that’s for Fate to reveal!
Misha still believes in the inherent goodness of people…