The girl who loved crosswords and Erich Segal’s ‘Love Story’.

Doing a part-time job during my summer hols had some other fringe benefits as well. We were a gang of youngsters at work and we did make friendships that lasted far beyond our 2-3 months association during the sales campaign. And even during that time, it was very exciting to meet one another every day and get to discover our personalities and interests.

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By the end of the day we all used to assemble at our ‘meeting-points’ to submit our survey forms and sales orders. It used to be a rather chilled out hour as we put away from our minds the cares and worries of the day gone by and spent some time catching up with the others in the group. I used to spend some time solving the daily crossword puzzle that appeared in our papers – Sudoku was not known at that time.

A girl from our campaign approached me as she too was interested in solving crosswords and was stuck on some clues. Luckily I was able to help her that day and we got into the routine of doing the puzzles together. She often complained that I was rather impatient and rash in filling up the answers that were discovered to be the ‘wrong’ ones as they didn’t interlock. Nonetheless some of my ‘inspired’ hunches did work at times and we used to solve the puzzle¬†faster. Inevitably we would miss a few and it would be great fun to discover the answers that would be published the next day.

We got to know about our other interests – and it was rare to find such a close match. Both of us loved to read books and write articles for the papers. But the similarity ended there a bit for she was very social and outgoing while I was the quiet and shy guy. She had published a few ‘Middles’ in a local newspaper and while I had published some articles in youth supplements and local magazines, the ‘Middle’ always eluded me. To publish ‘Middle’ was a mark of recognition in the small club of amateur writers and I always hankered to have one published. She really helped me put together my first piece that finally appeared as my first ‘Middle’. And that set me on the road to publish many more.

One day an article of mine was published in our paper and she was eager to read it. But somehow that day we received the previous day’s paper for reference, so I could not show it to her. She made an interesting comment, ‘If an article of mine would appear I would carry it with me all day long and will share it with anyway who wanted to read it’. I was amused by the intensity of her interest and promised to share it the next day. Any writer would appreciate, an interested reader wherever he is to be found.

She also had a talent to write poems but they were strictly personal and she never showed them to anyone. Poetry was something I never developed a taste for and so I could neither read nor write it.

Somerset Maugham was my favourite writer. She just loved Erich Segal’s books, ‘Love Story’ being her favourite. In fact she could not fathom why he spoilt it by writing its sequel ‘Oliver’s Story’. And the sequel had failed as well as people could not connect to it. I saw the situation a bit differently – I felt that writing was far from a being a lucrative profession and if I one could cash in the success of a previous novel, it was quite logical to give it a shot. Maugham’s commercial success has many echoes of his pet themes, wherein the scenario and locale will be changed, but the trademark Maugham style could be recognized and enjoyed for its own sake.

We debated on many things from Russian authors to Ayn Rand to Capitalism v/s Socialism. It is interesting now for me to spot the trend where it seems she spoke from her heart while I spoke from my mind.

She took a break from the campaign and went to Mangalore as her elder sister was getting married. And when she returned she seemed to be happy but still a bit subdued. I tried to chaff her a bit and she avoided getting drawn by my banter.One could sense that her sister’s marriage had been a big change in her life and she had become rather quiet now. She didn’t continue to work for much longer after that. Her parents too were lonely now and did not care much for her to be roaming the streets so late in the evenings. And we were campaigning in areas quite far from her home and even commuting took quite some time. So eventually she left the job. We exchanged addressed and luckily continued our friendship.

As a letter writer she was a bit erratic but whenever she wrote one could catch the minutiae of life and it was as good as sitting and having a nice chat with someone. She loved to track new articles of mine that would appear once in a while including the Middles and would always comment on the same. She always encouraged me to continue writing. She was very close to her family and enjoyed celebrating the small moments in life. I lost touch with her for quite a while as I busied myself with my MBA and the Corporate career. It’s good to reminisce about the old memories and occasionally yearn to re-live the ‘Wonder Years’ of one’s youth again.

Photographer:Tom Hahn Collection:E+ Courtesy: Getty Images
Photographer:Tom Hahn
Courtesy: Getty Images


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