The incorrigible pessimist, Sabrina, teaches English in City College, Kappur. She had been extremely surprised when she received an appointment letter from the Principal requesting her to join the college on June 1st, 2000. She had been absolutely sure that no college in its right mind would want her – plain, dull, Sabrina. No force on earth can convince Sabrina that she is neither plain nor dull. Her knowledge of English language, literature and critical theories is flawless. Yet, she feels that her colleagues know better. With her clear, fair complexion, dark, expressive eyes and dark, curly hair, she is attractive in her own rights. Yet, she feels that she is not worth looking at. Of course, she is a bit on the short and plump side. But a short and plump Sabrina is much better looking than a thin and tall Sabrina. She had been absolutely sure that no man in his right mind would marry her. So she had been surprised when Andy had not only married her but also given her two children.
One fine morning, (but not so fine for Sabrina) she was having breakfast with her family, a ghost from the remote past haunting the recesses of her mind and making her feel dull and miserable. This was the wrong time for Andy to have spoken, but he spoke all the same.
“Sabrina!” he said, sharply.
“What?!” barked Sabrina.
“What is this?” asked Andy, pointing to the stuff in his plate.
“Can’t you see?” Sabrina demanded. “Can’t you even smell? It is upma.”
“Upma?” asked Andy, incredulously. “It resembles the gum in the post office and smells like guano.”
Sabrina’s first born laughed like a fiend. Sabrina sprang to her feet, seething. Families! What ungrateful wretches! Who ever created husbands and children?
“Well, I am going to college,” she said, gritting her teeth. “You can wash the guano off the plates yourself.”
Sabrina dressed grimly, examining the ghost in her mind. It was a tall, dark, thin young man in a formal suit holding a mobile in his hand. The lyric, “I’m a Barbie doll,” floated from the mobile. His features were blurred in the mists of time. Sabrina blinked back tears.
“Bastard!” she thought. “But then, all men are bastards irrespective of the martial status of their parents.”
She stormed out of her room, armed with her handbag, her sari swishing around her. Andy and their first born were washing dishes in the kitchen. The kitchen already looked as if it was attacked by a tsunami.
“One of these days I am going to commit suicide,” Sabrina threatened.
“Please do so,” said her husband, amiably, looking like a Mihir Sen who had just swum across the English Channel.
Sabrina stormed out of the house and hailed an auto. She knew it would cost her fifty bucks but she didn’t care. She would take the money from Andy’s wallet that evening. Now, all that she wanted to do was to lean back in the seat of the auto and wander back in time. She was in the mood to be miserable that day.
* * * * * * *
It was the year 1999. Sabrina was in the final year of her Masters Course in English in Kappur University. Sabrina, the incorrigible pessimist was also an incorrigible romantic in the year 1999. Her friends Ramya and Chaithra already had their clandestine love affairs and Sabrina was jealous. She wanted a clandestine affair too so that she wouldn’t feel left out when Ramya and Chaithra chattered about their boyfriends.
“You will find a nice guy soon, Sabrina,” Chaithra said, gently.
“Well, I want one right now,” said Sabrina. “It should be a nice passionate love affair followed by marriage and then we should live happily ever after.”
Her friends laughed.
“Tell me, Ramya,” continued Sabrina. “How did you find your boyfriend?”
“He is my cousin’s friend,” said Ramya. “We met at a wedding.”
“How nice!” said Sabrina enviously. “My cousins’ friends are all ugly except one and I am sure he won’t look at me. What about you Chaithra?”
“I met him in a chat room,” said Chaithra. “The Beer Lovers Room, to be exact.”
“Do you love beer?” asked Ramya, surprised.
“I don’t,” laughed Chaithra. “I love the guy I met there.”
“Where is this Beer Lovers Room?” demanded Sabrina. “Take me there and teach me how to chat. I will find someone there, too.
“But, Sabrina……,” began Chaithra.
“No buts,” said Sabrina, sharply. “We will go to the cyber café together and you will show me the Beer Lovers Room. Do you want me to remain a spinster all my life?”
That was how she found herself in front of the computer and inside the Beer Lovers Room. An IM popped up with a message from Demonlover. “Hi,” typed Demonlover.
“Chaithra, what do I do now?” bleated Sabrina, almost falling off her chair in excitement.
“Type a reply, goose,” said Chaithra, impatiently. “Type, ‘Hi!’”
Nervously, Sabrina typed, “Hi!”
“Are you from Moodubidri?” typed Demonlover.
The girls giggled.
“Type, ‘I am from Kappur, 25kms from Moodubidri,” instructed Chaithra.
And so, under Chaithra’s able guidance, the chat progressed and ended with both Demonlover and Sabrina adding each other to their Messenger.
When Sabrina walked out of the cyber café, her eyes were bright and her legs were shaking. She caught hold of her friend’s arm.
“Do you think I will meet him tomorrow?” she asked, breathlessly.
“Of course you will,” assured Chaithra. “He likes you and you are already in love with him. Be optimistic, Sabrina!”
“Are you sure?” Sabrina asked, laughing nervously.
“Yes,” said Chaithra. “Don’t be a silly goose, Sabrina!”
The next day Sabrina couldn’t pay attention to the professor’s lecture on Hawthorne’s “Scarlett Letter.” She didn’t care about scarlet letters stitched on the bosoms of women accused of adultery. She had embarked on an adventure that left her breathless with excitement. As soon as the bell marked the end of the session and the beginning of the lunch break, Sabrina raced to the University Internet Café and logged in to her messenger. When she found Demonlover online, her heart somersaulted for sheer joy.
“Hi,” she typed.
“You are back,” he typed.
“Yes,” she typed. “I could hardly listen to that old man talk about Hawthorne.”
“Who is Hawthorne?” he typed.
And so the chat proceeded for another hour until the bell forced Sabrina to drag her unwilling mind, soul and body to another boring lecture on Milton.
Sabrina had fallen in love and she had fallen like a ton of bricks. Having fallen in love for the first time in her young life, she lost herself. She couldn’t think of anything else. She was no longer interested in the simple pleasures of life. She spent long hours dreaming of the beautiful life she and Demonlover would have together. She stopped listening to lectures. She skipped her midday meals and spent the precious lunch hour chatting with her beloved. Her friends teased her mercilessly but she did not care. She went through life radiant, confident that she had found true love, believing herself to be the most fortunate girl on earth.
Everyday, she raced into the cyber anxious and afraid that he wouldn’t be online. But Demonlover was always online. They discovered that they had similar tastes, likes and dislikes. They realized they were twin souls. They poured out the story of their lives, the innermost secrets of their soul to each other. They shared their joys and sorrows. As the days passed their chat became long, intense, emotional and passionate. The words, ‘I love you’ became the most commonly used words in their vocabulary. When they were not chatting, they wrote long, hot, emotional emails to each other. Every night he called her on her mobile and they talked on into the wee hours of the night. Demonlover got into Sabrina’s blood like a virus. He possessed her heart, mind, body and soul. He became her life and soul. The whole world was camouflaged in his glamorous presence.
Anxiety slipped into Sabrina’s mind along with intense love. Love filled her with nameless fears- fears that she never had before. What if she lost him? What if he got tired of her? What would she do without him?
“I wouldn’t be able to live without him,” she thought miserably. “I would rather commit suicide.”
Life minus Demonlover was nonexistent for Sabrina. She spent long hours in front of the mirror, critically inspecting the extra pounds and the slight blemishes on her face.
“I am so ugly,” she thought, miserably. “I am sure he will be revolted. I wish I could slim down.”
She thought enviously of Ramya’s slim figure.
“What if he doesn’t like me when we finally meet?” she thought, nervously.
So far, they had only exchanged their photographs and had never met each other face to face.
She voiced her fears on chat, through email and on phone and waited anxiously for his response.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I give a damn for looks.”
“I love you for what you are, for your golden character and not your looks,” he assured her.
“I am worried if you will like me,” he voiced his own uncertainty. “I have acne scars on my face.”
“If course, I will like you,” she said, hotly. “I love you!”
“I love you too,” he replied. “I love you a lot, a lot, a lot and a little more that a lot.”
And Sabrina was thrilled.
He flew to Kappur from Dubai, the following month. She rushed to Kappur Airport to meet him. The lovers embraced and kissed.
“We are made for each other,” thought Sabrina, happily.
They talked for long hours. They visited all the lovely places in Kappur. He had dinner with her family. She had dinner, lunch, breakfast and tea with him. They shared intimate, passionate moments in secret. He loaded her with gifts and promises. She loaded him with gifts and kisses. Sabrina felt that she was already married to this man. They talked of having children. He planned to buy a house and a car for his bride in Kappur city. They even met a real estate agent and saw a few picturesque houses together. When it was time for him to go back to Dubai, she was heart broken and wept buckets. He chided her gently for being a cry-baby and promised to be back in six months. He promised to phone, chat and email as usual.
After he left, she desperately waited for news from him. She expected a call but got a text message on her mobile instead. Demonlover had reached Dubai safely. She expected him to be online as usual but got an email instead. His company had uninstalled the Messenger and they could no longer chat. Sabrina was numb with shock. She walked around like a zombie. In an email, he promised to keep in touch through emails and she felt consoled. He still loved her and he would be in touch. In another email, he said that he would be online on Sunday. He said that he would go to a cyber café for that purpose. Sabrina was happy and eagerly waited for that Sunday.
He met her online for four Sundays and then said that he could no longer meet her online as his Company was sending him on a round the world business trip. He was now promoted to the post of human resource manager and was in charge of recruitment too along with customer care services. He was tired of working and he missed her. He promised to continue writing emails and said that he would wait for her emails.
Sabrina rushed to the cyber cafe everyday to check her emails and write back to him. She wished he would call but he never did. He claimed to be too busy at work. He was now never online. She never received any reply to her SMS and when she asked him about this, he said that he had replied and the he had no idea why she hadn’t received his messages. For the first time, Sabrina did not believe him. For the first time, she doubted his love. Shocked and heart broken Sabrina noticed his emails become tri-weekly, then bi-weekly and finally weekly. She tried calling him on his mobile but it was always busy.
Life had come to a stand still for Sabrina. She felt lonely and useless.
“Maybe he didn’t like my looks,” she thought wretchedly. “But he could have told me.”
“Perhaps he wanted a short term fling,” she thought, after yet another week. “But he could have told me. I would have made it clear to him that I was not interested in short term flings.”
“Where did I go wrong?” She wondered, tossing and turning on her bed before waking up to another morning, tired and bleary-eyed after yet another sleepless night.
Finally, she decided to remind him of his promises.
“Dear sweetheart,” she wrote. “You have drawn away from me. Day by day, the gap between us is widening and I can’t understand the reason for it. You do not give me the time you once used to. You hardly have the time to call me or chat online with me. You don’t even SMS me. You are forever roaming the globe. When do we settle down? Do you remember your plan of buying a house in Kappur? I will be happy if you seriously think about it now as it will be of great help to me. Yours, Sabrina.”
The next day, she found a reply in her inbox.
“Hi there, Sabrina,” he wrote. “I read your letter many times. You seem to be very upset with me. You complain that I am forever roaming the globe. Let me inform you that I go wherever the company sends me for business and not for pleasure. Do you have any idea how hard I work? I signed a contract with my company that I would travel anywhere and anytime. Do you know that I spend most of my life in airports and hotels? Do you know how tough it is to live on junk food, far away from home? Only my company and I know how hard I work, where I go and what I do.
As for the house in Kappur, it is out of the question now. I have a loan of ninety lakhs on my head. I have to pay it off first. Why else do you think I am working like a donkey, day in and day out? I want to pay off my loans and then settle down in India.
Have a great weekend. Bye.”
Sabrina stared at the email in a state of shock. The figure 90, 00,000 beat into her brain like a drum. How did he manage to incur such loans? At last she realized that she knew absolutely nothing about this man. If he couldn’t afford to buy a house, why did he get in touch with a real estate agent and look at houses in Kappur? Why didn’t he tell her about this loan? How could he be in his right senses if he had such loans on him? She felt sorry for him, sorry that she had ever reminded him about the house in Kappur and afraid that she might have hurt him. She wrote him an email pacifying him. She tried calling him and he never received the call. He never wrote another email. Demonlover had vanished without a trace, leaving her in shambles. Cold hard reality had triumphed love.
Sabrina waited for his calls and emails out of sheer force of habit. The affair had lasted three months and it had shattered her. It’s after effects lasted for three more months. She cursed and cried for three months and then slowly began to recover. She emerged from the ordeal shining like burnished gold. She became a tougher, more practical Sabrina, incapable of loving anybody the way she had loved Demonlover. She struggled to find a world she had forgotten, the dull, ordinary, secure world she had never appreciated. She finally noticed her MA text books. Her ears became alert to the voices of her lecturers. She passed MA with a first class. She then found a teaching job in City College. Her parents found Andy and she married him. After nine months, she delivered a baby boy.
* * * * * * * * *
“Madam!” said the auto driver.
“Oh!” Sabrina came back to 2006 with a start.
She paid the driver and joined the crowds of students walking towards the huge, grey college building.
Some part of her still hurt. It still waited for Demonlover. She knew now that Demonlover could give her nothing but misery. With his debts and a job that required him to travel all the time, he would never have been able to give her the attention and love she longed for. Yet, the term Demonlover now symbolized the perfect love everybody seeks but hardly finds. Her husband was not the perfect love. Andy was a pain in the ass but he was social security.
Where were the glamour and the romance? Where was the love that saw nothing but beloved, wanted nothing but the company and happiness of the beloved, dreamed nothing but a life of joy with the beloved? Where was the love that resided in a fairy world of its own, a world of sweetness and joy, of moonlight and roses, a world that cared nothing for social rules and hard realities?
It was gone without a trace with Demonlover. She was too mature and hard to love anybody like that. She also knew for certain that she would never find a love like that. She was sure that Demonlover had never loved her that way. It was an ideal, a dream, a concept and an incorrigible part of her still longed for its realization while the more practical part of her was certain of its non existence. Her husband would never say the words Demonlover once said to her and Demonlover would never give her what Andy could give. She wished for a curious combination of Demonlover and Andy but knew that it did not exist. She sighed heavily.
The mobile phone rang and her heart jumped.
“Still waiting for Demonlover,” she thought, laughing.
It was Andy.
“Have you committed suicide?” he asked.
“Oh, hang yourself!” she cried. “I have a class in five minutes.”
A bell rang and she disconnected the phone in a hurry.