How I met your Father
As always, I was with Nana that summer and there was nothing much to do. Films, web series and an occasional book were how I spent my time. I was nineteen, young and ambitious, yet lazed around during the vacations. Nana had a huge garden and was very fond of it. She would spend hours simply wandering in them. She always said that the gardens were the best during summers when I came. But I never understood what was so fascinating about a big old garden. For me, it was just as boring as attending a lecture by Professor Madhu and I wasn’t much of an outdoor person anyway. Nana had a sharp tongue and often rebuked me for always staying indoors, in front of screens. But as I liked to say, nothing could tear me apart from my movies.
Then one day, while I was watching ‘Jab We Met’ for the millionth time, Nana began yelling for me from the gardens. I could hear the excitement in her voice but I felt scared somehow. Nana never yelled. She had it as a rule that no one could yell in her house. I got out of my room and stepped out of the house through the backdoor. After a few minutes, I found her talking animatedly to someone on the other side of the wire fence at the far end of the garden. The young man talking to her was a nerd. He was a tall, lean man with dark brown eyes and shabby unkempt hair. He wore blue striped full-sleeved shirt and black trousers, black spectacles and had a broody look. He was speaking politely to Nana and I wanted to do nothing with him. I turned around and was about to escape when I accidentally tripped and Nana spotted me. “Come on here now, Ann. Why did you take so long? Trying to avoid us, huh? When will you learn your manners? Let me introduce you to someone. This is Alan. See? Our new neighbour. He has just moved into Rahul’s house on rent and will be here for six months. He’s a genius. He is researching butterflies! Butterflies, Ann! Unlike you, he loves trees and plants and herbs and birds and insects. And he said he loved my gardens! You could learn a thing or two from him, young lady! Now, won’t you say hi?”
I was too embarrassed to say anything. I could see that Mr. Nerdie had detected my embarrassment and caught a little hint of laughter at the corner of his lips. I felt like strangling him. I wanted to storm off but for the sake of manners, I introduced myself. “Hi. I’m Ann. I’m here just for the summer.” “Oh, that’s great!” Nerdie said. “This place is at its best during summer. I hear that some rare birds have migrated here now. Have you seen them?” “No, I’m not much of an outside person. I don’t wander meaninglessly in gardens. I’d rather watch a movie or two,” I said a bit sourly. Nana frowned. Nerdie raised an eyebrow. I shook my head and stormed off.
A few days later, I was opening the curtain in my room with my headphones on, listening to Taylor Swift, when I saw something interesting through the windows. A big yellow basin filled with water was placed on one of the lower branches of the huge mango tree next door. The slanting, golden rays of the summer sun reflected on the water, making the water liquid gold. A bird, none that I’d ever seen before, with slanting eyes, blue wings, a luxurious feathery tail and a crown on its head, flapped its wings and landed near the basin. The bird had an air of royalty about it. It was the epitome of elegance. It stepped into the basin and even that looked regal. Standing in the cool water, it dipped itself into the liquid gold, came up and shook its feathers. It then dipped itself again, came up, shook its feathers and looked around. It then flew away with an imperial air. Like a true-born noble. That was the first time something outside my screens had fascinated me. It was only when I finally tore my eyes away from the basin and looked up, that I realized that Mr. Nerdie was standing right next to the mango tree and was looking straight at me. He had seen me watching the bird. This time though, he had a genuine smile. I smiled back.
That evening, I went to Alan’s place with some freshly baked cookies. I rang the doorbell and when he opened the door, he looked confused. He wasn’t expecting me and the cookies puzzled him even more. “Hey, Alan. Peace treaty?” I asked, giving him the cookies. Alan looked even more baffled. I realised that he hadn’t understood what my peace treaty was or why we needed one anyway. I reminded myself that the guy was a nerd and tried again. “See, I was rude to you the day we met and I feel bad about it. Especially after what I saw this morning. So, I came to apologize. Maybe we could start over and be friends after all.” This time he understood. “Well, apology accepted,” he said. He took the cookies from me and giving me a nerdish grin, said, “But I did think that cookies were only for kids aged zero to ten.” And then I exclaimed out loud what I’d been thinking since the first moment I had met him, “What a nerd!” He laughed. We then took the cookies to his front lawn and ate them watching the beautiful sunset.
“And that Cassie, is how I met your father,” I said, giving Alan a peck on his cheek. We were all having dinner, me, Alan and Cassie, our eight-year-old. Cassie had been asking for this story for weeks now and now that she had heard it, she looked a little disappointed. “But that’s not a romantic story,” she complained. “No sweetie,” Alan said, reaching his hand over to mine, “That, was a Summer Story.”