Back in the present, Neel was gearing up for a rendezvous.
//———– Remember Neel met ‘Blue’ at the University, but still didn’t have the courage to ask her name and start a conversation——-//
Neel was extra cautious with his selection of shirt this morning. He said he was inspired by my mention of grandpa’s love story and had decided to give his namby-pamby heart a push today such that it can master the nerve to talk to ‘Blue’. It was amazing the way he said ‘Blue’, as if it was the most precious secret.
I went out to do what you may call community service. Since I cannot get infected with the pathogen I am allowed to move around in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Barton was a photo journalist; mom visits her whenever she is in town; the lady lives alone so mom had asked her not to hesitate to give me a call if need be. This morning she gave a call asking if I could help her with the lawn. Her robo-mow was out of order and since the city was locked down she wasn’t able to get it repaired.
Since the yeast was caught in Sydney with a rapid transmission from human to human in a hospital; 70 patients within 48 hrs, Australia has been locked down. Did I mention that we live near the city of Melbourne in Australia? Well, we do, almost in the woods; and mom and dad live in New Zealand, so they can’t visit us currently.
That is the protocol; close international borders with immediate effect, bar all intercity human movement for two weeks. Robots and drones are used to maximum potential with remote maneuvering to deliver essentials and run public utility services.
This time, it should take about a month to tackle the fungus; that is what Neel tells me. It is not novel but highly contagious and doesn’t have a known cure.
The expression on Neel’s face as he came home in the evening resembled that of a defeated king who has lost all hopes. He changed and went on to the sit out on the lawn. I offered him a drink and he took it with a pale smile. “She didn’t come today,” he said in a voice that had a mix of melancholy and complaints. I tried to assure him that she will come tomorrow. “No Dr, Matheus said that he has asked her not to come, he will manage as he doesn’t want to expose more people to the threat. After all, we are dealing with live genetic material in the lab.” Neel’s voice had a pensive note.
Today morning was different from the past few days, Neel didn’t blabber, he quietly finished his breakfast, put on a t-shirt, didn’t even look at the mirror, and went off. If I had a heart I would be heartbroken. Before ‘Blue’ happened, Neel was a happy man, happy with his work, home, pets, mom, dad, and me. Now it seemed he has nothing. ‘How does a single person become as important?’ I thought meditatively. I wish mom was here to explain, I’ll have to call her soon.
The garden had my attention through most of the day; I was still working on the weeds when a call came. I ignored at first but then it rang again, I thought it might be important and accepted it. And guess what? It was not only an important call; it was as you say, ‘The important call’.
I was hardly able to wait for the right time to give him the news, but actually did wait; being an AI has its advantages. ‘Long face’ came out and sat on the porch after changing. You know who I am talking about, yes Neel! I started in a matter of fact way. “Ms. Wilson called, she asked for your personal number and I gave her.” I waited for his response. “Okay,” he said impassively. “Won’t you ask why she wants your number?” I showed a surprise. “Another conference I need to attend…”, there was acquiescence in his voice.
“Ms. Wilson is Blue!” I almost screamed. Neel looked at me. He sat up, then stood up, walked towards me and said, “Crogy?” “Yes Neel, her name is Sienna Wilson. She got our home number from the directory and called to find out your personal number, check if she messaged?”
Neel ran to get his mobile phone cum watch which he had thrown away on the desk somewhere once he came home. “She called Crogy! I missed. She has messaged!” Neel was animated. “What did she say Neel?” I asked curiously. “I have been following your work professor Roy and it would be great if I could talk to you in person. I thought of doing that at the university but since I am not allowed there any more, can I please call you at your convenience?” Neel read the message out aloud.
He looked at me and I said, “It is a good start and it might be just a pretext to get in touch with you.” “How do you know about pretext and all that Crogy?” Neel said with a sly smile. Neel was once more his enthusiastic self and I wanted it to be that way. I made a facial gesture like ‘iron man’ to convey I am the expert. Neel laughed out loud. “Get ready for dinner professor Roy,” I said and went into the house leaving him with Blue’s thoughts or should we start calling her Sienna, now that we know her name.
What a coincidence, another crisis, another love story, 70 years apart, all in the family. Hope it doesn’t go through the same turmoil. Mom was lucky she dated offline, meeting dad almost every day for 5 years before they finally decided to have Neel and thus got married.
‘It was a simple affair, without any melodrama’ is how mom puts it. Mohit and Diwakar were friends; the two families had known each other for decades. They belonged to the same guild of spice traders, of the eastern region, based out of Kolkata. While Divakar went on to position himself at the helm of his family business after graduating, being the only son; Mohit took to getting employed in an IT company and shifted base to Bangalore, leaving the business to his two brothers.
So when Diwakar’s elder daughter got married it was but natural that Mohit and his entire family were invited. Mohit was extremely delighted to attend it with his wife and only daughter Mishka.
Mishka was not very excited, having stayed in Sweden most of her life, she was not very comfortable at the idea of being at a ‘big fat Indian wedding’ as she had seen in the movies. But then, who went to pick them up at the airport along with her cousin brothers? Kunal; Diwakar’s son, a geologist working in Canada!
It was as they say, ‘love at first sight’! The wedding became most exciting for Mishka; Kunal who had been moving around with a glowering face all this while was suddenly most amicable and ever-smiling; it didn’t take long for people to figure out that another celestial connection has happened, going by the human convention, ‘matches are made in heaven’!
Mishka and Kunal wanted to be around each other but he had a job to attend to and Mishka was free to join any university to further her studies in journalism, so she opted to move to Canada. Her parents had no qualms about their daughter’s decision; they had brought her up such that she could make her own choices. Diwakar and his wife Shalini were happy that the otherwise unruly Kunal found a companion and that too in their own community!
Thus bonded Mishka and Kunal, Neel’s beloved parents.