Friday, February 12, 2010

Name does matter...

Ulka. It’s Ulka – U. L. K. A. – that’s my name, not Alka,” screamed
the lady.

“I’m sorry Ma’am. It’s just a small mistake,” the ticketing clerk, a
young girl, said apologetically.

“Small mistake? You spell my name wrongly and call it a small mistake?”

“I must have heard wrongly on the phone.”

“It’s carelessness. Anyway change the ticket.”

The ticketing clerk took the ticket from the lady and with her pen
overwrote ‘U’ in place of the ‘A’ changing ‘Alka’ to ‘Ulka’.

“What nonsense is this?” flared the lady.

“How does it matter, Ma’am? It’s just a minor change of spelling.
Besides your surname is spelt correctly.”

“Minor change? You need an attitudinal change!”

“Excuse me, Ma’am!”

“What do you mean ‘excuse me’? Just cancel this ticket and issue a new
one with my correct name.”

“You’ll have to pay cancellation charges.”

“Cancellation charges? What nonsense! Why should I pay? It’s your
mistake. You think I’m a fool?” the lady shouted.

Till this moment I was just watching from the sidelines, but now it was
time to intervene.

“What’s the matter?” I asked the ticketing girl.

“She’s creating a big fuss over a minor issue.”

“Big fuss! You change my name and it’s a minor issue? Suppose the plane
crashes, what happens to the insurance? You are incompetent. And
impertinent. I’ll have you fired! Who’s the top man here?” the lady asked,
trembling with fury.

“Excuse me, Madam,” I said, “may I help you?”

“I want to see the top man here,” she shouted, her enormous brown
velvety eyes flaming, her flawlessly smooth cheeks flushed, her slender
upturned nose luminous, almost translucent, her deliciously juicy lips
quivering – she looked devastatingly beautiful.

“I am the top man here,” I said to her, and turning to the ticketing
clerk I said firmly, “Issue a fresh ticket with the proper name. Don’t
make any mistakes!”

“But, Sir?”
“Just do what I say,” I snapped at the hapless ticketing girl, and
turning to the angry lady I said politely, “Ma’am, please come to my

A glass of water, a freshen up, and a cup of coffee later, composed and
appearing a bit contrite, fresh ticket with her correct name on the
table in front of her, the beautiful lady said, “I’m sorry for creating a
scene, but I get very upset when I’m called Alka instead of Ulka.”

“I can understand,” I said. “One’s name is important to oneself and
people do get touchy if there’s a mistake. But then, ‘Alka’ and ‘Ulka’ -
both the names suit you perfectly.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, confused.

“ ‘Alka’ means ‘a girl with curly hair’. Just like you! You’ve got
lovely curly hair.”

She blushed, and asked, “And ‘Ulka’ ?”

“ ‘Ulka’ means a meteor, a star falling on the earth from the heavens,
fire, a torch or a firebrand.”

“Now don’t tell me I look like a meteor!” she smiled mischievously.

The ice had broken, so I too joked, “But you sure are a hothead
firebrand. I was trembling with trepidation seeing the fire in your liquid
eyes; like lava!”

She laughed, and her eyes danced for the first time, so I decided to
press on regardless, “Ulka and Alka. They sound so similar that one can
easily confuse Ulka with Alka which is a more common name. It must be
happening so many times. Tell me, why did you get so upset?”

“I know. But this Alka-Ulka slipup – I’ve paid a heavy price for it,”
she said, and told me her story. I am easy to talk to, and her words
came tumbling out.

“Around ten years ago, when I was in my final year at college, a boy
saw me in our college canteen and fell head over heels in love with me.”

“Wow!” I said.

“He was so desperate, that after we had left, he asked a waiter my name
and the stupid chap made the same mistake – the same ‘Ulka-Alka’ slipup
– the canteen waiter told the boy my name was Alka.”

“But the boy was in your college isn’t it?”
“No! No! I never noticed him. Wouldn’t even recognize him today. Must
be one of those rich types just hanging out in our college ogling at
girls. He had fallen so madly in love with me that he tried to find out my
address from our college office.”

“Then what happened?”

“He asked for ‘Alka’ and unfortunately there was an ‘Alka’ in my class,
so they gave him Alka’s address. Then the guy goes to his parents,
gives them the address and asks them to meet Alka’s parents and ask for her
hand in marriage.”

“And then?”

“They saw each other. The boy realized his goof-up and told her, and
described me accurately to her, but then Alka is a smart cookie; she
wasn’t going to let go of such a prize catch. I don’t know what she did
(maybe she told him there was no one like me in her college or that I was
from some other college or some such yarn), but she must have sure
worked on him with all her wily charms, made him fall for her and finally
they did get married. And now she’s having a ball of a time loaded in
dough, the wife of a wealthy businessman, while I slog it out alone, day
in and day out.”

“You never met the boy, haven’t you?”

“No. I don’t even know how he looks. I told you I hadn’t even seen the
boy looking at me. I didn’t even know all this till yesterday.”

“Yesterday? How did you find out? Someone told you?”

“Alka told me.”

“Alka? Here. In Hyderabad?”

“I ran into her at Abids last evening. At the jewelers. I was just
looking at a string of pearls. Too expensive for me. But Alka bought a
lovely pearl necklace and an exquisite diamond studded watch. Must be for
her rich businessman husband. It was an exclusive piece!”

“A diamond studded watch?”

“I told you she’s loaded.”

“And then?”

“She took me out to dinner in a restaurant. Remember I told you that
the boy had told her everything, accurately described me to her. She
teased me that her husband still remembers me, yearns for me.”

“She didn’t invite you home? To meet her husband.”

“I asked her. I wanted to meet him. But she made up some excuses. She’s
scared. After all, a man’s first love always has an enduring place in
his heart.”


“Yes. Just one small Ulka-Alka goof-up and look at the consequences.
She – glowing in matrimony in the lap of luxury, and me in the abyss, all

“All alone You didn’t marry?”



“Still haven’t found a suitable guy, I guess! Looks like I’ll remain
single all my life waiting for the perfect husband!”

“Come on, don’t say that! You’re so beautiful. Just look around and
eligible bachelors will fall at your feet asking your hand in marriage.”

“Please. That’s going a bit too far!”

“Only one thing. You’ve got to get this imaginary lover boy out your


“Well, let me tell you that what you’re imagining isn’t that true.”

“What do you mean?”

“Alka’s husband - the ‘boy’ who fell head over heels in love with you –
he’s no hot-shot businessman. He’s just the owner of a modest travel

“You know him?”

“Of course I know him. It’s me. I’m the ‘lover boy’. I’m Alka’s

She froze. Then melted. She smiled. I smiled back. I looked into her
enchanting liquid eyes. She looked back at me. We both looked wistfully
into each other’s eyes in silence for a long long time, transcending
into a delightful blissful state of timelessness.

After she left, there were just two thoughts perambulating in my mind.

Firstly, I wondered what life would have been like had I married Ulka.

Secondly, whereas Alka had shown me the pearl necklace; I wondered why
she hadn’t told me about the diamond studded watch?

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