“Cameras rolling in 5...4...3...2...1”
The blaring music came on and the cameras started shooting.
“Hello guys, Welcome to ‘Jukebox’! I am Mridula!” she said turning towards Ashwin.
“And i am Ashwin. Hope you guys are enjoying the summer! How about you Mridula? ” he said turning towards her and back to the camera.
“Oh Ashwin, don’t ask about that. You know i lived in Hyderabad for almost a decade. But nowadays Chennai feels hotter!” Mridula said, giving an almost dramatic expression of her misery, obviously because she was on tv and they were supposed to do that.
“That is true, Mridula! Ok then.. here is a song to cool our friends out there and of course, Mridula.”
He said pointing to her “Apparently, Hot is what the hero thinks, not about the weather though, but his dream girl. Ok here comes the Popular Rain song to come out in the recent days”
The visuals on screens in front of them shifted from the set to the Song from the movie Paiyya.
“Four and a half minutes, guys” called out the editor, from the Cockpit. Oh yeah! That is what they called the video editing room in Music 24/7. Ashwin came down from the set and settled down in a couch next to the cameras while Mridula went for a drink in the Mini-Fridge near the couch. Ashwin came into Music 24/7 five years back fresh out of college and now he was the lead anchor handling four shows. Mridula has been around for the past four years and Ashwin’s life had changed drastically after she came in. He always kept his career in front of him but he never set aside Mridula for even one bit. She was there with him, co-anchoring in two other shows and he missed her in the other two where he had to do it with Balaji and Sherin. Sometimes he would gather up his courage to go over and tell her, but he just couldn’t. Not after being offered the biggest promotion in Music 24/7, a five year experienced guy to become the lead anchor which also came with a huge pay raise. Ashwin had been Vj-ing right from his college days when he was one of the anchors in his college Radio. Not many colleges had its own Radio, but IIT was one of them and he was proud to be an Alumni. Normally, an IITian wouldn’t waste his time VJ-ing, but it was the passion he had for the job, reaching so many people and making them happy. And he wouldn’t let anything come in between him and his career. But lately he had this nagging feeling that he was doing a mistake not telling her. Maybe it was spurred more by the conversation he had with Deepak. Deepak was the closest friend of Ashwin and quite frankly, he was a crazy guy. He would do anything to get the feelings and stuff out of people. He was a wizard! It was a fortnight ago.
“So, i saw Jukebox yesterday” Deepak said, munching his burger and making it sound like he was speaking Japanese.
“Oh. Great. How was it?” Ashwin asked, not amused, sipping pepsi.
“You were good as usual. But god! That Mridula girl sucks you know. You know, there is much more to VJing than just the beauty factor, i mean come on..” he started battering her as usual when Ashwin cut him off. “I get it!” And another equally outlandish habit of his is to be marvellously blunt in his criticism.
“Dude, cool down. Say, i thought of asking you. Can you give an intro?” He asked, leaning forward.
Ashwin was taken aback for a moment. He looked up and saw deepak’s expression-less face.
“Mridula? I..i.. don’t know. I can’t, you know. Professional...” Ashwin jumbled up phrases to scare him off.
“Ethics? Ha ha. Gotcha! So you like her huh?” Deepak asked with a grin, leaning back in his chair.
“What? What are you talking about? I told you the reason..” Ashwin said while Deepak showed his hand in disapproval.
“Professional ethics.. bullshit! Dude. Quit hocking me!” Deepak said, bringing back his malicious grin.
“I seriously..” Ashwin started off, shaking his head while Deepak cut him off “Stop, will you!”
“Alright fine. I like her. I am mad about her. Infact, if this goes on for another month or so, i am sure I’ll make a pass at killing myself.” Ashwin blurted, draining out the pepsi can.
“Chill, My friend. Chill! May i ask you something? What is preventing you from telling her?” Deepak asked.
“Don’t you think the answer is just out there, in front of us?” Ashwin asked.
“Don’t tell me it is your job” Deepak said, raising his eyebrows.
“What the..? of course, it is.. i can’t just..” Ashwin stuttered.
“Dude, dude. Enough! Screw your job. For your stardom, you could get another job in a snap. Even better, with your looks you could get a movie chance. That is the trend these days” Deepak said, waving his hand symbolising that he had just brushed aside the fact that Ashwin was taking this job way too seriously.
“They have given me a huge raise and a promotion. How can i? Besides if Music 24/7 sends me out, then it will be a black mark for me.” Ashwin said.
“You are way back in the 1940s! Girls don’t tell about this stuff to bosses or their parents. They handle it themselves.” Deepak said.
“I know. But still, if i do say it to her and if she says no..” Ashwin said looking down.
“Don’t get over senti over this. Don’t you think it is better you tell her that? If she says no, you can at least move on. But what if she says yes” he said, winking at Ashwin.
With that, he had hurried off to work, leaving Ashwin alone, who sat there perplexed.
“We are back on in thirty sec” Anto called out from the cockpit. Anto was the head of the anchor team and he did two shows. Guru was standing beside him, munching chips. He wore the usual coat and tie costume, which he never wore even once before he got promoted as creative head, making him look like a corporate guy.
“Ashwin!” Mridula called out.
“Oh.. what?” Ashwin said, with a surprised look on his face.
“What happened to you? You seem to be in a far off land!” she said, flashing him the usual cute smile of hers.
“Well, i.. i.. what’s up?” Ashwin said, trying hard to come back into the surroundings.
“Any bright ideas to kick start the next session?” she asked.
“Oh Mridula. You know i don’t plan anything before-hand. It just comes to me. Now come on, we have to get up there” he said, getting up and walking over to the set, as Mridula followed him.
“Cameras rolling in 5...4...3...2...1”“
Well, We really did get drenched in that rain.. or should i say romance!” he guffawed, looking at Mridula. “So Mridula, how do you feel now?”
“Oh yeah! It is cooler now. i mean literally, with the AC in full blast . Wouldn’t hurt to play a nice hot song! What do you say?” Mridula said, turning to Ashwin.
“Say no more. Guys, Here comes a Song from the movie Veyil. Enjoy..” he said, as the visuals on the screen shifted to the song.
“Five and twenty guys” the sound came out from the Cockpit.
“Mridula, i need to talk to you about something” Ashwin said, sitting down on the couch.
“Sure. Shoot!” she said, settling down beside him.
“Well.. i...i.. are you seeing someone? Cuz my friend really wants to” Ashwin faltered. Damn, so easy on tv! He thought.
“Oh! Ashwin. I really don’t think it is a good idea.. actually i am seeing someone” she said, devoid of expression.
“Oh. Fine. Cool. I got it! He said, walking over and getting a drink from the fridge.
I didn’t tell her anything about me. She didn’t say no to me. But still i think this is the worst turndown ever! He thought.
The remainder of the show didn’t go as well as planned. For the first time, Ashwin found it difficult to get out words. Infact, Mridula was taking over most of the time when he stuttered.
“Are you alright?” Mridula asked him, after the show.
“Ya ya, i am fine. I think i have a headache” he said, not looking at her, but the mobile in his hand.
The call was coming from Deepak. “Excuse me” he said to her, wandering off onto the balcony.
“Hello” he said, after picking up the phone.
“So you told her huh?” Deepak asked.
“Oh man! Seriously how do you do this?” Ashwin asked.
“Ha ha. You are asking ‘How’ to a Nostradamus here, my friend. Anyway what did she say?” He said
“Definitely not good. But i didn’t ask for me. I asked her if she will be interested to go out with a friend of mine” Ashwin said without enthusiasm.
“Are you kidding me? Is that how you propose to a girl?” Deepak asked.
“Well.. i panicked.. ok? Now if you’ll excuse me, i have to do some scripts for the other show.” Ashwin said.
“Alright. But you have to tell her that it is for you. What if she likes you and doesn’t want to go out with your friend.” Deepak said, grinning.
“For a plainspoken person, you are overly optimistic dude. Fine, i will tell her. And thanks for making me do this and ruining my life. We will meet up at the theatre around 9” Ashwin said hanging up.
“Here” Mridula said.
“What..?” Ashwin turned around, dumbfounded. Was she listening to me!
“You said you had a headache. Now come on, take this” she said, handing him a tab and some water.
“I am fine, Mridula. Thanks” he said.
“Well, ok then. Will see you in the script room in a bit” she said, turning back.
“Wait. Wait” Ashwin said, as Mridula turned towards to face him with a bewildered look on her face.
“Ok i am just going to tell you. It was me. I asked you out cuz i really like you and i would feel happy if you could come out and have a cup of coffee with me.” He said, smiling.
“Oh...Well, Ashwin, i don’t know how to say this. I am already seeing someone and plus, i don’t think getting into a relationship with a co-worker is probably a good idea. Don’t mistake me” she said, walking into the room leaving Ashwin alone on the balcony. Oh thanks, Deepak!
That week was a disaster for Ashwin. He couldn’t speak up properly and Jukebox’s TRP ratings touched the lowest ever. Mridula stood there beside him, talking animatedly as usual while he felt like punching himself for telling the whole thing to Deepak and worst of all, to Mridula. Mridula didn’t ask what was happening to him and it seemed apparent that she was avoiding him. Deepak hadn’t met him on the day he told her nor did he meet him after that. Don’t know what is up with him! A day in Ashwin’s life then was like a year in hell and the week after that didn’t bring any respite. The first thing he heard on Monday morning was nothing less than shocking!
“Mridula quit!” Anto said, when he walked onto the set of Jukebox.
“What? When?” Ashwin asked.
“Last Monday, she mailed me. One week notice and she is out now. And Sorry to say this buddy, we are taking Jukebox off the air for a while until we get a good Co-host.” He said, looking down at his scripts.
“What? I can do it alone or we can put sherin, we can adjust...” he said.
“No, i am sorry. The TRP ratings had hit a low last week and you know that” he said.
“So you are saying that it is because of me?” Ashwin asked.
“No no. I am not saying that. Since we are missing a strong co-anchor.. come on Ashwin, i didn’t say it was the end of the show. Once we find someone suitable, i am sure we can hoist it up.. maybe like a next season or something like that. Ok got to go. And please concentrate on ‘Mail room’. That is probably the only show which can get us back on track” he said hurrying over to the script room.
She quit last Monday? The day i told her? And she didn’t even say goodbye to me. My god, this is turning into one big nightmare! It wasn’t easy not seeing her and when your career is undoubtedly taking a slump. Ashwin wasn’t even sure which one to prioritize now. Mridula is gone! Forget her and go on with your life. The only thought that resonated in Ashwin’s mind. But ninety percent of the times, practicality was a pain.
“Cameras rolling in 5...4...3...2...1”
“Hello guys and good evening. Or should i say, a rainy evening! While i am speaking to you, i can see the windows in front of me being beaten up by the rain. Anyway this is ‘Mail room’ on Music 24/7. I am Ashwin and this is..” he said, turning towards.
“Sherin! Hey guys, hope you had lot of fun during the weekend” she said, turning towards her laptop.
“And hope you had enough time to mail us” Ashwin chimed in, turning towards his laptop.
“Ok. The first mail is from Kunal. He is a software engineer and he is passionate about cooking. Wow! This is interesting. He says his trademark dish is the Chicken dhum biriyani. He likes the show and he wants us to play the song from the movie New for his mom. So Sherin. Finally a guy for you!” he said, laughing.
“Well, right you are! Kunal, make sure you mail us your address so that we can try out your delicious Biriyani. Anyway here is your Favourite song from the movie New. Dedicating it to your mom” she said as the visuals changed.
“So how you doing these days? Heard Jukebox is off the air. I am sorry” Sherin said, turning back towards Ashwin.
“Well i could do better.” he said, sporting a fake smile.
After an uneventful five minutes, the visuals changed bringing back the set.
“That was indeed a touching song! Ok the next mail is from Mridula Krishnan” Sherin said, turning slowly towards Ashwin.
He sat these with a hint of surprise. “Go on” he said to her.
“I am sorry, Ashwin. I couldn’t tell you when i left. It is all for our own good. I liked you so much. But well, i really didn’t know if you liked me. When you said those words, i couldn’t control myself. I was at the verge of crying. I wanted to hug you right then. You know, I wasn’t totally lying to you. I was seeing someone, yes, it was you and i was seeing you all the time! Everywhere I turned around, you were there, smiling at me. And i still think it wouldn’t be a good idea to have anything personal with a colleague. That is the reason I quit. Now i am out of Music 24/7 and i just wanted to tell you that i miss you already. Please don’t keep me waiting. P.S: You can play any song of your choice and
thanks to Anto and Guru who made me do this!” Sherin finished as Ashwin sat there stunned and bedazzled. Slowly he turned towards the camera and said “Ok here comes my favourite song from the movie Goa” in his usual delirious tone.
While the visuals changed, he got up excited, looked at Sherin who was smiling now and he looked over at Anto and Guru, who were standing with all the other members of the crew beside the camera unit, smiling at him.
“Shall i?” he asked Anto.
“Yup. Good luck!” he said, showing a thumbs up. Ashwin smiled at him and ran out of the room.
He picked up his mobile to dial her number when the mobile started ringing.
It said ‘Deepak Calling.....’.
Oh my God! How is he doing this? He laughed out loud while he ran down the stairs.