The arrival of internet brought with it a kind of a sexual revolution. Ok, that is an exaggeration. However, it is true to a large extent for Mukund.
Mukund is a business consultant working for a multinational company in Mumbai. At 28 years of age, he can safely consider himself very successful in his career. He is young, dynamic, enthusiastic and much focused in whatever he does. Most of his colleagues in office are either in awe of him or jealous. In short, Mukund's life was going great.
From his colleagues' point of view, the only thing missing from his life was a charming young girl. There was often conjecture behind his back about why he does not have girlfriend in his life. After all, he was young, good looking and very outgoing. The perfect eligible bachelor!
Some thought that he focused so much in his work that any kind of distraction is considered bad. Others thought he is probably waiting for the right kind of girl to come along. Many girls in office often dreamed of being that lucky one. He did flirt with them a lot. What was frustrating for them was that the harmless flirtations did not seem to be leading anywhere with any of them.
What no one in his office knew was that Mukund was gay. He had vibrant sex life. He had a great circle of gay friends and some love interests he met on frequently. He often met guys with whom he had sex and never met again.
Sometimes there would be a fling lasting weeks before it fizzled out. In all, his life was nearly perfect. He could not have asked for anything more. He was happy leading this double life that every gay man leads when he does not want to come out of the closet.
Such a happy life for him was possible due to the internet. Whenever he was horny, all he had to do was log on to one of the gay chat rooms and hook up with some one. There was always someone online. The internet had made things so easy. There was almost no risk. He did not have to cruise the toilets in the stations or the hit on men while traveling in the train.
The anonymity offered by the internet was exactly what he wanted. He never had to make his real identity visible to anyone online. He kept his two lives very separate. There was no overlap in the two worlds of his. No one in his personal life knew he was gay. No one in his gay life knew what his real name was or where he worked. He made sure never to reveal anything specific about his identity to anyone.
Like most gay men who are in the closet, he used an alias. His was Abhinav. That was the name of the boy he had his first crush on. He was in love with the name.
Life was going great and everything was perfect. Mukund could not have asked for anything more.
In all his online interactions with other gay men, he was very particular about certain things. He was very choosy. He never met anyone without seeing him on cam. He never met anyone older than 30. He never met anyone who was not good looking. He never met fat guys. He never met anyone who displayed any kind of weird tendencies. He knew that a young gay man like him who was good looking and had a gym-toned body was a prize catch in the shallow world of gay sex and he used that to his maximum advantage.
His daily routine was regular. He would go to the gym after office. He would come back home, take a quick shower and log on to the internet. Once online, it was either a chat room or a hookup website. He would interact with guys and if someone "clicked" with him, he would ask them to come to a cafe near his apartment.
At the appointed hour, he would go down to meet the guy. If the person turned out to be not as good as his cam show, Mukund always had some creative excuse ready to get himself out of spending more than 5 minutes with the guy.
If the person fit his idea of a good sex partner or potential lover, he would invite him to his home. After sex, he would classify the person into a category he had created for himself. Some were good only for a one-night stand. Some fit in the category he met again in the future.
With others, he would just send a text message saying he is going out of the city for a week because he knew he would be a forgotten name in a week’s time for the other guy too. For those guys who called even after a week he would invent a permanent transfer to another city or a visit from the parents. He was very creative because he knew the importance of keeping the good guys and losing the losers. The categories extended to his phone book too. Good Friends, Friends, Hot Lovers, Yet to meet and Losers! The losers' calls of course were never taken.
This had been going on for over 6 years now. Lately he was getting bored of his normal routine. He still found sex appealing but there was something missing. He did not know what had changed. He thought it might be just a phase and that it will pass away soon enough. He hoped that it would.
On Thursday he came back home after working out at the gym for 2 hours. After a quick shower, he logged on to the internet. He first started by reading his mail. Someone had sent him an invitation for a new gay dating website. He was always curious about new websites because it meant new guys. He clicked on the link. He made a quick search for profiles with pictures and the website came up with about 20 profiles from his area. The first two were just about ok but the third one caught his attention. He clicked on the profile and started reading the details.
The profile was simple enough with only a few lines saying that the guy was looking for someone to talk with and to have friendship. Mukund knew that most guys who wrote that in their profile did not really mean it. Most of them sought sex and were probably shy to admit it.
What interested Mukund the most was the picture on the profile. The guy in the picture was very beautiful. He had spotless skin, slightly long hair parted in the middle. He was lying on the bed with a very natural smile as if he was not aware that someone was taking his picture. The effect was very sensual. He seemed oblivious of his own attractiveness. The name of the guy was Nishant and surprisingly he had included his phone number in the profile saying that he cannot access the website so anyone interested should call instead. Mukund was not someone who wastes any time. He called right away.
The phone rang incessantly but there was no answer. Mukund was about to hang up when at last Nishant took the call.
‘Hello’ he said. The voice was boyish yet rich.
‘Hi, I’m Abhinav. I got your number from a dating website. Your profile seemed very interesting so I decided to call.’
‘Thank you for calling Abhinav. I am Nishant. Are you from Andheri too?’ he asked.
‘Yes. In fact from your description I guess we live very close to each other.’
They talked for another two-three minutes exchanging pleasantries. Mukund was surprised that the Nishant did not ask his age or his physical attributes and yet wanted to meet him.
‘Don't you want to know how I look before meeting up?’ asked Mukund.
‘That's ok. I love blind dates!’ replied Nishant with a smile.
Mukund was intrigued. He could not help wondering why a good-looking person like Nishant was not curious about how he looked before meeting.
‘Aren't you afraid I might be an ugly loser?’ he asked again.
‘Are you?’ asked Nishant.
‘Of course not!’ replied Mukund indignantly.
'Well then, I will take your word for it’ he said with a smile. ‘I'm not very particular about how you look. From our talk in the last 3 minutes, I feel you are quite intelligent. That is good enough for me.'
‘That settles it then, when do you want to meet?’ asked Mukund.
‘You can come over to my house right now if you want. My folks are out for the evening’ replied Nishant.
Mukund started to think about it. Here is a guy who has a very striking picture on his profile. Why is he so keen on meeting me so soon without knowing how I look or what I want? His mind started sending out warning signals. He had heard about so many cases of gay guys getting cheated and blackmailed. Could this guy be one of them? But the cheaters never ask someone to come to their homes. He sounded decent enough on the phone. What is the worst that could happen?
He somehow did not want to take any chance.
'Why not we meet somewhere outside for a cup of coffee and then head home later?' said Mukund.
'I am sorry but I cannot go out right now. However, if you do not want to come that is fine. I can understand. I have heard so many horror stories myself. Someone like me can certainly do without that kind of an experience.' said Nishant thoughtfully.
He said the words but could not hide the disappointment from his voice. Mukund felt slightly sorry for him. The beautiful face from the picture flashed before his eyes. He could not picture it looking sad.
‘What do you mean by a guy like you? Is there something you are not telling me?’ questioned Mukund.
‘To be very honest, yes’ said Nishant.
‘What is it? Is that picture on the profile not yours?’
‘No-no. That picture is mine. It is something else. If you do not mind, I will tell you when we meet.’
‘Hmmm. This is very intriguing. I am very tempted but sorry I cannot meet up without knowing all the facts. Why don’t you tell me what is it? Are you bisexual? Because if you are, that is fine with me. Or are really looking for a long term relationship and not sex?’
‘Well you are quite straightforward! No, it is none of those things. Why don’t you come on over and then I will tell you. You have a very soothing voice and I would really like to get to know you. You seem like a very good guy. It would be my loss if I do not get to meet you’ said Nishant with a sad voice.
Mukund could not help but feel sorry for him. He had never felt this kind of an emotion for anyone before. He always thought he was a practical guy who thought with his head and not his heart. However, right now, his head was abandoning him and his heart was taking over.
His mind kept sending warning signs but his heart would not listen.
‘I'm not sure why I am agreeing to this but ok, I'll come down to your house’ he said.
‘That's great!’ exclaimed Nishant.
Mukund could feel the excitement in Nishant's voice. Nishant gave directions to him to reach his house. Mukund promised he will be there in half an hour and hung up.
The address Nishant gave him was of an upscale apartment building. However, Mukund was still feeling uneasy about his decision. What if the guy turned out to be a cheater or worse, a blackmailer?
He decided it would be a good idea not to carry a lot of cash or his credit cards with him. He knew Nishant was almost as good looking as he was although he probably did not have a muscular body. He visualized Nishant’s cute face and for some reason it seemed very important for him to impress Nishant.
He decided to wear the new blue shirt he had bought last week for a small fortune. A great pair of trendy jeans and his chic shoes completed the outfit. He was proud to look at himself in the mirror. He had certainly outdone himself this time. The decision to buy this shirt was a good one. There was no way Nishant would not be impressed.
About 40 minutes later, he found himself ringing the bell on Nishant's door. When the door opened there was no mistaking it was the beautiful Nishant. Mukund could not help but stare at Nishant.
If anything, Nishant looked better than the picture on the website. Mukund could not believe his luck. It was a right decision to come here he thought to himself.
‘Hi, are you Abhinav?’ he asked with a smile.
He was not looking at Mukund directly. Mukund thought that perhaps he is a bit shy.
‘Yes. Sorry I am a bit late. I wanted to make sure I looked my best as a blind date’ he replied. Nishant face flushed red. Had he seen Mukund somewhere before today? The thought crossed Mukund’s mind.
Nishant just muttered ‘That's ok. I mm sure you look great all the time. Please come in.’
‘Before we talk about anything further, tell me about the thing that you were unwilling to tell me on the phone’ said Mukund with a smile.
‘Er…sure, I will tell you. We have plenty of time. Why don’t you have a seat first’ said Nishant with a nervous smile. Mukund thought that perhaps Nishant is nervous. He did have that kind of effect on men.
They both went inside and Mukund sat on the sofa without hesitation. He was already feeling at home happy with the thought that he would be able to handle Nishant just fine.
Nishant himself sat on the chair opposite to Mukund. He was still smiling nervously staring at the floor. Now Mukund knew for sure that Nishant was indeed very nervous.
‘Is this the first time you have invited someone to your house?’ he asked.
‘Well no. There have been a couple of guys here before. But your voice is the warmest.’ Mukund was taken aback by the frank admission but he inwardly pleased.
‘This will be easy’ he thought to himself.
‘So you had fun with them?’ he asked blatantly.
Nishant seemed to be thinking the question over.
‘No. They ran off abruptly’ he answered at last.
‘What? What do you mean?’ Mukund asked incredulously.
‘Lets just say I scared them away.’ laughed Nishant nervously again.
‘You don't look scary to me.’ said Mukund smiling.
‘Well, appearances can be deceiving’ Nishant said seriously.
‘Should I be worried about something’ Mukund asked.
‘Not really. I am harmless. More than you can imagine’ came the reply.
‘So tell me, what scared those guys away?’ he asked.
‘Never mind that. Tell me about yourself.’ Mukund knew Nishant to deliberately trying to change the subject. For some reason he did not want to make Nishant any nervous than he already was so he decided to go along.
Nishant was turning out to be so different. He had already made Mukund break so many of his rules. Mukund had been with many good-looking guys before. However, none of them had this kind of effect on him. Nishant had some kind of magnetism about him. His shy nervous smile appealed to Mukund. Now he was all the more determined to impress Nishant.
Mukund talked about his work. He talked his success. He talked about everything he could think of to impress Nishant. During all this Nishant kept staring at the floor while listening closely and adding enough comments to keep the conversation going. But as time passed they settled on to a warm and open discussion about everything. Nishant started losing his nervousness and started to talk freely. Mukund kept Nishant amused by a stream of interesting anecdotes and Nishant in turn came up with his own stories.
For a while, they were both completely lost in each other’s talk. Nishant had an almost child like enthusiasm about everything. He kept asking Mukund about his life, his gay friend circle, his love interests, what he did when he was with them, what kind of guys he liked etc. It was slightly surprising for Mukund because he was very sure Nishant could have any guy he wanted.
As the evening progressed, Mukund became more and more engrossed in Nishant. He was enjoying the conversation. He felt comfortable just sitting there and talking to this lovely guy with a cute smile. The thought of sex did not even cross his mind and that surprised him a bit. Nishant seemed knowledgeable about everything. They talked about a wide range of topics. Mukund tried to remember the last time he had spent such an interesting evening with a guy without having sex but he couldn't. This brought a smile on his face that just refused go away.
As was inevitable, Mukund realized it was getting late. Nishant had told him his parents were expected back soon. It was almost time for him to leave. He wanted to ask Nishant about thing that he was hiding from him earlier but for some reason he stopped himself from doing so.
For him now it did not matter all that much. There could never be anything so scary that he would run away from Nishant. He was happy to have found a new side of himself. He realized this was the thing missing from his life.
He had connected with Nishant so well. When he first came here, all he had in his mind was sex. He was drawn by the Nishant’s beauty and would have done anything to sleep with him. Now after spending an evening with him Mukund knew that he would not be satisfied with sex alone. He wanted something more. He was ready to wait. It did not matter to him how long it took but he was convinced that Nishant was the perfect guy for him.
Just yesterday, if someone had told him that he would fall for a guy like that he would have laughed at them. Now he was certainly not laughing. He knew that at last he had found his destiny. His heart had urged him to meet Nishant and now he was thanking his stars for taking that risk.
‘You are such a nice guy Nishant. I had a wonderful time with you. I want to meet you again’ he said as he prepared to leave.
‘I would very much like that Mukund. You are the first guy I have had such a frank and enjoyable conversation with. I certainly want to meet you again.’
‘Why have you not met any guys before today? Do you have very high expectations? What has held you back?’ he asked searching Nishant's eyes for clues.
Nishant's eyes did not give anything away. ‘Well, I have met a couple of guys but after they came to know the real me, they did not want anything to do with me. Most guys who call me after seeing my profile do not even meet me when I tell them on the phone about myself. I am quite used to it right from my childhood and but it still hurts’ he said sadly.
‘What is your reality? I certainly cannot think about anything that you do or are that would be horrible. It is impossible’ said Mukund.
‘Let me walk you down’ said Nishant as he stood up and walked towards the corner of the room. He picked up a walking stick from the corner. It was the kind of cane that blind people used.
‘I don't need this when I'm at home but cannot go around without it anywhere else’ said Nishant.
Mukund was stunned. How could he not realize it before? He had spent over an hour and a half with him. On hindsight, he realized that there were enough clues that he took for granted and realize now why Nishant was not looking at him when they were talking.
‘I'm so sorry Nishant. I did not realize that you were...er...that you cannot see’ he said sincerely.
‘It is alright. I have noticed many times that men with eyes do not necessarily see everything’ replied Nishant. Mukund was searching for any hint of sarcasm in Nishant’s voice but there was none.
‘Now you know my reality’ he continued. ‘As I said, there have been a couple of guys who I have met but the moment they realized I was blind they fled never to be seen again. Even I owe you an apology for not telling you before you came here. I did that because I was desperate. No one would meet me when I told them I am blind.’
Mukund stood there in silence not knowing what to say next. He saw all his dreams shattering around on the marble floor. How could he be friends with someone like Nishant? How can he dream of spending a lifetime together with a person who was blind? His mind was in turmoil. He could not make up his mind.
He certainly did not want any kind of complications in his perfect life. Surely there would be other guys who have a better potential? He would definitely find someone who was suitable for him. He was sure he would.
‘Do you still want to meet me again?’ asked Nishant.
His question was greeted by silence. Mukund did not know the answer.
‘I do not know’ he said honestly.
‘Well, at least you are an honest guy’ said Nishant smiling that nervous smile again. ‘I understand. Let me walk you outside the gate’
‘No-no, I'll see myself out. You don't have to take any trouble on my behalf’ said Mukund.
‘It’s no trouble. I am quite independent. I go out on my own many times. I know my way around here.’
They both walked out quietly down the stairs. Nishant was concentrating on the descent but his nervous smile had transformed to a sad resignation. He knew he would never hear from Mukund again.
‘This is it. You can take a rickshaw from that rickshaw stand on the corner up ahead’ said Nishant.
‘Thanks’ was all Mukund could manage. He looked backed as he walked towards the corner. Nishant was still standing near the gate lost in thought rubbing his cane. Tears had welled up in Mukund’s eyes as he climbed in the rickshaw.
He took out his phone and opened the phone book where he had stored Nishant's number. He moved his number from ‘Yet to meet’ to a new category. He named the new category “Soul Mate”.