“And yeah, final words. There is a Pokémon gym just around the corner.”
The crowd was in splits as Mihir sat down. From across the long table, Mandy grinned at him, nodding his head.
Mandy’s mind flew back to the first year of college, when his eighteen year old self was being forced by one of his friends to attend a party.
“Mandy, come on! Don’t be such a stick in the mud! Everyone will be there! Who knows, you might meet someone interesting!”
Mandy, a short boy with dark black hair and equally dark eyes had groaned.
“I don’t want to! I am not in the mood. And anyway, I don’t drink, so it will be so out of place for me!”
His friend, Kunal laughed, “It isn’t going to be bacchanalian revelry, Mandy boy. Anyway, if you don’t want to drink, there are plenty of other things to do. The food is going to be a gustatory treat and the music will make you involuntarily tap your feet! You can dance, socialize, have a good dinner and go home. What say?”
Mandy was still sceptical. He wasn’t sure whether he would like the atmosphere. All his life, he had more friends in books rather than in reality. He wasn’t an introvert, but he enjoyed his own company rather than being surrounded by a large crowd of people. In such situations, he would fade away, almost becoming invisible to the crowd.
Unable to outright refuse his friends, but deep down unsure of what he wanted to do, Mandy just nodded.
“Great!” Kunal exclaimed. “See you tomorrow at the Regent Hotel at 8 p.m. sharp! Our entire batch will be there. It’s a great chance to get to know them.”
Mandy forced a smile, and shut the door to his hostel room. When Kunal was out of earshot, he sighed and sat on his bed, staring absently at the floor. Questions and thoughts played joyfully in his mind, feasting on the fuel of doubt he provided them. Mandy picked up one of his shoes and held it in front of him. Aloud he said, “To go or not to go?”
He finally understood the dilemma of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. Although compared to the Prince, his was a very innocent one, but Mandy found taking the decision to be an uphill task.
Mandy placed the shoe on the floor, and his eyes went to the clear table in front of him. He had finished studying, so that excuse didn’t hold water. Mandy could feign illness, but by doing that he would achieve nothing. Besides, there wasn’t anything wrong in attending the party. If he felt uncomfortable, he could leave at any moment. Also, there was the food…
Mandy closed his eyes and scratched his head in frustration.
“Oh God of Clarity, do not desert me thus! Tell me, what should I do?”
The calendar that hung over his table suddenly fell to the floor, and Mandy almost jumped. The fall had caused the calendar to open to the date of the next day. Mandy stared in disbelief.
Is this a sign?
He still had doubts, but he decided to trust the God of Clarity, whoever he or she may be. Aloud he said, “I will go there for thirty minutes. If I feel weird, I will leave. And even if I stay, it will only be for the food!”
A sense of peace flooded him, and a smile appeared on his face. He had finally taken a decision. Now all that remained to be seen was whether he would cherish or regret it
Mandy was already regretting his decision. He sat on a sofa at the back of the hall, a glass of lemonade in his hand, as all his friends socialized and danced like there was no tomorrow. He had tried meeting people, but he inevitably ended up freezing. After all, his interests had always been pretty different. Mandy yearned to meet someone who talked about literature, art and books, but everyone just spoke about actors, actresses and Netflix series. Therefore, feeling like the runt of a litter, he had faded away and was now perched on the sofa, where he was invisible to the raucous crowd. None of friends seemed to notice his absence, and this stung him slightly, but he was pretty used to it by now. He was about to get up and leave when his phone buzzed with a notification. Mandy opened it and saw that it was from Pokémon Go. His eyes opened in surprise as he saw that there was a gym on the floor above him!
The Regent Hotel had two floors; on the ground floor was the banquet hall and on the second floor was the terrace restaurant. Mandy ran up the marble stairs to the terrace restaurant, leaving the dancing crowd below him. When he reached the location of the gym, he saw another boy standing there.
The boy was thin and tall, and had worn a casual hoodie. Mandy walked cautiously to him, hoping that he would not be noticed, but he was too late. The boy seemed to hear his footsteps and turned to look at him. He had spectacles covering his brown eyes and his brown hair was messy. He smiled at Mandy and before Mandy could respond, turned back to his phone. Mandy found that strange, but pushed that thought aside. After all, he had come to conquer the gym!
The gym battle started, and Mandy noticed that he wasn’t alone. Another player from the same Team as him was also participating. Mandy looked at the boy standing near him.
Could he.. No, it’s not possible.
As if as an answer to his question, the boy looked up from his phone and said, “This gym is pretty tough, eh?”
Mandy froze, and this resulted in the opponent knocking one of his Pokémon out. The boy beside him laughed and said, “Hey watch out, I don’t want to handle this alone.”
Mandy’s hands fumbled as he switched his Pokémon. With a combined assault, the two of them took down the gym. As they stood, relishing in their victory, Mandy gathered the courage to ask the boy, “You play Pokémon?”
The boy looked curiously at Mandy, “What did we just do?”
Mandy, realizing the stupidity of his question, lightly smacked his head and reframed his question.
“You like playing Pokémon?”
The boy nodded and said, “You play well. Just be careful about that health bar. Attacks are important but so is preserving your team.”
Mandy replied, “Thank you! But, you have to admit, the attack my Charizard did was pretty effective!”
The boy laughed, “True! But, my Salamence was pretty strong as well!”
Mandy smiled. “Team Mystic rules, yeah?”
“Oh definitely! The logo is so cool! Besides, I really prefer Articuno, so I had to go for Mystic.”
Mandy’s eyes widened. “Same! I love its design! Have you played any other Pokémon games?”
The boy grinned, “You bet I have! But, I see that this is going to be an interesting discussion. How about we sit here and eat instead of going back to that noisy congregation below?”
“You were attending the party?”
The boy sighed, “Yeah. I was pretty much cajoled into coming here. Thankfully, I found this gym here. Pretty pleasant terrace too, and great food. So, I don’t regret coming here.”
Mandy laughed as he took a seat in front of the boy. “I was about to leave before I saw this gym. One good thing. Oh and by the way, “ he said remembering something, “I am Mandy from Computer Science.”
The boy took his outstretched hand in a firm shake and replied, “Mihir from Biology. So tell me, what is your favourite Pokémon?”
Mandy smiled internally as he answered Mihir’s question, his voice throbbing with enthusiasm. The regret he felt while sitting in a corner on the sofa had faded away.
From night talks on the hostel terrace, to challenging the various gyms(of course, Pokémon ones) together, Mihir and Mandy’s friendship flourished. Not only were they each other’s virtual rivals, they also became a moral support for one another. In Mihir’s company, Mandy felt himself slowly cracking his self-imposed shell, and he grew much more confident. Despite being from different walks of life, they found striking similarities in thought processes and hobbies. Sometimes, they would even complete each other’s sentences! Mihir helped Mandy get through some tough times, and Mandy’s focus inspired Mihir to work hard. It was a friendship in which both of them evolved, just like their Pokémon.
Years later, Mandy sat at the head of the table, his to-be wife by his side. Colours blossomed from every angle of the lawn, and the many circular tables that surrounded the central one had perfumed flowers on them. Mandy took a breath as he held his companion’s hand.
Someone coughed gently into the mike and all the guests turned in his direction. Mihir was standing, opposite to Mandy on the long table, grinning. He said, “Well, me and Mandy had made a pact that on his wedding day, I will be making a speech. So, here goes:
Mandy is one of the best humans I have ever met, sincere, focused and extremely loyal. So, Shweta, you are really lucky to have got him.”
The woman beside Mandy smiled fondly at him. Mandy showed Mihir a thumbs up, but Mihir waved it off.
“Now, for the serious part. Don't get scared if Mandy forgets food and drink. Chances are, that you will find him bent over his books, his eyes wild and his hair messy, cobwebs surrounding him, and a half-eaten bowl of soup next to him. Sometimes, he might even forget who you are, so be prepared! Ohh, and before I forget! I couldn't teach him how to tie his laces, so I am passing the torch to you. Also, it is my sincere request, do not allow him into the kitchen! Once, he had left the iron switched on after pressing his clothes. It was only when someone smelt something burning that they were able to avert a tragedy. I dread to think what might happen in the kitchen!"
Mandy laughed and jokingly clenched a fist at Mihir. The guests were almost falling out of their seats while laughing, and they looked expectantly at Mihir for more roasts. Mandy swore quietly under his breath.
“It’s my wedding, yet these people are having fun at my expense.”
Shweta heard him and chuckled, “Of course they are! They don’t get to see such unique talks every day And,” she added grinning slyly, “I am enjoying myself as well.”
Mandy narrowed his eyes and smiled back at her, just as Mihir resumed.
“Shweta, you have known Mandy since six years, but I have known him since college! He has cried on my shoulder, shared problems with me and done a lot of more stuff, which I would love to say, but if I do, I am sure he won’t let me leave alive!”
Mandy grinned, “That’s right!”
Mihir continued, “But, behind all of that, is a pure hearted man. He might be difficult at times, but support him well. He might forget food behind his work, so do keep reminding him. Men like him are rare to find. In all senses, he is a genius with a ton of dedication towards his work. Indeed, he is a catch! If you stand by him, he will make sure to take you up the mountains of happiness.”
The crowd cheered and Mandy felt a sense of pride well up inside him.
“Which brings me to you, Mandy,” Mihir said, addressing him directly. “ First of all, Salamence is better than Charizard. Second, we have yet to decide who is the ultimate winner in our countless battles. Third, don’t get so busy in married life that you forget everyone else. I might just charge at you with an army of Pokémon if that happens. And yeah, final words, there is a Pokémon gym just around the corner, so let's go after this is over!”
The crowd was in splits as Mihir sat down. From across the long table, Mandy grinned at him, nodding his head. Just then, a thought flashed across his mind.
“What if I hadn’t attended that party at Regent’s Hotel?”