I was 24 then, he was 34, and she 29.
He was an ex-colleague. A friend. When he quit his job in Mumbai and shifted to Bangalore, we became e-pals.
That was all there was to it.
There was no romance brewing. We just wrote each other, sharing news.
Then he told me he got engaged to someone he met on a matrimonial site. I sent him my best wishes and promised to attend the wedding.
She was from Mumbai. She wanted to speak to me. She wanted to meet me. She wanted to know me better. Since her husband-to-be "admired" me "so much".
I dashed off the usual thanks-and-congratulation note, warming in the face of such friendliness from a total stranger.
That, I realised after a 36-hour drama, was my first undoing.
Within a day, the emails started arriving. In droves. They always came at the wrong time -- read, when the boss was around.
Three of them reminded, asked, and then demanded my photograph. Just because I had the courtesy to acknowledge her seemingly casual request to see a photograph of mine. I did not know she meant NOW for everything.
All the saccharine -- oh you write so well, no wonder he admires you couldn't mask her insecurity.
I was open with her. Told her we need not be friends just because I knew her fiancé. Told her also her insecurity was not warranted.
There, I thought, now I have put an end to this saga.
But she wouldn't let up. The deluge continued.
She was driving me mad by noon. That's when I blundered a second time.
I telephoned her.
I had by then succumbed to her photo-bait under duress and the conversation began all syrupy. Oh, she said, you sound as sweet as you look.
I tried to put an end to that nonsense. No, there was nothing between her fiancé and me, I said. In any case, do you think I would admit even IF there was something?
I felt better. I was glad to have cleared the air.
But all my good efforts came to a naught. She didn't stop spamming me.
She began a series of let's-patch-up-so-we-look-good-to-my-fiancé messages.
Then I made the third mistake: I mailed HIM.
Using all the tact I had at my disposal, I wrote a masterpiece of an email, ever so subtly telling him not to be so loquacious about me in his fleeting conversations with her. Jealousy, I stressed, can lurk in any woman's breast
For the first time, I had dispensed off with my straightforward drill. And it blew up in my face like nothing else.
He replied implying not so subtly I must not to let my imagination run away with me. She was, after all, a mature woman and I was to rest assured she was not spamming me. She was merely being friendly.
She mailed him a lot because she liked him, so with an infallible programmer's logic he suggested she must like me a lot too.
Whoa, 24 full-bodied emails in less than 24 hours! Howzzat for imagination, buddy? I almost cursed out aloud.
While I was making obscene gestures at the computer screen, a colleague asked me what was wrong. I spilled all.
"Oh, she must have read it somewhere
befriend the Other Woman and all that," my friend said.
That moment on, I don't have an iota of sympathy for the wife/girlfriend/fiancé who wants to confront the so-called Other Woman. For a change, I would like to see them take up the matter with 'their' man. Why should you pay for someone's insecurity?
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh