Capers In Cyberspace.

The face that stared back at me from the mirror had very little resemblance to the man who had fled his hometown in disgrace three years ago. A different hair style, a thick moustache, horn rimmed glasses, and an acquired manner of speech had given me a quiet dignity and poise that demanded respect. I was secure in this new identity. No one, not even my ex-wife would recognize me now.

My job as Manager of the Metro Club enabled me to rub shoulders with the ‘Page Three’ crowd who frequented the Club and held their soirees on the premises. It was an exciting job with many fringe benefits.

Yet the nights were lonely. Neither the TV nor my music system could keep me warm in bed. Drink was a constant temptation. But the thought of that night and the humiliation

I had suffered made me hold back. I had to be on guard at all times, as alcohol was within easy reach at the club.

So I bought myself a second-hand computer, and began my journey into cyberspace. It opened up new vistas of places and people. But the chat room was where I spent a better part of the night. It was pleasure without responsibility. I got to know several women who kept me entertained with their life stories, preferences, love life. Some were openly flirtatious, others subtle. But the girl I liked best seemed lonely and in need of a friend.

“Call me Stardust,” she said.

“That’s an unusual name.”

“Not really. I’m neither a star nor a starlet. Just an extra, who lands a two-bit job once in a while. ‘Stardust’ adds a little glitter to a boring life. Still, I can’t complain. It puts food on the table for Mother and me.”

“Then you haven’t heard that the sure way to the top is via the casting couch?”

“Oh dear I don’t aspire that high! Just because you caught me in the chat room doesn’t mean that I’m morally lax. What incredible presumption!”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I was out of line.”

She didn’t appear in the chat room for over a week, and I thought I had lost her.

But just when I had given up hope, Stardust surfaced again.

“You’re back? Where have you been all this time?”

“So you missed me? I didn’t like your impertinence.”

“I said I was sorry. I thought teasing you would break the ice. I didn’t expect you to fly off the handle.”

“You better remember – I may be poor, but I won’t sell my soul to the devil.”

“Then you don’t know what desperation can do.”

“ Feel free to use me as your confessor.”

I told her that I was born into a wealthy family, and brought up in the lap of luxury. Though I lost my parents as a child, my grandfather pampered me with every imaginable comfort.

“Go on,” she said, “Makes for a good story.”

“Believe me, this is the story of my life. After a fairly decent education, the old man literally egged me on, to live the life of a playboy. I didn’t know he was planning my eventual destruction. I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in myself. Life was a whirligig of social activities. No time for introspection. Then one day Maya walked into my life. There were many women clamoring for my attention, and this made her insecure. She insisted we tie the knot. This was the only time Grandpa objected. He thought I was too young and unprepared for marriage.”

I clenched my teeth as I thought of his duplicity.

“He died, leaving me alone in this world. Maya was jubilant. She thought we could do as we wanted with his wealth, now that we had him off our backs.”

“Some people have all the luck,” Stardust remarked.

I remember that day so clearly. Grandpa’s lawyer summoned me to his office for the reading of the Will. Maya insisted on tagging along. She was bursting with plans for our future – the diamonds she would wear, the foreign trips we would make! We’d be the talk of the town.

The lawyer pulled out a sheet of paper from an impressive envelope and read –

“I Govind Mahatani being of sound mind and in full possession of my faculties, declare that

I have no legacy to hand over to my grandson. I spent it all on him.”

Maya gave a loud scream and crumpled to the floor. I just sat there paralyzed.

“How sad!” Stardust interjected.

“And so began my descent into Hell. Maya insisted that I find a job. That proved difficult as

I had never done an honest day’s work in my life. Friends deserted me. I was alone and helpless. Maya said, ‘ If you can’t borrow or beg, go steal,’ and promptly threw me out of the house. The rest is not worth knowing. I’m a different person now – new name, new identity. But I’m lonely. I don’t have the guts to go out and make friends. That’s why I’m always in the chat room.”

“I’m lonely too,” she said, “And when my mother dies, I’ll be all alone.”

And so began the tenderest love story the world will ever know Two hearts that beat as one across the miles, two lives bonded together by virtual chains of love! .It was one of the most fulfilling interludes in my life and continued for a year. We decided to legitimize our relationship with a wedding in cyberspace – the very first in India ! There would be no hassle of walking down the aisle, no jitters, no suit or ring and no expenditure.

I had done some research and found a site called which agreed to conduct the wedding jointly with, for a mere 1000 rupees. The only condition was that we marry on Valentine’s Day to get them good publicity. I would take my vows in Delhi , and Stardust would do the same in Chennai. The Registrar would solemnize the ceremony from Mumbai, and our friends would be virtual witnesses. would distribute CDs to our invitees, for access to the ceremony. Our joy was complete.

But after a few months, the urge for physical contact was overpowering. Stardust had lost her mother and was in urgent need of coddling. I had made it clear that I would never come to Chennai, and she didn’t feel comfortable traveling all the way to Delhi . So we decided on Mumbai, and chose a venue where we could blend with the crowd – Leopold café in Colaba.

A bright young thing in a lilac outfit sat alone at a table.

“That’s her,” I guessed. With a name like Stardust I expected some jazzy apparition with a lot of attitude. This one looked quite timid.

“My dear, you look so nervous,” I said, extending my hand.

She stared at me as though she’d seen a ghost, and I wondered if she was going to scream.

“Hey, I’m your cyber spouse. Am I up to your expectations?” I took off my horn-rimmed glasses.

“It’s you… It’s you……Oh my God!”

Her agitated voice made people stop and stare.

“I’ve never seen you in my life,” I said, “You’re mistaking me for someone else.”

She broke into a peal of laughter.

“That night…. Oh my Goodness!……Will I ever forget?”

She couldn’t stop laughing. It was making me nervous. I got up to leave, but she held on to my hand.

“Sit down. Let me refresh your memory. Aren’t you the drunken thief who fell asleep in the house you went to loot?”

I could feel the blood rush to my face. Maya had thrown me out with the admonition, that if I couldn’t beg or borrow, I could at least steal. In that depraved state of mind, I had broken into a house, but being sozzled, passed out on the sofa in the living room.

I was chased out in the wee hours, by a harridan who belabored me with her broom.

I jumped fence and dashed into the next house, but the woman there, taking a cue from her neighbour, had also pursued me with her broom, and a group of stray dogs joining in the melee.

“That was a sight for sore eyes,” Stardust said, still doubled up with laughter.

“I’m sorry. Was it your house then?”

“Oh no,” she laughed, “I was there on a similar errand. I was jobless and hadn’t eaten a square meal for days. I came to raid the larder, but seeing you there scared the hell out of me. I forgot I was in someone else’s house.”

“And did you get caught too?”

“Not on your life. When I realized what I had done, I scooted down a side alley, broom and all.”

“So we’re birds of a feather,” I said.

“More like kindred spirits. And thanks to our cyber capers we’ve found each other.”


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