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Updated: Oct 21, 2022

From an older blog post

“You know, I am really impressed with your command over computers”, she said.

“I must say I am flattered”, I replied.

“I must ask, how come you know so much about computers?”, she asked.

I was in college (and I attended quite a few of those in my life, so I am not telling you which one), and it was February. It is a time of the year when the cold of winter flirts with the pleasantness of spring, eventually giving in to the latter. It is also a time when a cup of hot coffee is just as welcome as fruit juice without ice, or for that matter cold coffee without ice. It was exactly for that reason that I strode into the college canteen – a cold coffee without ice when I happened to see them both. There was Yasmin (name changed), my classmate, next to this gorgeous female, and they were chatting away like long lost friends.

“Hi, Yasmin!”, I said, as I walked up to them.

“One cold coffee for me, one dudh-patti(tea leaves and milk) for her (Yasmin), and what will you have?”, I asked her companion.

“Uh, I am not sure”, she replied.

“Perfect, let me help you decide”, I countered, “what do you like the most?”

“Actually, I am not sure if I want to order anything”, she said.

“Why not? It is a beautiful morning, and it may look bizarre me just butting into your conversation, but Yasmin and I are just good friends. So much so that I know what her favorite beverage is.”, I said.

“Turns out I just had my favorite beverage”. It was Yasmin’s turn to speak.

“Yes”, said she, “Also it is time for my class”.

And they left me at the canteen with a cold coffee and a dudh-patti. I am not telling you what I did with those.

I caught up with her a few days later in the computer lab. Those days, computers for me was just about one game: Digger. That and helping pretty ladies out with their problems, such as the one sitting with her head in her hand.

“Problem?”, I asked.

She just looked up. “You?”

Me: “Yeah! Problem?”

She: “I forgot my password.”

Now, there was a time when I was pretty good at cracking passwords and hacking into networks. But at one point I had to stop myself. There was a very thin line that separated right from wrong in these matters, and I did not want to be crossing it very often.

But, this was different. This was a woman, and she was in trouble. What kind of a coward would I be if I did not help her out? How would I look at myself in the mirror after that? No! there was a time for respecting rules, and there was a time for bending them. This was definitely not a time to be worrying about a stupid college protocol about misusing computer systems. Nor was it time to be remembering a ridiculous promise I made to myself. This was a time to help someone.

This was also a time to know her username, and possibly her name.

“What is your name?”, I asked.

“What?”, she asked, with a mix of ridicule, disgust, surprise, anger, grief, and shock.

“I mean, your username”, I asked.

“Why?”, she asked with all of the above feelings mixed with intrigue.

“Just tell me your username”, I persisted, “and I will see what I can do.”

“What can you do?”, she asked, back to her previous set of feelings.

I wanted to tell her a lot many things, how my computer teacher at school was always mad at me, how my principal (God bless his soul) threatened to throw me out of the school if I was found in the lab again, of how I managed to…never mind.

But this time I just said, “Just give me the username, please?!”

She was confused, and she was on the verge of crying, but she did manage to utter,

“JaskiratB” (not her real username).

Me: “Okay Jaskirat, just relax and give me some time”.

So saying, I disappeared behind the other row of computers.

Let’s just say that those were the days when password encryption was not very common, and I could retrieve an encrypted password in 15 minutes. What chance did an unencrypted password stand, then?

I was back in five minutes, only to find her with this scrawny dude with a twisted frown that seemed to come in the way of him giving a decent smile for the rest of his life. And he did not seem happy.

“How could you forget your password? I cannot expect that you of all people could forget her password! I am going to create a new account for you, but you will have to enter all your data again, yourself!”

So saying, he stormed out of the room.

She was literally in tears now. “All my dissertations, everything! I will have to do them again!”

“No, you won’t!”, I replied, “not while I am here”. And I handed her a piece of paper.

“Your password”, I said.

“What?”, she said. Then she looked at the paper.

“How did you?”, she asked.

“Shhh”, I said, “try logging in again”.

It worked. It was supposed to work.

Scrawny was back again.

“What is your username?”, he asked.

“Don’t bother. I remember my password”, she shot back and gave me the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.

“Lunch?”, I asked her, “I am going to the mess anyway. So figured I could skip that and we could go to the canteen?”

Every now and then we would meet in the computer lab. We would discuss things like programming, data structures, RDBMS, algorithms et al. She was obsessed with computers. I thought that knowledge of computers only enhanced the beauty of the beautiful.

“Well okay”, she said, “I guess I owe you one after the help you gave me the other day”.

The self-respecting, chivalrous side in me came alive.

“Oh come on, if that is the reason then I am better off having lunch in the mess”, I said.

“Excuse me?”, she asked.

The self-respecting, chivalrous side in me subsided.

“Let’s just go for lunch”, I said.

And so we were sitting in the canteen. She ordered idli-sambhar, I ordered an utthapam.

“You know, I am really impressed with your command over computers”, she said.

“I must say I am flattered”, I replied.

“I must ask, how come you know so much about computers?”, she asked.

“Well, as a matter of fact I AM studying computers”, I replied.

“Really, where?”, she asked.

“Here.”, I replied as I gulped another bite of the utthapam.

“Here?”, she asked.

“Here”, I answered.

“Where here?”, she asked.

“Here here”, I replied and gave her the name of the course I was taking.

“Really? Then you should know who I am”, she said.

“Sweetheart, trust me, I have been trying to do that ever since I saw you with Yasmin here”, I replied.

“Hold on, Rupinder it is, right?”, she asked.

“Of course!”, I replied.

“There is a reason you should be knowing me. I am the one who takes your computer science classes. And I have not seen you even once in my class!”, she was literally screaming now, and the rest of the canteen was looking at us.

I was holding a fork in my hand, and at the tip of the fork was a piece of utthapam, awaiting its fate. At that moment, sitting there in the canteen, with Jaskirat looking down on me, as were a group of other people, and as was the canteen staff, I was wishing that the Earth would open up and swallow me whole!

Only if wishes were horses.

“Please finish your food”, she said, “and don’t bother paying”. And she got up.

She came back. The piece of utthapam was still in my hand.

“You better finish that food fast. You have a class at 3. And I want to see you there!”. So saying, she stormed out of the canteen.

Don’t bother knowing what happened to the piece of utthapam. And don’t even bother asking if I attended the 3 o’clock class, because I attended every one of them afterwards.

But to little avail. She was too pissed off at me to give me any marks in the practicals. In fact,

I barely made it through computer science that semester.

I do remember cornering Yasmin almost immediately after the 3 o’clock class.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”, I thundered.

“Tell you what?”, she asked innocently.

“That she is our teacher”, I was livid.

“Oh that! Well, I did not want to miss the fun. But hey! I did not tell her you were a student, either”, she replied, rather amused.

Let’s not get into how the rest of the conversation went.

How many of you had a crush on your teacher in school or in college? Well in my case, I almost asked mine out. I could not help it of course that she looked too young to be a teacher, and I looked too old to be a student.

PS: I did score a perfect 100 in the next semester. But as far as Jaskirat and I were concerned, let’s just say things did not work out.

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