That was it. The record player, running across Harsh's unique, one-of-a-kind fingerprint, only said – “Payal, Jaipur”.
It didn't matter which finger, it didn't matter whether he played it forwards or backwards, every time his fingers touched the needle on the player, it played the same thing.
The first time Harsh found about this strange occurrence was when he turned twenty-one. Apparently that was the age when his father considered him old enough and responsible enough to handle his cautiously preserved, passionately maintained, delicate record player. His father asked him to put on – what he considered – a classic, which is not to say that Harsh didn’t like listening to the old ones, he was in fact more inclined towards older music. As he was about to place the record in its place, his finger accidentally touched the player’s needle
“Be careful”, said his father
“Payal, Jaipur”, said the record player
Harsh’s father wasn’t mindful of what the record player said, he thought Harsh was playing some sort of a prank on him. (His son was old enough after all). Harsh on the other hand had chaotic thoughts.
“What the fuck just happened”, he said to himself, while silently listening to the song his father asked him to play.
Harsh went back to his room and did what anyone else would do – Google.
He googled the phrase “Payal, Jaipur” – he expected the large number of results he was going to get. But he had to start somewhere.
He started e-mailing any Payal having a Jaipur connection to find if he knew her in any way or if she knew him or heard of him.
Once every day, he placed his finger on the record player’s needle to hear the same thing. Just to make sure it wasn’t a dream and it was really happening. He didn’t tell anybody about it because of how strange it all was. He was determined to figure it out though, all by himself.
He had no luck. All his e-mails and Facebook messages were shot down by every Payal of Jaipur he ever sent a message. Harsh was disappointed, disheartened even, that he is never going to find out the mystery of what the record player had to say about his fingerprints.
“Payal, Jaipur”, Harsh was hearing this coming out of the record player for the last two years while continuously sending e-mails and messages to every Payal he could find.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but have you ever heard my name anywhere, seen it written someplace or anything. I’m from Delhi. I’d really appreciate a reply.” – This is what his every message read. Strange thing to send to a girl, let alone hundreds of them, having the same name, who were complete strangers to him.
But he couldn’t stop no matter how embarrassing things got sometimes. He just had to know!
Today was different, after two years of searching, he finally had a clue. He got a reply from a Payal, residing in Jaipur.
“Yes. Harsh from Delhi. I have heard your name”, said her e-mail. Harsh was surprised, a little happy and very scared.
When he contacted her further, she confessed that she can’t pinpoint the time and place where she heard his name, but she feels like she did. More importantly to Harsh, she was acting like she was crazy. Well, Harsh’s type of crazy!
He had to meet her. Jaipur isn’t far away, he convinced himself and so he traveled to Jaipur.
Payal was the most amazing looking woman he’d ever seen.
“You’re beautiful!”, were his first two words to Payal. Harsh isn’t the kind who uses the word ‘beautiful’ loosely and he definitely was scared enough to not try and hit on her (not consciously at least), but he just couldn’t help himself. Payal really was beautiful.
They began talking. Harsh and Payal had so much in common. Shared interests, shared beliefs, yet enough differences to be eminently fascinating to each other. Harsh was convinced. He had to show her the record player and what it played through his fingerprints. The moment for which he’d been waiting for the past two years of his life was finally there.
Harsh produced the record player out of his bag. He essayed the instances and efforts he put in to understand and solve the mystery behind the record player. They both held their breath. Payal kept staring at the record player like it was some sort of alien artifact.
The magnitude of possibilities involved was too much to consider, and the way they already felt about each other made it impossible to imagine the possibility of any but one outcome.
Harsh played his fingerprints – “Payal, Jaipur”, played out of the record player.
He held Payal’s hand and carefully placed her finger on the needle – “Harsh, Delhi”, played out of the record player.
It immediately dawned on them. Somehow, their perfect match was right there at their fingertips (absolutely unintentional pun) and nobody but that record player knew about it the entire time.
To be continued…