The voice of C. Ashwath is beautifully bringing to life the words “Baare nanna Shaarade!”, by K.S. Narasimhaswamy, in my ears. The sweet taste of Twinkle Khanna’s short story Noni Appa, celebrating the pure-hearted romance of an elderly couple barring age and religion, is still lingering in my mind even as I’m listening to this beautiful song that is sung by a newly-wed groom about the ‘life’ that his wife has just brought into his life.

A friend called up this evening to share the news of her newly found love. She finally thinks she’s found the right guy although he is younger by a handful of years. I feel happy for her and laugh at the irony that life is. Someone else had moved out of my life citing age difference as a big social barrier.

A colleague is getting engaged to another colleague. The two have been going out for a few months now. I always thought there was something cooking between them and had even shared those gossipy thoughts with this third colleague who himself is getting hitched in a month’s time.

A friend, who was lost somewhere for a year or two and suddenly felt like keeping in touch with me after moving abroad, has just messaged me wishing me on my birthday. “It’s midnight here already!” he points out when I say I still have a few hours before turning 28. His wish has just assured me that my friendship still has some value in this world, though I’m not known to be a very friendly person. And it also reminds me that I’m turning 28.

I’m lying on the mattress laid out on the floor of an almost empty room. A fixed cupboard that holds all the clothes I don’t wear and a desk that lies in one corner of the room are the other occupants of this room. The bed on which I had spent eleven thousand rupees a year back is broken now and lies in the hall outside my room. I had once bought it thinking I’d need it when the wife steps into my house. That’d never happen. Even if Veerendra, the cab driver who has already tried – many more times than my mom – to convince me to get married, takes another hundred shots at it.

Another esteemed colleague, Mr. Babu has even had hour-long discussions with me trying to educate me about the social, economic and biological gains of marriage. The economic angle was one desperate way to bog down a person who had just expressed his indifference towards society. Even the concept of propagating the bloodline wasn’t convincing, given that my brothers have taken care of that, already.

I take a deep breath, heave a sigh and then open Tinder to cluelessly swipe left on all those beautiful yet uninteresting faces. At this point in time, you – the reader – might be deriving meanings from my actions. You may be thinking I’m a sex maniac and offender in the making. But then, I’m least interested in any of those faces. ‘Awarapan Banjarapan’ plays on my new Fiio music player.

I check my phone again to see if anyone has messaged again. No one. It’s a relief, after all. To not have anyone reminding you for an entire day that you have aged another year. Not that I’m scared of dying, it’s just a pressure that this world, this society, knowingly and unknowingly, puts on every single bachelor guy.

Not heeding to the world’s ways, I decide to let time go past midnight today. The clock has just ticked past that mark and I’ve suddenly turned 28 according to the Gregorian calendar.

A bunch of people will now ask when the big party’s gonna be. Of course, they will be talking about the wedding party that should follow the small birthday treat that they think I will throw them. “In your dreams” I will be telling them on their face, in most cases.

I unplug my earphones to save myself from more romantic pieces. The resulting silence brings much needed peace to mind. I put my smartphone aside wondering why people are there on Tinder, in the first place.. They all are so fake. Most of them are, if not all. I had seen that on Facebook too.

“Real people are a rarity,” I say to myself. “There are only masks masquerading as faces everywhere. Glad that I’m not one.”

Nine years back, my friend who had moved abroad, had waited for the clock to strike 12 with all his might so that he can wish me before his cousin, my childhood friend, wishes me. The cousin always was the first to wish, till she got married. Oh, seven years back, there was that grey-eyed ex-girlfriend who had called me up fifteen minutes before 12 to ensure no one else calls up. I had promptly disconnected her call at 11:59 to let the childhood friend wish me. The elder-than-me girlfriend ensured that she’s the first though, four years back. For the last three years, at least, no one has fought for the right to be the first. It’s bliss!

Like I had celebrated ten years ago, I put some water in the cap of a bottle, raise a toast towards the sky, wishing myself another Happy Birthday and wash my dry throat down with it. Alone, sane, at peace.