Tread Lightly, Surprises Ahead!

“Hello,” said she. “I don’t have much time. Tell me quickly—how are you?” she continued without any pause, “Actually leave that, did you book your flight to the wedding?”

“Hi! — thanks — all good — will do — go away,” I replied like I was being charged for every spoken word, as in the days of telegram when real-time communication was charged per written-character.

“You screwed up the order of answers,” she retorted.

“Look who is talking about screwing up!” it was my turn to strike back.

“Not a good time to get all gooey, my buoy. I am really busy. I just called to tell you I need you. If possible, be here few days before the date,” she spoke with emphasis on every punctuation.

“As usual, we exist to serve your whims princess,” I could talk satirical too. It was my mother tongue, after all.

“Got to go. Call you later. Be angry till then. Bye… I love you… Click…” she disconnected.

Maya narrated this rundown of her brief call with her best friend to me. She was getting married in two months. “I hate her… She was so busy being her usual restless, stupid self… I miss her a little though…” she recounted.

After the call, she conferenced with their mutual friends and the collective verdict was to organize a surprise bachelorette bash next month.


It is usual for us to dwell on details of emotions, their triggers, their evolutionary purposes — yada, yada. We had spent hours talking about games and their cultural impacts, the effects of social media, media’s responsibilities and sorts.

I received a call from her late in the evening.

“Today, we discuss an emotion we strangely haven’t dissected before — surprises. What was your most surprising personal event this year?” Maya inquired in her characteristically curious voice.

I instinctively knew it was going to be a hard choice. Surprisingly it wasn’t. I was not sure if this was the most surprising one, but I think my mind processed her ‘request for search’ in reverse-chronology and this was the one that eclipsed every surprising memory before it. I told her that.

“It is the end of October, I am returning after my Diwali break. I prepare myself for a long, solo, and an uneventful 24 hours journey in train. Around five hours in transit, some reading and a short nap later, I open my sling bag to take out my notebook, only to discover a neatly folded, handwritten note flying off as I pulled. This was it—the most surprising moment of the year.

My eyes were exclusively tracking the trajectory of the note, figuring out its expected landing time and coordinates. My head is already contemplating the content and plausible writer of the note, releasing dopamine as I gaited the realms of anticipation. My limbs have forgotten the notebook and discovered their raison d’être is to save that note from falling down.

At that moment, I was completely at loss about every who, how or when related to that note. My whole attention was sucked into that tiny piece of paper, now in a projectile motion, eager to know more about it as soon as possible.”

“I was overwhelmed, ecstatic, elevated, excited, attentive, and emotionally charged; until and even after I discovered the writer and the contents of that note,” I paused and continued, “It felt like a lot happened in that moment. Like, if time ceased to exist and everything would have to happen collectively. It happened exactly that way. I doubt if it makes sense to you,” I said.

She responded like she were to present a synthesis to my answer, “Great! Got it. I just have to replicate these reactions in her. This will be our target state. A perfect surprise has to be unexpected, should create tunnel vision, leave her emotionally challenged, fabricate a false sense of attention, swiftly make her switch mental gears, and create an eclipse that shadows her past experiences… ”

“…And you wonder what is wrong with you!” I added still thinking about that moment.

“Yeah! Still an enigma,” she said.

‘I think…I would rather recollect the life mis-spent in the fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt.’ — Neil Gaiman