Flight attendant Avantika Mohan, 30, became as famous as her writer boyfriend, Durjoy Datta, this week. This happened after romance author, 30-year-old Datta, who has written 13 books in eight years, including Someone Like You, the recently released Impossible Love, asked his fans to help him propose to her through all his social networking accounts.
The gesture, which Datta says he meant as a “cute thing”, snowballed into hundreds of fans, readers and non-readers, going into a tizzy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Datta says in three days he got 15,000 comments across all platforms. “I don’t like this kind of attention. I am not the writer. He deserves all the attention. Even at book signings, when I go along, people ask me to sign the book and I just say, ‘I am not worthy of signing this book’,” says Mohan over a con-call from her hometown Dehradun, with Datta calling in from Kolkata.
That doesn’t mean she said, no. She said, “Of course, I love you. Yes.” But the two lovers, who are slated to get married on March 1, say that they didn’t expect this overwhelming a response. Though the marriage date had been set, Mohan used to keep poking Datta, saying he hadn’t really proposed. “As a flight attendant, you don’t meet writers. So, when I tell people, I am marrying a writer, they say, ‘how did he propose? He must be romantic?’ And he is not! So, I would keep hinting.”
Datta laughs, “She thought I was SRK and I turned out to be Suniel Shetty.” But he finally took the bait and decided to ask his readers help him pop the question. “I usually don’t do Twitter. And I thought that a few hundred people who always respond to my tweets — which usually have around 20-30 retweets — would respond. Instead, people started reacting, most of it positive. But, a lot of it was negative as well.” When he tweeted “She’s on a flight that’s going to land in another two hours.
Let’s bully her into saying yes to my proposal? #marrymeavantika”, many turned around and objected to the word “bully”. “Someone said, ‘Tell your kids how you bullied their mother’ and I said, ‘I will also tell them how to take things in context. It made me angry,” says Datta. Trolls could go take a hike because soon #avantika and #marryavantika was trending in India.
When Mohan got off her flight and saw the messages, her first reaction was to cry. But, she says, it was what happened later that mattered more. “When we went home, he proposed to me in schoolboy style — with flowers and hand-written placards and cards. And that’s was more important. This online proposal — that newspapers are writing about — does not count for us,” says Mohan.
The two met on Orkut first, when Datta found out that Mohan used to visit his page thanks to the now-unthinkable feature called “last visitor on your page was…” When they shifted to Facebook, Datta found her out and start messaging her. He didn’t ask for her number, since he found it too intrusive. They started chatting on BBM messenger and then, dating. Four years later, as they get ready to tie the knot, they seem in sync.
“The worst thing is the pressure — now people will want to know stuff about the wedding. Neither of us reacts well to pressure. For example, we are going to Peru, and there was so much pressure about what to do there, where to stay. Now, we are like ‘when we reach there, we will decide’. We are hippies at heart.”
The easy-going couple, though, has faced a different kind of allegation after the online fame. People have asked Datta if he did it as a publicity stunt. “If I could orchestrate something like this, I would have done it for many other books. But I don’t blame them. I would have thought the same.” But he says that what really got his goat was “people who didn’t know him through his books” attacking him. “That’s what I didn’t like, because such a gesture gets noticed by all the wrong people.”
Right now, they are both trying to focus on the good. And Mohan, though overwhelmed by the reaction, says she will never set rules for Datta because they “don’t work like that”. And neither is she jealous about the hundreds of fans. “After we
leave a signing or go home, he is with me. I get to be with Durjoy. That’s all that matters.”