"Please dad no!" wailed Nishigandha. "I want to enjoy my break. Don't make me go through this rigmarole."
"Come on Nishu", her father cajoled. "Whats the harm?"
Nishi hated those three words. They were the single reason for many of her troubles in the recent past. And now the three headed hydra had raised its ugly head again. Whats the harm in meeting Mr.Thinks-he-is-marriage-material? He had been found through the good offices of Match Made in Heaven Matrimonials and high meddling by Vishu mama who lived in Chennai.
"Why don't you go to Chennai and spend Christmas and New Year with Vishu mama and Latha mami?" her father had suggested. Innocently she had agreed. She did need a break, especially after her harrowing experience with Bob the Flasher. A few days with Vishu mama and Latha mami would be nice. They didn't have children of their own and loved her to bits.
And then, a day before her departure, her father had cornered her. Mr. JP, was a post graduate in English Literature from Delhi University. He also had a diploma in French. He worked in the HR department of a software company and was based in Chandigarh. He was on his way to a holiday in Bangkok and would be stopping over in Chennai. Enter Vishu mama and Latha mami.
Despite her protests, JP's biodata intrigued Nishi. English Literature didn't sound so bad. A man who had studied literature would have an appreciation of fine things now wouldnt he? And he lived alone in Chandigarh. Considering that Indian men rarely cut the apron strings, that was a good thing. And he was taking a holiday, by himself, in Bangkok. Which could mean that he liked to travel in his free time (like her) which in turn could mean that he liked to explore new cultures and lifestyles (like her). Hmmm....perhaps he was worth a dekko?
And so it happened that Nishi arrived in Chennai two days before Christmas. Vishu mama was bristling with excitement. This was the most important task entrusted to him after his retirement and he was determined to make a success of it.
"Wear the red one Nishi. No not that one. And please avoid black. Its inauspicious!" said Latha mami. "Do you want my ruby necklace?"
"Mami!", cried Nishi horrified at the thought of rubies. "I'm not on display here. Besides, his flight arrives only at 11AM. There is a lot of time to decide on what to wear."
"Delayed!" said Vishu mama putting down the phone. "The flight is delayed due to severe fog conditions at Delhi".
"Oh good!" said Nishi, " perhaps he will not turn up at all. What a relief!"
"Nishi!!" Vishu mama said in reproachful tones.
"Oh all right! But I draw the line at wearing rubies mami." said Nishi with finality.
Five hours later, Vishu mama finally called from the airport.
"The flight has landed. I'm taking him to a hotel".
"Why can't he just bring him here?" asked Nishi. "This is a double storeyed house with four bedrooms na?"
"Nishi!" said Latha mami in horrified tones. "That is very Improper and Inappropriate".
Three hours later, Vishu mama returned, tired.
"I had to take him upto Central station".
"What?! Thats on the opposite side of town! Dreadful traffic too."
"Yes, well thats just too bad isn't it?" snapped the normally calm and placid Vishu mama. "None of the hotels I took him to fit his budget. He said he will freshen up and make his way to our place. I'm going to take a nap in the meantime."
An hour later Nishi was seated in front of the elusive Mr. JP. Sizing him up, she saw a lanky build on a tallish frame. He wore geeky glasses and seemed a little nervous. Not surprising, considering how Vishu mama and Latha mami were fawning over him.
Nishi tried conversing with him, but it was awkward making conversation under the incandescent beam on Vishu mama's face. Finally, taking matters into his own hands, JP ventured, "Would you like to show me round the city tomororow? Is it ok with you sir?" Vishu mama's beam went up a few hundred watts - if that was possible. It was decided that they would drive out to Mammallapuram the next day. JP left soon after.
"Well....? What did you think? Do you like him?" a volley of questions which were interrupted by the ringing of the phone. It was JP. He had stopped at the ATM just outside their house to draw money. The ATM had swallowed up his card. So now he was both cardless and cashless. What should he do?
Vishu mama looked flustered. He used ATMs rarely and had no idea about fire fighting when faced with greedy machines that swallowed up cards.
"Ask him to try the helpline of his bank and freeze the card number" said Nishi. And that was that.
* * *
The next day saw Nishi and JP in a taxi on ECR on their way to the quaint port town of Mamallapuram.
"Hope your card troubles are under control?" asked Nishi.
"Yeah. I've told the bank. They've frozen the card. It was a debit card. I have to use my credit card now. Do you mind if I smoke?" he asked as they walked towards the five rathas.
Nishi was slightly repelled. She didn't care much for the habit of smoking. But hey! he was an adult.
"Suit yourself. Its your life." She steered the conversation towards literature.
"So...I hear you have a degree in Literature. What texts did you study? I love to read and own (rather immodestly) that I'm pretty well read!"
"Thats nice. Ummm....I can't remember what we did." Duh?! Well never mind perhaps he was still upset about the loss of his card.
Over lunch, JP said he liked meeting her very much.
"Thank you. It was nice meeting you too. You're nice to talk to." said Nishi.
JP set aside the plates and spoons and asked her to show her hands. Thinking it was an attempt at home grown palm reading, Nishi extended her left palm.
"Both hands please"
Nishi had a premonition about what was to come. But somehow couldn't stop it. He grabbed hold of her hands, looked into her eyes and said "Nishigandha, will you marry me?"
Nishi was flattered. I mean come on! Which woman wouldnt be flattered when a man held her hands, gazed into her eyes and asked her to marry him? But she had to be sensible about this. Just because they had spent a pleasant day together did not immediately make him a suitable candidate for her life partner.
"I need to think about this JP. We met just yesterday"
"Thats ok. Say yes. Even if you mean no."
DUH??! "I can't do that. I'm a straightforward person. When I say yes or no, I usually mean it."
To lighten the heavy mood, she asked "Are you looking forward to your Bangkok trip?"
"I'm not going. When I lost my card in the ATM, I was so put off, I decided to cancel my trip."
"OK. What do you plan to do now?"
"I'll hand around a few more days here. Will you keep me company?"
"Ok. I can meet you tomorrow evening. I'm busy during the day."
"OK. No problem. Lets meet at Chennai city center"
That night, Nishi recounted 'The Proposal' to her best friend on the phone.
"I'm a little swept off my feet. Maybe I'll say yes."
"Go slow Nish. Check out other stuff about the guy. Find out more about his company. I'm in software myself and if I'm not mistaken that company has given pink slips to about 500 employees this year. Ask more about how much he earns."
Food for thought.
* * *
The next evening, Nishi waited for JP outside Chennai city center. He came up to her a little later.
"Sorry. I'm a little late. Traffic"
"Yes. You've chosen a hotel in a very crowded part of town." said Nishi. He was looking a little funny. He wasnt wearing the geeky glasses. But that wasnt all. His eyes were looking funny.
"What happened? Why are you staring?" asked JP.
"You're eyes are looking a bloodshot" said Nishi.
"Oh that! I've worn contact lenses."
"But your eyes are looking green also!" said Nishi.
"Yes. These are tinted contact lenses"
Wow! Nishi had never encountered vanity in a man before. He went down a bit in her estimation. Were these double standards?!
"Shall we go to the gaming zone?" he asked.
"Gaming?! I don't go near that stuff" said Nishi.
"Oh come on! Lets try it"
The next hour was spent with JP moving from machine to machine in excitement and Nishi doing her best to enjoy the games. The glamour of 'The Proposal' was beginning to pall rapidly. He was getting on her nerves.
"So! What shall we do tomorrow?"
"Eh?! Tomorrow? You're still going to be here?" said Nishi in dismay. Then quickly correcting herself, " I mean, don't you have a flight to catch to Delhi?"
"Actually, I havent booked my return ticket as yet. Perhaps you could help me?"
"Sure. Would you like me to put you in touch with a travel agent?"
"No. These fellows overcharge you. I would like to book directly from the airport. Can you come with me?"
If it got him out of the city, she was willing to invest the time.
* * *
"How much is the fare from here to Delhi?" He was asking at the Indian Airlines ticket counter.
"Sir Rs. XXX"
"Lets try Jet Airways"
The line at the Jet counter was long. They had to wait for 15 minutes before they reached the enquiry window.
"How much is the fare to Delhi?"
"Sir Rs YYY"
Well, which one do you want to take? There is not much difference." said Nishi.
"Hmmmm. Lets see, let me try Spicejet"
"Sir, there is no flight on this day. On the next day, the fare is Rs. ZZZ"
"What is the fare to Mumbai?"
"Mumbai?" asked Nishi. "I thought you wanted to go to Delhi."
"Yeah. But I thought maybe I can spend New Year in Mumbai or Goa"
Goa?! Where did that come from? He would ask to go to Timbuktu next.
"Let me try Kingfisher" said JP.
"OK. I'll just wait right here near the coffee counter." said Nishi. She had had enough of standing in queues for destinations to nowhere.
Thirty minutes later, JP returned.
"Well? Where are you finally going?" asked Nishi.
"I think I'll hang around a few days. I haven't booked my ticket."
What?! Three hours of badgering various airlines for fares and no ticket had been purchased? What were his plans?
" What are you doing on New Year's Eve?" he asked her.
"I'm leaving Chennai tomorrow and will be back home" said Nishi firmly.
"Yes. Shall we move now? To Vishu mama's house? Remember you accepted their lunch inviation?"
"Oh yes. I'm sorry. I'll not be able to make it. Please inform them."
On the auto ride back, Vishu mama called her. "He can't make it mama."
"Why? Did you say something to offend him?"
"Mama! We will talk later. Please drop me at that corner. I will walk the rest of the way."
Getting down, Nishi extended her hand " Bye JP. I'll be in touch. I need to speak with my family before I can give you an answer"
* * *
Back home, Nishi informed her dad that it wouldn't work with JP. He was out.
"Why?" asked her father.
Now that was a tricky question. If a guy was educated, had a job and didn't look too bad, parents had a tough time understanding why their daughter was refusing him. Plus, how was she to explain that his vanity, indecisiveness and apparent stinginess had put her off totally?
* * *
A few days later, Nishi sat down to write the first 'Dear John' letter of her life. Only this one was sent over email.
Later that day, JP called. Nishi didn't take the call. JP sent her an sms "I'm sorry I proposed to you."
Nishi supposed she deserved the rude message. She should have taken JP's call and told him in person. Normally she didn't take the coward's way out. Maybe she was punishing JP for Bob the Flasher's behaviour?
- Welcome!Blogging is a form of self expression for me. I find it a wonderful, democratic space. So often in life, our articulation and expression are controlled by environment-like relationships or work place. Here, it is only about me and what I want to say. I write about anything: books, movies, issues, rants...anything which strikes a chord in me or makes me think. Life's lighter moments, highs and lows, causes, opinions. Anything. I follow no structure. It is all about self expression - a form of empowerment if you like.
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