I Give in to Mom
At around ten on Sunday morning, I packed my bag, said goodbye to Divya’s parents and the two aunts who were the only other guests still in the house and not in bed, refused repeated offers of tea, and headed for the bus stop.
It was a long ride back, and I had only had around four hours of sleep since last night, so I drifted off and nearly missed my stop.
I finally reached home and made myself masala chai and toast with scrambled eggs. After my late breakfast, I went to bed.
Not for long, though. In half an hour, my phone rang. It was my mom.
“Hi, Ma,” I murmured throatily.
“What’s the matter? Are you ill?”
“No, mom. I was sleeping.”
“You’re not up yet?”
“I was up all night. It was Divya’s wedding, remember? I just got home an hour ago.”
“Oh, how did the wedding go?”
“It was great, Ma. I even met a cute guy.”
“Oh, well, yeah, I’m joking.”
“Speaking of cute guys… Maina spoke to Kaushik.”
“Now who’s Kaushik? Oh, no! Ma…”
“He’s given Kaushik your number. He’ll call you. Go and meet him okay?”
“Go and meet him?” squealed Mandakini. “He won’t come over to meet me, I have to go?”
“Just as well,” said Miki. “I can make some excuse and leave early.”
“Okay, Ma, good night.”
“Sleep well, ma.”
I woke up refreshed and with no recollection of my conversation with Ma. It was only the next morning, as I sat in the cab taking me to office, that I remembered.
“Damn!” said Miki. “I told her I’d meet him.”
“Yeah. You were too sleepy to think.”
“She had to catch me when I’m most vulnerable.”
“Well, you did promise.”
“Let’s hope he doesn’t call.”
As the week passed by without a call, I felt more hopeful. On Saturday, I spoke to Raghav, giving him details of Divya’s wedding.
“Great. Now you can use all that experience at my wedding,” he said.
“Yeah. I’ll hold up your clothes when you go to pee,” I said helpfully.
“I won’t mind, if you promise not to tell Sonali.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t raise your eyebrow at me,” said Raghav.
“How… how did you know I…?” I stuttered in disbelief.
“I know you,” he said smugly.
Somehow, that reminder of how well Raghav knew me didn’t make me feel any better: it only gave me a dull pain in my chest, it only reminded me again of what I was losing.
Luckily, something happened later in the evening to take my mind off Raghav. Kaushik called.
I was lying in bed on my stomach, reading a Georgette Heyer Kim had lent me. The radio was playing a noisy Bollywood song. I turned it down and answered the phone, guessing that it was a wrong number.
“Hi,” said a deep male voice. “May I speak to Mandakini?”
“Credit card!” said Miki.
“That’s me,” I said aloud.
“Oh, hi. It’s Kaushik this side.”
“Oh, him. And he says ‘this side’,” sighed Miki.
“At least you remembered to ask Ma for his last name,” Mandakini piped in.
“That’s right. I got your number from Maina khura.”
“Oh, right. He’s my cousin – second, I think.”
“Okay. Yeah. Umm…”
“I’m sorry, I’m not exactly used to doing this…”
“I know! It’s a ridiculous situation. What made you agree?”
“I… I was tired of evading the issue.”
“Ah. So what do you do, Kaushik?”
“I am a Project Manager. I’ve worked in IT for around seven years now. I’ve got an engineering degree.”
“Okay. And do you like what you do?”
“Oh yes. It’s hard work, but… we work hard and we party hard, you know.”
“Indeed.” I raised an eyebrow, which reminded me of Raghav, so I hastily pulled it back down.
“What about you? What do you do?”
“I’m in research. I work in what’s called a KPO…”
“Oh yeah, knowledge process outsourcing.”
“Exactly. So my job is to find out facts and analyse and present them.”
“That sounds very interesting.”
“Well, it depends on the project. If I get a good one, it’s great work. Otherwise it can be just drudgery, you know.”
“Okay.” He didn’t sound like he did know. “When do you want to meet up?”
“When, not if?” remarked Miki. “He’s pretty sure.”
“Umm, what did you have in mind?”
“How about tomorrow?”
“Don’t let him feel you were waiting for his call,” warned Mandakini.
“I don’t know… I have some plans…”
“On the other hand,” Miki countered, “if you refuse tomorrow you’ll spend a whole week thinking about it. Better get it over with.”
“I can manage tomorrow, but not for long. Maybe an hour.”
“That should be fine. Where do you want to meet?”
“Where do you live in Delhi?”
“Oh, nearabouts Safdarjung Enclave… Do you know it?”
“Yeah, sure. I used to live not far from there, when I was at b-school. So… do you want to meet at the Coffee Day there?”
“Won’t it be too far for you? Do you have a vehicle?”
“No, I’ll take a bus.”
“Let me come over to Gurgaon, then.”
“Actually, I was planning to meet friends in Delhi tomorrow.” It wasn’t a complete lie: Kim had been asking me to go visit her for ages now. “So it works for me.”
“Sure. What time?”
“How about three?” The days were shorter now, and I didn’t fancy finding my way home from the bus stop after dark.
“Cool. See you then.”