Monday, July 28, 2014

Love in the Time of Internet



My Little Writing Project

To refresh your memory about previous chapters, or to know about My Little Writing Project, click here.

 

Chapter Twelve



“Is it possible to find love through the internet? Maybe… Maybe not?”

10th August 2012


The last month had flown by in a daze. Between trying to complete the novel, warding off Prakash’s advances and making plans to meet Anurag, Mukti didn’t have much time to meet Priya or Sonali. Both of whom were also quite wrapped up in their lives or rather with the men in their lives.

A few weeks earlier . . . 27th July

Sonali and Kshitij had come for an out-of-station trip to Neemrana Fort for Kshitij’s birthday and this time Sonali made sure they were alone. On the day they were supposed to drive back to Delhi, Sonali woke up to find that Kshitij’s clothes were strewn all over the room and his arm was lying on her breast. His naked torso was visible over the bed spread. Sonali didn’t get shocked or surprised; instead she frowned and slumped into the bathroom to freshen up. Things had not gone as expected.

When even after being together for almost three months, Kshitij had not even kissed her properly, she had decided to take the lead and introduce some intimacy in their relation. So, acting on the same plan, she arranged for a magical night complete with candle light dinner, drinks and dancing. She even ensured that drinks kept flowing and by the end of the night, they both are happy high. As soon as they reached their room, she threw herself on him and started making out.

“What are you doing?” Kshitij said pushing her gently away, “I thought we were taking some time to know each other.”
“I know you enough to want you,” Sonali said sliding up to him and unbuttoning his shirt.
Kshitij held her hands, “you are drunk.”
“No, I am not. I am happy high,” she kissed him again.
“I still think we should wait.”
Kshitij wriggled out from her grasp and sat down on the couch.

“Fine.”
Sonali said and went to the bathroom. It was time for her plan B. She came out wearing a sexy black negligee.
“What do you think?” she asked winking.
Kshitij looked up and moaned, “you look nice.”
Nice?!
She went and sat down next to him. They watched TV in silence and Sonali even stifled a yawn. After a couple of minutes, Kshitij got up and made another drink for himself from the mini bar.

Sonali made a great show of getting up and stretching. She fake yawned and told him that she is going to bed. Kshitij just nodded mutely. She walked seductively towards their bed and bent down giving him a generous view of her cleavage to take off her high heels. This did the trick.

Kshitij came rushing towards her taking off his shirt. He kissed her forcefully and started taking off her negligee. She stopped him midway and led him to their four-poster bed. She made him lie down and started doing a little strip tease for him. She turned and did a little jiggle when she heard it. She turned around and saw that Kshitij was snoring loudly.

“I can’t believe you fell asleep!” she threw a pillow at his face but he was out cold. Angrily, she took off her heels and slid next to her snoring boyfriend.

When she came out of the washroom, she found him reading the newspaper. He greeted her happily giving her a peck on her cheek, “Good morning. Last night was wonderful. Thank you for making it so special.”

She smiled and nodded. Kshitij went inside to get ready. All through the drive back home, Kshitij didn’t apologize even once for falling asleep on her. Sonali found his behaviour strange.

I planned this trip to get close to him but all the arrangements has been worthless.

It was a first for her that she wanted someone and the guy didn’t reciprocate her feelings. She was intrigued. She decided to keep this secret to herself. She didn’t want anyone to find out that some guy was not attracted to her, especially that guy she was lusting after, the man she was in love with.

Priya, on the other hand, was fighting with her feelings for her boss, Shantanu. Last night they had gone on a celebratory team dinner. Priya and Shantanu had a little more to drink, and they stayed back at the restaurant, long after everyone had left. They were chit-chatting about his upbringing. He was doing most of the talking while Priya just sat their engrossed in his voice.

“We were a joint family. My family is not very educated. My father owned a local grocery shop. When I told him that I wanted to go to the city to study, they were completely against it mainly because of Shivani.”

He paused. This was the first time he had taken his fiancé’s name. Priya stared at him. She realized that he looked like any average guy, there was nothing particularly striking about him but still she found herself drawn unnaturally towards him. She wanted him to keep talking even if it was about his fiancé. She hoped that time will stand still so they can spend an eternity talking to each other without a care in the world. She realized that he had started talking again.

“Shivani was my neighbour. I met her in school. We are childhood sweethearts, if you can call us that,” he guffawed. Priya smiled politely.

“She is from a different caste and in our small town of Sikandrabad that matters a lot. But, she is a feisty little thing. She not only convinced her parents but mine too. My mother loves her.” he stopped to finish his drink and order for another. Priya sat there motionless hanging by his every word.

“She was a topper in school but decided to not study further because my parents didn’t want her to,” he smiled sadly, “She has sacrificed a lot for me. When my parents didn’t want me to do MBA, but come back and marry her instead, it was she who convinced them to let me get a job before settling down. She has a way with words.” he finished another drink.

“Maybe we should head home.” Priya said softly.

“You know, I admire her. I respect her but somehow in all this sacrificing business, she has turned into someone else. She is not the same feisty go-getter Shivani that I fell in love with. She is turning into my mother,” He hiccupped loudly.

“Sir, I think it’s enough for today. We’ll continue this conversation later,” Priya made a move to get up but Shantanu held her hands.

“She is not like you. She doesn’t know anything about my world. She has never seen the city life. Recently I have started feeling that I can’t talk to her about anything.”

Priya sat down and listened with increasing expectancy what she had been longing to hear. She didn’t have to wait long.

“The same talks that I found engaging a while back now seem boring. The same Shivani who looked like a movie star now seems . . .” he paused and gulped down another drink, “dehati. Maybe my worldview had expanded or maybe I am just falling out of love from her. I don’t know.”

He ordered for another drink.

“She is not you, Priya.”
Priya thought she would burst with happiness. She tried to stop herself from blushing.

Shantanu continued, “I keep wondering what it might feel like to touch your lips.”
He hesitated a little but then gently stroked Priya’s lips. She felt herself shiver. She closed her eyes and felt him murmur close to her ears, “I wonder how it will feel to have your body rub against mine.”

Priya could feel his lips near her ear, she let out her breath, “how will it feel to taste you—“

Priya opened her eyes and saw that Shantanu’s face was inches away from hers. She could feel his breath on her bare skin. He said softly, “You are gorgeous Ms. Priya Goyal. Absolutely breathtaking. Since the day I have met you, I can’t get you out of my mind. You are smart, intelligent and ravishing . . . The prefect woman.”

He leaned in and kissed softly a too-willing Priya. In that one instant, she forgot that she was in a lounge surrounded by people; she forgot that he was her boss; she erased the fact from her memory that he was engaged to someone else. In fact, in that moment, both Priya and Shantanu had forgotten of Shivani who at that time was most likely waiting for her Shantanu to call her and tell her how his day went . . . The highlight of her day, that one call.

Priya had decided, then and there after they had broken apart, that this would be her secret. She didn’t want to discuss this with the girls yet. She knew they, with their rigid notions of right and wrong, would never understand. She decided to wait for the right time to tell everyone that she was in love!

Mukti, herself, was quite pre-occupied with the men in her life both fictional and non fictional. She had yet to tell anyone about her novel or the inspiration behind it.

This is not the right time. Let me at least be sure that they will publish it before I get into a confrontation otherwise all the fights and explanations would be for nothing.

Mukti, on one of her trips to the Mehta, Kumar and Roy publishing, had finally got to meet the dreaded Nita. It was one of those lucky days when Prakash was not in office. He had taken a sick day off. Mukti had gone for a meeting because she had written couple of chapters and wanted Nita’s opinion before moving ahead with the rest. Since Prakash was not in, Mukti was directly ushered into Nita’s chambers. Whatever Mukti had expected Nita to be, she turned out to be completely opposite. Instead of a bespectacled stern lady wearing a tweed suit, Nita or Nits, turned out to be, for the lack of a better term, a hottie!

She was smartly dressed in a Mary Katrantzou dress. Mukti noticed that Nita was almost as tall as Sonali, which means she was somewhere around 5’7” or 5’8”. She had long straight burgundy hair that she kept loose. Nita had a perpetual cigarette dangling from either her lips or from her fingers. Years of smoking had given her voice a husky gravelly tone. She had an air of confidence around her and Mukti was pretty sure she had seen her on more than one occasion gracing the glossies with her perfect smile. Mukti was right. Nits liked to be seen and was generally spotted in the company of the rich and the famous. Changing men like people change clothes, she was spotted at all high-flying parties with a new arm candy, all of whom were not a day older than twenty; but that never bothered Nits who had been celebrating her own twenty fifth birthday for the last fifteen years. Mukti had an instant liking for Nits who was not only straight-forward, sarcastic and funny but also very passionate about her work.

She gave Mukti pretty valuable comments about how to improve her writing and helped her whenever she got stuck. In the last one month that she knew her, Mukti had become so close to Nits that on one occasion while Nita was telling about her college days and how she was the only girl to drive a motorcycle, Mukti also shared the whole Anurag episode with her. Nits thought she was joking, and didn’t pay it much attention until Mukti told her that she is going out to meet him next week.

Present Day . . . 10th August

On the day when Mukti was going to meet Anurag, Nita couldn’t stop herself and landed at Mukti’s place.
“Are you sure?” Nita asked for the nth time.
“Yes, I am. And you asking me that after every fifteen minutes will not make me change my mind,” replied Mukti.
“But, are you really sure you want to go through this?” Nita said lounging on the mattress.
“Oh my God Nits, I’ve told you like a thousand times I am sure. I am hundred percent sure. Heck, I am 200 per cent sure. I want to do this. Now can you please zip me up,” said Mukti sweetly.
“But why do you need to do this, Mukti? I mean you are a smart, intelligent, gorgeous woman who is going to be a published writer soon, God willing. You will find someone without stooping to this act of desperation.” Nits again tried to knock some sense into Mukti.

“You seem to be confusing me with you. You’re all that, I am just an average twenty seven year old who is trying to make ends meet.” Replied Mukti mockingly, “now after we have established that fact, my zipper please.”

“Oh come on. Don’t be so self deprecating. Don’t sell yourself so short.” Nits said still sitting.

“I am no Cinderella or Snow White. I believe in taking charge.” She said struggling with her zipper.

“I can see that.” Nits got up to help her.

Mukti took a deep breath, “How do I look?”
Nits looked Mukti up and down. She was wearing a blue skirt with a lacy white top. She had worn her hair loose which were falling on her shoulders in small curls. All in all she looked like the perfect girl-next door.

“I thought you are going on a date?”
“Yes I am,” she said spraying some perfume.
“Then why are you dressed like you are going for an interview?” she asked innocently.

“Um . . .” Mukti was in two minds whether to tell Nits or not. She knew Nits is bound to make her life miserable if she told her and she also knew that if she didn’t Nits is bound to make her life miserable anyway. So she decided to tell her.

“We decided to wear a combination of blue and white so we can recognize each other,” Mukti replied sheepishly. “I will kill you if you laugh.” She added threateningly.

Nits just looked at her for a split second before bursting out laughing.

“OH MY GOD! Do you hear yourself? I hope you know you are not sixteen anymore.” Nits said between wiping her eyes.

“I know. Will you stop? This is really important for me.” Mukti said getting a little upset.

Nits sobered up a little. “Mukti I love you and that is why I am coming with you. You have never met this guy. What if he is dangerous? Don’t you read the papers? What if he turns out to be a criminal? Or a rapist? How can you trust him?”

Suddenly a conversation she had with Sonali some time back flashed through her mind.

What am I doing? This is a mistake!

And then Anurag’s face swam in front of his eye with his warm brown eyes and welcoming smile and she shook her head to clear her mind of all doubts.

“I trust him, Nits. I think he is the one.”

“For God’s sake, you don’t even know what he looks like how can he be the one, and what is that anyway, The One? What if everything he told you was a lie? Huh?? Have you ever thought that?”

“First, I have seen him or his Facebook profile picture and second, yes I have thought that too. That’s why I am meeting him at a crowded restaurant for lunch and not dinner. And if I am not back by seven, call the police,” Mukti added mockingly.

“It is not funny Mukti,” Nits said rolling her eyes.

“I am kidding. Relax. Everything will be fine. Don’t be cynical, let me give love a chance.”

“Oh please don’t make me puke. You can’t find love through the internet”

“Ok. Time to leave. Wish me luck.” Mukti looked at herself in the mirror one last time, took a deep breath, grabbed her purse and marched out the door followed by Nita. Nita offered to drop her off but Mukti had already called a cab. As she sat in the AC backseat, she realized that she was nervous . . . Very nervous. But she wasn’t going to let Nits find that out. There were so many doubts in her mind.

What if he turned out to be a creep just having a laugh at her expense? What if he doesn’t turn up? What if he is married?
No. he is not like that.

She tried to calm herself.

But you also found this dress code thing strange, right? Admit it.

That was her voice of reason again. Even though she didn’t like to think about it, she found it very strange when Anurag suggested a dress code.
Too filmy.
He suggested that they wear something co-ordinated. Mukti had asked for phone number through which they might be able to locate each other but Anu had insisted on wearing something in blue and white.

“It’ll be so romantic. Both of us would look like we are made for each other,” he had said.
Something which seemed so romantic then, now looked a little moronic. It’s all Nita’s fault.
Mukti took a deep breath to steady herself and thought of all the nice moments she and Anurag had shared. She smiled and waited to meet him. She reached the restaurant first. They had decided to meet at Berco’s, Delhi’s favourite Chinese hangout at two thirty for lunch. She saw an empty booth and sat down. She put on her jacket that she had carried, just in case he turned out to be a creep. Mukti looked at her watch. Two fifteen. She still had 15 minutes. She looked at the door after every two minutes. No sign of him. Then another thought stuck her. What if he came, saw me and left!

“Oh God! I have got to stop thinking.” She said and put her head in her hands.
“Aww . . . don’t say that. You should always keep thinking, it gives your brain something to do,” said a voice near her.

Mukti looked up to see a man sitting opposite her. He had a wheatish complexion, must be 6 ft tall, broad shouldered, with light stubble and wearing stylish glasses. He had long hair which kept falling over his eyes. He was grinning and looking at Mukti, a little too adoringly. Mukti’s first instinct was to look at what he was wearing. Nope. Nothing white or blue.

Mukti smiled and said politely, “Hi, I am waiting for someone.”
“Oh me too.” He replied.
He waved at a waiter who appeared at his side in two seconds.

“Uh…I would like a glass of water and a cold beer please,” then he looked at Mukti and asked, “Would you like anything?”

She glared at the stranger, “I told you I am waiting for someone. So do you mind . . .?” she waved her hand to give him the hint to get up and leave.

“I’ll take that as a no. Just beer then. Make it fast.” He said and winked at the waiter.

The waiter disappeared and the man made himself comfortable.
“Well?” she asked again.
“Yeah what?”

“This is getting too much. I have told you I am waiting for someone. Why don’t you move to another booth?!” she could feel her voice rising.

“Whoa. Relax. I will move. Jeez.”
Mukti wrinkled her nose, “What is that smell?” she sniffed a little and realised that the smell was coming from the man seated opposite her, “It’s coming from you.” She said pointedly.

“I know. Dogs! How much you bathe them, they’ll still smell like, well, dogs.” He said nonchalantly.

“I thought you were moving to another booth.” Mukti glanced nervously towards the door once again.
“I will.” He said munching on some nuts that were placed on the table.
After five minutes, that man was still sitting there looking at Mukti which not only irritated her but also, to her surprise, made her blush. Finally she couldn’t stop herself, “What is your problem? There are so many empty booths, why can’t you go and sit at one of those and stop staring at me!”

“Are you always this uptight?”
“What?!” she was really irritated.
“I was just asking that are you always this stressed out or is this some special occasion?” he smiled making no effort to move.
“I am waiting for someone. He could be here any moment and I don’t want you here when he shows up.”
“He is the jealous kinds huh? Well I would have been too if I had a girlfriend as pretty as you.” he said softly.

Mukti turned red without wanting to, “Are you flirting with me?”
“Yes, I am.” He said nonchalantly, “Actually, just trying to make you change your mind.” He grinned.

“What?”
“You seem to love that word don’t you?”

“OK. Game over. Ha Ha. Now please leave,” She said with a note of finality.
“Fine. I’ll come to the point.”
“Point? What point?” she got suspicious.

Is he some friend sent by Anu to check my IQ?

“See, I am dating this girl. She was very nice in the beginning but now lately she has got pretty serious. She wants to get married to me!”
“So? And why are you telling me this?”

“I want to break up with her.”
“Again I would have to ask . . . so? What do I care?”
“I want you to pretend that you are my girlfriend so that she thinks I am cheating on her and breaks up with me instead,” he smiled at his brilliant plan.

Suddenly the faces of all those guys who had dated her in the past flashed before her eyes.
All guys are like that. First they woo the girl and when the girl gets serious, they just want out. How disgusting! And this one! He is the limit. Just going up to any random girl and asking her to pose as her girlfriend so that he can break up with someone else.

“Are you out of your mind?! Why will I do that to some poor girl? You guys are just … Forget it. I am not doing that. So stop wasting my time and find some other impostor.”

“Oh come on. You don’t know what she’s like. She’s absolutely crazy. She is possessive and obsessive and jealous.”

“Maybe you are the one who is crazy? And why do you think I even care? Just tell her that you don’t like her anymore or some such shit. Why don’t you use the most popular, it’s-not-you-dear-it’s-me line on her and maybe she would realize how big a loser you are and leave you herself.”

“Someone’s been dumped a lot,” He said under his breath.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing. See, you wouldn’t even have to do anything. You just have to sit here and she will do the talking and the breaking up.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you want to break someone’s heart so mercilessly?”
“You don’t know anything about her. I am the victim here, not her. You think I haven’t told her how I feel. I have. But she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t let me break up with her. So I have to create circumstances so that she breaks up with me.”
“So what?! Did you plan on coming in here, spot some girl and make this proposition.”
“Yeah,” he said taking a sip of the beer that the waiter bought.
Mukti was flabbergasted, “Well, you chose the wrong table pal. I am not like that. And if you won’t leave then I will.” Mukti said picking up her bag. As she turned to leave, she came face to face with a pimply guy in his late teens. He was wearing a blue shirt and white trousers.
Oh No.

“Mukti?” he asked looking at her from head to toe.
What the hell? What happened to Anu? Does he suffer from the same disease as F Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and is now ageing backwards?!

Mukti gulped and slid down next to the earlier guy and said, “Uh sorry?”
“Mukti! It’s me? Your Anu . . .”

This cannot be happening. He was not supposed to be this ugly or this young or this fashionably unstable!

“I think you have got the wrong table. I am not Mukti. Right dear?” she looked at the guy sitting next to her who was grinning. He had a twinkle in his eyes which seemed to ask ‘who’s better now?’
“Right dear?” she said tentatively putting her hand on his. He looked down at their hands on top of each other and then stared right in her eyes as if daring her to do more.

“No, I know you are Mukti. You are also wearing white and blue, just like we decided. And besides I have seen all your pictures on Facebook,” he said smiling.

“See, I told you, you have me confused with someone else. My profile is locked and the profile picture is of me as a toddler,” Mukti breathed a sigh of relief.

“Uh . . . actually, I saw your picture in a common friend’s album. You are very pretty.”
Mukti smiled politely, “Thank you. But I am not who you think I am.”
Go away!
“I know it’s you. I have hacked your account. I know everything about you. I have read your blogs. I know you Mukti.”
Mukti didn’t know what to say. She shrunk a little into the seat.
Anurag continued on, “I had already read that Serendipity post on you blog that you sent me the link of.  It was only after reading it that I sent you that mail and turned it into a misunderstanding so that’ll you might think that we met by chance and not by choice.”

Mukti could see from the corner of her eye that the guy next to her whose hand she was holding was trying very hard not to burst out laughing.
“I turned myself into someone you’ll fall in love with. I created a fake email id and  Facebook profile in Anurag Mukherjee’s name.”
“What’s your name then?” Mukti blurted out.
“He is my brother’s friend. It was his Facebook profile you saw. My name is Prateek Handa.”
Mukti took a deep breath.
“I went through all this trouble, only for you Mukti. I wanted it to be a surprise!” Prateek gushed with a childlike innocence.
“What?! You hacked into my . . .,” she stopped in time and said instead, “I mean someone’s account, created fake profiles, used someone else’s name . . . all to befriend some girl? You’re pathetic.”
“Oh come on Mukti. I know it’s you. We have been chatting for months now. I know that I am a little younger than you but it’s the 21st century. These things don’t matter anymore honey,” he said taking Mukti’s other hand in his hands.
“Look. I am not Mukti. I am with him, ok,” she jerked her hand away.
“Who’s he anyway?” Prateek asked.
“His name is . . . uh . . .” Mukti looked at the guy sitting next to her with pleading eyes. The guy took pity on her and jumped in, “Hey. I don’t think we have been introduced. I am Rajveer,” he said pulling Mukti closer.
“I am sure you are mistaken, this isn’t your Mukti or whoever you are referring to. This is my fiancé, uh, Natasha,” He said squeezing Mukti’s hand.
Fiancé?! Mukti looked at him angrily. The nerve of that guy.
“No, you are lying,” Prateek said stubbornly.
Rajveer stood up to his full height which was enough to scare Prateek.
“Or maybe you are right. I am sorry for bothering you guys. Maybe she left. I’ll keep looking. Bye,” And with a small wave he left.
Mukti heaved a huge sigh of relief. She was cursing herself inwardly for believing that she might be able to find her Mr. Right through the internet.
These things happen only in movies or books or with Sonali! Normal people like me don’t find anyone through the internet.
She was thinking about all this when she heard him speak, “So, honey. What’s the plan for tonight? Your place or mine?” he said whispering in her ear and snuggling close to her. As much as she hated to admit even to herself she got goosebumps and a shiver ran up her spine.

“Thank you for jumping in there but I have to go. I have plans.”
“What plans? Chatting?” He said mocking.
She smiled tightly, “I am sure you are going to have a great laugh over this.”
“Oh, you bet. But why would you do that? Find love on the internet, I mean. You can have any guy you want,” He said looking into her eyes. And she realized her guards melting away. Summoning all her will she got up to leave, “I have to go. Good luck with your girlfriend.”
But Rajveer caught her hand and pulled her towards him. She fell on him. Their faces just inches apart. He leaned in a little closer. She closed her eyes and her lips parted waiting for a kiss. Rajveer looked at her face. He didn’t know why but since the moment he had entered the restaurant and saw her sitting there looking up eagerly after every few minutes or so at the door he had wanted exactly this. She in his arms and their lips merely inches apart. It took all his willpower not to stoop down and kiss her. Instead he said, “Well, well, well. Aren’t we a little ungrateful today?”

Mukti’s eyes flashed open. The words stung her like someone had thrown a bucket of ice cold water at her.
What the hell are you doing Mukti!
She saw him smile and broke away from him.
“What do you mean?” she said sitting straight.
“It’s a tit-for-tat world darling. I helped you get rid of your boyfriend, it’s your turn to pay back,” he said
Mukti couldn’t believe what she was hearing, “I told you before that I am not going to help you in that little scam of yours.”
“You are such a hypocrite.”
“What did you say?”
“You just broke up with a guy because he was ugly.”

She turned beetroot red.
Thank god, people didn’t know about her relationship. They would think how desperate I am, to get all dressed up and come meet a total stranger whom I had met online.
“I did not break up with him because he was ugly.”
He raised his eyebrows.
“Fine, that was a very big reason but it was not the only reason. He lied to me. He hacked into my account. He told me he was twenty nine!”

“What did you expect? You should have guessed a guy you are meeting online was bound to be anything but what he said he was,” he said smiling.
“Whatever,” she again tried to get up.
“You are not going anywhere.” He was not ready to let go off her just yet.
“You know what? This has gone way longer than I expected,” With that she wriggled herself loose and got up and found herself face to face with a woman. She was around Mukti’s age, petite, short black hair, and for some reason with a fascination for the colour red. From her eye shadow, to her lipstick, to her nail paint to her dress to even her highlights . . . everything was a shocking shade of red.

“This has got to stop happening,” Mukti whispered to herself, “Uh . . . excuse me,” she said trying to get past her.
“I knew it!” she said in a squeaky voice.
“What?” Mukti was taken aback, first because of the voice and then the statement.
“Misha! This is a surprise. What are you doing here?” Mukti heard Rajveer say. He had got up from the booth and was standing near Mukti. His arm brushing hers.
Mukti looked back incredulously and mouthed, ‘is this her?’
He nodded discreetly. OH! MY! GOD! She controlled her laughter. He could see that she was enjoying this. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, ‘now do you know?’
“Who the hell are you? What are you doing here with my boyfriend?” Misha said and wrapped her arm protectively around Rajveer. “He is mine. I know girls like you. You see a nice handsome rich man and you just can’t wait to put your paws into him. But you know missy this one right here… is all mine. So you just have to find yourself another one,” She said shrilly.
“Oh you are getting it all wrong. I don’t even know . . .” Mukti started to say.
“Oh shut up! You save that crap for someone else. I know better than that. Bitch!”
“Ok that’s it. You just get your hands off of my fiancé,” Mukti said and brushed Misha’s hands off Rajveer. Rajveer looked at her with an expression of confusion and humour.
“Veer is in love with me and not you. And you are the bitch and not me. Listen babe, he doesn’t like you and he is been trying to tell you that for the last, god knows how many months. But you just don’t want to believe it. I have kept quiet for all this time but not anymore. So stop being such a wuss, get your pathetic act together and move on!” Mukti realized that she was yelling and the whole restaurant was looking at them.

To both of their disbelief, Misha started sobbing, “I am sorry,” she said softly and ran away crying.
“Misha, wait…” Mukti began but Misha had gone off the restaurant by then.
Mukti was stunned; she had never acted like this. She had never made someone cry before.
She looked at Rajveer and both of them started laughing.
Rajveer addressed the room, “I am sorry folks for ruining your lunch, get back to your food people… show’s over.” And then added to her, “That was great.”
“I know,” Mukti said.
“I thought you were not going to help me,” he said teasingly.
“I was not helping you. She was abusing me. I was helping myself.”
“Oh… in that case you still owe me one. Have dinner with me.”
“That’s very chivalrous of you.” Mukti said picking up her jacket.
“So we on for tonight?”
“No. I don’t even know you, how can I go out with you?”
“Let us refresh our memory, shall we? Weren’t you just here to meet some random guy who you met on the internet?” he teased.
“See, whenever I start to think I was wrong about you, you prove me right.”
They both stood in silence for a while.  
“Anyway, where did you meet her? She looked like…” Mukti started, wanting to know where a guy like him might meet a girl like that.
“A cartoon?” he completed the sentence for her.
“Yeah,” she said laughing.
They both started laughing again.
“Well, I met her at a friend’s birthday party.” He started saying but then seeing Mukti’s reaction added hastily, “It was a costume party. I thought she was wearing a cute red devils costume, but then I met her in broad daylight and there it was again. The red everywhere but thankfully she was not sporting her horns and tail. And my God that voice. It drives me crazy! Since then I have been trying to break up with her but she doesn’t want to believe that I may not be interested in her.” He sighed.

“I think today might have done it.” Mukti said. “Why didn’t you ask one of your friends to act as your girlfriend?”
“That was the plan but she ditched me at the last moment and then fortunately I saw you.”
This again brought Mukti to reality. She was just a back up.
“Hmmm . . .”
“Where did you meet your guy?” he asked.
“He was not my guy. I met him online. Started chatting and then ended up here.”
“Why do you get so defensive?”
“I am not defensive. I was just thinking that you were giving me so much grief over “my guy” and look who you were dating?!”
“Well, at least my girl is not underage.”
“You girl looked like a hooker!” she said angrily.
“Your guy was a hacker!”
They both sat in silence for a while again trying to calm down.
“Look I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.” Mukti began, “I am sure she was a nice girl.”
“No, she was not and I am sorry too. Let’s start over,” he said extending his hand, “Hi, I am Rajveer, can I please have the honour of having lunch with a pretty lady as yourself.”
“That is so 18th century.” Mukti said rolling her eyes.
“Ok, then how about this. Hi I am Rajveer, go out for a cup of coffee with me, woman?”
“And that’s extreme!”
“Come on, I’m just trying to lighten the mood.”
He said looking hopefully at Mukti. This time Mukti smiled and took his hand.
“That’s more like it.”
They drove down to the nearby coffee house and over endless cups of coffee found out almost everything about each other. After sitting at the coffee house for hours, Rajveer asked tentatively, “Would you like to come over?”
Mukti laughed and asked, “For what? Another cup of coffee? Don’t you think we have had enough?”
“Coffee, dinner, breakfast . . .  whichever you please?” he said in his low husky voice and Mukti again felt her stomach turning but in a good way. And without thinking she said, “Sure.”


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