Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Of Dates, Disappointments, and... Electra!

Chapter Seven - My Little Writing Project

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

'Either the hot guy is married, or he is gay and if he is neither, then he will be, without fail, boring! Where is that elusive brand of good-looking, charming, smart and successful guy? Is it too much to ask for?!'

9th June 2012

“You have to get me out of here. Call me back in exactly 10 minutes,” Mukti whispered in her phone, “And dare you say, I told you so! Bye.”

She was standing in a bathroom stall, little irritated and absolutely frazzled as things had not gone according to plan. In fact, they had gone wrong, horribly wrong.

Four hours earlier . . .

Mukti was dressing up for her date with Prakash. Priya was sitting on her mattress munching on some chips. She looked disapprovingly up at Mukti, “It is not a good idea to mix business with pleasure. I still think you shouldn’t go out with him. You need to keep this relationship strictly professional.”

“Says the woman with a massive crush on her co-worker,” Mukti sighed.

“Well, that’s different,” said Priya and then looking at Mukti’s raised eyebrows added hastily, “At least I am not acting on it.”

They have had this conversation innumerable times since Mukti had told Priya that she had agreed to go out with Prakash.

“Priya, I need this. I am tired of trying to write. I am tired of being locked up in the house and thinking about finishing the novel. You might think that working-from-home is nothing short of a perfect job but it isn’t. It tends to get very lonely sometimes. I need someone in my life.”

She turned back to look at herself in her bathroom mirror.

“Plus he is the perfect guy for me. He is smart, good looking, works as an editor, is good looking, has a nice smile” she paused to put on her earrings, “is good-looking.”

 “How do I look?” she asked pirouetting.

“You look good in borrowed clothes,” Priya smiled wryly, “and I must say I have done a good job with your face.”

Mukti was wearing Sonali’s not-too-sexy-but-sexy-enough-to-want-him-to-see-more-of-her red dress that she had borrowed when she was dating her now-ex boyfriend and had forgotten to return. Priya, grudgingly and after repeated requests, had done her make-up in such a way so it would seem that she is not wearing any and styled her hair to get that perfect just-got-out-of-bed look.

Mukti posed, “I do miss Sonali but I think you have been a decent substitute,” she smiled.

“Whatever,” Priya said getting up, “I am going home. I have to give final touches to a presentation.”

“You are working again on a Saturday?”

“Yes, I am,” Priya sighed and muttered one last time before walking out the door, “I still think this date is not a good idea.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mukti waved her bye.

After admiring herself, one last time in the mirror she sat down to wait for Prakash. It was almost seven pm, the prearranged time for their date. Mukti imagined him stepping out of a Mercedes or a BMW with a bouquet for her when she was rudely awakened from her daydream by a loud spluttering noise followed by a bike coming to a screeching halt outside. She went to the window to see whose bike was making such a racket. She had to squint her eyes to see in the darkness, but still couldn’t make out who or what it was.

Why can’t people get their vehicles fixed and help in preserving the environment. Why do people buy bikes anyway? So much pollution, air as well as sound!

The doorbell rang and Mukti rushed to open the door. She was happy to note that Prakash came at the appointed hour and looked as fresh as humanly possible. He was again wearing the blue denims but this time instead of a white shirt, he was wearing a pink one.

Hmm… Me likes.

He was punching something on his iPhone. He looked up and saw Mukti who smiled widely and braced herself for a compliment.

“How do you spell the name of your Apartment society? Is it Sapna or Sapnaa? I can’t seem to get the right spelling to tag?”

“Huh? Tag?”

“Yeah, on Facebook?” he said looking up.

We like Facebook, do we? We are so compatible!

Mukti smiled to herself and spelled out the name. He typed in and it was only after he successfully managed to tag his current location that he glanced up at Mukti.

“Wow! You look breathtaking.”

Okay here we go.

Mukti smiled, “Thank you.”

“Do you mind if I take a picture of us together?”

“No, not at all.”

He came and stood next to Mukti. He pointed the camera of his phone towards their faces, “Smile,” and click a selfie, and immediately got busy with his phone again.

“This will just take a minute, I am just uploading it on Facebook and twitter.”

And Priya thinks I am addicted to social networking sites.

“Shall we…?” he asked.


Mukti fell into a step beside him envisaging a stylish car awaiting her. However, his choice of vehicle turned out to be a disappointment. Well, beginning of disappointments.

“Mukti meet Electra, my Vespa,” he said with an excitement befitting a child.

“You named your Scooty?” She muttered gawking at the scooty, “How sweet.”
She faked a smile and looked up.

God, this is not happening! A Scooty? Isn’t it for women or maybe children? He is a grown man for God sakes! If it absolutely had to be a two wheeler, it could at least have been a bike!

“Are we going on that? You see I am not dressed to sit on a scooty,” She waved at herself from head to toe.

“It will be fine. You can sit with both your legs on one side,” He said handing her the helmet.

You have got to be kidding me!  

Mukti took the helmet from his hand and fastened it around her face.  

There goes my picture-perfect hairstyle. 

 Prakash started the engine. Mukti’s head snapped up as she heard the same spluttering sound she had heard earlier which instead of fading away only kept getting stronger.

“Hop on,” Prakash smiled. Mukti gulped and went ahead to get onto the backseat of the scooty. She encountered one of the most embarrassing ten minutes of her life, where she tried to get on a scooty wearing a short skirt with all the grace and poise she could muster but failing miserably, nonetheless. Finally she managed to seat herself and thought the worst was surely over. But how wrong was she!

Once the scooty started, Mukti had her work cut out for her. From one hand she was holding on to Prakash and from the other she was pinning down her skirt which kept flapping up. Every ten minutes, she had to sit absolutely still and pull out stray hair from her eyes. In addition, Electra was not the silent types. After completing every kilometre, she kind of made the same spluttering sound accompanied by a lot of smoke which enveloped her and made her cough. She couldn’t hear a single word that Prakash was saying . . .  not that he was a talker . . . as the noise coming from Electra was being complemented by the honking of cars as well. It was the peak traffic time and everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere. Horns were blaring, tempers were rising as traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.

This is the worst ride ever!

The swiftness, or the lack off, of the rest of the traffic was not a concern for Electra as the scooty went at the speed of 20kmph only with even cycle rickshaws overtaking them. At a signal, when the scooty finally stopped, Mukti breathed a sigh of relief.  She looked around and saw that they had reached Greater Kailash (sector II).  

The only way he can redeem himself after what he has put me through is if we go to Mainland China. I am in the mood for some Chinese. Smoke House Grill would be a decent option as well.

Before Mukti could utter her preference for restaurants, Prakash said, “I know it is a little unconventional but driving a scooter reduces your carbon footprint and saves a lot of money that you would otherwise spend on petrol. I am doing my bit for the environment,” and then added as an afterthought, “and my pocket.” He turned around and winked.

You don’t say!

“And with the rising petrol prices, it does seem like a good choice,” Mukti added trying to be understanding.

“I have just switched to a Vespa a couple of months back. I love driving it. It’s better than the Honda City, I had earlier.” He beamed.

“It feels like we are driving in Rome,” Mukti replied full of sarcasm, which was, unfortunately, lost on Prakash. 

Why did he have to go green just before he met me!

The signal also turned green and once again Mukti’s ordeal began.

I wish I had an extra pair of hands
 They crossed the open roads of GK and entered the tiny cramped by-lanes of Kailash Colony. By now, it was eight pm and the road was filled with honking cars, irritated drivers and one much-hassled pillion rider, Mukti. Prakash, trying on a little dare-devilry, zoomed in from the tiny spaces between two cars. Mukti held onto him for dear life. She dare not move or even utter a word because she was scared that she would break Prakash’s concentration. After performing this ‘death-defying’ stunt, Electra was back to her usual pace. Mukti looked sideways and saw a cycle-rickshaw go past them. Inside a fat aunty was sitting, dressed up in a bejewelled sari and all decked up. She stared down at Mukti, condescendingly, from head to toe as if analyzing what she was wearing. Mukti saw her roll her eyes openly at the sight of her bare knees. Mukti frowned a little. The lady next looked directly at Mukti’s face and she took out a compact to retouch her make-up.

Is she trying to tell me something?

Mukti could feel sweat drip from her forehead, she used the back of her hand to wipe it off. When she tried to, for the nth time, straighten her skirt, she gaped with horror at the dust marks on her hand. She wanted to scream with frustration. She finally decided to ask Prakash where they were headed.

“Um . . . Prakash where are you taking me? We have been driving for a long time.”

“Not far now. We have almost reached, just five more minutes.”

Mukti looked around. She realised they were near Lajpat Nagar.

Lajpat nagar? On a date? Really now!

As promised, in the next five minutes, they reached their destination.  Prakash stopped Electra and motioned for Mukti to get down. Mukti climbed down awkwardly tripping slightly on her high heels.

Yeah, well, go green! But what about all the noise pollution, you moron! We haven’t been able to speak two words during this Godforsaken ride thanks to all the noise!

 She took off the helmet and glanced  at herself in the scooty’s rear-view mirror. Her meticulously styled hair was in a mess, her water-proof kajal had smudged beneath her eyes that made her look like a racoon and she had sweat spots underneath her arms! She tried to smoothen her hair  as much as she could but however hard she tried, they just didn’t co-operate. She finally gave up and took out a clutcher from her bag and tied them. She took a wet-wipe, thanked Priya silently for insisting she take it, and rubbed off the excess kajal.

Prakash came from behind “let’s go. This is my favourite joint,” he said leading the way. Mukti looked around trying to figure out where they were at. They were at Lajpat Nagar (Phase four). She could see Hotel Vikram nearby. Prakash was walking a little ahead of her fiddling with his phone again. He entered the hotel. Mukti hesitated a little at the entrance.

“Why are we going inside a hotel?” Mukti tried to remember if she had picked up her pepper spray. Prakash smiled.

Damn those dimples!

“I know how this looks. But trust me, this is perfectly safe.”

Trust you? Ha! Weren’t you the one who just brought me here on the back of a scooter named Electra? I should have listened to Priya.

Instead she said, “ok. I trust you. Let’s go,” and smiled wearily.

As soon as she entered the hotel, she started changing her mind. Unlike the facade, the place seemed elegant and classy. 

Maybe this place isn’t so bad. 

 Prakash led her into their in-house lounge, 1440. The lounge was dimly –lit. Mukti couldn’t figure out much. The first thing she noticed was soft instrumental melody that was playing in the background which was a welcome change from the loud blaring horns she had been listening to the past hour and a half. Her eyes finally adjusted to the dim lighting and she noticed that the place was done up artistically with a contemporary decor. The lounge also offered outside booths with plush sofas. However, there were not many people around. 

Maybe the place comes into its element around midnight.  

Mukti stumbled a little and held onto Prakash’s hand to steady herself and realised it was sweaty, too sweaty. He led her towards the outside dining area.

“It’s a little hot. Maybe we should sit inside only,” Mukti suggested.

“Outside is where all the fun is,” He said and guided her to an empty booth.

She braced herself and allowed to be seated. Prakash sat in front of her and smiled. Then, began a deafening round of silence. Prakash, smart, good-looking Prakash, didn’t say a single word for the next fifteen minutes. He just looked around and kept smiling, in between furiously typing on his phone. He clicked a picture of their booth and uploaded it on Twitter too. He was also doing this weird thing in which he sucked in his stomach after every five minutes or so.

What has happened to the cool, suave editor I had met in a coffee shop a few days back?! Who are you and what have you done to Prakash?  

She wanted to cry. She wanted to run off. She wanted to yell at him but, then she realised he is an editor at a publishing company. He might help turn her dream into reality. Thinking that, she decided to give him another chance.

“Are you okay? You haven’t said anything in like fifteen minutes,” She finally asked.

“I am fine. It’s just that I am really nervous. It has been a long time that I went on a date.”

Really? I couldn’t tell!

“There is nothing to be nervous about. I haven’t been out in quite some time too,” she smiled politely.

“You know I used to go out a lot. And I mean a lot. Parties, get together, raves everything. There was a time I used to hang around here till three in the morning. But then I realised what is the point of it all. So I stopped going out and drinking as well,” he added as an afterthought, “And I have a confession. When I said I haven’t been out with a girl in a long time, I meant at all . . .  I haven’t been on a date . . .”

“Like ever?” Mukti asked.

Prakash nodded.

“Prakash, are you gay?” Mukti asked to lighten the mood.

“I thought so too. But then some time back I realised I am not,” he said very seriously.

This was not the answer Mukti was expecting. She smiled tightly. There was silence in their booth once more. Mukti kept fidgeting with her fingers and Prakash did that stomach thingy. After some time, he excused himself and went to the bathroom. Mukti looked around. The lounge had started filling up and all around her people were laughing and joking.

And here I am, sitting with a gorgeous guy and having nothing to talk about!

She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She couldn’t believe she was with a handsome man on the worst date of her life who seemed to prefer his phone to her. She didn’t know what to do.

 He is such a sad guy. Looks can be deceptive and first impressions are not always right! They correctly say, never judge a book by its cover! Should I give him another chance or should I just leave while he is in the bathroom? What the hell am I supposed to do!

Prakash came back and he was smiling.

He is so good-looking!

Mukti melted again and decided to give the evening and Prakash one more but final chance.  

It’s time to take matters in my own hands.

“So, how long have you been working? How did you get into publishing industry? You must meet interesting, and by interesting I mean eccentric, authors, ” she enquired about his job  thinking it would be filled with some  anecdotes about some random author throwing a fit or something.

“I have been working for 6 years. I got into it by chance, never planned on it. I haven’t met any eccentric ones yet.” Prakash again went quiet.

Mukti racked her brains for a topic to start a conversation.

“What about your family? Any brothers or sisters?”

“No. None.”

“Where did you study from?”
“I completed my schooling from DPS and then did my graduation from Hansraj College. After that I pursued a course in journalism from IIMC.”

Mukti sighed inaudibly. I feel like I am taking his interview.

“Excuse me? I have to use the washroom. Why don’t you order something for yourself.” He said getting up.

“Okay. What will you have?”

“Just water.”

Mukti nodded. She waved over a waiter and ordered for a Mojito. What I really need are tequila shots! She decided to talk about her various jobs when Prakash came out next. That ought to take another hour at least! Prakash came back, sat facing Mukti and looked around.

“Let me tell you about my jobs. I have had three career changes so far.”

“Career changes?”

“Yes. Let me see . . .” Mukti said trying to remember, “I have been a journalist, an events co-ordinator and a copywriter. Yes, that’s about it.” she smiled.

“That’s a lot.”

“Well, right after college, I worked for a small publication house. They had a lifestyle magazine which was not very popular. I joined because I wanted to see my name in print, plus I was young and foolish.” She smiled.

The waiter arrived with her drink and his water. They placed the order for starters. Mukti continued on once the waiter left their table.

“My boss at that organisation was uh . . .  very unreasonable. Have you read The Devil wears Prada?” she asked taking a sip of her drink.

He nodded.

“she was like my very own Miranda Priestly. Complete bitch. It was because of her that I left that job. I then joined an events management company in GK (II). I loved it there. I was into planning, co-ordinating and executing events, conferences and sometimes weddings too. That was a fun job in the beginning but eventually I got bored. I mean how many conferences can you co-ordinate. After a point it all seemed so mundane. The same hotels, the same vendors, the same demands from the clients. I got fed up so I left.”

Prakash nodded and again excused himself to go to the bathroom.

What is this?! He seems to have a bladder of a new born baby.

When he came back, Mukti asked feigning concern, “Are you all right? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, yes. Everything is fine. Why wouldn’t it be.”

Maybe because you have spent more time in the washroom or with your phone than you have with me?

Their starters arrived. Just as Mukti was about to cut into a chicken kebab, Prakash stopped her. He positioned it in the little light that was available and clicked a picture of the platter.

Oh dear Lord! They ate in silence. Finally Prakash spoke up, “Do you have a Facebook account and a twitter handle?”

“Yes. I do.”

Mukti gave him his details and within seconds she got a friend request and a now-following-you notification. That was fast. Mukti accepted his request and followed him back on twitter. As they waited for their main course, Mukti talked about her last job, working as a copywriter at an Ad agency.

“It was fun but I couldn’t write according to the brief. I like to write but I can’t work around a deadline.”

Prakash looked up from his phone. Mukti realized she had made a faux pas. She hurriedly added, “I meant then I couldn’t write according to a deadline, now I can. I absolutely can.” 

She sipped her drink, “Don’t you worry I will get you a synopsis and five chapters by next week.”

Prakash didn’t say anything and just smiled back. Mukti thinking of a new topic to talk about sipped her drink in silence. What kind of parties you attended?! Where you induced sleep with your company?! She decided to finally ask about the parties. But he gave no response and went to the loo again. Mukti got fed up and looked at her watch. It was just ten pm.   

We have been together only for three hours out of which almost an hour was spent commuting here! It seems like a lot more. T

his time when Prakash came back from the loo, she excused herself, went to the washroom and called Priya. It was then that she had asked her to call back and get her out of the predicament that was this date. She came back and sat down. As expected, Prakash was busy with his phone. After ten minutes of silence, her phone rang. 

Thank God! She picked up hurriedly, “Hello?”

“Hey Mukti . . . I am back!”

Sonali? Well, you will have to do!

“What? How? Oh God! Don’t worry, I’ll be right there! Yeah . . . I am on my way. Bye” she hung up and looked at Prakash with a pained expression.“I am sorry Prakash, but I have to go. That was my friend, Sonali. She is really sick and wants me to come ASAP. We would do this some other time.” She said getting up. Then as a consideration added, “I had loads of fun.”

“But we haven’t even had dinner yet! At least let me drop you home.” He got up too.

“Oh God NO! I mean, it is okay. I will take an auto. I will call you about the appointment, okay? Bye.” She said and rushed off. Once down and in an auto, she called up Sonali.

“hey Sonali! How was Goa?”

“What the hell were you talking about? Where are you?” asked Sonali.

“nothing ya. I was on a date. Not a very nice date. It was pretty boring. So I had called Priya to bail me out. She didn’t call but you did. So I pretended that you were not well to come out of it.”

“was this with the same publisher guy? The indecent proposal one?” Sonali asked mischievously.

“yes the very same. I am sure Priya told you. Anyway, enough about me. How was your Goa trip?” Mukti asked, hoping for the best and preparing herself to hear the worst.

In spite of Mukti and Priya’s advice on not going. Sonali had gone ahead. Mukti didn’t know yet, but Sonali had fun too and had fallen in love with the beaches, the sun, the sea, the flea market, and Kshitij, the IIML guy.

“it was great. And Kshitij and his friends were perfect gentlemen like I told you they would be. So there.”

Thank god!

“You are telling the truth right? Nothing happened?” asked Mukti.

“Obviously something happened. I don’t kiss and tell!” Sonali said between giggles.

“that is fine. But nothing happened beyond that, right? You guys didn’t sleep together?”

“No, we did not . . . yet.”

“you are impossible. You know that, don’t you.” Mukti smiled in spite of herself and listened patiently to Sonali’s animated account of her Goa trip on the long auto ride back home.

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