It was a cold November evening. I glanced in the mirror. I almost looked like a red-faced monkey with the muffler on. I was hesitant to take the muffler off because I was already feeling chill with anxiety.
She gave me a wink and a tight hug. I could see that she was all set to drag me from my bachelor’s pad to her home to meet her parents. I was a reluctant visitor – my English isn’t half as good as her father’s.
The drive from Lakdikapul to Red Hills was torturous. My Yamaha was swerving on the road as usual. But my mind was all scattered. I kept thinking of ways to greet her dad while she, on the other hand, kept yapping about the most random things possible.
Both of us stood at the door of the house and for some strange reason – call it bravo if you like – I took the initiative to ring the bell. A grey-haired man who was six feet tall opened the door with pursed lips.
I said, “Good morning, sir.”
He said, looking at me from my face to toe, “Please come in. Take a seat.” I could see that his eyes lingered on the tiny tuff of grey hair sticking out of my muffler.
I sat down and tried to make a conversation.
I braved, “Sir, there is too much moisturizer in the air.”
Natasha nudged me. She whispered, “It’s moisture!”
Then, Mr. Seth started off on a longish talk on politics and current affairs.
I groped for something to say in my mind. Confused, scattered thoughts flew in my mind just as shreds of glass and tiny pebbles would fly in the air during an urban disaster. All I could remember was the picture of a film hero with his six-pack physique on the page-3 column that day. But I forgot his name too given my tension that morning.
The talk went on for an hour or more. I lit my cigarette and sipped on the tea that Natasha’s mom placed on the teapoy just to look intellectual. I tried to look all broody. I groped for my pair of thick spectacles in my sling bag to add that extra accent to that instant look I was trying to sport – that of an intellectual.
But, did it help? No. By the end of the meeting, I had to take my muffler off because I was beginning to sweat – not because it was humid but because I felt like screaming. I felt like screaming - “Sir, your daughter and me love each other and want to marry each other. Why can’t we keep things simple? I earn well and am a good guy. I am not a drug addict or a shoddy guy of sorts! What is your problem?”
Alas! That was just the beginning. There was more to come, I presumed. Natasha’s father said when I was about to leave, “Mr. Ranjan, it was nice meeting you. You have to drop in sometime again on the weekend. It will be a pleasure speaking to you again.” I nodded with an awkward smile.
It was almost like him saying, “I like your resume for the job. But, we will have to soon hold a second round of interview.” It sounded terrible and I felt like banging my head to the grill of the front door as I was taking leave. But, I bore it with a smile also because Natasha, at that point, beamed and looked more smitten by her dad than she was by me.
I knew that I had to come back for the second round of assessment because Natasha was just too precious to let go of. Besides that, the crispy dosas for breakfast are also a great payoff I get for visiting her dad.