It was my second-last day in the office at The Economic Times. And I myself was not completely aware of that fact as my decision to quit depended on an offer letter from IANS where I work as of now. I was keeping this to myself and as per my principle I was doing my job with utmost sincerity till the last hour.
I had an evening shift when the bosses are generally gone and a limited number of people stay and take care of the ‘best business journalism’ in India. Yes, I was one of them. It has been almost a month or two, may be, that I had seen two girls from Canada working as an intern at our office. One was dusky, skinny and looked malnourished to me (no offences) and another was the typical ‘phoren’ (foreign) girl with white skin, fuller body and the one who starts to throw clothes as soon as temperature advances.
As usual, not taking any chances of talking to strangers and keeping a low profile I never even thought of introducing myself to any of them. I am a practical kind of guy. Why shoot when you know your bullets are not in the range!
The evening of May 14, 2012 was the penultimate day at the place of ‘business journalism’. I and two of my colleagues were doing the news updation and managing the home page. We went out for a tea and then returned.
The office is like a typical corporate office with tens of compartments and computers. At one end there are offices for bosses and a few smaller working rooms where some of us, in case of seats being full outside, would go and work. It was a detached kind of room with no noise of the general news places.
It was calmer and lonely. Typically that room closed after 6 PM when the day shift people would leave. That day the light was on and I went in to see if the electricity is being wasted or is someone still working. It would have been great making fun of a colleague if he was doing overtime.
Anyway, there was this girl from Canada and not the white one. She was sitting on her work station working on god-knows-what! Her whole table had food items- mainly street food from Delhi, cups, bottles… It was a complete mess.
I barged in and introduced myself. She told her name and where she was from. She had a thin jacket on her, thick spectacles, and a pair of tight jeans. I asked her about herself and why was she eating the street foods of Delhi when she can afford to eat whatever she want from a good place.
She had her own reasons for that. I gave her a good lecture on why she should eat responsibly and why she should take better care of herself as she is no more with her family. Then we had a good conversation. She was very much concerned about the way society treats women and why they were put on a backseat, the equality and all other stuff that an idealist talks of, though hundred percent right.
I explained the patriarchal set-up and mindset of Indian society where women are made to believe they are inferior to men though our scriptures and classical texts points at worshipping them. I explained her in detail whys and hows of whatever she asked.
I finally asked her if she was interested in eating out properly or just go for another street delicacy with a potential to upset her foreign stomach. She said she would love to go but I will have to guide her what we should be having.
It was like two hours spent in discussing something that doesn’t happen at corporate work places. Something humane, something about your own society, something that is inside you that you want to tell someone but the mechanical work and the mad pace of picking news and posting them leaves you with almost nothing.
All your intellect stagnates as the robotic lifestyle where the ‘shifts’, irregular off-days make you a social outcast who doesn’t have time for friends, no fixed working hours for more than a week… a man at war with himself who is rendered incapable of stuff that once he though he was capable of- thinking.
This weird kind of job is intended to consume everything out of you and all that you are left with is nothing tangible in terms of emotion, intellect or just good time.
So, my work was pending (thanks to two other mates who realised my interest in the girl and kept the stories up and running on website) and I resumed.
It was almost 9 in the evening and it was time for dinner. It was special as I had asked her to join me. I told other guys this news and they deliberately, without my intention, did not turn up at the said place. They had told they would follow us later but they didn’t.
It was a good dinner for me. I ordered a South Indian dish- Masala Dosa – for her which she could not finish. We had some tea and talked about literature and my likes and other general stuff. I could sense she was impressed with me. I told her about my family, how my father gave his all to see me do good in life and why I keep it to myself and a bunch of friends who have been with me always.
We came back. It was time for her to leave to her place fairly distant from the office and I adviced her to leave soon as it would be tough getting a taxi at late night. Then I did a weird thing, which I am still not sure why. I asked her for her email as if asking for her phone number will make me a bad guy! She looked at me and said casually, “Why don’t you take my phone number?”
I said to myself, “Fair enough! That’s what I should have asked!”
Next day I resigned with immediate effect and said good bye to all my colleagues who were good to me. Still my resignation was not known to all and when I showed them the letter, some of the ladies thought I was joking. But I was not.
A few days passed and we chatted every now and then.
It was a Friday night and I was spending a week of rest after resignation. I had to join the new place on Monday. I was in my room chatting on Whatsapp and the light went out. This was unusual as Delhi has 24X7 electricity unless some unavoidable circumstance arises.
I texted her that there was no light in my area and I was roaming on streets. We kept on chatting for another 15 minutes and then, as luck would have it, light of her apartment was gone too. I joked that it was a perfect time to have a candle-lit dinner and that I had a bottle of Blender’s pride (a good whisky brand in India) with me.
I don’t drink or smoke. I thought it would be a good idea to keep up the conversation till electricity is restored. But she took it seriously and said it would be great if I could giver her some company. I had a good bike with me but no insurance papers and no driving license. And more so, no bottle of whisky either! I had seen a bottle at my friend’s flat and went to him asking for it saying it was a special occasion and only he could save me.
But he refused saying it was a Saturday next day and he needed it tomorrow morning. Things were getting worse. It was past midnight and shops were all closed. I asked him if he could help his friend for 15 years. He said obviously he can. He gave me the address of a slum in our locality, two kilometres away, and that I will be able to locate some whisky seller who sells in black.
I started with a backpack and my bike, with all the chances of getting a traffic ticket but spending the weekend with a girl was worth it, I thought. I located the whisky-seller and he gave me the 80-bucks bottle for 200. I gave it to him. It was my first time buying something other than soft drinks and that too illegally. This is going in to my autobiography.
It was almost 1 and till the time I raced my bike and reached her apartment it was 2 AM.
I phoned her that I was standing at her gates. She lived at the top floor and came down with no noise, asked my to keep shut, opened the door slowly and we went to her room. It was a large apartment and I was astonished at the first instance as she was living there all alone in a 2 BHK. Her partner, the white girl, had left and she was all alone now. And she was paying a huge sum- 15000!
Anyway, she brought me a glass of water and some mango juice and I gave her the whisky. We started talking on how I got the whisky and why I don’t drink. We chatted for another three hours sitting on couches. I looked at my watch and reluctantly said it would be good if I left. She said no way I was going to go and insisted that I stayed.
It felt real good inside. I thought may be it is the time to spend a night with a girl after quite a good time.
I and her moved into her bed room where an AC was functioning properly. Given it was peak summer in India and Delhi heat was getting hotter, I decided to stay and talk in her room till we start feeling sleepy. It was a small bed made for one person. A 6 by 3 bed where my long frame couldn’t fit. We reclined with the support of the wall. She had her glass of whisky in her one hand and my hand in another.
I was in her bed. She was in her shorts which were very short by my standards. I was touching her. She was drunk. A perfect time to make a move. But I was not making any nor had any plans of. I was thinking what will she think if I did something weird. This whole image of the nation and weird kind of stuff were whirling in my head. I didn’t want to spoil which might become a great friendship by making a weird move just because this is the way things happen in English movies!
But fate had something else planned for me.
I was massaging her palms in acupuncture style which made her feel good. She kept the glass on the table and turned to me. She was becoming mild and soft… She had stopped talking and my heart started beating fast in my chest…