Their First meeting
He met her in the apartment elevator. She was humming a tune and running her hand through her hair in an attractively absent-minded manner. Since the tune sounded familiar, he was curious and asked her what it was. She was quite taken aback.
“Was that loud?” she enquired with a cute frown line between her neatly plucked eyebrows.
Smiling, he said, “Loud enough for me to be curious.”
“It is a tune from a Tamil movie,” she replied with a smile of her own.
He said, “I know the language. AR Rehman?”
Nodding her head, she said, “Right, what do you do?”
“What do most guys in Bangalore do?” he asked with a smirk.
“I got it,” she said with a slight toss of her hair. “Good day at work, eh?” she questioned politely.
Shrugging, he replied, “Most days are good for me. How about you?”
Mimicking his shrug, she said, “It was a short day. Boss is out of station.”
He and I have been best buddies since we were mere teenagers. And we never kept anything from each other. This time wasn’t any different. As his encounters with her became more frequent, his animated narrations to me were adorable to watch. It also made me curious about the lady who had captured my friend’s attention so quickly. He kept talking about her after that fateful encounter in the elevator. He told me that she was intriguing, easygoing, and attractive, but seemed to keep guys at a distance.
How they explored the relationship further
They continued to meet in chance encounters, in the supermarket next to the apartment complex, in the bakery nearby, and once he even found himself behind her in the short queue at an ATM centre. She always had a smile, and they exchanged pleasantries. He finally found the courage to ask her out, expecting her to decline. Surprisingly, she agreed.
“I thought you would not agree,” he said with his eyebrows raised in surprise.
She asked, “Why did you think that?” with that frown line back in place.
He took his time replying. “Weeellll,” he stretched the word into two syllables. “I wasn’t sure. You are different.”
Smiling, she replied, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Emboldened, he asked, “So, are you new to Bangalore?”
“Not exactly, I grew up here, and now I am back working here,” was her reply. “How about you? From Chennai, I believe?”
“Yes, I was born and brought up there,” he said in reply.
She had a way of directing the conversation away from personal details, and was good at getting people to share their life stories. He met her frequently after their first meeting three months ago. Slowly, she got more comfortable about sharing her own life story. He remembered the last conversation clearly.
“So, you wanted to know what I was doing in Delhi,” she began hesitantly.
Thinking that at least some of his questions would be answered, he said, “Yes, if you don’t mind.”
“There are a lot of nosy people,” she said cryptically. “You may be surprised.”
“I like being surprised,” he replied sincerely.
After a brief pause, she said, “I had an unhappy marriage. I am separated from the guy now.” As she said that, her expression became a little distant.
“Oh,” was his reply because he couldn’t think of anything else to say to her revelation.
“That was an interesting response, ‘Oh,’” she stated.
He merely shrugged.
“So when are we meeting next?” she asked with a smile, her earlier melancholy seemingly gone.
“That was quick. How about the coming Saturday?” he enquired with a cheeky grin.
What would my friend do next?
He had begun to like her. She told him about how she had married early, and the guy had turned out to be a workaholic, conservative prude, who did not believe in pleasure. Eventually, things had not worked out between them, and she was on her way to being labelled a divorcee. When he told me this, I was eager to know what he was going to do next.
“What do you think I should do?” he asked me in turn.
I shrugged. “It is you who should decide. Do you think she likes you?”
“She likes me. I think she has started feeling comfortable with me. We share a lot of interests too,” he said with a fond smile on his face.
“You mean theatre and writing?” I queried.
With obvious pleasure, he said, “Yes, it is not often that I come across people who appreciate literature and classics.”
“Do you know her well enough to figure out what to do now?” I wanted to know.
“Oh, come on dude, knowing is a continuous thing. Do you think I know you?” he said, not unkindly.
I said, “We’ve had this talk before about knowing. Knowing is a process, it never ceases; one can never completely know someone, blah blah blah. You have a point. I shouldn’t have asked you this!” with the right hint of remorse.
“You can ask anything, buddy. Now, tell me, if you’re in my place, what would you do?” he wanted to know.
Giving it some thought, I replied, “I would take it slowly. She is yet to get divorced. I don’t think you’re in a hurry to get into a relationship. I would spend more time with her, know her a little more, maybe. Then, if we can tolerate each other’s company, put up with different moods …,” trailing off meaningfully.
He instantly replied with a triumphant smile, “That is precisely what I was thinking!” He continued, “I’m going to continue seeing her. I don’t think she would want a relationship, or she is looking at marriage anytime soon, given her state.”
I nodded in agreement. “Yes, let her get used to your company, and her own homecoming.”
“And then, based on how things work out, ask her openly.”
I couldn’t stop my frown when I asked him, “Are you sure your parents would not mind?”
He shrugged. “They may. But the way they have brought me up, they know I can decide who and what is best for me. I think they would stand by me,” was his honest reply.
I was very glad for him. “Great!” I exclaimed.
“You are a good friend,” he said with a thump on my shoulder.
“I know!” I replied cheekily.
That conversation left me thinking. How does it matter if someone is divorced? Yes, people talk, there are stereotypes, and there is stigma. But, if we are able to see beyond this, and if we know the person well enough to decide if we can spend a lifetime together, then it should not matter. I couldn’t help but feel happy for my friend.