Start from Part 1
How long,’ I asked her over the phone.
‘Fifteen more minutes,’ she replied. A hint of apology in her voice.
I looked at my watch. It had been close to forty minutes since I reached outside Cafe Mozaic. An upscale joint at MG Road. Her office meeting had spilled over the designated time. Some emergency, she said.
‘Are you there?’ a loud voice broke my chain my chain of thoughts. ‘I’m in the cab now. Fifteen more minutes, max. I’m really sorry to keep you waiting.’
‘It’s alright,’ I replied, ‘these things happen. I’ll be inside the cafe. Ping me once you are here.’ She said she would and hung up.
I looked at the phone. It was then the realization sunk in. I was meeting her. A mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement washed over me.
The first rays of the early morning sun had greeted my arrival in Bangalore in the morning. A gush of fresh air swept across my face the moment I stepped outside of the Boeing airliner. The morning chill seeped into my cotton T-shirt and made me shiver. I folded my arms across my chest and gingerly climbed down the staircase towards the shuttle.
It was my first time in this city. The so-called silicon valley of India. The city of IT Revolution. A hub of the youth that came here from all the corners of the country.
On my way to the hotel, I leaned on the side window and looked as this new city rushed by me. A series of vast wastelands, mountains and buildings swept one after the another. At one point there was a mishmash of narrow flyovers overlooking the balconies and windows of the home. And at other, there were wide sprawling roads, their sides dotted with Chestnuts and Oaks and Beeches. The pavements scattered with the whites and pinks of the flowers that had fallen from these trees. It was autumn and a cool wind rustled through the trees. Bringing with it a hint of rain not far from where I was. I was in love with the city in no time.
It’s a good sign, I told myself.
I loved this feeling. Of being in a beautiful city like this. Meeting the girl I am falling more and more every moment of my life.
I found a table adjacent to the window in the restaurant located on the fourth floor of the building.
The interiors were plush with wooden work and comfortable upholstery. The faint yellowish light on the roof rendered a dreamy setting to the place. There wasn’t much rush. It being a Thursday evening. But a few people could be seen coming in as the evening matured with time.
By the time she arrived I’d drank two glasses of water and replied on a couple of office emails. It would have been three if I hadn’t realized someone was standing behind me. I turned around. It was Rhea.
‘Hi,’ she said.
‘Hey,’ I replied.
I stood up and raised my hand for a handshake. But she had leaned forward for a hug. By the time I realized and leaned forward, she had gone back and raised her hands instead. It was a classic hug and handshake confusion. We both smiled and settled for a warm handshake.
‘A glass of Vodka with lemon peel along with a can of Red Bull,’ she ordered as her eyes scanned the menu, ‘and one serving of Fusili. And what will you have?’ she asked. ‘A pint of Tuborg,’ I replied, ‘along with a plate of Chicken Salad.
As we waited for the order to come we shared how the day had fared for us. I told her about my day which went by without any hiccups. The meeting was as monotonous as it could be. The client didn’t even negotiate and signed the proposal. Her day, in contrast, was a blur. With one task starting before the previous it could end.
Talking to her, it never felt that we were meeting for the first time. Somehow, we had grown past that feeling in the days when we talked for hours over the phone.
After dinner we decided to take a walk on the deserted streets. The night was washed with the glow of the sodium lamps that glimmered on the signboards above. The night air was lively. Its coolness intoxicating. Time and again, as we walked, our shoulders would brush each other, making me feel more real than I’d felt ever in my life. It felt amazing to be there with her on this night.
‘It looks like a pub,’ she said pointing her finger to the right.
I looked in that way and found the roof of the three-story building lit with neon lights. ‘It looks so,’ I remarked, ‘but shouldn’t the pubs be closed by now.’ I looked at my watch. It was close to twelve-thirty. ‘We can try,’ she said. She adjusted the bag on her shoulder and started in the direction right behind me.
‘Wait,’ I said as I tried to catch up with her.
‘Sorry mam. We are not serving anymore.’ One of the guys who worked there said as Rhea slipped inside the door.
‘But it’s still time,’ she protested.
‘We should not press,’ I offered, realizing the futility of her efforts. She ignored and continued talking with the guy.
‘The pubs remain open till one,’ she continued.
‘Yes, but we can’t accept orders till then,’ the guy replied.
I could see Rhea was preparing for the counter argument. Just then a man came from behind and asked him what the fuss was all about. After ten seconds or so, the man looked at us and said, ‘You can go to the roof. We are still serving drinks there. I am not sure if you can get anything to eat apart from french fries.’
‘It’s what we want,’ Rhea beamed.
He pointed to an elevator towards the right. Rhea thanked him, took my hand and led me into the elevator. She was excited like a teenager.
As we settled at our table, I picked up the menu and ordered two glass of Long Island Iced Teas for us. Then I excused myself and went to the restroom. Her thoughts occupied my mind all this while. By the time I’d returned from the restroom she was nowhere to be found.
I looked at the table and found that half the Long Island Iced Tea from her glass, too, was gone. I looked around. It took me some time to realize that the girl who was dancing on the dance floor was her.
She was dancing as if there was no tomorrow. She was high as hell.