I was now beginning to have a really bad sense about this upcoming meeting I had committed myself to. What's that saying about acting in haste...? Friends whom I had informed about this meeting- you know, just so they would know to inform my parents and the cops in case he turned out to be an axe-murderer and I didn't resurface in a couple of hours- tried to reassure me that it would turn out fine. One kept insisting with a completely misplaced sense of optimism that he would turn out to be- and I quote- 'drop-dead gorgeous' (wasn't sure if that meant that I would drop dead); another friend asked why I was worried that he might not be attractive when I had clearly not chosen to accept his interest on the basis of his looks; and still another said I should look at the bright side since he was at least good at communicating. And these were my friends! By now, however, in good Indian tradition I had resigned myself to my fate.
And so on a lovely sunny late winter's afternoon at the end of February- the kind of somewhat cool afternoon you can still enjoy before the dusty winds of March engulf Delhi- I set forth to meet this man who seemed by now convinced that he would make me his wife. Since we lived at opposite ends of Greater Delhi (and anyone who knows Delhi knows that I actually mean opposite ends of the world) we agreed to meet halfway at a popular marketplace. He said that he would be waiting close to the cinema in said marketplace, keeping an eye out for me and I was to give him a call once I was there. I got there and as I entered the marketplace, where half of Delhi had descended to enjoy the last of the good weather but really also to witness my ordeal (which by now I was convinced was what it would be), I gulped one last time, still wondering whether I should make a run for it.
As I started getting closer to the cinema I kept my eyes peeled for a single man who looked like he could be waiting for me- optimistic I know, but I was pretty certain that I would know, just don't ask how. I remember this very vividly so indulge me while I go into graphic detail. Since he had said he'd be near the cinema I dialed him as I got closer and just as I did that I saw this one man- paunch hanging over his jeans, balding, about an inch shorter than me and very grim looking with his eyebrows meeting across the bridge of his nose. What gave him away was the oh-so-sinking sensation in my stomach... and I knew, I just knew that it was not to be my lucky day. The only coherent (!) thought in my head was 's**t! s**t! s**t! Please let it not be HIM!' And at that very moment three things happened; he saw me (why? why?); he made eye contact with me (why, oh why?); and he looked down at his phone to see that I was calling him. He looked back up and said 'S'; it wasn't a question- he knew, and I felt rather like a deer caught in the headlights. I tried to smile- I could feel my face breaking with the effort because all I felt right at that moment was anger- and said 'Hi, yes. You must be PLINBH.' And all the while my only thought was 'You liar, you bl**dy liar.'
I felt like I was walking in a daze as we decided to go to a cafe and chat, all the while thinking that this was my nightmare come true; I felt as though the entire crowd was watching me (and him) and the thought made me cringe. It was all downhill from there. The conversation was sparse, he barely laughed and when he did he still looked grim, and he talked again about family values! I, on the other hand, felt as though I was going to howl at any moment. At one point when he excused himself to go to the men's I frantically tried to send an SOS to a friend but he was too quick. I endured this mind-numbingly boring conversation for over an hour, telling myself that I had to be sure I was going to turn him down for the right reasons, because the turning-him-down part was no longer in doubt!
He did say at one point that we would have a lot to talk about on the phone that evening to which I could only bring out some strangling noise. He got the hint though and said we could talk the next day when I said that it would be good for both of us to think about things properly. He called the next day to ask whether I saw 'a road ahead together' but I was happily preoccupied with work (probably the only time that has happened) and I said I would call him back; as I was staring at his number, thinking of how I could phrase what I had to say without causing offence, my phone beeped with a message- 'You have not called. I take it that is no!' Ouch. Since this message immediately put my back up I refrained from replying that very minute but I also felt it unfair to not reply at all- everyone deserves to have some sense of closure because every encounter does raise your hopes. Although my mean side wanted to say in response to his 'road ahead'- 'no we have reached a T- junction and we should go in opposite directions!', I knew that was uncalled for. I finally replied saying I was sorry that I saw no future with him and wished him the very best.
...And that was that.
Yours, in very low gear indeed!