Dec 7, 2008

Episode 10-EN

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

Warney reached Mahesh Lunch Home 10 minutes before the agreed time of 1 pm. He got an sms from Prabha-with-a-vee, informing him that she will be about 45 min late, and would have to leave soon coz she had 'a million small jobs to be done today'. Warney was a little annoyed, as he wanted to spend some quality time, and - if things went well - he would suggest going to the Coffee shop at the Marriott (which was adjacent to Mahesh) for some dessert. The sizzling brownies at the Marriott Coffee Shop are awesome, and the ambience is much more suitable for a date, than the restaurant where they'd agreed to have lunch. Mahesh was a 'functional' venue for testing waters, and Marriott a 'warmer' venue for taking things further, if they wanted. But Warney's well-thought-out plans had just been trashed, and he had to wait in the blazing sun for nearly an hour.

He messaged her back, asking her if she even had enough time for lunch in a very mildly rude manner. He'd really wanted to go way futher, and to suggest calling it off if she had any issues, but decided to play nice, for now. It didn't work. He got a long sms, which read - 'You know what, I can see you're losing patience. Let me tell you that the fact that I'm doing this is a big deal for me. Keep that in mind before you  pass any snide remarks. As for when I'll leave - we'll see during lunch. Now, if you don't mind - I can't sms any more coz I have to get ready to make it for the lunch.'

Warney had indeed lost some of his patience, and he thought that was legitimate. But he'd been trying hard to keep his cool and NOT sound nasty on the sms, so he felt the reaction was overboard and unwarranted. He tried to defuse the situation, by sending another sms that she'd read between the lines when there was nothing there. He was just asking her an honest question, and trying to be practical rather than sarcastic. And he ended it with 'see you soon.'

Prabha-with-a-vee arrived half an hour later. Warney thought he recognized her as she drove in, but did not go to receive her, staying on the phone with a friend instead. A minute later, he could see an incoming call from her, and bid adieu to his friend. He walked over to the restaurant. She was indeed hawt, though she did not look exactly like her pics. Perhaps it was because she was all smiles and joie-de-vivre in the pics. She definitely did NOT look very happy to be here right now. They shook hands and sat down, diagonally across rather than facing each other, which Warney found a little weird.  He tried to break the ice - 'OK, I'm not sure how I managed to piss you off even before you got here.' It was meant to be funny, and he hoped it'd be a conversation starter. All he got was a cold shrug and a look-away. And in that moment warney realized he had a long climb uphill , if this meeting was to be a success.

'Water - regular or mineral, sir?, queried the waiter.
Warney thought for a second. He always ordered mineral water in cheap restaurants, but trusted reputed ones like Mahesh to serve safe, purified water, and believed the expense on mineral water at such places was unnecessary.
'Regular's fine.'
'Excuse me - I'll have mineral water', said the girl across the table, to the waiter. Usually, in such situations with friends, Warney realized they always discussed the water-choice among themselves. This woman hadn't bothered with him, and spoken to the waiter directly, ordering water separately for herself. Not good.
'Damn, 0-3 down already, and it hasn't been even 5 minutes. Doesn't look like I'm gonna win with this girl - she's bowling hostile bouncers. Time to play de-fense.' And Warney decided that he was going to play the rest of this meeting out like Rahul Dravid - blocking or leaving, unless he was served something on a platter. It didn't matter how many he scored during the next two hours. But he HAD to remain unbeaten at the end of it.

The rest of the meeting was intriguing. There were long silences, but they weren't awkward as both sides were being haughty and absolutely indifferent to each other. There was also a lot of conversation - but it wasn't particularly pleasant. Neither of them smiled. They disagreed on just about everything, but didn't bother arguing because neither seemed to care about the other's opinion! However, the truly intriguing part was this - they discussed a wide variety of subjects, including some fairly serious and personal ones, like their relationships with their parents, their friends circles and who really mattered, their attitude to marriage, attituide to work and jobs, travel and lifestyle preferences - including food, and even their past romantic relationships. They could talk about anything, and be completely honest - which doesn't usually happen when people meet for the first time. There was no comfort level here, no liking or interest, little respect shown for the person across the table, and no effort to maintain a cordial or friendly atmosphere. Yet, they were discussing things that one usually discusses only with someone very, very close.

During the course, Warney also found some answers.
Prabha-with-a-vee hated the way her parents had spelt her name. It should've been Pravaah - which meant 'to flow, like a river' - but on a numerologist's recommendation, her parents had gone with the weird spelling.
Marriage was the last thing on Pravha's mind. But her parents thought the 'right time' had almost arrived, and decided to reach out to prospects. They had been assisted by her younger sister, who felt Pravha was 'ready'. And Pravha thought her sister was a little more mature, and trusted her judgment more than her own, despite being older.
She was NOT pleased that her phone number had been given to Warney. 

Warney was truly perplexed. This girl was clearly not the type to give in to any kind of pressure. She clearly didn't really want to be here, and wasn't interested in pursuing this. But, for some reason unknown to him, she was here. And now that she was here, one'd expect her to behave nicely. She wasn't doing that. But he was also certain that she was NOT here to try and put him down, and didn't mean to be rude - she actually wanted to give this a chance, because, at some level, she trusted the judgment of the people who'd put her here. Her cold manner had ensured the meeting could officially be declared a disaster, but Warney didn't think it was deliberate. What was she really trying to do and why? He just didn't get it. At all. And he genuinely believed she didn't really know either.

Warney called for the bill. 'Let's go dutch... for the food, at least.' Warney had had a fair amount of vodka to keep his head during the course of the lunch, and it accounted for about half the total bill. He thought about insisting on paying the whole thing. He always did that the first time he met any girl. Second and later meetings would only happen if both people were interested, and then it'd be fair to go dutch. This was his considered view, and standard operating principle. But in this case, it would be akin to reaching wide outside off-stump to a swinging delivery. He felt it was quite likely that his suggestion to pay the whole bill would be dismissed with some rude statement, resulting in him feeling hurt and looking silly. He wasn't going to let that happen. Also, she'd been clear that she wasn't willing to split the bill for the drinks that only he'd had. While it was fair, and he would've suggested it himself when it came down to the calculation, the manner in which it was said put him off - and not for the first time in the last 2 hours.

'You're goin to Bandra, right? Are you goin to cross Carter road, or go somewhere near it?', asked Warney. He didn't own a vehicle, because it wasn't a very practical option in Mumbai. She drove a Hyundai Getz, and had remarked earlier that she 'would never travel by the local trains. I'm spolit!'
'Yeah, I can drop you.'

Midway through the drive:
'Where on Carter road?'
'You know the CCD there?'
'Yeah. Meeting friends?'
'College seniors.'

These were the only words spoken in a 15-minute drive. When CCD emerged, she stopped to the left. Warney got out and said 'Thank you.'

And they went their own separate ways. 'What a remarkably cold end - to a remarkably frosty and intriguing meeting', thought Warney to himself. It would take him a while to figure out what happened and what to make of it.

(Continues here)

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