Authors: Madhur Nevatia
Copyright© Madhur Nevatia 2013
Published in 2013 by
All rights reserved.
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asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this book. This is a
work of fiction and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely
Cover Illustration by Amal Fatima Uppal
To my son
You make my
for my darling husband Arvind for making me such a romantic and pushing me to
chase my dreams.
I thank my
mother for introducing me to the wonderful world of books and my father for
having unshakable faith in me—always.
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Delhi do not complement each other and the taxi queue at Delhi Airport was the
closest to hell one can get. Gautam stood as patiently as he could in the forty
five degree heat with his BBM beeping every two seconds and the fat lady behind
him poking his heels with her overloaded airport luggage trolley. The line wasn’t
moving and the lady kept trying to push her way through despite the menacing
looks he gave her every now and then. He swore under his breath. He would have
to haul up the office guys for not arranging a personal pick up for him at the
wasn’t here on an official trip; he was here to attend his best buddy Sanjay’s
engagement. The thought only further aggravated his mood. He hated ‘big fat
Indian weddings’ and was sure Sanjay’s wedding would be bigger and fatter than
any he’d endured. There was no way he could wiggle his way out of this one.
nearby jolted him out of his thoughts. Several taxi drivers had gathered around
a single taxi and were listening spell-bound to the complaints of one
passenger, a drop-dead beauty in a summery, pink, floral dress and towering
high heels. None of her bags would fit in the boot of the taxi as most of the
space was occupied by a CNG cylinder. Despite the heat and the delay, she
looked cool and affable, smiling at the driver and speaking calmly about her problem.
to have a strange effect on him; his body was taut with unexplained tension,
and the more she smiled, the more irritated he felt. While he fretted in the
heat, she seemed to be Miss Congeniality personified. The fact that someone
else was coping better under the circumstances made the usually rational Gautam
He knew her
kind, a pretty young thing with the brains of a butterfly whose biggest
disaster in life would be the chipping of one of her perfectly painted nails;
losing a favorite earring would most certainly translate to unmitigated trauma.
the issue was resolved finally, with the girl deciding to sit in the front
seat, with her luggage stowed in the rear passenger seat. In the meantime,
Gautam’s cab came cruising along and he jumped into its air-conditioned cocoon
for much needed, though temporary, respite.
of the girl lingered with him.
family farmhouse in Mehrauli looked like a set straight out of a Karan Johar
movie, with swathes of silk and huge arrangements of exotic flowers everywhere.
The place teemed with men in different degrees of agitation, screaming out
orders and putting last minute plans and changes in place. Though Gautam had
expected the chaos, he was ill-prepared to participate. Squinting through the
sun, he noticed a couple of his school friends.
Rohan, how are you, buddies?”
Gautam. Good to see you
. Long time. How have you been?” Rohan was
his exuberant self.
same, I would say,” said Mihir. “
Gautam is looking as dashing as
ever. All set for the
?” The friends guffawed with laughter,
laced with memories of a shared past.
lack of ease at social gatherings was legendary but for a Punjabi boy from an
affluent Delhi family, it posed a mammoth obstacle. Just as his friends began
their incessant chatter about the past, he saw somebody familiar; standing
before him was the girl from the airport.
could react, Sanjay came up to him, boisterously yelling in his ear, “How have
, I am so happy to see you.” He clasped Gautam in a tight
bear hug, “Tanya’s best pal is here,
, I was beginning to feel
really lost without my best friend.”
stepped back and took a long look at Gautam. “Looking good, boss. This
corporate attire suits you. When was the last time we met? Where is your
, wait. Let me first introduce you to my fiancée.”
out to a pretty girl who had walked across with him. “Tanya, honey come and
Tanya was a
sweet-looking petite girl with elaborate
on her hands; in her
short hair, denim shorts and a pink tee she looked like a schoolgirl.
Gautam.” She wrapped her heavily
arms around Sanjay. “I’ve
heard loads about you. We’re both in Mumbai, yet we haven’t met. I hear you
keep very busy and don’t socialize much, but don’t worry, now that we have met,
I’ll make sure you have a rocking time in Mumbai.”
Tanya,” said Gautam.
seemed to be made in heaven for the two warm, happy, talkative people.
around at the sound of laughter and found the girl from the airport coming
towards them with another guy. Gautam winced, annoyed at the irrational jealousy
he felt. The strength of his feeling, compounded by the fact that the emotion
had been aroused by a stranger, confused him.
is that girl?”
Sameera, Tanya’s childhood friend. They are quite inseparable.” Sanjay winked
at Gautam. “Isn’t she gorgeous? She’s also from Mumbai.” His grin spread. “I
have a great idea—why don’t I try and set you up with her? Double dates, just
like high school. What say?”
stiffened. “You’ll do no such thing. I hardly dated even in high school; don’t
embarrass me in front of your guests.”
and stood beside them, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her left ear.
Gautam’s gaze lingered on her beautiful slender fingers with their perfectly
manicured nails. Tall, slim, with broad shoulders and an amazingly narrow
waist, she looked even prettier up close. Her dark, long, softly curled hair,
limpid eyes heavily lined with
, glowing complexion, and wide, pink
lips made her look incredibly sensual.
but could you please stop monopolizing the bride and groom? There’s an awful
lot to be done. The function’s just a few hours away, you see,” Sameera seemed
to be speaking to him. “Why don’t you also go and freshen up? And yeah, please
try to change into something more appropriate; it’s a wedding, not a board room.”
but Sanjay jumped to his defense, “Sameera don’t bully the poor guy. He
got here. Let’s go, buddy.”
picked up his bag, he heard Sameera comment, “‘Poor guy’? That’s what we’ll
call him since he hasn’t bothered to introduce himself. Uff. Are all Delhi guys
boorish and ill mannered?”
was the last straw for Gautam. Here he was, trying hard to be civil amidst the
chaos while that girl, a complete stranger, was taking liberties with him and
had the nerve to call him ill-mannered. She should look in the mirror.
alone in his room, Gautam heaved a sigh of relief, thankful for the privacy of
a single room. He quickly locked the door, flopped on the bed and took a long
deep breath. He checked his watch; there was time for a few hours of work on
his laptop before the pandemonium of the engagement ceremony broke loose. The
heat had taken its toll; his body and his internal organs felt like they were coated
with the grime and dust of Delhi. He stepped into the shower, a fancy cubicle
with lots of mirrors that reflected his muscular five-eleven frame and chiseled
features—what his friends called the ‘Adonis’ look. His only concern was his
thick unruly mop of curly hair which he kept really short. He was well-groomed
with thick eyebrows and dark brown eyes that complemented his wheatish
complexion and clean-shaven face.
his broad chest, his thoughts reverted to work and the presentation he had to
complete before landing in Mumbai the next day. Suddenly, through the misty
space in which he stood, Sameera’s gorgeous face appeared in his mind and he
felt a deep urge to smell her cascading hair and gaze into her large eyes. He
was used to pretty girls vying for his attention but never before had a girl
aroused conflicting emotions in him as Sameera did.
knocking loudly on the door. Caught in his thoughts, Gautam tried to ignore it
but the knocking continued vehemently. He cursed under his breath, grabbed a
towel and wrapped it impatiently around his waist, still dripping wet.
thoughts, it seemed, had come alive. Sameera stood at the door, a plate of food
in her hands. She calmly handed it to him and left, her high heels clicking on
the marble floor.
violated. She should have announced herself. While he stood there, half naked
and dripping wet, his mouth open, looking physically and metaphorically like a
fish out of water, she had taken the moral high ground. And—she even shook her
head at him.
For a second
he thought he was dreaming but the heady mixture of Sameera’s fragrance and the
aroma of the choicest of Punjabi sin food—
samosa, gulaab jamun
—was all too real. He stood dumbfounded with the plate in his
hand and his heart in his mouth. Another wave of outrage ran through him.
does she think of herself?
He put the plate down on the table and sat on
Any other girl would have been embarrassed and apologetic, but not
this one. Supercilious freak.
He shook his head in disgust.
think I was attracted to this butterfly, ice maiden, rather. Serves me right.
in green chutney and a smile spread over his face. His
mobile rang and for the next few hours Gautam was engrossed in work.
five-thirty in the evening, there was another knock on his door. Once bitten, and
still in his towel, he did not dare open the door without further information.
“Who is it?”
damn door, you @#$%. Have you come here to lock yourself in your room?”
opened the door to a red-faced Sanjay.
“Oh. So your
laptop’s on too. Excellent, Mr. Highflier. Here you are, slogging your ass off
on a one-day leave while useless people like me waste time getting married.”
Sanjay poured himself a glass of water. “You know what, buddy? I would give an
arm and a leg to get someone as dedicated as you to work for me.”
be able to afford me bugger,” Gautam laughed heartily. “Just cool down, champ.
Your penchant for theatrics has not reduced over the years. I’ll be finished in
two minutes and then am all yours for the rest of the evening.” Gautam looked
at his friend fondly. “On a more serious note, I thought you would be busy with
your cute fiancée. Why would you want me breathing down your necks?”
,” exclaimed Sanjay. “I am so glad you could come.”
beamed at his friend. “I would not miss this for anything. The end of your
freedom. Now just put your feet up while I save my files.”
what’s with the towel? Where are your clothes? I heard Sameera say something
stiffened. “What did she say?”
had asked you to change into something more appropriate for the engagement, but
was definitely not what she had in mind. Anyway, she’s
pleasantly surprised by your
style. Your daring fashion
sense has just earned you your first brownie points from her. Witty woman.”
was lost on Gautam; he flushed a deep red.
it personally, dude.”
did she say?”
much. Just that a couple of kilos less would not be that bad on you, a more
toned look, you see?” Sanjay smiled.
livid. “This is being outright rude. She is arrogant, not witty.” He got up,
agitated, trying to wrap up his work. “By the way, buddy, what if Tanya is just
as high handed as Sameera? It may be late in the day but definitely not too
late to avoid ending up as a hen-pecked husband.”
guffawed. “Did she say anything nasty to you?”
“No, she didn’t
say a word.”
are you so mad at her?”
Sameera already has our cool dude in knots. That’s one juicy story lurking
around but I shall fish it out some other time. If I hang around here any
longer, I just might be the first person I know to miss his own engagement. So
button up and be downstairs by my side in ten minutes.”
wasn’t used to being the butt of sartorial jokes. Even in high school, he would
be envied for his Nike sneakers and Benetton sweatshirts thanks to his NRI
relatives. He always considered himself immaculately dressed, but his style was
more conservative than flamboyant. He cursed himself for bringing his black
Armani jacket instead of the more stylish Hugo Boss. He replaced the white
shirt with a lavender one, and with some extra gel in his hair for a slicker
look, a dab of cologne, and a firm resolve to steer clear of the infuriating
girl, he was good to go.