He was at the Chhatrapati shivaji airport, Mumbai after a tumultuous flight, a little shy of two hours from Chennai, thanks to the inundating monsoon. If it were tails instead, Trivandrum Airport, Kerala would’ve beckoned him. Heads it turned out. Mumbai it was.
He hopped into an Ola cab that took him to his hotel in Santa Cruz, after much dilly-dallying, notwithstanding the native driver’s hold over the city’s expanse. But Mumbai is every bit its moniker- mayanagari(mystic city), with its characteristic enigma punctuating across every route, making cab drivers as naive as their commuters, getting them lost almost everytime from Pt A to Pt B, in Pt A, in Pt B and from Pt B to Pt A. In short, getting lost is a famous way of commuting in this seemingly “GPS proof” coastal manifestation.
His room was right out of a Wes Anderson flick-cosily laid out, picturesque with dim-sepia lighting and an abstract mural occupying a good amount of the wall. This was a perfect place to ensconce in denial of productivity, which exactly was his trip’s objective-“To unwind”.
This was a trip he was saving up since the last few months. He was this classic loner, who felt lost amidst friends and therapeutic behind the door of seclusion. He really didn’t have an itinerary in mind like most people visiting cities for the first time did.
He was this creature who got his bouts of high from impulsive decisions and instinctive indulgences irrespective of the consequences they impregnated his experience with. Visiting famous places, memorials, landmarks and celebrity houses were passé to his sensibility. For someone who tossed a semi-oxidised five rupee coin for a talisman, when faced with a need for decision-making, the haphazard nature of the trip was not surprising.
Once done with the sumptuous breakfast, he went on Tinder, his new found obsession- a dating application that essentially connected promiscuous individuals on the strength of their pictures. He had met with good amount of success, courtesy his Adonis looks and his alluring ways with words. Mumbai was no exceptions to his ways, he had matched with a girl within a matter of few minutes on Tinder. They had exchanged numbers and decided to catch up at an uptown cafe at Andheri. She had offered to pick him up from his hotel and he was never shy of taking advantage.
He wanted to wear his favourite black muscle fit-mandarin collared shirt, but was a little conscious around his love handles. So, he indulged in a chain of workouts that included push-ups, crunches, burpees and suryanamaskars in the ploughed space between the bed and the study table. While having a shower, he was contemplating the set of topics, metaphors and facial expressions he could dole out on the date.
Mansi, a Juhu-based psychiatrist, his first acquaintance of the trip had arrived at his hotel, half an hour past their agreed time, thankfully so, since punctuality wasn’t his forte exactly.
‘Hi. Had issues with finding the hotel? You look lovely by the way.’, He chuckled as he got in.
‘Thank you. It was fairly easy to come here. Just got stuck in traffic. Seems like you’re beyond the photogenic looks too’, she blushed.
‘I’m going to take that as a compliment’
‘Was meant to be’
She had a nonchalant-one handed driving style which he found to be amusing, given the fact that he didn’t know to drive a car. They were stuck in traffic regularly.
‘Chewing gum’, He offered
“I was expecting on the lines of chocolates”, She giggled as she took a couple of pellets.
‘I’m surprised that you were able to find my place without getting lost. My cabbie was circumventing around for a good time before we got lucky.’, he said’
I would’ve too, had I not lived a street away.’, she confessed
‘We could’ve had our rendezvous on your terrace’
‘And what exactly Am I going to introduce you as to my dad?, she asked,’ The Kamal Hasan doppelganger from Chennai I’ve acquainted from Tinder.’
‘I wouldn’t mind that. But he might.’
They both burst out laughing. The cacophony of FM had paved way for small talk. They were a good two kilometres away from the cafe, but were already smitten enough to walk hand in hand to the rhythm of their heartbeat.
After an hour long drive and endless flirtation the cafe arrived. He got out first and opened the door for her. ‘A jaw line to kill for and chivalrous too’, she flirted as they walked in.
Biscotti was a connoisseur’s delight, every square metre. The tastefully built, sensually lit and smelt of fresh pastries and brewing beverages.
‘ This is such an ethereal place. Thanks for bringing me here.Mansi.’, he said settling next to her in a couch built to propagate lackadaisicalness as a way of life.
‘Pleasure Man. Glad you liked it’
She ordered two cold coffees with a copious amount of whipped cream, good enough to nullify the effect of the push-ups and burpees. She was this petite little gorgeous creature-almond complexioned with thick eye brows and a pout that resembled a small fish articulating well constructed analogies. Together with those librarian glasses, she could pass off as an intellectual, on the red herring of her persona alone.
Under the yellow lights of the cafe, he for the first time since they met; actually took stock of her flawless face and realised the magnitude of his luck.
‘ How gorgeous do you look! I could hope for endless depression to just be on your couch.’
‘Wow. So you could actually flirt. I thought you were one of those attractive men who were completely impotent with regards to flirting. Don’t even wish for a rendezvous with a shrink.’
‘Given your height, should we call you “Shrunk”?’, he giggled ’Or how about “Minion”?’
‘Shut up. It’s not like you’re a six footer’, she blushed with her nose tip turning pink.
‘That is a cute name. I’m going to call you “Shrunk” here on.’
‘I’m curious with your profile description on tinder which reads,” Here for Genuine friends. No hook-ups”. Like really? ‘, he asked sarcastically.
‘I just joined yesterday. My friend made me. Been single for a while now since my break-up last year. I’m a little naive in this domain. So yeah. Looks like you’re a Tinder veteran.’
‘I’m no veteran here. Its just simple logic. First look at the tacky logo of a red flame for the App. If that is not suggestive enough, your profile picture farts out in red concentric circles every time you try to match with some one. But still you wanted genuine friends from here. Mansi, my gorgeous shrunk?’, he fell on the floor laughing.
‘Agreed. White Flag. Please stop it man. If not for me, atleast for the hazelnut cold coffee I bought you’, she sheepishly begged.
They left Biscotti and got into her car parked at the isolated parking lot. She pulled him towards her and planted a wet kiss on his lips, the duration of which was interrupted by his gentle retraction to his seat.
‘I’m sorry. I really find you adorable. Have been wanting to do this since the time you clumsily went about excavating the whipped cream. I’m sorry’, she apologised.
‘Mansi. Did you notice the beat cop who just went past us? Well, I did’, He continued ’ Every cell of mine has been wanting to do the same since the time I saw your face under the yellow light.’ Saying this he pulled her towards him and ate her lips passionately, with the fervency of a marooned survivor devouring through wild berries.
‘That was serene. We didn’t even go downhill. Yet felt like we made love.’, he said.
‘Mutual. It was less carnal and more romantic. Given the fact that we exactly know each other for a little less than six hours, that was intense.’,she said holding his hand firmly with her head cradled on his shoulder blade.
‘Could you drop me at Andheri Metro station. I’ve never tried the metro’, he asked.
‘Sure. But do you really want to go?’
They had reached the bridge overlooking the metro. After a long hug, he got down and walked into the metro. This was getting really heavy for his nomadic spirit that got intimidated by the very thought of settling down. Since his bitter break-up a couple of years ago, he was content with philandering around. There was a point beyond which he let no one in. But this girl was looking right through him like a psychic. His head was dichotomised between letting go and going after. He conservatively picked the former.
‘One ticket for Santacruz’, he told the guy at the ticket counter.
‘Make that two Bhaiyya’
‘Mansi!’, he couldn’t hold his excitement on seeing her. He broke down to tears.
She got the tickets and the wallet he had left at the counter. Took him away from the counter before he could create a bigger scene.
‘So, someone really wanted me?’
‘I’m sorry Shrunk.’, he cried incessantly and hugged her tight.
‘Look at your size man. Stop sobbing like a kid please. I’m not leaving you even if you want.Have your wallet.’, she said trying to lighten the mood up.
He wiped his tears and clenched her hand tight. ‘What happened to your car?’
‘Its safe man. I knew you would be happy on seeing me. But this was beyond my imagination. Your such a sweetheart. Your facial hair and sarcasm are so misleading.’
They got into a train. It was scarcely crowded given the hour of the day. She was glued to him and could actually hear his heart pounding heavily.
‘This is late.Why are you in Mumbai? Business or Pleasure?’
‘How many girlfriends do you have?’
‘Had one. Have a lot of ongoing flings. But looks like I’ve found one.’, he gave away
‘Oi Kamal Hasan doppleganger, are you proposing to me’
‘This was a day and a half long-weekend trip and the least I expected was to fall for someone.
Its severely unreal!’,he observed
‘I know. Hail Tinder’
They got off at Santa Cruz station to only return back to Andheri station to get her car, that was parked on the road.
‘Would you come to drop me off to the airport tomorrow’, he asked caressing her feet with his hands. This was a habit from his previous relationship, where he touched the girl’s feet when disturbed.
‘I’ll consider. What do I get in return?’, she asked playfully
He removed his bracelet from his right forearm and slipped it onto her arms.
‘That thing meant a lot to me.Good enough?’
She smiled ear to ear and hugged him yet again. Hugs were the most traded commodity between them since evening. But neither of them was complaining.
Love You , read a SMS from her after reaching his hotel that night. He kissed his phone’s display and didn’t respond.
She had picked him up from his hotel the next day. They had an early dinner at a restaurant enroute airport. They had reached the airport an hour before his flight’s departure time.
‘I know this is crazy fast. But last time I took close to a hundred days before deciding to get into a relation. Well, It didn’t last. So hours spent on getting to know a person and the longevity aren’t so linearly proportionate after all. So I’m going to take this leap of faith.’, she said holding his hands,’I love you.’
‘I really don’t know what to say. You know I’m crazy about you. I’m getting late. I’m going to go back and give you a call unless you want an encore of yesterday.’
‘Goodbye love’, she said planting a kiss on his lips.
‘How do you decide to indulge in heavy duty PDA everytime the cops are around?’, he smiled pointing towards the airport security personnel.’Bye Mansi. Mumbai would never be the same again. So would Chennai.’
She waited till he got into the airport and left bemused.
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not.
The message read,
Shrunk, found an organisation to put up with my shenanigans for a fat CTC in Mumbai. You’re teaching me to drive.
PS: I Love you.