I reached out to my mom and placed an effusive kiss on her cheek. Brushing away a stray strand of hair from my face, she said, “Call me once your flight lands.” “Sure, mom!”, I practically yelled.
As I waved good bye to my dad and rushed downstairs into the cab that was waiting to take me to the airport, I thought that finally I could justify the title "grown-up", at least in my own eyes. I was flying the proverbial coop, leaving the all-too familiar and comfortable routine at home for what could possibly be the most exciting time of my life. I was now ready to be a Single Sassy Independent Urban Girl, which meant having my own place-- a bachelorette's pad; my three girlfriends -- I had to find three, ‘coz girls who travel in quartets were the flavor of the season; and of course, a string of free-flowing, eligible, hopefully straight men. Yeah, my last crush had taught me that one could fall hopelessly in love with a gay man. An absolutely brilliant, gorgeous, smart, successful man….but gay! Since I was not one of those women who were into experimenting with their sexuality, this was a definite disaster for me.
Two weeks ago, I had received confirmation that my application for the post of copy editor had been accepted at Magnus, an international bank in Hyderabad. I was thrilled and couldn't believe I was finally going to live alone. I, who was always accompanying my mom even on visits to the mall, was now going to fork out rent, pay my bills, make friends in a city where I knew no one, and be the epitome of the quintessential single woman.
My thoughts flowed unchecked as I reached the airport, unloaded the luggage, made my way through the inevitable queues to scan my baggage, checked in, and waited for my flight. After the cumbersome procedures were taken care of, I was now free to browse through the latest paperbacks at the bookstore. Picking up 'Almost Single' by Advaita Kala, thinking the title was most reflective of my current state, I settled into my chair.
That’s when I noticed a tall guy with chiseled features wearing a Tee shirt with Grogan written on it. He seemed familiar. Grogan was the most prominent search engine company in the world, and its only Indian branch was in Hyderabad. Hmm, interesting! He opened his laptop and was busy surfing the Internet. Well, he must be the owner or someone terribly important, I thought. After all, he looked like someone who would grace the pages of Businessworld, Business Today, or The Economic Times, if not Fortune 500! Allowing myself the luxury of taking in the full glory of his face, I decided that he was tremendously intelligent and personable. He had to be, the sexy cleft in his chin said so.
So I sat right across him, crossed my legs in the aslant way that enhanced my long legs and turned into what I hoped was a cat-like seductress. After all I loved cats, could be very catty, and had claws that could scar (ask my frenemies)… so if anybody could do a cat move well, shouldn’t it be me? I picked up my book wishing the title had read ABSOLUTELY SINGLE in font size 500.
After about five minutes of preening like a feline and receiving not so much as a glance in my direction, I was just about ready to call up my friend, Aanya, and TALK. So much for sultry seduction! As I tried my best friend’s number, the familiar “Apologize” caller tune rang in my ears. Smiling as I remembered an inside joke we shared on why the caller tune was set in the first place, I tapped my heel impatiently on the floor, waiting for Aanya to pick up.
Pick up, sweetie….pick up…Don’t you realize I’m having a “situation” here? I need to look busy and popular!.
A voice---finally---“Ash…I’ll call you back….two minutes” and then the line promptly went dead. Turning red as a beet, I thought, “This isn’t going exactly as I had hoped!”
Now, the voice on the microphone said “Calling all passengers of Jet Lite traveling to Hyderabad… please board your flight”
As I wheeled my luggage into the plane, I had a fleeting thought. “Why can’t the cabin crew have hot hunks instead of women in skirts?”
I went to my seat, looked out the window and felt a blush creeping up as the Fortune 500 guy sat in the seat right next to me. Hmm, economy class—so maybe the dude didn’t own Grogan after all.
I decided this was my moment: To be new, stunning, approachable, friendly Ash-- the persona that would win me friends and influence people.
“Hey! I’m Ash, I’m just leaving home to work for Magnus….in Hyderabad”…I finished lamely. Grogan dude looked at me, a blank expression on his face and said, “Myself, Anand”. Vorking as developer with Grogan”.
Oh no! He couldn’t speak in English. Who introduced themselves as “Myself, Anand, anyway.” And “Vorking”?
Jeez, what a waste of good looks! And then I buried my nose in my book hoping he wouldn’t open his mouth again. But of course, he had to! In fact, he seemed to have quite a verbal diarrhea.
“I’m from Jhennai”, he said in an accent that was so pronounced, I could barely grasp what he was saying. “Uh huh”…total disinterest.
“ Grogan is a great gompany; I work there. My father’s dream was…..
“Oh my God, who cares about his father’s dream”.
And as he rambled on, I started a serious soul-searching. “Am I really that shallow? Does his accent really matter? And the only reason I wanted to even chat him up was ‘coz he looked cute.”
And as I berated myself inwardly for my shortcomings, I had a mental conversation with Aanya. “Am I the only one who feels this way?”
And I could hear Aanya’s voice in my head. “Dahling, of course it matters how he talks. We are superficial, aren’t we?”
And then I broke into a grin that only seemed to encourage the Grogan guy, recently fallen from grace.