Friday, April 18, 2008

A Soiree

She did not recognize the woman with blond highlights on hennaed hair who answered the door at Vaishali's. She wore an orange chiffon sari paired with a beaded halter top choli and teetered dangerously on her heels as she tried to reign in a flowing pallu.

Sheila had to guess the woman was not accustomed to wearing a sari. Once inside, she melted into a crowd that was comprised of clones of her. It was like being on a Bollywood set when a choreographed dance sequence is being filmed - you can't tell one dancer in the group apart from the other except for the color of their attire.

Vaishali's dos were always fancy and elaborate, the food was catered and often there was a musical soiree. Today there was a ghazal singer and most of the guests clustered around him. Arun saw her first and waved enthusiastically. "Unless you are a ghazal fan, let's go outside - its less noisy" he said even before she had greeted him.

"You look wonderful !" she said. The deck was deserted except for a couple of smokers.

"And so do you. As a matter of fact, you look quite lovely" Arun replied with a big smile. "Tell me how have you been ?"

"Work's been very busy" she said and paused trying to think of the best way to summarize her life outside work in the past year (or largely the lack of it) in a couple of words.

"And ?" he asked eagerly.

"And nothing when you net it out" she answered with a laugh.

"I know exactly what you mean. Two highs plus three lows equals zero. Right ?" he sighed. Sheila nodded in agreement. "How about yourself ?" she asked.

"Professionally this has been an amazing year. I'm working on some great projects, have been traveling to the Far East regularly for six months. The money's been good too - can't complain. I'm here on a client assignment. In theory I am still single" Arun said.

"Why only in theory ?" she asked as she reached for a napkin to wipe a small spill on the table.

"I don't stay long enough in India to get to know someone well. My sister introduces me to these random women when I'm in Bangalore but you know those things just don't click. You are both anxious to make an impression because of all these expectations. Then nine times out of ten, the women don't see husband potential in me. They decide they want to be my friend just like you" he explained with a laugh.

"But I guess the more important question is do you see wife potential in any of these women ? You might be more willing to go the distance if you did" Sheila said ignoring the remark about their friendship.

"Maybe I don't. I did meet this Malaysian girl I met in Kuala Lumpur who is really my kind. I think she likes me too. More importantly she gets me. I don't want to go too fast and spoil it but I have to move fast enough to keep her interested in me . You know what I mean ?" he asked.

"Yes, I most certainly do. A few words of wisdom from someone who's been at the receiving end - don't set a pace that you are comfortable with. If you want to get anywhere with her, work at her pace even if its really difficult for you to do so" Sheila said as memories of Jayant came rushing back.

"That is good advice, Sheila. I'll remember that. I'd really hate to blow this one away. Ayu is the nearest I have come in many years to finding a woman I could imagine growing old with and having kids with" he said wistfully. "I turn forty two next month - I can't explore my options forever" he added with a sigh.

"That's a pretty name " Sheila commented.

"Do you want to go back in now ? They have the dance music on and the Bolly-babes seem to be setting those hardwood floors on fire ! Should be worth a dekko don't you think ? " Arun said as he glanced through the French window.

"Sure. You could go shake a leg with them too" Sheila suggested.

"Don't you want to dance ?" he asked.

"No, I'm good. It's a lot more fun watching besides discretion is the better part of valor" she replied.

"How do you mean ?" Arun asked as he held the door open for her.

"After one drink too many, some of us who would not be caught dead on a dance floor throw caution to the winds, groove and gyrate to Bollywood item songs" she said with a smile.

"Stay sober and make sure you drag me out of there before I make a complete ass of myself" Arun said chuckling at her remark.

Vaishali was coming towards them and said to Sheila almost reproachfully. "Where have you been ? Have you had anything to eat yet ? We've been looking for you. Have you met the Parekhs ? Come on, let me introduce you" she said steering her away.

"I'll see you ladies in a bit. Time to make myself useful to the Bolly-babes" Arun said with a laugh.

It was past midnight when Sheila got back home. Arun had spent the rest of the evening with the babes and walked her to the car when she was leaving. "Sheila, I know it will finally work out. You'll meet the man who you will be really happy with. I had given up hope too but Ayu came into my life just out of the blue. If you ever need to talk, call me. " Arun said as he gave her a hug.

"Thanks, Arun. Say Hi to Ayu for me and don't forget what I said about pace" Sheila said as she started the car.

"Yes, Ma'am and I won't forget. As always it was wonderful to meet you again. Good Night, Shells !" Arun replied as he waved goodbye.



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