As we drove from The Gateway of India towards Bharat’s house, we kept doing night vending along the way (ice cream industry has a special assigned duty for its executives to keep checking each pushcart of ice cream, well-lit, price board displayed properly, and vendor wearing his Kwality walls shirt).
By now, my bag which was between Bharat and me had become a piggyback bag and I held his shoulder like a good pillion rider friend. We kept talking on the way under the moons, stars and occasional drops falling from trees that had got wet due to a sudden drizzle, witnessing and recording our laughter. “You know who are our biggest competitors in the industry are,” asked Bharat to me. “No,” said I. So he took me to Aksa beach which had a line of local thelawallahas with Mewad Prem board selling kulfis in rose, jamun, kesar and pista badam flavour.
Bharat made me sit on the pavement across the road and the beach and brought two kulfis for both of us, which both of us enjoyed eating and discussing how local vendors and Rajasthan flavours beat the International brand.
I was already sneezing, and eating kulfi made me cough and feel even more feverish, but this was my last night in Bombay! And at 23 years of age, you want to live it to the fullest. Also when I sat on his bike this time, I automatically held his waist delicately, the distance of heart and inhibitions had melted like the kulfi.
He too held my hand close to his heart and said, “You know, Meera, when I was coming to pick you at the Mumbai central station, a day before, my mom listening to your name had said, ‘If she is Meera, she has to be a decent and cultured girl, see if you like her to be our daughter-in-law’!”
That was the first time I got to know that Bharat’s family too was looking for a match for him. I just could smile and my delicate hold changed to a tight hold on his waist. Life seemed to stop in that moment, if there is a remote in life, I would freeze such golden moments and make the town as in Sleeping Beauty fairy tale! But clock and life and our emotions are ever moving.
As we entered Bharat’s one-room house, which was quiet uncomfortable for me, in Delhi, even an average middle-class person has a 2-bedroom house with dining and drawing room and a small balcony. But this was sapno ki nagri Mumbai.
When we rang the bell, a very pretty but snooty girl opened the door and spoke something in Sindhi to Bharat. “This is my sister Chandni,” Bharat introduced us. “And this is my colleague Meera from Delhi,” said he to his sister and his half-slept mom who too had till now woken up with our commotion we made when we came to his house.
“I think Bombay weather has made you sick,” said Bharat’s mother like a universal mom, handing me over her nighty and showing me the way to washroom to change, as my own red cotton bandhani suit had become wet in Bombay rains.
As I came out of the washroom, Bharat laughed seeing me in his moms off-white blue flowers oversized maxi gown. His sister, who brought a big peetal ka pateela with boiling water and with Vicks Vapourab, along with a towel to cover my head to steam (local jugaad for steam), asked in not-too-sweet a tone, “Are your parents aware of you spending the night at our place?”
Will I go to a PCO ( public phone) booth to call my parents with no landline phone in Bharat’s house and no mobile with him? For more to my story, stay tuned in!