1 March 2014

*Short Story* The time between tiffin and dinner - II

This story is a continuation. Click to read PART -I

Rukmini went quiet. She didn't realize that she hadn't said anything, till Vikas cleared his throat and said,"Er, Em, I'm sorry if I offended you…" and before he had a chance to complete his sentence Rukmini replied in what she thought was a measured tone, "Sure. When?" By the time they reached the park, a date had been fixed.

When you are in your fourth decade, how do you dress up for a date? Your best kanjeevaram and flowers may be too traditional? Pants and cotton top might be too informal? A salwar suit, oh but she didn't have any of those! What she wore everyday were handloom cotton sarees, but they felt too much like work clothes. And who pays for dinner - was it expected or acceptable or appropriate to split the bill? These thoughts worked in her mind while the date neared. Rukmini was nervous; not outwardly, but inside her stomach was doing cartwheels and when she tried to imagine herself on the date, her heart rate accelerated. What will they talk about? What if he asks about the bar? And where was she going with this? In all the years since Murugan died, Rukmini had never imagined that she would be in a personal relationship with another man. Was she ready for it and importantly, did she want it? Her life was fulfilling already, so like any practical person she wondered what the point was in trying to meet a need that didn't exist. Yet, if she allowed herself to blush and seek out a corner of her mind that wasn't ruled by pragmatism, she had to admit that she found it all quite exhilarating.

Rukmini finally decided to wear a mangalgiri cotton saree with a zari border - the cloth felt soft and comforted her, while the zari added a dash of dressiness. Vikas picked her up outside the bar and they easily chatted away about where to eat. He had come prepared with options, he wanted to merely confirm that she enjoyed a particular cuisine. He was vegetarian too, and with a smile he added, "I also like to drink!" Rukmini was curious to know what conclusions he had drawn about her entrance and exit from the bar so she didn't rush in to disclose her profession.

They decided to eat Thai food. Right after their drinks arrived and each had taken a sip, Vikas abruptly said, "Look Rukmini I want to be honest about my intentions." Rukmini inwardly giggled at this. Intentions? They were two adults in a public place - she wasn't worried about intentions! "I want you to know where I am coming from. I was married and things didn't go as we planned. I was in a difficult place emotionally, and then I moved to this city to start afresh. I love my work, actually I own the company. Although I am not actively looking to get married, I saw you in the park and wanted to get to know you better. I don't know if this is romance or not, but at least I would like to see if we can try friendship first?" The speech was rehearsed; the words carefully picked so he didn't sound desperate. That's what Rukmini felt anyway. Vikas paused and Rukmini raised an eyebrow, "Let's get another drink, so you can get to know me better."

For the first time in her life, Rukmini told another adult, who wasn't professionally linked to her, what she did for a living. "I run a bar - it's for women only. I was married. My husband died in an accident and I had to do something to make ends meet. I had nothing to lose so I decided to take a big risk and start the bar." Vikas whistled out loud. Other people turned to look at them, but Vikas wasn't perturbed, "So the Smt Rukmini on the board is really you? You run Shantam Pappum? So that's why you wanted to eat dinner on a Tuesday, because the bar is closed, huh?" Rukmini nodded, bewildered about his response. Was he taking this positively or negatively?

"I have heard so much about you. From Sneha, my niece. She visits your bar frequently, as do her entire circle of friends. Now, I need a drink because I really want to get to know you better." He rubbed his hands with glee and signaled for the waiter's attention.

Vikas was inquisitive. He asked her a lot of questions about how it was to set up her business , sharing bits and pieces where his experiences intersected with hers. Dinner was consumed in the interim of Q & A. Rukmini felt she was being interviewed for a business magazine! But she had to admit that speaking about her journey with a fellow entrepreneur was quite enjoyable. Besides, Vikas was witty and by the end of the evening, her cheeks were aching from smiling. They decided that they would meet again. This time, it would at Vikas's house and he would cook.


  1. Nice to see your knowledge of fabrics coming in your stories

  2. I noticed the sari specification too. Now I want to know more... Vikas sounds like a nice guy. What happens next?? Tell me!!!!

    S :)