Everything about the evening was cataclysmic. And sudden. Unexpected almost. As the golden sun setting down was suddenly surrounded by black clouds and the sweet coo of the cuckoo was replaced by the angry warbling of birds. Rains in Mumbai have always been unpredictable. And Neha always loved that.
She was headed for a quick jog, listening to her favourite Bollywood singers Asha and Lata Mangeshkar seductively croon Mann Kyun Behka Re Behka Aadhi Raat Ko (why does the heart wander in the middle of the night?) and amazed at how the city she loved, changed moods and shades without warning …
‘Going from peaceful to noisy to seductive as the rain came pouring down…. Just like a woman you don’t recognize in the shadows of the night. Just like her favourite actor Rekha in this song…’ she thought as she jogged down the pavement looking up at the skies threatening her Blackberry.
“Ouch. Watch it!” It was amazing how some day dreaming had splattered muck on the strangers cream and gold saree.
“Damn, I am sorry!” Neha had a feeling it was too late already. The stranger meowed a sigh of distress and sighed, as she dropped her red umbrella to attend to her scarlet-toes…
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t think I was going to get the job anyway.”
Of all the days to be her clumsy self, this clearly wasn’t a good one, Nandini thought to herself as she said quickly picking up the umbrella… “I am really sorry. Can I make it up in any way? I live like a minute away. I have a saree, I think, in about the same shade. I could loan that to you and drop you off to your interview?”
As the stranger looked up and pushed her long tresses back, she looked at Neha strangely with a strong scrutiny. “My name is Neha. I work on the Nano project. Here’s my card. I am totally…”
“… harmless and trust worthy? I am Nandini. If you are sure… ” the damsel in distress laughed at Neha’s obvious frown trying not to make her haste apparent.
“Sure. Where’s your interview?” Neha asked as she led her up the stairs to her messy studio pad… She picked up her clothes and walked into her room, pulled out the neatly ironed saree… She wondered what the stranger thought of the black and white images lining up her teal blue walls.. She shrugged, ruffling her hands through her shoulder length hair pulled out a soft cotton towel from her drawer.
“The bath’s through there. I will be in the kitchen – making tea for you…” She paused
“Coffee please, if you have some! I won’t be more than a few minutes!”
Neha hadn’t ever made coffee this quick but there was something insistent and assertive in Nandini’s tone! She whizzed around beating up her specialty – filter south Indian coffee! The one her last girlfriend had insisted she learn, and tried to ignore the rhythm Nandini’s anklet bells formed a rhythm as she undraped her saree. Neha gave her head a talking to with a stern ‘behave yourself!’
Nandini peeked past her pink curtains separating Neha’s bedroom from the kitchen. “I am done. Thank you…” And grabbed the coffee mug Neha held out for a quick sip.
“For someone queer, you are darned good with coffee,” Nastasha said as she slipped into her golden stringy chappals.
Neha looked askance and finally caught Nandini’s glance at her 377 gunjee which read cheekily, ‘Hoon Toh (I am.. So what?)’ and said defiantly, “You would be surprised at what else I am good with.”
The assertive subtext was good enough for the two to walk quietly. Neha dropped Nandini to her interview in her car and quick drive to the Corporate Park next door with a hasty, “Best of luck,” and whizzed by.
(To be continued…)