People always ask me how I met Mehul. Because we look so very different. He a tall, dapper, sophisticated Chartered Accountant from Bombay and me a simple girl from Goa. This is my story.
I had just finished college and didn’t know what to do : should I go to Art school? should I do Fashion Designing? Should I go in for Mass Media studies? I was confused so my mother suggested I spend the summer with Auntie Grace. It was a rite of passage in our family – spending the summer with Auntie Grace. Every child who finished school and didn’t know what to do was sent to Auntie Grace to be put on the right track. After all she was a retired school teacher who knew how to give the correct advice. She also was very strict and made sure that no one went out of line and got into trouble.
When I reached Bombay it was really very hot. I didn’t realise how hot it would be in April. I thought it would be like Goa, but it was not. It was near the sea and all, but the sea breezes were far from auntie Gracie’s house in the middle of Byculla. The only fish we could smell was the fish frying in the neighbours’ kitchens.
Within a week I felt I had been in Bombay all my life. Especially with my cousins Sally and Peter taking turns to show me around their city. I was now even more confused because the opportunities seemed endless. How I wished I was back home living my uncomplicated life. I specially missed it when I had to write my daily letter to Mom telling her what I’d done that day. But I’d promised mom I’d do that so on that fateful day when I met Mehul, I was looking out for a post box to post my letter home. My cousin Sally and I were exploring another part of the city, part of her orientation plan.
“Are you looking for something ?” asked a warm friendly voice and I looked up into a set of deep brown eyes. Like the colour of warm, molten chocolate I thought and felt my heart go thump. He was everything I’d dreamed of in a guy (cliched no doubt, but he was) – tall, dark and handsome with hair that curled slightly and a mouth that dimpled in a smile as he asked me the question. I instantly remembered my mother’s words to be careful of strangers and told my heart to behave itself and sternly replied “No, nothing.”
“Ok,” said Mr. Kind Voice, ” Sorry I thought you looked lost. You’re not from here are you?”
I could feel my cousin tug at my sleeve, urging me to come away. But I fell for the bait and instinctively replied “No.”
He raised his eyebrow quizzically and I said, “Byculla”
“Byculla! That’s at the other end of town! What brings you here!”
“Nothing, ” I said shrugging my shoulders and before I could say anything more I was pulled away by Sally who was hissing viciously in my ear ” Don’t talk you idiot, he’s just trying to act smart. You don’t know these Bombay guys,” and she pulled me into the nearby shop to ask the salesman where we could find a post office in the neighbourhood.
We continued walking and talking, making our way towards the post office when suddenly we felt the sky darken and saw a drop of water on my hand.
“Shit,” said Sally, “we’d better run. I think it’s going to rain.”
“But I HAVE to post this letter. Mom will scream if I don’t.”
“Forget your letter! Mom will scream if we get drenched. These pre-monsoon showers are the worst. All those germs floating around waiting to pounce.”
Sally knew her city better than I did so I didn’t argue with her and we ran to the bus stop. No sooner did we reach the bus stop than it actually began to pour. We quickly got into the first bus that came our way pushing our way through the people crowding at the entrance. “We’ll change at Nalanda,” Sally hissed, “Let’s just get out of the rain!”
The bus was full and we were lucky the conductor had stopped for us. I’d heard that Bombay buses just whiz past when they’re full.
“Go quick! Or we’ll lose that place, ” said Sally spying a seat getting empty in front of the bus.
I hurried up and quickly plonked myself on the empty seat. Sally was by my side and was looking in her purse for the fare.
“Ticket, ticket,” said the conductor
“One Nalanda,” said a voice which sounded vaguely familiar………
“So we meet again,” said Mr. Kind Voice when he jumped off the bus after us.
I felt he needed an explanation and sheepishly mumbled ,” I was looking for a post office to post a letter,” keeping my eyes down on the road.
” Oh! There’s one just there,” he said pointing out to a bright red postbox on the pavement.
In a big city like Bombay, what were the chances of meeting someone twice in a day? One in 14 million. I looked up to thank him and our eyes locked. His eyes were dancing with mischief and I knew I had found a friend.