She stands in front of the full-length mirror and looks at herself. She cringes a bit for she does not like what she sees.
The jeans make her look fat. And the tight top – it’s all wrong!
So she wears a loose dress – Churidar, Kurta and Dupatta – to hide her bulges.
She looks at her new high-heels – should she? They’ll make her look tall, less fat. No. Not today.
Now it’s got to be walking shoes. A brisk invigorating walk from Chowpatty to Churchgate breathing the fresh evening sea breeze on Marine Drive is what she needs to cheer her up.
She stands on the weighing machine at Churchgate station and, with a tremor of trepidation, puts in the coin. Lights flash. Out comes the ticket. She looks at it. Same as yesterday. And the day before. And the day before. No change – either in her weight or her fortune!
Her face falls. She’s trying so much; exercising, dieting. But it’s no use. She looks longingly at the Softy Ice Cream counter.
There is a smart young handsome man with two Ice Cream cones, one in each hand. He looks at her for that moment longer than necessary. She averts her eyes, but he walks up to her and says, “Hi! How are you?”
She looks at him confused. His face seems vaguely familiar.
“You are Sheena’s roommate, aren’t you?” he asks.
She remembers him. He’s Sheena’s boyfriend from HR.
“Here,” he says, coming close, proffering an Ice Cream cone.
She steps back awkwardly, perplexed and taken aback with the man’s audacity.
“Take it fast. It’ll melt,” he says.
She hesitates, confused.
“Come on. Don’t be shy. I know you love Ice Cream. Sheena told me.”
She takes the Ice Cream cone from his hands.
“I’m Mohan. I work in HR.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“Let’s walk,” he says, “and hey, eat your ice cream fast before it melts”.
They start walking. And as they walk slowly out of Churchgate station towards Marine Drive, they slowly lick the creamy yummy ice cream off their cones.
“You walked all the way?” he asks.
“Yes,” she speaks for the first time.
“You come here everyday?”
“No. On other days we come together.”
“Sheena’s gone out.”
“For the office do at the disc?”
She’s furious. But she controls herself. No point getting on the wrong side of HR. She hastens her steps and says, “Okay. Bye. Time for me to go! And thanks for the Ice Cream.”
“No. No. Wait. Let’s have a Pizza over there,” he says pointing to the Pizzeria on Marine Drive by the sea.
“No. Please. I’ve got to go.”
“Come on. Don’t count your calories too much. And don’t weigh yourself every day.”
“What?” she goes red with embarrassment! This is too much! So he’s been stalking her - watching her every day. But inside, she secretly feels a flush of excitement.
“Yes. Don’t get obsessed. Like Sheena.”
“She keeps nagging me about my weight?”
“But you’re not fat!” she says.
“Then what would you say I am?” he asks.
“Let’s say you’re on the healthier side?”
“Healthier side? That’s great!” he says amused. “Then you too are on the healthier side, aren’t you?”
“Oh yes. We both are on the healthier side.” She laughs. He laughs. They both laugh together. Healthy laughter!
They sit in the sea breeze enjoying their pizza. He is easy to talk to, she has much to say, and the words come tumbling out.
And so they enjoy a ‘healthy’ date. Relishing delicious Pizzas, and other lip smacking goodies, to their hearts’ content, capping the satiating repast with the heavenly ice creams at Rustom’s nearby.
“Where were you?” Sheena asks when she returns to their room in the working women’s hostel late at night.
“I had a date.”
“You? A date?” Sheena says disbelievingly
“Of course. At Churchgate.”
“A date at Churchgate? Wow! Things are looking up for you yaar!”
“Yes. And you Sheena? How was your date?”
“All ruined. That Mohan. He stood me up. Didn’t turn up at the disc and kept his mobile off.”
“You’ve met him.”
“Mohan? You’ve not introduced me to any Mohan.”
“Of course I have. He’s come here to pick me up so many times. He comes over to meet me at our office too. He works in HR.”
“Oh the guy from HR - the chap on the healthier side! That’s your darling Mohan, is it?”
“Darling? My foot! Bloody ditcher, that’s what he is - to hell with him!” Sheena says angrily and goes off to sleep.
But our heroine cannot sleep. She eagerly waits for sunrise. For at six in the morning Mohan has promised to meet her on Marine Drive opposite the Aquarium. And then they will go together for a ‘healthy’ jog on Marine Drive.
She feels happy, full of anticipation and zest.
Happiness is when you have something to look forward to.
Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve