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Across The Street

Story: My daughter Kamini said in a don’t-try-with-me tone, ‘Now we create my matrimonial profile. I helped you, you help me with it mom!’

‘Are we doing this?’

‘Doing what?’ I wasn’t attending. It was Artichoke, my catering venture. It was always Artichoke, said Kamini once. Perhaps. This time it was my books of accounts. They were making no sense. The average margin in the industry was 10%. My books showed 7%. Which was the ‘no sense’ part.

No matter how hard I parsed the numbers, the answer remained a stubborn 7%. Something wasn’t right, and some sleuthing was needed to find answers.

How to explain this to a daughter who sat there and snapped her fingers under my nose to gain attention? One didn’t.

Kamini doesn’t respect my time, or my profession. She calls me a cook. I’m not. A catering service that has now graduated to serving at Fortune 500 corporate gatherings is not what a ‘cook’ does. I read somewhere that a daughter respects her mother only when she has a child. That day hasn’t come upon us. So…?

Kamini took me by the shoulders and turned my body to face her. ‘Pay attention, Honey.’

‘I am,’ I lied.

‘What did I just say?’ she said in a gotcha tone.

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‘Uff, Honey, you really…Now listen to me.’

I straightened my shoulders and returned her narrowed look. ‘Listening.’

‘We have to post my profile on the website.’

‘Which…?’ I caught myself just in time as I remembered what she was talking about. Now I was fully focused. ‘Darling, are you sure? I mean…’

Kamini rolled her eyes. (It was becoming a bit of a habit with her) ‘Honey, we’ve had this conversation before, remember? Mating, biological clock, suitability?’

‘But you’re only thirty!’ I protested. ‘Surely there’s plenty of time?’

‘Says the woman who had a baby at the ripe age of nineteen.’

‘That was different.’

‘I know. You were an orphan, you fell in love, and marriage answered everyone’s prayers. Except my unknown grandparents’,’ she added reflectively.

My eyes misted as I remembered that time. ‘It did. Your father—’

‘—Was an angel in human form.’

‘Well, he was. You never got to know him, and I wish you had.’

‘I remember him carrying me on his shoulders.’

‘You do?’ I stared at her. ‘That doesn’t sound possible. You were only three when he…’ I gulped and was startled. It wasn’t often that Ajay’s memory overwhelmed me. Of late I’d brought down thoughts of my dead husband to once a day. It wasn’t hard. Artichoke was my new husband, with me when I woke up, by my side last thing at night and all through the day. I needed more staff but—I jerked my head when Kamini snapped her fingers in front of my nose again.

‘Earth to wherever-the-fuck-you-are,’ she snapped. ‘Pay attention, Honey. This is serious. We’re talking about my life. Don’t you want me to be happy?’

‘What? Aren’t you happy?’

‘That’s different. Everything can’t be about my work. I need a partner.’

‘I agree. You need to find someone, start living with them instead of your old mother.’

‘Now you’re being cruel. And false,’ Kamini added. ‘You’re a baby who can’t be let loose in the world. And I have no partner.’

‘But all those men I see you with?’

‘Revolving door,’ she waved a dismissive hand. ‘None of them stick around. In case you didn’t know this, nobody wants to marry a thirty year old journalist, not when they can get it for free.’

‘Ew! Please! A little less candour. I’m your mom!’

‘Are you? Then do what moms do, find me a husband.’

‘But baby…’

‘That’s the whole point, Honey. I’m not a baby. I’m a spinster, a confirmed wallflower. Look at your other daughter.’


Kamini raised a hand, ‘But me no buts,’ she declared. ‘Srila has landed a wife. My baby sister is happily married while I’m forced to advertise for dates to take me to weddings. Speaking of which, I’m going to Goa this weekend.

‘Again? Didn’t you just return from there?’

‘Another wedding,’ said my daughter in a tone that could slice through raw meat.


I shelved the conversation as soon as Kamini walked out of my bedroom. It was nonsense, the idea that one could find a mate on a website. It was like making a baby on a 3D printer. No chance. #matrimonialwebsitesareBS.

My daughters had often opined that they grew up despite me, that I was a baby when I had them, and a baby could scarcely raise other babies. Ergo sum. Half-truths everywhere. Yes, I was a child, well, technically an adolescent, when I became a mother. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t know how to raise my girls.

‘You didn’t even find out when I got my first period,’ Srila waved away my indignation.

‘That’s because you didn’t tell me!’

‘Mutadis mutandis. Mothers are supposed to know all this. The only thing you were good at was giving us perfect tiffins.’

‘That’s something, I suppose.’

Srila ignored the irony. ‘Other than that, I don’t suppose you even knew what class we were in.’

This was not true. I’d just mistaken their respective classrooms during the parent teacher meet and ended up discussing Srila’s poor math scores with Kamini’s teacher. They had never let me forget the error.

‘But we forgive you,’ said Kamini. ‘Didn’t one of my teachers tell you to go back to your class?’ At which both the girls guffawed, tears streaming from their eyes. They could never let me forget the humiliation of being mistaken for a schoolgirl just because I’d chosen to wear a dress that took ten years off my age. Haha.

This disdain notwithstanding, I had a mother’s instinct, and right now it told me that something was up, that all wasn’t as it seemed with Kamini. It was the same instinct that had made me pull Srila into my bedroom when she was thirteen and ask her what was bothering her, which was when she sobbed out that she liked girls.

So now I wondered what Kamini was up to. My daughter held the equivalent of a PhD in socialising, and was as short of men in her life as the sea is short of water. Kamini Patel owned a byline in one of the biggest online newsportals, and was a Page 3 fixture in Mumbai, the city she had made her home for the last one year.


Life had changed in the last couple of years. For everyone. One day I was chugging along in my apartment, using any and every contact in the city to find work, and the next the same apartment had become a WeWork of sorts, when Kamini showed up at my doorstep with two room-sized suitcases, and walked past me to move into her old bedroom, overriding all my protests with a wave and a smile, like a queen indulging her subjects. ‘Later. I need to recover from the bag of shit that’s Delhi airport.’

Was I happy to have her with me? Yes, of course. She was great company. And I could do with great company after almost a year of isolation. But a political journalist could hardly stay away from the seat of action. Or camp in my spare bedroom.

‘Honey,’ said my daughter in her best grandma tone, ‘you’re not fit to be left alone.’ Really her smile almost reminded me of the big, bad wolf. ‘Getting Covid, almost meeting your maker. Really!’

‘Don’t exaggerate. It wasn’t so bad.’

‘No? So why were you in hospital?’ she sneered.

‘All right,’ I conceded. ‘They admitted me. But I was home in five days.’

‘Where I come from, that’s called a serious illness.’

Where I come from, I said silently, it’s called survival.

I lived after seeing many hells. Loneliness, illness, idleness, poverty, each on its own bad enough. Together, they made for a special kind of madness. But now I was sane, I was alive, and I had work. And some money. Ergo, I was fine.

‘Fine?’ Kamini raised her phone. ‘Shall I replay the video of you screaming in the hospital ward?’

‘No. And the nurse had no business sharing something so intimate with you.’

‘Intimate? Jesus, Honey! You make it sound like porn. I’m your daughter. I have a right to know what’s going on with my mother.’

‘And now that mother is fine.’

‘We shall see. I’m sick of politics anyway,’ said Kamini. ‘Time to do fashion, celeb stuff.’

‘You’ll die of boredom,’ I told her.

‘Just watch me, Karunaji. I can do fashion as well as I can do politics.’


‘—Tut, tut,’ she shushed me. ‘Tut.’ And that was the final word.

A graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism was now a lifestyle reporter. It wasn’t snobbery to think that my daughter was meant for something better. But ‘Tut, tut,’ was the only response I received when I pointed this out to her.

And once, ‘Let me know if you want some privacy, Honey. You know, to— (eyebrows curved suggestively to convey an entirely lewd meaning). I can always camp with Rimpy.’

That sentence was wrong on so many levels that I didn’t dignify it with a response. I have a sense of humour. At least so I imagine. But some things are beyond funny, including the suggestion that I would be unfaithful to Ajay’s memory.

‘Remind me to send you an invitation to join the twenty first century,’ said Kamini caustically. ‘I don’t know what century you’re inhabiting but it’s no big deal to find a new partner in this one.’

‘But I don’t need a partner. Or rather, I already have a partner.’

‘I meant a human, someone to cuddle at night. And no matter how hard you try, Artichoke isn’t going to keep you warm in bed.’

Neither was another man. Happiness had no structure. There was no research to support that a single, independent woman couldn’t be happy without a man, that a warm body at night was better than a warm cup of milk.

Covid was behind us now. Covid had changed me, and then changed me back. I was no longer the woman who sang to herself just to exercise her tongue, or waved to the mirror just to see a human being. I no longer cried myself to sleep, and no longer looked at a knife and wondered how the blood would flow from my wrists, or whether one slashed hand could slash the other.

I no longer looked at my bank statement every fifteen minutes to see whether any dues owed to me had magically been credited to my account, and no longer watched Netflix until three in the morning, just to see a face other than my own.

The radioactivity of that behaviour was buried in a sealed chamber where nobody, least of all my daughters, would ever find it. I had my life back, the interregnum of the past two years had been sanded back into oblivion. I wasn’t going to tell the tale any time soon, but I was alive, ready to take on the world, to pound it back into submission, to become my slave as it had been in the past. #proudtobealone.


I was awake and stuck to my laptop when I heard my daughter return from whatever gig she had gone to. It was almost two in the morning. Kamini must have seen the light under my door for she came in. ‘Why aren’t you asleep, little bird?’

I looked at her above my reading glasses. ‘Shouldn’t I ask you that?’

‘I’m an adult,’ said my daughter. ‘You, on the other hand, you need to be tucked up in bed.’ Then she saw my face and her tone became serious. ‘Hey, what’s up?’

I closed my laptop and my eyes, the latter feeling like fresh sandpaper. Then I opened them. ‘I’m just trying to get a handle on my accounts. Something’s off, and I need to check the numbers.’

‘Want me to help?’

‘You? What do you know about accounts?’

‘More than you think, baby. I did that course in accounting. Don’t you remember? In my senior year in college? Ha, stupid question. Little mama knows nothing of what her child did in college. Little mama was too busy—’

‘—Busting my balls to pay for the same college.’

‘Tch, tch, language. Anyway, take it as read that you have no idea what your daughters do, past or present. Moving on, how can I help?’

‘Darling, look at the time! You should go to sleep.’

‘Sleep shleep. That’s for kids. C’mon, tell me what’s going on?’

I knew that expression. Mules have looked less obstinate than my daughter in pursuit of a challenge. There was no point in resisting. I started swinging my legs out of bed but Kamini stopped me. ‘Where are you going? Just tell me what I want to know, l’il one, and I’ll handle it from there.’

I knew she meant what she said. The benefits of a college education! I had forfeited it in favour of marriage and regretted it only occasionally.

Within ten minutes of explaining the problem to Kamini I was fast asleep. When I woke up, she was sitting at the dining table, the open laptop in front of her. ‘Didn’t you go to sleep last night?’ I was amazed.

‘Honey, you need to watch for this obsession with sleep. Okay listen, I found out what’s going on.’

‘Already? I’m impressed. Really.’

‘Relax, it wasn’t hard. I just put the numbers in a spreadsheet and bingo, the truth was conspicuous by its presence.’

I forgot about my morning coffee in my eagerness to know more. ‘Tell me,’ I commanded.

‘I analysed the input expenses over a month. Every alternate Thursday and Friday, there’s a spike in the price of chicken and fish. If I hypothesise that prices of produce don’t fluctuate with such regularity, then there’s only one explanation—’

‘—That someone’s skimming off the top,’ I completed the sentence with dismay.

‘Yup, that’s probably it. Do you know who does the purchasing on these days?’

I did.

Very well.

But knowing is a distant cousin of believing. Like every other catering business in the world, I ran a tight ship. I didn’t have an HR department, because I was the HR. The whole people management buck stopped with me. Eight people working in a state of the art kitchen the size of a large suburban apartment didn’t need much oversight.

And yet I had missed the fact that my sous chef, probably in cahoots with the accountant, was stealing. I didn’t know which was worse, the blow to my ego or the blow to the business. Artichoke had just started breathing after almost two years of life-support. (Just like you, said a voice.) And now this. I wanted to jump from the window and never get up again.

‘Honey, what’s wrong? You look like you’re about to faint.’

‘Maybe I am.’ I collapsed into the nearest chair and sank my face into my hands. Then I lifted my eyes to look at Kamini. ‘I feel like an idiot! How can this have gone on under my nose? How come I didn’t see it? Hey, have you ever seen a stupid person? No? There’s one standing right in front of you. You found the cause within a few hours, and I’ve been struggling for weeks! What sort of businesswoman am I?’

‘The sort who pays her employees with her savings through the lockdown.’ Then, ‘Do you want to cry?’ I found Kamini looking at me with almost clinical interest and I suddenly wanted to laugh.

‘No,’ I sniffed. ‘But I’d kill for a decent cup of coffee.’ I held out my cup of now-cold coffee with distaste.

‘Coming right up.’

I’d got hold of myself by the time Kamini returned with a steaming cup.

‘You’ve decided what to do?’ She cocked a knowing look at me.

I nodded. ‘Yup.’

She smiled and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. ‘Attagirl! You’re a rockstar. I can put that on my visiting card My mom is a rockstar. I’ll bet it’ll get me an appointment with SRK stat.’

‘A rockstar who couldn’t spot a theft in her backyard.’

Kamini shrugged. ‘Potatoes, potahtoes. I spotted it. And who raised me?’ She pointed at me dramatically. ‘The rockstaaar!’

Rockstars who can’t protect their capital are idiots. #stupid.


By evening Karuna Patel was transformed from a hysterical child back to her usual calm self. The errant staff was sacked, replacements found from the list of hopefuls that I always kept with me, the turnover in the catering industry being a nationwide scandal, and business back to normal with just a minor shift in short term scheduling to bring the new guys up to speed.

Kamini was in the living room, reading something on her tablet, when I returned home that evening.

‘All done?’ she looked at me.

I smiled. ‘All done.’

‘You beast, you,’ she said in a deadpan tone. ‘White or red?’

‘A large whisky please. And what’s all this?’ I waved at the table.

‘Can’t a gal treat her ma?’

I looked at Kamini. She looked back, every pore radiating innocence. I wasn’t convinced but the table looked good, sparkling with my best dinnerware and silver, the light from the candles putting a gentle gleam on everything— the ultimate balm to a chef’s nerves is a well-laid table.

My daughter knew me well. Already the past twelve hours were leaching out of my mind, like a grain of sand washing out of the eye.

‘Details?’ Kamini handed me an extra generous shot of my favourite single malt, again in my best glass.

I took a sip and smacked my lips. ‘Not really. But it’s sorted. There’ll be no more trouble.’

‘Yes, Il Duce.’ Just then the doorbell rang. ‘And that, if I’m not mistaken, is the food.’

‘What is it?’

‘You’ll see. Enjoy your drink while I serve the goodies.’

I closed my eyes and let my mind drift, the background sound of Kamini dishing out the food almost lulling me to sleep. ‘Uhuh, sleeping beauty, no dozing now. Dinner is served,’ Kamini nudged me gently.

My daughter had surpassed herself. There was my favourite assortment of sushi, sweet and sour pork, jasmine rice, and sauteed bok choi. I sighed, almost catatonic with happiness.

We ate in silence, as we always did.

Finally, when we were done and Kamini had cleared the table, waving away my offer to help with an airy you-need-to-put-your-feet-up wave of her hand, and placed our double shot espressos on the coffee table, she brought her laptop.

‘Now what?’

‘Now,’ she said in a don’t-fuck-with-me tone, ‘now we create my profile. I help you, you help me.’

I stared at her. ‘Quid pro quo?’

‘No, my darling cynic! Can’t I give you a good time? But yeah, favours should be returned.’

I sighed. ‘Kammo, if you really want to go this route, just post the profile yourself. You don’t need me.’

‘Now that’s where you’re wrong, little girl. I did a bit of research on the three biggest websites. Across all three, more than seventy percent of the posts were by the parents. I think people tend to trust a profile that has the parent’s approval on it. Plus I need your email login.’

‘Kammo, just take my laptop and my email id,’ I said, eyes shut, the most visceral reaction to a bad setup. ‘Do what you like.’ My daughter was up to no good. Or was I being unduly suspicious? Was the earlier theft colouring everything I saw? Then I opened my eyes. ‘I don’t like what you’re doing.’

‘You don’t know what I’m doing.’


I shut my eyes again and then snapped them open when Kamini said, ‘What’s your caste?’

What is the caste of an orphan raised in a Christian orphanage? Or of her husband who abandoned his parents in favour of said orphan?

‘NA,’ I declared, ‘as in none-of-your-fucking-business.’

‘All right,’ said Kamini peaceably. ‘We’ll skip this stuff. Moving on…’

I held out a curt hand. ‘Kammo, write whatever fiction you want. Just don’t involve me. This—’ I huffed, ‘isn’t how one finds one mate.’

‘Maybe.’ Kamini waved the peace flag. ‘But why not give it a shot? You never know.’

But I did know. Thirty one years ago I saw a man across the street and wanted him instantly, but he went inside a building. I waited all day for him to come back out, to get another glimpse of him. On the third day of the siege he walked up to me and said, ‘May I help you?’

A month later we were married. In that one month I got to know him as well as I knew myself. We had touched, held hands, eaten from the same plate, looked at the night sky together. We had slept together and woken up to the sounds of the street together. It was called falling in love. And my daughter hoped to find it within a set of rows and columns. I abhorred the thought.


In the morning I heard Kamini giggling through her closed door. It was six am. Did the woman never sleep? Then I heard Srila’s husky tone. And her giggle. I almost knocked to be let in, but then proceeded for my run. Never ask a question to which you might not like the answer. My life’s credo.

Two days passed in a whirl, as Artichoke began preparing for two upcoming high-profile weddings. Soon I’d have enough money to restore my savings to their pre-Covid level, and then I could rest, take a holiday, maybe.

‘Like that’s ever gonna happen. Your last holiday was, hmm, let me think,’ Kamini snapped her fingers, ‘oh yes, when you got tricked into becoming an attending parent for our school trip to Tadoba.’

‘It was a good holiday,’ I said defensively.

‘Sure. What fun looking after a bunch of fourteen year olds with nothing on their mind except how to do the stupidest things.’

‘I’m serious, Kammo. I’m going to go on a world tour. 2024 sounds like a good year. I should start planning for it.’

‘Aww shut up, baby. That’s never happening. You’ve become a sadhu since Dad passed. Don’t try to hide it.’

‘That’s nonsense! Single moms don’t have the luxury of taking time off. We need to raise our children, my dear.’

‘Your ‘children’ grew up a decade ago. What have you been doing since then? You can’t mourn forever, Honey.’


‘If she looks like a mourner, talks like a mourner, behaves like a mourner, she is a mourner.’

I did my standard hands in the air, what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this routine and walked out of the room. I wasn’t mourning, merely holding on to my sanity with both hands, having almost lost it, not once but twice, once when Ajay keeled over his morning tea, the victim of an aneurysm, and the second time when the government locked all of us into our individual prisons. One didn’t take any chances if one could avoid them.


I was no longer sleepy after the slugfest with Kamini. I sat in my bed and opened my laptop. There were two mails in my inbox, both with the same subject, ‘We’ve found a match!’. What the hell?

I opened the first one. A grid with a photograph pinned to the top left corner stared back at me. It took me just a moment to realise that this must be a response to Kamini’s profile. But why had she posted my email?

In any case the fellow looked like a creep. And wasn’t she too young for him? But mine not to question why. I forwarded the second email without even opening it. By the time I did this, two more mails popped up with the same subject.

‘Somebody just kill me’, I muttered. As though I didn’t have enough going on without this as well. I shut my laptop, switched the light off and went to sleep. I would deal with whatever was going on in the morning.


By morning, the trickle had turned into a flood. Pride battled with disgust as I looked at my screen. Did all these strangers want my daughter or just her profile? It was like having a fan following, only worse. I forwarded the mails and deleted them from my computer.

Kamini’s conviction in the digital equivalent of being struck by lightning across the street was pathetic, but it wasn’t my conviction, I consoled myself. I wasn’t betraying myself, even if I felt betrayed.

I was exhausted, and busy, and troubled. Rich people’s weddings take as much as they give. It’s an unfair exchange, my blood for their money. I always decided to stop the haemorrhaging until the next event came along, and I once again chose wealth over health.

So it was good that I didn’t run into Kamini for the next few days. If that was her intention, I was grateful to her. I had no space in my mind for more wrangling with her. After the initial torrent, the responses to her post had dwindled, but I continued to forward them to her without opening them, even though they seemed to be addressed to me. Mine not to question what for.

On Friday morning, Kamini emerged from her room, her long hair tousled and falling anyhow over her face and shoulders, her eyes half-shut in slumber. I smiled, momentarily forgetting our war. This was my daughter, my little baby who still placed her head in my lap when she was tired, depressed or moody.

‘Good morning. Coffee?’

‘Yes please.’

She gave me a little hug when I placed a steaming cup in front of her. ‘You’re an angel.’

‘Long week?’

‘You don’t know the half of it. I had to walk through six miles of jungle to get to this village where they’ve discovered that their girls are super flexible and have set up a training academy for gymnastics. What a story!’

‘Sounds like a tough gig.’

She flicked me on the nose. ‘No tougher than cooking for five hundred people when there’s a shortage of toor dal,’ she smiled. ‘Oh by the way,’ she said in a casual tone that put me on red alert. ‘Thanks for sending on all the emails.’

‘Found anyone?’ I mirrored her tone.

‘We shall see,’ she said before scrolling on her phone.

End of subject. I was as not-curious as she was not-forthcoming, both of us playing the volley to perfection, waiting for the right moment to call a draw. It came a couple of days later. Or rather, as I later realised, it was the penultimate move before the win.

‘Honey, I think I should see your accounts once.’

‘Why? Everything’s going well now.’

‘I know. But it’s always better to be in front of a problem, right?’

‘All right, go for it.’

Kamini took the laptop, used the keyboard for some time and then returned it. ‘All done.’

‘All well?’

‘I think so. Looks perfect, actually.’

Dear Karuna,

Thanks for your response. I loved your profile. It’s not often one comes across such a unique journey. I have a metaphorical hat that I’ve just tipped to you. (I smiled. This was a charmer!)

A bit about myself. As you can see, I’ve never been married. Not that I didn’t want to. But it just never worked out. I’ve had a couple of relationships, but they didn’t take. It’s a long story, which I hope I shall get a chance to tell you when we meet.

Work has filled many gaps in my life, but the thing about work is that it has a limited mandate. You can’t talk to work, or fight with it, or see the stars with it. Work can’t share your ecstasy over a perfectly cooked butter chicken or put a thermometer in your mouth when you’re sick. I guess you agree. Isn’t that why you posted your profile on the site?

Honestly, I’d given up looking for someone special. I didn’t expect to find anyone through the website. I know thousands of people find their soulmates there, but I didn’t think I was one of them. If one can’t find someone in real life, what are the chances of getting a hit on a website? (My thoughts exactly, mister, so why did you post on the site?)

My situation isn’t normal, I know. Who wants to date a forty seven year old man? Discovering your profile almost seems like a miracle. Do you feel the same way? Your response has given me hope. Would you like to leave our digital lives behind and meet in person?



It was a heartthrob of an email, but misdirected. A mystery. He should sue the website. They were toying with people’s lives. Something so personal read by the wrong person. Hardly kosher. I didn’t want to, but I read the mail again, slowly, savouring every word. It was wrong, and unethical, and snoopy, but it was also delicious, forbidden candy to inflame the senses.

Then the fire cooled. Wait a minute. Forty seven? A forty-seven year old lusting after a thirty year old? Really? Wasn’t there an age filter in these mating sites? Or was Kamini hankering after an older man, some sort of secret kink she harboured?

My pulse settled as I dug into the profile history of this Anant. I counted the responses in my trash folder. There were sixty three. Sixty three responses and my daughter had selected a man old enough to be her father. At least in some African tribe. I assumed.

Forty seven year old Anant Stupid Sinha, (he was offering for a much younger woman — ergo stupid, stupid, stupid) lives in Mumbai, works in advertising, does song-writing as a hobby, loves football and swimming, has a younger sister, also in Mumbai, and two retired parents living in Pune. A profile perfect enough to be a lie.

Yes, I was angry, angry with Anant the perfect man, angry with my daughter the blinkered idiot, angry with myself for liking the former and loving the latter. The profile had some caste stuff that I skipped. Then I came to the juicy stuff.

I’m not a complete man. I realise now that only a partner can do that. But it should be the right partner. I can’t give my heart to the wrong person. That’s who I’m waiting for, the right person. I know if I wait enough, I’ll find her. Or maybe she’ll find me.

Perhaps I need to look harder. That’s what I’m doing with this post. If you’re the right one and reading this, please write to me. We must meet. I’ll come wherever you are. About me? I’m ‘nothing special’. A couple of my songs have hit the charts, and that makes me happy. Average height and weight with a side of biceps. Still working on those, FYI. This is all.

Oh and BTW, I’m the goalkeeper for my football team. We play every Sunday morning in Matunga. But I’m happy to give that up if you don’t like it. Like I said, I love football but it’s not my life. In sum, I’m just an average guy who’s looking for completeness.

The racing pulse and raging blood was back. I blinked back my tears and sniffed a little. Every rule has an exception. Maybe this Anant was the exception in an online world peppered with losers who couldn’t find a relationship if it coshed them on the head.  Had my Kamini found a winner? Was this her equivalent of looking across the street?

I reread his mail, just as I had his response. It wasn’t snooping if a parent studied her daughter’s prospects. I would have done the same with a flesh and blood man. Though, my inner demon pointed out, I never had in the past, it being none of my business who Kamini dated.

I forwarded Anant’s mail to her after re-reading it a few more times, until I knew every word by heart. And crossed my fingers behind my back, as I had done all those years ago when I’d seen Ajay.


At five in the evening, the café on Carter Road had no other customers. Kamini had asked to meet me there. ‘Life and death,’ she said when I asked her if it was something important. What was so important that it couldn’t be discussed at home? ‘You won’t understand, l’il girl. Just be there. My treat.’

So here I was, waiting for her. The door opened to reveal a man. Had his daughter also ordered him to come there and then forgotten to show up? I wondered idly. Had I seen him before? He looked familiar. But I think that about many men. It’s a mental illusion thing. Whatever. I returned to the menu.

A chair was pulled. I looked up. It was the man. He was smiling. At me. ‘Hi Karuna. I’m Anant.’

My phone buzzed. I checked my message. It was my daughter. ‘Enjoy your date. He seems like a nice guy. Go get this one, tiger!’. An ocean of emojis to round off. I smiled. ‘Hi Anant. Pleased to meet you.’ And my fingers crossed behind my back.

Image source: Still from the film Listen…Amaya, edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author


I'm an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and now a published author. My first novel, Cloud 9 Minus One, was published by HarperCollins India in 2009. read more...

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