He’d done it quite nicely, he felt. Having learnt that she could no accompany the gang to their week long trip to Southern India, he had extricated himself too with convenient excuses that had fooled no one. The friends, after having made numerous slanted comments and observations that friends are expected to make on such occasions, had advised him to not go too far on the first date.
“You’ve got a week dude. Wait till the 2nd or 3rd time.”
“Oh no! I am going to tell her tomorrow itself. I can’t go on like this forever. I need to know if there’s any chance of us getting together. If she does not reciprocate, well, so be it. I don’t give a damn!”
The friends had chuckled quietly then and had had a good laugh later. They had heard that often and from a diverse enough set of mouths to know that what Ramesh meant was exactly the opposite.
And so Ramesh had called up Sonia.
“Hi Sonia! I heard you aren’t going for the trip too?”
“Yeah, really disappointed. I so wanted to go! But have to be here for my cousin’s wedding on Saturday.”
“Yeah, really disappointing. I can’t go either. Mom’s not keeping well”
“Oh, that’s sad. What happened to her?”
“Nothing serious really, one of those viral infections that do the rounds every once in a while. She’ll be alright.”
“Dammit! Why did my cousin have to get married this week?”
“Chill yaar, you sound really dejected.”
“Yes, I am”
“Well then, lets see. How about you and I going out for a bite tomorrow evening? Share the sorrow!”
“Ummm, good idea. Better than watching TV at home. Lets make it 7 at CCD tomorrow, ok?”
“Yeah, sounds great. See you tomorrow then.”
For a strictly middle class boy who had been snubbed by the same girl for being that, this was quite an achievement.
That’s done then. Now what? I suppose I gotta get her a present or something. Would look like a fucking fool if I don’t get her a gift. How can I propose if I don’t have anything to give her? No, must get something. And something really nice and expensive too! She shouldn’t think I thought about money when I was out shopping for her! This should be real cool! What will she think when I say “I love you”? Hey, wait a minute, will I just say that? That’s been beaten to death. No, no! Something more stylish! “I want to be with you”? How much money have I got? Let me check. No, that sounds too cowardly. She’d think I have pissed in my pants. Something a little bold… “I want you”? Nope, that sounds like I got sex on my mind. Well, wouldn’t mind if that happens, hehe! But no, can’t say that. Something refined. Alright, I got four thousand bucks…could spend two thousand, I suppose. Should be enough I should think. But what do I buy her? I never bought anything for a girl. What do I do? Ask someone? Who? “I want to keep taking you out for a bite”? Hmm, that’s an interesting one! Sunil! Yes, Sunil of course. He’ll know what to present! He’s been out with hundreds of girls!
“Hi Sunil! Ramesh here. Listen, I need your help”
“Yes, tell me”
“I want to buy something for, well, a friend of mine”
“I need your help. I don’t know what to buy”
“Ah! Hold on a second Ramesh, is this friend of yours a ‘She’?”
“Aha! This is getting interesting! A ‘special’ friend, yes?”
“No, nothing like that. Yet”
“Yet, huh? Yet! There you go my boy!”
“No, not me kid. You’ve set your sights elsewhere now!”
“Fuck you, ass hole!”
“Haha! Come on dude, you got to admit the truth!”
“Shut up ass hole! So, will you help me out?”
“Of course! How can I not! When do you want to buy it?”
“How about right now? I kind of, want to present it to her tomorrow evening…”
“Oh I see! A date! Our man is going out on a date! Brilliant work buddy! Sure thing, I’ll pick you up at your place in, say, an hour?”
“Yes, an hour should be fine! Thanks man!”
“No probs dude! Oh, I am going to love this!”
Oh dear! He’s going to fuck my happiness for the next two hours! And by tomorrow, every boy and girl in this city will know about this! Dammit! Why did I have to call up that bastard! Shit! I hope Sonia doesn’t come to know of this! That’ll be the end of me. No, can’t let that happen. I need to stop Sunil from broadcasting this! I’ll tell him when he comes. Hey! “You make me want to be a better man. And I so want to become one!” How about that? That should be real cool! Hey, but she will have seen As Good As it Gets. She’ll think I am aping Nicholson. Cheap, she’ll think. Nope, won’t work. What if he starts calling people up right away? He’ll have passed on the news to as many people as he wants by the time he arrives here! Shit! Why didn’t I think of that before! Have to call him immediately!
“Yes? What happened? I am on my way dude! Don’t get so restless!”
“No no! Not that! I just wanted to tell you to keep this to yourself, ok?”
“Oh dear! That’s a dampener!”
“You haven’t told anyone yet, have you?”
“Naah, not yet. But I was looking forward to.”
“Please don’t yaar. Hold on till tomorrow, yes?”
“Yeah sure. Will do that. Hey, I got to disconnect. Can’t get caught on the phone while driving!”
Phew! That was close!
Sunil arrived earlier than he’d promised. He beamed brightly at Ramesh, slapped him on the back a couple of times and said
“Don’t you worry kid! You’ll be fine!”
On the way to wherever they were going, they discussed what could be bought.
“When you get down to it Ramesh, there really aren’t very many things you can gift a girl. At least, in the beginning. It generally has to revolve around attire. Safest bets, those. Dresses, ornaments, those kinds of things. Unless you want to gift here one of those soft toys that they cuddle up with in bed. But hey, you wouldn’t want too much company there, I guess!”
Sunil winked at Ramesh and sniggered. Ramesh started to say something and then decided against it.
“Of course, things change once you get more comfortable with each other. Then you can buy her stuff that’s a lot more…intimate, you know.” Another wink.
Eventually, they decided on a dress.
“I know just the place dude! We’ll buy her a nice, little one. Don’t worry! Oh, I love little ones! They look really nice, haha!” Sunil just couldn’t hold himself back.
“Shut up bastard! Concentrate on the driving!”
“Hey, don’t get upset buddy! Just joking! By the way, what are you going to wear for the big day?”
“I haven’t thought of that yet”
“Not thought of it? C’mon dude! What’s that? You got to be dressed to kill! How many days you known this girl?”
“Close to six months now, why?”
“Six months! She’ll have seen every fucking shirt and pant you own by now! You must get a new pair for yourself!”
“Really? I, I don’t have that kind of money yaar”
“Arey c’mon dude! You stupid? This is a special occasion, right? Don’t be a fucking miser! Its only one time!”
“You really think I should?”
“Of course. I insist on it”
“Alright then. We’ll buy that too”
“Excellent. There’s an awesome place just round the next corner. I’ll take you there”
And thus, Ramesh bought himself a new pair of jeans and a trendy looking T Shirt; both were recommended by Sunil. It cost Ramesh close to 1500 bucks. He had confided the state of his finances and the budget he’d set for himself to Sunil. But Sunil had none of it.
“Arey, I told you na? This is a special occasion! What are you being so stingy for? You mean to say you can’t spend a little extra money? Surely, if we overshoot the budget a little, it is not going to be the end of the world!”
That done, they turned their attention to the actual objective of the excursion.
Sunil picked up a gorgeous looking blue gown and showed it to Ramesh.
“Now this one’s really sexy. What do you think?”
Oh, that’s gorgeous! Incredible! She’ll look like a heroine in that! My God, this fellow’s got taste! But hey, gowns are expensive, aren’t they? How much could it be?
Ramesh turned the gown around, as if to inspect the intricacies of it from all sides. A furtive glance at the label had told him to forget it.
“I am not so sure Sunil. It kind of looks weird. I don’t think she likes gowns so much…never seen her wear one”
“You kidding, right? Man! That’s the best thing I’ve seen this month!”
“Yeah, I know. I am sure it’ll look good. But I don’t think she’s into gowns that much. Why take a risk?”
Sunil had simply shaken his head and moved on.
Goodness! Every dress looks unbelievable! Out of this world! But, I can’t afford them. I simply can’t! Arey, fuck it! Let me buy something. Not the end of the world! I’ll just cut down on some of my other expenses. Yes, that’s right. I’ll just buy what I like! Fuck the prices! I’ll just buy it! Let Sonia know how much I care! Oh, my God! This stupid piece of clothing is worth 7000! I wouldn’t have my servant wearing that! Ludicrous! I can’t possibly buy something so expensive! It’d be stupid of me. Really, one can never cut down on costs actually. Its just one of those ‘for the peace of mind’ things. Nope, doesn’t make sense. Can’t let myself get fooled by all this glitter. Need to…hey, that woman! What the hell does she think she’s buying? She’s buying that fucking rag! Thank God, I don’t have that kind of money to throw around. No, I need to be sensible. Oh dear! I still haven't thought of what to say to her! Think! Think! I won’t go over budget. Too much. Unless, of course, I find something really awesome…Better let Sunil know that. No, no, he’s really kicked about this whole thing. He’ll not like it. I can’t be as blatant as that. Lets see, I’ll just keep saying I don’t like them. Hope Sonia won’t notice. It’ll just fuck the whole thing up. That other day! She just ripped apart that new shirt Shishir was wearing! Was really stupid of her…Yeah well, can’t have everything in this world. Oh, there he’s found out another. Fuck! That’s got ‘Out of you league’ written all over it! No, no won’t do! Fuck, what if she doesn’t like it? It’ll ruin the whole thing! Rather do the shopping with her only…Not a bad idea, actually! But she’ll really start asking for top of the line stuff. And how would I say no then? Foolish of me…God! I hope she says Yes.
After they’d walked out of the third shop, Sunil was exasperated.
“Look here Ramesh. What is this girl of yours? Angelina Jolie? What the fuck do you think she’ll like? Just fucking gift her something!”
“I really want it to be special Sunil. Please don’t get irritated”
“Yeah, alright. Come lets go.”
More of the same. What the hell! Not a single store has anything close to what I can afford! Fucking daylight robbery this! Hey, I suppose I could buy something from that shop near my place. Just around the corner, prices quite reasonable too. I’ll choose something that looks expensive! She won’t be able to tell the difference! Oye, dammit! I forgot to tell Suresh about this! He’s going to kill me! Can’t do much now, will tell him after tomorrow. That’s if she says Yes. What if she says No? Cut the crap! What can I do? Commit suicide? Concentrate on what I am doing now!
At length, Sunil decided to push off.
“Listen Ramesh, I am really sorry about this. But I need to go now. I am meeting some friends at the pub tonight. You carry on!”
In another fifteen minutes, Ramesh had bought a dress. It was a pretty looking tee in shades of yellow and orange; one of those trendy (and tight) ones girls wear these days. It cost Ramesh just under a thousand bucks. He slept happy that night.
The next morning, the first thing he did when he awoke was to check the present.
What’s this? It looks quite different in daylight, doesn’t it? Shit! Shit! Shit! The shades aren’t quite the same? This won’t work! It looks cheap, oh dammit! Dammit! Let me close the window and have a look. There! It still doesn’t look that good! Those fucking cheats! They use all those fancy lights in the store to make the colours look good! Cheats! Oh fuck! What will I do now! Got to think!
He did the thinking through his morning cleansing and freshening activities.
It doesn’t actually look that bad now! I guess I just got put off by that slight change in shade this morning. If I were seeing it for the first time, wouldn’t look so bad! Its alright.
He did not present it to Sonia that evening. Consequently, he did not propose to her either.
The guys were right. I ought to take her out a few more times before I do it
And he did not wear his new clothes either.
I’d look stupid. Wearing those fancy things for a simple meeting over coffee. She will definitely notice. And she’ll probably think I am trying to impress her. Nope, it’d be stupid. Got to wait