A Man of Whose Dreams?
As I dress for lunch with Shelley, I wonder how long I can live in this stalemate. No trust, no love, not even duty-bound. It suffocates me. Doesn’t it bother him?
I sit back, tired. What is the point in going today, really?
I force myself to break out of the lethargy. Shelley is a dear friend and maybe she can help me.
When I joined LaserSoft, a software company that dealt with projects and products, after almost two years at PISPL, Shelley was a veteran of three years. Despite personal problems, she was always cheerful, friendly with people from across teams. She was in petty cash and so people visited her bay often for money. Something about her manner was comforting, and many would end up chatting with her, unburdening themselves.
I had seen Karthik sometimes come in for imprest, but he was one of the very few who would leave quietly. If she did draw him into a conversation, he would oblige and respond politely. But from what Shelley told me, he seldom initiated one himself.
She would always glow when talking of him. I could understand how she felt, for didn’t I feel a flutter too when he walked into the room? For her sake, I learnt to keep that flutter to myself, and would tease her instead. But she would silence me with the admonishment, “Don’t be silly!”
I understood her problem and I didn’t push her too much, not wanting her to get wrong ideas. Her parents were orthodox Roman Catholics and would never accept a non-RC as son-in-law. Also, since Karthik didn’t encourage her, she must have realised it was a losing battle and been sensible about it.
Yes, she was extremely sensible. She was our manager’s right arm. The manager was also a tough, sensible lady – Maheshwari. Quite dynamic and quite a role model for us young girls. Boys too, who accepted her leadership easily. How I had longed to be like her! Maybe I could talk to her about opportunities.
I was in budgeting and hardly met the people in the field, only dealing with the managers. I knew Karthik’s boss well. Narendran was an upwardly mobile manager who pulled performers up with him. He depended on Karthik quite a bit. Though Narendran and I were supposed to discuss the nitty-gritty, he would always have Karthik sitting with him to flesh out the details. It would be quite amusing. Invariably all my questions to Narendran would be answered by Karthik. Both of us would be laughing at the pretension, and sometimes, he would walk back with me to the room. So grave and calm! It would take all my self-control to not look like a love-struck teenager.
One day, my father asked me out of the blue, “Who is Karthik Subramanian?”
I frowned, wondering if I had blurted something out in my sleep. This was the only Karthik I knew and told him so. “Why?” I asked, curious.
“Is he a nice guy?”
I shrugged. “I haven’t heard anything bad about him. Why suddenly? You met him somewhere?”
My dad smirked but did not say anything just to tease me. I ran around him in circles, his silence making me ask him more. What he told me came as a pleasant surprise. “A common friend gave his horoscope for matching with yours.”
“What?” I blinked. I didn’t know dad was looking for a groom for me! “When did you start this?”
“It is about time I did!”
I sulked and he joked, “I was hoping you would bring a handsome fellow and free me of this responsibility. But you are showing all signs of being a determined spinster. I can’t allow that, can I?”
Well, I did not want to be a spinster, but to be married so soon! I turned to face my dad and asked, “So, how did Karthik’s land up here?”
“Some relative of your uncle’s. I remember Vibha telling me he is a nice boy. I met one of your uncle’s relatives recently at a wedding, and they recommended this boy. What do you say? Can I proceed with this?”
I was hesitant. “He is a colleague. I don’t want it to be embarrassing if it doesn’t work out…so why don’t you drop this?”
I thought of Shelley. Though there was nothing between them, I would feel like a back stabber if I went ahead with this. And, yes, suppose the horoscopes matched but it didn’t work out between Karthik and me, then it would be terribly awkward.
My father shrugged and I thought that was the last I was hearing of this. But a week later, he came to my room and broached the topic again. “Karthik’s father called. The horoscope matches at their end, and apparently Karthik is open about proceeding with this. What do you say? If there is any other reason for you to hesitate, tell me openly and I will put them off. But if you have nothing against him, then shall I talk to them?”
I was in a dilemma. I asked my father for time. My sweet, indulgent father acquiesced immediately. “Just make sure I don’t have to wait till I grow a beard.”