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Monsoon Series 3: Passing Ships

posted Mar 2, 2012, 7:35 AM by Madhuri Sen

She stood by the ticketing window of the theatre, pushing herself as far as she could below the small overhang to avoid getting wet. Her umbrella was useless in the face of the torrential rain and the gushing sea wind. Her kurti was already completely soaked, so were her jeans. She kept pulling at the kurti so that it would not outline her shape quite as starkly as wet clothes were wont to do. Not that there were too many people around to watch. The ticketing counter was practically empty. The usual fate of most plays these days.

She saw the guy park his bike at the parking lot and come running through the rain with head down, skipping over the larger puddles – toward the counter. Slightly breathless, he said, “Two tickets for Hamlet for this Saturday, please. I’d like to see the seating chart….how much will that be?” His hands were already in his pocket assumedly groping around for his wallet. “Dress circle will be Rs.2000 for two tickets, sir. Or would you prefer seats further up? Those will be Rs.550 each.” His hands still searching around, now in the other pocket he replied, “Dress circle, please.” The clerk stamped the tickets and held them at his side of the counter, waiting for the payment. He patted himself now on all his pockets, clearly not being able to locate his wallet. He told the clerk, “Please wait.” He spoke into his phone, “Arre Arzaan, are you at home? I seem to have misplaced my wallet. I am at the NCPA to buy tickets for the play this weekend and need to borrow some money to buy the tickets.” ……”Nai yaar, an hour will get too late. This is a surprise for Shruti for our anniversary. I can’t be late getting back home or else I’d have to make up some other story to cover for this. I am terrible at lying to her...phir it won’t be a surprise anymore.”….”Accha ok, see what you can do. Bye.” He repeated to the clerk, “Wait.” He turned half around away from the ticketing window and stared unfocused into the distance, a frown on his face.

“ I could lend you the money?” she said. He looked up with a start like he hadn’t noticed her so far. She repeated, “Can I lend you the money? I will leave my number with you. Return it when you can.” He looked at her doubtfully first,  “Well, I certainly seem to be out of options.” And then he grinned, “But why would you trust a stranger? I may never return it.” She said with a broad smile that brought a twinkle to her eye, “I think you will. But I am lending it thinking it’s like if my wallet had got picked. I don’t expect it back. I am not trusting you….just giving you the money.”

“Ok, if you put it like that. You must be rich,” he said, his grin growing bigger. Tickets paid for and stashed into his pocket, he said putting out his hand for a shake, “I am Valmik.” She extended hers, “Malvika…can I buy you a coffee at the theatre canteen? You look like you need one and I certainly do.”  He looked doubtfully at his watch. She quickly added, “It would take just ten minutes. Certainly that much of a delay would be acceptable? Its a rainy day!” His face relaxed a bit, like he’d just made up his mind, “Ok, a quick coffee and I anyway need to get your number.”

She spoke across the coffee counter places just around the corner from the ticketing window, “Two coffees please…how much?”  While still pulling out the money to pay for the coffees, she turned around to say, “My guy’s phone is unreachable. I have been waiting here for over the last three hours. So I am really glad for any company. I am sure he’ll turn up at some point.” “Oh! But three hours…??? How much longer do you intend to wait,” Valmik asked. She grinned sheepishly, “As long as it takes for him to come. I know he will.” He grinned back without any comment, accepting the coffees at the counter and passing on her to her. As the pause extended, he asked, “So why aren’t you waiting in here? It’s certainly more comfortable.” Another sheepish grin later she said, “There is no clear view of the gate from here…”  He smiled back, mildly shaking his head in disbelief….holding her gaze for an extra second with the hint of an amused smile on his lips.

“So, the number. What is it?” he asked. She gave it to him and he called her to register a missed call on her phone, so that she had his as well.  “What do you do, Valmik?” she asked to fill the air mostly, it seemed,  rather than out of any curiosity. “Chartered accountant…and you?” “Looking for a job…. I am an advertising copywriter. Quit my last one without lining up another coz I got fed up of my boss’s mood swings,” she said.

 “Hmmm…. I work in the finance department of Lintas advertising. I could check if there are any openings there unless you already have that covered,” he responded.  “That would be awesome. Thanks,” she said. “Getting into Lintas can only be a dream…but at least you could let me know if there are any openings.”

“Sure, would be glad to be of any help,” he said.  ”I’ve got to rush now. It was terrific meeting you. Thanks a million for this. You have no idea how big a favor this is….Good luck with the wait. I hope it’s not much longer.”  “Thanks,” she said with the smile that made her eyes twinkle again. She followed him out to the exit, to reclaim her spot at the ticketing window and watched him sprint back to where his bike was parked.