An Evening To Remember

An Evening To Remember

Rhea looked at the mirror, giving herself one final inspective look before heading out for dinner.

Her reflection beamed back a satisfied nod. Her black evening gown glittered with the sequins that dotted along the deep V-neck that showed off much more cleavage than she was used to. Her hair was tied in a neat bun that left the curves of her neck on display. She did not wear any jewellery, the sequins of her dress already providing enough shine. The dress fell short of her knees, displaying ample legs around which black stilettos with glittering beads had lovingly draped themselves.  She turned around and tried to view how backless the dress left her in the behind. The flaps fell just over her hip, flaunting the smooth skin of her back. 

“Well, surely not a model. I could certainly afford to lose some weight here” – She brushed her hands over her bosom – “and here.” She patted her backside. “But do I look like a sexy siren or what!” Giving her reflection a flying kiss, she took her clutch and left the room. 

She walked into the restaurant of the hotel where she was staying. The ambience was cozily dark with muted lighting and the aroma of various dishes wafting through. The restaurant also had a bar. Wanting to sit by herself and watch around, Rhea sat on a chair beside the bar.


You can do this! It is not a big deal! 

Sanjana took a deep breath trying to muster enough courage and confidence. She had never dined alone. It felt awkward to her. 

What would people think when they see me dining alone in such a famed restaurant! She looked around, feeling all her old insecurities creep up as she saw people dining in groups. Her bohemian kurta, paired up with a comfortable pair of jeans felt dreary, compared to the people who had come there dressed to their best. Why, that stunning lady in the black evening gown, sitting alone by the bar, looked as if she had stepped out of the pages of a Vogue magazine. 

Sanjana adjusted her handbag and proceeded straight towards the bar. Either she would get enough confidence and proceed ahead to dine alone, or she would enjoy some drinks there and leave the restaurant. 

Well, what do I have to lose? Sanjana walked towards the bar and sat on a chair beside the lady in the black evening gown.


Another place, another set of people to come across once in my lifetime, only to part soon! Anshi thought in amusement as she stepped inside the restaurant. She had enjoyed this place. The hotel’s service had been excellent, her room immaculate and as per her requirement and the food had been delicious too. She had been staying there for a month. But now the familiar call of new places was tugging at her heart. It was time to move on. This was her last night at the hotel as well as the city and she fully intended to enjoy it. She pulled over the flaps of her jacket and brushed her hands over her t-shirt and jeans. Wanting to sample some wine, she walked towards the bar in the restaurant.


Rhea swayed on her spot to the beats of music that were being played in the restaurant. She looked towards her right and smiled at the lady who was looking at her in amusement.

“Nice evening, right?” Rhea said and extended her hand to the lady. “I am Rhea.”

“Sanjana here. You are so beautiful! Are you a model?” 

Rhea threw back her head and laughed. “No, but thanks for asking me this! You just made my day!” 

Sanjana smiled. “Are you waiting here for someone?”

“No, I came alone. I checked into the hotel just yesterday. What about you?”

Sanjana gave a self-deprecating chuckle. “I am alone too. I have come here to dine but I seem to have developed cold feet at the last minute. You see, I have never dined alone in a restaurant and am suddenly feeling awkward and conscious about it.”

“What is awkward about it?” Anshi asked curiously from her seat beside the two ladies. Then, as if remembering that she had just dropped in into a conversation uninvited, she raised her hands. “Just saying, that’s all. Take it from someone who travels solo all over the world and dines alone too. I am Anshi, by the way.”

“I totally agree with Anshi. Look at me! Surely I am over-dressed to be dining alone, but here I am, all set to enjoy the evening!” Rhea exclaimed.

Anshi tapped her fingers on the counter of the bar. “Here is an idea, and you can freely veto it. Why don’t we three dine together? What say…”

Unsurprisingly, Sanjana was the first to agree with the plan. “That would be so awesome!”

“But don’t think that you will always get away like this! Before the evening ends, I will extract a promise from you that you will dine alone once!” Rhea wagged her finger at Sanjana playfully. 

“That corner sure looks cozy. Come on girls, before someone else claims it.” Anshi gestured to the other two. 


The ladies were seated comfortably, they had ordered from the menu and were about to sip on wine, the courtesy of Anshi.

“To us!” Anshi raised her glass and clinked it with the other two. 

“So Anshi, you travel all over the world…that must be so fascinating. Does your work take you places?” Sanjana asked. She was fascinated by both the ladies and wished she had just a tiny share of their confidence and chutzpah. 

Anshi smiled mysteriously. “Actually, I am a web designer and can work from any part of the world. I do not stay at any one place for long though. My record is one month at this very hotel. I will be leaving to another city tomorrow. I do have a home in Delhi, but that is purely for a proof of address. I haven’t been home since… let me see…. yeah, since 9 months now.”

Rhea stared at her in blatant fascination. “Wow! I can’t imagine all the wonderful places you have been to and the interesting people and cultures you must have come across in your travels! Where have you enjoyed the most?” 

Anshi helped herself to a spring-roll and thought for a few seconds. “Well, all the places that I have been to have been memorable. But what humbled me most is my experience of watching a meteor shower. I was in UK that month and had enrolled myself in an outdoor camp that was specially held for the meteor sighting.  The dark surroundings, the night sky lit with stars, the anticipation of watching the meteors and the hushed silence that fell on the farm when everyone watched the first set of meteors tear through the earth’s atmosphere… that night was dreamy!” 

Sanjana and Rhea exchanged looks of wonder. 

“I feel so envious!” Sanjana exclaimed. “But doesn’t it get tiring after a while, all this solo travel? Don’t you feel the need for a stable home to return to, something which you can call your own?”

Anshi looked at her pensively for a moment. Then, reminding herself that it was her last night in the city and she was unlikely to cross paths with these two women again, she decided to confide. “I have had a very abusive childhood, girls. I hail from a dysfunctional family. Home was the place where I felt the least secure. I cannot stay at any one place long enough to make it a home. The moment a sense of comfort and familiarity sets in, I immediately leave the place.” She cleared her throat and said. “I do not get attached to places or people. It has been just me on my own since a long time now. And this is exactly how I like it.”

Their table fell silent, the women looking subdued. Cursing herself for having spoiled the easy camaraderie between them, Anshi tapped her fingers on the table. “And that is all you are getting from me, girls! I do not like to talk much about my past. Now I want to hear all about you two. Rhea, what is your story?”

Rhea took a deep breath. “Well, I am a cancer-survivor.” She chuckled nervously. “At least, I believe so. There is no saying when this disease will catch up with people. I have been in remission for a year now.” She smiled. “Today is actually my fortieth birthday.”

Cheers and birthday wishes rang out on the table.

“Thank you, friends. The thing is, when I heard about my diagnosis, you know what was my first thought? This dress.” Rhea gestured to her dress and laughed. “I have always been conscious about my body and my dresses and until today, I never showed any skin. I lean more towards the heavier side as you can see. My dresses used to be very conservative. But just a few days before my visit to the hospital, I had come across this dress in a boutique. I fell in love with it instantly, knowing very well that I was highly unlikely to wear it. When my diagnosis came, I realized that I have wasted a lot of precious time in being conscious about myself and about what the society will think of me if I wear modern dresses and flaunt my body. The day I received my diagnosis, I went to the boutique and purchased this dress. I made a promise to myself that if I ever made it through, I will do whatever I want to and live my life the way I wish to. It has been a difficult and tough journey to recovery, but here I am, fulfilling my promise to myself and living my life the way I want to!” 

The other two women clapped while Rhea beamed with happiness. “It is a gift to just be alive and be healthy this moment. I am living every moment each day, friends. Sometimes the old anxiety creeps in and reminds me that it is probable that one of my annual check-ups might yield some unwelcome news about my remission. But I stubbornly remind myself of what I have been through and that I can do it again when and if required.”

“Here’s wishing you many more stunning dresses and lovely birthdays, friend!” Sanjana raised her glass in toast to her, accompanied by Anshi. 

“Wait, did I just give out my age? Surely I cannot be the only one in the table to do that! Come on, I want to know your ages too!” Rhea said laughingly.

“Fair enough.” Anshi said, raising her hand. “I turned 35 this year.”

“And I will be 38 in the next month.” Sanjana said.

Rhea sighed. “So I am the eldest among you!”

“Just do not expect us to address you as Didi!” Anshi remarked drily while the other two laughed. “And I would not refer to you as being on the heavier side.”

“You wouldn’t? Well, I could surely afford to lose some weight here.” Rhea gestured towards her chest.

Anshi looked down upon her own humble bosom. “And I could surely afford to gain some.”

The women laughed raucously. 

“It is your turn now, Sanjana.” Rhea grinned at her.

Sanjana squirmed in her seat, looking visibly uncomfortable. “Well, my story is not as inspiring and motivating like yours. I am here because of a very silly matter actually. That day, I and my daughter were arguing about something, when all of a sudden, she called me as ‘predictable’. She listed out all her observations about me and you know what, she was right. At first, it irked me that a ten-year old child knew me to this extent. But then I looked back upon my life and realized that most of the times, I have only repeated my response and reactions to situations and people. I have lived most of the days following a rigid routine without giving any chance or possibility to change. But that argument with my daughter made me realize that I did not want to be ‘predictable’ any more. I realized that I have lost many opportunities to try out new things and experience the wonder of change, no matter how small it might have been. I got bored of myself and decided to open up to new experiences. So, I prepared a list of things that the ‘predictable’ Me would have refused to even consider doing, and I have started doing those things one at a time. Dining out alone was one of them.”

“But you have not dined alone yet, right?” Anshi raised one of her eyebrows, smirking at her. 

Sanjana laughed. “This surely cannot be considered as dining alone. But I will do that soon. Next on my list is to give myself a make-over. Some highlights for the hair, a change in my dressing style and inspired by you, Anshi, to travel solo at least once.”

Anshi gave her a proud nod and raised her glass. “To new experiences and possibilities!”

“Where are you headed off to now, Anshi?” Rhea asked.

“Mathura and Brindaban. Holi is around the corner and I have always wanted to see the grand celebration that is held there.”

“Is it safe, traveling and living alone in hotels?” Sanjana asked.

“It is safe when you plan your trip and your stay properly. Before booking, I try to find everything about the place. I check the reviews of the hotel. The main thing is to realize that while you think you are traveling ‘solo’, you are never really alone.” Anshi said. “I remember my first travel in an airplane. Just after take-off, I got the jitters and was almost on the verge of a panic attack. There was a senior lady next to my seat. She asked me whether I was all right and I confided to her that I was traveling alone and was feeling scared. She chuckled and said. ‘Look around; how can you say you are traveling alone when there is an entire plane full of people flying with you!?’. That actually calmed me. So I know that when I am booking a room in a hotel, even though I will be alone in the room, there are still people in the hotel. When I am traveling in a train, I am not alone! I may be traveling on my own, but I have never been alone anywhere. An ironically comforting thought for someone who stays away from people, I guess.”  

“I can so relate to this!” Rhea said. “During my first session of chemotherapy, as I sat shivering in the cold room, thinking about my ordeal ahead, I only had to look at all the nurses working around me calmly. I could not help thinking about how this must be a daily routine for them and how many patients they must have been helping every day. It boosted my morale when I realized that there are many others like me and I am not the only one going through the ordeal.”

Sanjana cleared her throat and looked at Anshi uncertainly. “This may seem like an improper question but…”

“How do I get by in life with so much travel and expense, right?” Anshi smiled. “Not at all improper. My grandparents knew the gravity of my situation and left me enough amount to complete my education. I worked for few years in a MNC and saved enough to confidently start my own web-designing project. At the fear of coming off as a braggart, I just want to say that I was one of the best programmers in the MNC and earned many contacts of my own. I informed them about my web-designing endeavor and got enough to work and earn. The people for whom I work keep referring me to others and over a period of time, I have earned sufficiently to get through life.” Anshi looked subdued for a moment before she said. “I know that at some point of time, old age will catch up with me and I won’t be able to travel as much as I do now. I will have to settle down then. The prospect definitely is scary and disturbing for me but I have stalled it for now. I will cross that bridge when I reach there.” She shrugged.

“Exactly!” Sanjana exclaimed. “I used to be a chronic worrier, always thinking about the future and trying to prepare myself for every kind of dire situation I could imagine. But I have realized that most of my life has gone by in dreading and preparing for events that never happened but robbed me of the joy of the present moment.”

“You couldn’t have put it better.” Rhea said. “On hearing about my diagnosis, the regrets that washed over my soul! So many moments of life spent in unnecessarily worrying, thinking about what the society will think if I did this or that, unnecessarily criticizing myself for my weight-issues… and it all came down to what ultimately!? One moment of time when I got a very brief yet immensely scary glimpse of my mortality… I vowed then and there that if I ever get to live, I will not waste any minute of my life in worrying or feeling low for myself. It is all about seizing the present moment and making the most of it.”

“Speaking of seizing moments, I think that band on the stage is all set to perform.” Anshi smiled mischievously at Sanjana. “What do you think?” 

Sanjana looked nervously at the band of musicians and flinched when the guitarist struck a high electric note. She laughed and said. “Why not?”

When the server came with the bill, Rhea snatched the same. “My birthday, my treat!” She waved off the objections of the ladies and settled the bill. “Come on, I am eager to dance!” She exclaimed. 

The ladies ventured towards the small crowd that had gathered in front of the musicians. As the beats started, they first looked at each other and laughed in embarrassment. Very soon, they joined the crowd that was dancing wildly.

Anshi laughed as she saw Sanjana attempt a particularly difficult move. Rhea tried to copy her, faring no further than her. These women were just adorable. Anshi had never confided about her past or her nomadic lifestyle to anyone out of fear of judgement and pity. These ladies here had not only listened without any judgement or morbid curiosity, they had in fact treated her just as one of their own without making it a big deal. For the first time in her life, Anshi felt free, as if she had made friends.

The moment the thought came, Anshi halted mid-dance. No, she would not allow this to happen. As the feeling of comfort and security tried to wrap around her heart, she sneaked out of the crowd. Rhea and Sanjana were laughing at each other’s dance steps. Anshi smiled, looking at the adorable women. Perhaps, in another lifetime and a fairer life, she would have been friends with these two. Her heart reminded her that she did not do friendships, or any relationships.  She looked at them for a while and left without saying goodbye to them.

“Hey…” Rhea turned around and halted. “Where is Anshi?” Sanjana stopped dancing and started searching in the crowd. After a few minutes, the women looked at each other. 

“She left, I think.” Rhea said in a subdued voice.

Sanjana nodded. “I would have loved to spend more time with her.”

“Let us hope that our paths cross again some time.” Rhea said. 

The women walked to the bar and sat on the chairs there, both wincing at the same time and breaking into laughter. 

“I guess I took it too far with the dancing.” Sanjana said breathless with laughter. 

“Life sure begins at forties but I think I should put an end to all dreams about dancing!” Rhea exclaimed while massaging her thigh. “I am so going to regret this tomorrow.”

“Hey… can I get your number? Where do you live?” Sanjana asked Rhea.

When they exchanged numbers and addresses, they realized that they lived not far off from each other. 

“This is so awesome! I would like to meet you again!” Rhea exclaimed.

Sanjana looked at her thoughtfully. “What are you doing this Saturday? Want to join me at the salon for a make-over? Not that you need any, but we can make a girls-evening out of that. What say?”

“Count me in!” Rhea said. “Fancy another glass of wine?” 

Sanjana nodded and said. “My treat!”

As their orders were delivered, Rhea raised her glass in toast. “To new beginnings, friendships and … Anshi. May she find her happy place.” The ladies clinked their glasses. 


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