The Favour

Ashish blushed like a love-struck teenager as he glanced at her through the mesh separating the ladies compartment from the general one. Since the day he first saw her, he never missed the 8:32 Thane local. He stole a glance at her as she twirled a silky strand of hair with her delicate finger.  Her dangling earrings danced, kissing her dimpled cheeks. He silently pleaded those mesmerizing brown eyes to turn in his direction.

She gave a twenty rupee note to a beggar who touched her head in blessing. She later offered her seat to an elderly lady and stood leaning against the mesh. She was so close that he could smell her perfume. With a start, he realized that the train had halted and he had almost missed his stop. Hurriedly, he got down and the train chugged away.

He was gravitating towards her with an invisible pull that grew stronger every day. It was Friday and his heart sank at the thought of not seeing her for two whole days. He decided to accost her on Monday, make an attempt at conversation.

As he was leaving office at 8 pm that day, his phone rang. It was his mother.

‘Ashish, there is this girl we want you to meet tomorrow. She is a software engineer. Your horoscopes match perfectly and it is better if you meet her casually once, before we formally see her at her place.’

‘Mom, no, I am not ready,’ he drawled, knowing very well that there was no escape from Mom’s order.

‘You are twenty eight and I am not hearing another word,’ she said in her “my word is final” tone.

The next morning, Ashish called Nitin, his colleague, and best buddy.

‘Dude, please save me. Mom is at it again. She wants me to meet another girl.’

‘Reject her, as always,’ he teased.

‘Not anymore, bro, Can you do me a favour? Can you go instead of me?’

‘Whoa!  Don’t bring me into this, and I have a client presentation to complete.’

‘I’ll work on it,’ Ashish offered.

‘You owe me big time for this,’ Nitin reluctantly agreed.

‘Take my phone, she is supposed to call me,’ said Ashish, relieved.

* * *

Ashish grew restless as he didn’t see her the following week. She was probably on vacation.

His heart leaped when he saw her at Airoli station on Friday evening.

Nitin was walking towards them.

What was he doing here? He said he had a date.

‘Ashish, meet my fiancé, Shreya,’ he said putting an arm around her shoulder.

Nitin had told him earlier that the rendezvous last Saturday had gone better than expected. He had been frank with her about the swap and they had laughed. They had got along exceptionally well and decided to go along with this slightly’re-arranged’ match. All parents, including Ashish’s, were happy for them.

Nitin had told him everything.

Like a bucket of ice thrown at him, Ashish realized what he had just thrown away.

* * *

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Shailaja Pai
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