Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An extract from ‘No Deadline For Love’ (Penguin Books India)

‘Whoa! What happened, Megha? You look like a fright!’ Vijay had looked a little startled when I’d bounded up to him and I didn’t blame him. I was having a bad hair day and all the running up and down the stairs hadn’t helped matters. It probably looked like a tornado was swirling around my head by now.
I hurriedly explained the situation to Vijay and he told me that I would find Yudi at the little coffee shop in the basement of the building that housed our office.
‘He’s gone there for his daily shot of caffeine,’ Vijay grinned. ‘That guy is a tea-totaler—he can’t stand the sight of tea and there isn’t any coffee served at these high tea sessions! Hey Megha, tell him I’m looking for him too, will you? Oh, and Megha?’
'Yeah?' I turned around just as I was rushing out of the cafeteria again.
‘Tie up your hair, will you? It’s kind of, you know, frizzy,’ Vijay said kindly and I smiled and continued on my way. A comment like that would have normally unleashed my temper but Vijay had said it so sweetly and in the most well intentioned way that it was impossible to get angry. Besides, he was right. I paused to glance in the mirror of the office elevator that was transporting me to the basement and cringed at the sight of my hair. It was in a particularly mutinous mood today and each strand had declared independence from gravity; any more frizz and I would look like I’d been electrocuted. I whipped out a hair band and quickly secured my hair into a tight knot at the nape of my neck. I normally avoided tying up my hair because everyone said pulled-back hair made me look very young and vulnerable, like a little lost soul. I had interpreted this to mean diffident and under-confident and had taken to wearing my hair loose most of the time. I was so used to it now that I felt strangely exposed with my hair pulled back, as though a crack had appeared in the facade of supreme self-confidence that I kept up most times as I lurked behind my gloriously swinging mane. Vile Varun could’ve probably eaten me alive if I’d walked into the appraisal with my hair tied back like this.
The lift lurched to a stop, jerking me out of my reverie, and I hurried along to the coffee shop, my eyes peeled for Yudi. A strong whiff of espresso hit me as soon as I swung the door open and I inhaled huge gulps of it, the familiar smell comforting me somewhat. The Beans Coffee Hut was a popular hangout for the office crowds that worked in GF as well as the surrounding area, and even though the food sucked and the coffee tasted like dishwater, nothing could compare with the fantastic juke box they had in the corner which churned out melodies from as far back as the ‘70s. The owner, Samarpreet, had some ‘connections’ in the Bollywood music industry through which he had acquired this treasure and he took loving care of it, servicing it personally every week and polishing it until it shone. I had spent many a post-work evening there in the reluctant company of Vijay, who was more of a rock music buff, listening to old Hindi film songs and melting my office-related woes away over some piping hot masala chai which was the one thing the Beans Coffee Hut did a reasonable job at dishing out.
I looked around and my heart sank suddenly as I spotted Yudi in a corner, partially obscured behind some potted greens. He was in the middle of an intense discussion with Priyanka who was looking at him devotedly, her hands clasped in front of her. My mind whizzed back to the thousands of times I had seen Yudi and Priyanka together—at work, in Goa, at the restaurant where I’d met Gautam. They were definitely a couple from the looks of it and if not that, they had to be interested in each other given the amount of time they spent together. Maybe Yudi had turned his cell off so they could be alone, I realized, as I remembered the 'not reachable' message on his cellphone. Maybe they wanted to celebrate Priyanka’s success in private and here I was all set to crash the party. Well, there was no going back now—I had no time to lose if that stimulus material was going to make the flight with Yudi. I took a deep breath and approached their table, suddenly feeling terribly self-conscious and acutely aware of my slightly dishevelled appearance. Priyanka could make me feel like a country bumpkin in severe need of a makeover on the best of days, and today was not one of my good days. The recent work overload had taken its toll and I was looking like a dehydrated raccoon with dark circles occupying prime space on my tired face. I had rushed to work that day in my raggedy old jeans and a faded tee, taking advantage of GF’s Friday dressing policy, because I was much more comfortable working in them than the formal work wear I normally donned.
‘Umm . . . Yudi?’ I said nervously, walking up to the table. ‘Can I talk to you for a minute, please?’

Read the rest here!

An extract from ‘No Deadline For Love’ by Manasi Vaidya, reproduced with the permission of Penguin Books India, exclusively for ‘The Punekar’.
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