Gayatri could not get a seat in the Volvo bus at Koyambedu but settled for what she was told a 2x2 deluxe bus. There was hardly enough leg space and the seats were not wide. She would not have normally taken such a bus but her father insisted that she be at Vellore in the night itself without fail. She knew why the urgency in her dad’s tone. It must be another bride seeing ceremony the next day. She was fed up with this rigmarole of a man coming with his parents and sometimes with sisters too, having coffee with spicy snacks and asking a few inane questions before taking leave and never to get back. She had neither the heart to refuse her parents requests nor the grit to tell them that she will choose her own man.
The bus was yet to start waiting for passengers and would reach Vellore only around midnight. She was not worried as her younger brother would be waiting at the bus stand. She settled down with her iPad.
She turned when she heard a deep voice “Can I get in? The window seat is mine”. He was a tall, handsome guy with neatly trimmed wavy hair, a bit darkish with a faint of smile that made him very attractive. But she was irritated at his stressing about the window seat being his when she was already seated in her aisle seat. She got up and stood in the pathway. While trying to put his box in the loft, he pushed her bag to a corner.
Gayatri was furious and said in an acerbic tone”Why do you push my bag? You can as well put your box in the empty space. Keep my bag where it belonged”
With sarcasm in his tone, he said “Are spaces in the loft also reserved like seats? Mine wouldn’t fit in there. Your bag can still be seen”
“That is none of my concern. You can keep your box wherever you like without disturbing mine. If you are particular about specific place, you should have come much earlier and not on the eleventh hour disturbing others like a bull in china shop” Gayatri exploded.
He didn’t lose his cool and told her smilingly “Don’t lose your temper. Your bag will remain where it was.”
He sat quiet for a few minutes in his seat and said “Excuse me. I will get a bottle of water”
She frowned her face and again got up to give him way.
He came back with two bottles of water and two packets of biscuits.”You don’t have to get up. I will squeeze in” he said.
“No, I would prefer to move. Please wait” she said. He pulled a long face and waited.
After a while offering the bottle of water and biscuit packet he said “Have this water and biscuits”
“Thank you. I don’t need” she curtly said
He kept quiet for some time and then asked “Did I offend you in anyway? You seem to be displeased”
“No. Why should I be pleased or displeased with a stranger in the bus?” she replied
He kept silent with an obvious hurt in his face at the snub he received and started watching the video in the bus. He lost interest in a while and turned to look at Gayatri.When she turned, he smiled at her and asked “Are you living in Chennai?”
She just said “Hmmm”
“Me too. I have some work at Vellore tomorrow and hope to catch the 5pm bus back “he informed unsolicited
“Hmm” was her reply again.
“It is okay if you don’t wish to answer. I have been seeing right from the beginning a tinge of impoliteness in your tone when there is no cause for it. It is regrettable all the more as you seem educated and possibly well employed” he said softly with certain seriousness in his tone.
Gayatri stared at him but did not reply. He turned his face away and closed his eyes to catch a few winks.
It was 2.45pm next day.Gayatris house was filled with a few relatives. The aroma of cashew nuts fried in ghee wafted in the air along with that of cardamom and saffron. Gayatri was decked in a beautiful sari with some elegant jewelry adding to her charm. The air was fragrant with jasmine. Gayatris father was standing in the portico awaiting the young man. Her mom was giving the final touches to Gayatris make up.
Her dad rushed in to announce the arrival.Gayatri stayed inside with her twin sister Savitri waiting for her to be called. After a few minutes she was called to the drawing hall. She got a thousand watts shock when she saw the young man who travelled in the bus with her. She feared this bride-seeing trip would also be a certain failure.
The young man smiled at Gayatri and showing a seat opposite him said ” Please be seated here. I hope no spaces are reserved here.”
Everyone looked at him with surprise not knowing what he meant.
“I hope your anger has subsided” he said with a loud guffaw.
Gayatri said “I am sorry. I didn’t know”
Never mind. I hope your sister Savitri will not be like you. If your parents do not mind, I wish to have her hand.
There was a deafening silence among those assembled.Gayatri stood up deeply hurt and started walking inside.
“Hey, Gayatri, do not go away. I was just kidding. Honestly I like you and your petulant ways” he said laughing
There was a loud peal of laughter when Savitri said ”In any case I would have rejected him. I dislike presumptuous guys”