That summer of 2011, I was an editor with an American publishing giant. Day in and day out, I was reading manuscripts and competing titles, coordinating with authors and production editors to bring out books which students would or would not read.
Attending book launch programs became a regular part of my job description. These events came as an icing on the cake because I got to visit places like India International Centre, India Habitat Centre and others; the drinks and dinner were the cherry on that icing.
At one such book launch, I met T. Single, professionals from the same field, living alone in Delhi – there was an instant connection. The meeting evolved into a discussion about the publishing industry in general and our experiences in particular. I was on the editing side, while he was into marketing. Our chit-chat over dinner gradually flowed into a lengthy discourse. T offered to drop me home. I readily agreed.
A month later I received a message on my phone. It was from T. ‘From where did he manage my number?’ I wondered. He had some inquiry about other publishing houses. I replied suitably. Nothing more. For some strange reason I felt that T would call again. And lo behold! He did!
Gradually, we became good friends. If friendship implies sharing similar tastes and enjoying each other’s company, yes we were friends. Our passion for travelling, photography and of course movies bound us together.
Short and sturdy, T had sharp eyes that remained red most of the time. He spoke flawless English. He was a travel freak and had already covered the length and breadth of the country. He loved adventure sports and had done it all. Scuba diving in the Andamans, bungee jumping at Uttarakhand, braving the treks of Roopkund (Garhwals) and paragliding in the Himachal! He had even travelled across the Maramara Sea (Istanbul), caught a glimpse of Mount Titlis at Switzerland and lounged around the coffee shops at Amsterdam. The wanderlust thrilled me.
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One fine day, at his suggestion, we met for beer. The conversation flowed, as did the beer. I protested half-heartedly. I won’t deny that guzzling beer, after a really long time, was actually fun. Also fun was discovering another shared passion – music. Rock music! Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley came alive as we talked and drank. And laughed.
I was experiencing a new high, and new found freedom all of a sudden on being treated warmly by a man who was a stranger just a few days ago. A strange bond began to unite us. It was not a feeling I was familiar with. Attraction was casting a spell over my loneliness – or was it my figment of imagination?
There I was – staring at him for no major reason. Admiring his person and imagining things probably I could do with him. Accompanying him on the trips? Bungee jumping? Or snorkeling with him hand in hand in the blue waters of Andamans? My imagination was running wild… and I was falling hard for him.
“It’s getting late. I have to go.” I said suddenly, realizing that it was indeed late.
“Oh! What happened? I thought you could still manage another pint!” T said, jokingly.
But I was adamant. So, he gave in reluctantly.
We left the restaurant and started walking. It was already dark. We got a cab in time and as I was about to board it I fell over, dizzy with beer, no doubt.
He held me. “Are you alright?” he asked. I could only manage a nod.
I could feel his hands over my shoulders, warm and caring. For the first time I felt like I was being taken care of by a man. He offered to accompany me. Once in the cab, I never realized that I had kept my head on his shoulders during the entire ride. When we reached, he gave me a small, sweet hug and left saying “take care”.
We never met again.